State Roundup, December 15, 2017

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JUDGE ORDERS PAY FOR HOGAN APPOINTEES: Two appointees of Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who are at the center of a standoff between him and top Democrats, must be paid the salaries that the state began withholding this summer, an Anne Arundel County judge ruled on Thursday, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post is reporting.

Victoria Gruber. University of Baltimore photo

DESCHENAUX REPLACEMENT NAMED: When Warren Deschenaux, the Maryland General Assembly’s veteran fiscal guru and top staffer, announced earlier this year that he planned to retire, legislative leaders said they would launch a nationwide search to replace him. But it seemed pretty clear that their leading candidate was right in front of them. That was confirmed Thursday evening, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters, when Senate President Mike Miller (D) and House Speaker Mike Busch (D) announced that Victoria Gruber, Miller’s longtime top aide, would become the new executive director of the Department of Legislative Services.

POLLUTING INCINERATOR AS CLEAN ENERGY: Scott Dance of the Sun, who recently wrote about black liquor and its classification as renewable energy, now writes about the trash incinerator in Southwest Baltimore. It is the city’s largest single source of air pollution. But a state law has nonetheless allowed it to collect roughly $10 million in subsidies over the past six years through a program intended to promote green energy.

EXELON CAN AID BAY, STILL PROFIT: Exelon Corp. could help restore the lower Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay by changing the way it generates electricity at Conowingo Dam, and still make a “healthy” profit, a pair of environmental groups reported this month, writes Tim Wheeler of the Bay Journal in an article in MarylandReporter. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Nature Conservancy released a study they jointly commissioned that finds that the Chicago-based energy company could easily afford to mitigate the impacts Conowingo is having on downriver fish habitat and water quality.

GUNS & GOD: David Anderson of the Aegis writes that people attending services in a house of worship in Maryland would have the option to carry a firearm for self defense, should bills sponsored by two Harford County legislators pass in Annapolis next year. The legislation, which was announced Tuesday during a press conference at the Harford County Sheriff’s Office Southern Precinct in Edgewood, is called the Parishioner Protection Act of 2018.

RX POT MARKET UNDER WAY: Medical marijuana regulators approved 12 new dispensaries Thursday to open in the state, more than doubling the number of businesses allowed to sell the drug. But they cautioned the supply remains low, and it may be difficult to buy marijuana until at least March, writes Erin Cox for the Sun.

ELIMINATING GERRYMANDERING: The editorial board of the Carroll County Times notes the destructive nature of partisan drawing of election districts. It not only contributes to the hyper-partisanship seen in today’s politics, but also disenfranchises voters who feel their voice doesn’t matter when politicians are able to essentially pick their constituents, rather than the other way around. Gov. Hogan, the editorial board writes, “has once again pledged to try to improve the state’s redistricting process to make it a nonpartisan affair and eliminate gerrymandering in Maryland. … with 2018 being an election year, we aren’t going to hold our breath.”

***4 THINGS YOU WON’T FIND ON MARYLAND FOOD LABELS: Food packaging performs several functions: It protects the food inside, creates convenience and portion control, and perhaps, most importantly, provides nutritional information and ingredient listings of the food inside. But there’s more to the food than the label. Read about four things you should know about your food that you probably won’t find on the package. SPONSORED CONTENT***

DEM GUBERNATORIAL FORUM: The Democrats running for governor in Maryland are largely united in their disdain for Republican incumbent Larry Hogan, their belief that more money is needed for education and transportation, and that Montgomery County is a thriving, diverse community whose challenges are often overlooked in Annapolis, writes Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters.

VIGNARAJAH ON ROUGHLY SPEAKING: Dan Rodricks, during his Roughly Speaking podcast for the Sun, speaks with Krish Vignarajah, a 38-year-old attorney and former policy adviser to Michelle Obama who is one of eight candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in 2018. Born in Sri Lanka, Vignarajah grew up in Baltimore and Baltimore County. Here’s a link to six other Roughly Speaking podcasts with gubernatorial candidates.