State Roundup, December 21, 2017

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HOGAN SEEKS TAXPAYER PROTECTION: Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday that he will seek to protect Maryland taxpayers from higher state tax bills caused by the federal tax overhaul President Trump is expected to sign soon, Michael Dresser and Erin Cox of the Sun are reporting. The Republican governor said he will submit legislation to the General Assembly next month to do that and called for unanimous legislative support of his proposals.

RECREATIONAL POT: Del. Mike McKay said Wednesday the legalization of recreational marijuana is likely to become a top issue in Maryland in the upcoming 2018 election. McKay met with constituents at the South Cumberland Library on Thursday evening writes Greg Larry in the Cumberland Times News. “It’s not about the merits, it’s about the election coming up in November 2018,” said McKay. “What I project is that it will be on the ballot. That is how I think it will all shake out. In 2018, we the people will get to pick if we want to (legalize recreational marijuana) or not.”

FRANCHOT PUSHES MENTAL HEALTH CHECKUPS: Josh Bollinger of the Easton Star Democrat writes that Comptroller Peter Franchot made a push for regular mental health checks, similar to regular physician check-ups during a press stop Dec. 15 at Shore Neurocognitive Health in Easton. It’s an idea he plans to bring to the next Board of Public Works meeting, to talk about starting the proposal among state employees to set an example for the rest of the state.

PRE-K EDUCATION FOR BEST OUTCOMES: In an op-ed for the Sun, former Maryland schools Superintendent David Hornbeck writes that 90% of a child’s brain develops by age 4. We also know that between about six months and age 3, a child in an upper-income home hears 34 million words, in a middle-income home the number drops to 19.5 million words, and in a low-income home the number drops further to 9.5 million. Exposure to vocabulary use is predictive of a child’s language skills and academic success. … So why then does Maryland wait until kindergarten — age 5 — before guaranteeing publicly supported education for all our children?

MDP FILES COMPLAINT AGAINST JUDGE: The Maryland Democratic Party filed a complaint against an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge who was photographed with controversial Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore at a September fundraiser in Severna Park. Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital reports that party Chair Kathleen Matthews claims that Crooks violated the Maryland Code of Judicial Conduct by attending the fundraiser, writing the code states “a judge who is not a candidate shall not engage in any partisan political activity.” [Editor’s note: Crooks is a candidate. Having been appointed last year, he must run for election in 2018 and has already filed.]

CORDERMAN TAKES OATH: Former Hagerstown City Councilman Paul D. Corderman became Maryland’s newest state legislator Wednesday as he took the oath of office for his new seat in the House of Delegates, Tamela Baker of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports. Corderman will represent legislative District 2B, which roughly encompasses the boundaries of Hagerstown.

HO CO SCHOOLS OKs CALENDAR: Andrew Michaels of the Howard County Times reports that the Howard County Board of Education Tuesday approved a 2018-19 academic calendar that gives students “a more traditional Howard County spring break,” but has students in class on the Presidents Day holiday in February. A mandate under Gov. Larry Hogan requires Maryland public schools start after Labor Day and end by June 15, which Howard County will continue following next year.

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PRE-SESSION FUND-RAISERS: Dozens of Maryland lawmakers will begin the new year with their palms extended. About 70 legislators and other state officials, who are banned from raising money during the three-month General Assembly session, which runs from Jan. 10-April 9, have fundraisers scheduled in early January, Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes.

HOWARD COUNTY IN PLAY? There’s been much speculation about what the current national political situation might mean for races in Maryland in 2018. Meghan Thompson of Maryland Matters writes that many political professionals believe Gov. Larry Hogan (R) can survive a re-election bid, despite any Democratic wave caused by voter dissatisfaction with President Trump. But what will that mean for other state races for Republicans down ballot? Even though national trends suggest that Hogan’s re-election bid will be challenging, there are very few legislative districts in Maryland where Democrats are likely to be on offense in 2018. One exception is in Howard County.

GOV. CANDIDATE SHEA’s TRANSIT PLAN: Gubernatorial candidate Jim  Shea (D) released a transportation plan that focuses heavily on improving the state’s public transit system, calling for the construction of the canceled light-rail Red Line in Baltimore, an expansion of MARC train services and additional bus lanes for I-270. Ovetta Wiggins and Katherine Shaver of the Post report that the plan also calls for increased transit options and road improvements in Western Maryland, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, and restoring funding trimmed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) from the Purple Line light-rail project in the Washington suburbs.

JEALOUS GETS MORE UNION BACKING: Democratic gubernatorial contender Ben Jealous continues to rack up union support, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Mattes. Jealous, the former NAACP president, will be endorsed this morning in Baltimore by UNITE HERE!, the hospitality workers union, which has about 10,000 members in Maryland. This supplements the endorsements Jealous has already gotten from the Service Employees International Union, Communication Workers of America, Maryland Postal Workers Union, and Nurses United.

UNION BACKS RIVAL OVER EDWARDS: A labor union that helped propel Donna F. Edwards to Congress years ago is throwing its support behind one of her Democratic primary rivals, State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, in the race for Prince George’s county executive, Arelis Hernandez reports in the Post. Service Employees International Union 1199, which represents 10,000 health-care workers, is endorsing Alsobrooks because of her executive experience running the busy prosecutor’s office in Prince George’s. SEIU Local 400, another powerful and well-resourced union, will back Alsobrooks as well.