State Roundup, January 9, 2018

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INVESTIGATOR GENERAL FOR SCHOOLS? Gov. Larry Hogan said Monday there is a crisis of confidence in Maryland’s public schools and proposed a new “investigator general” to root out what he described as corruption, mismanagement and ineptitude in some Maryland school districts. In Hogan’s vision, the investigator would have subpoena power, the authority to summon people to public hearings and a bully pulpit, and establishing such a position would require the endorsement of the General Assembly, Erin Cox and Michael Dresser report in the Sun.

FAMILIAR ARGUMENTS: As the schools shut down citywide Thursday and Friday for repairs, a familiar debate heated up. Baltimore’s state legislators demanded more money from state government, renewing their claim that it had shortchanged the city for years, Edward Ericson reports in Baltimore Brew. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan countered that the blame lies with ineptitude and mismanagement, not funding formulas. (He returns to that theme frequently, pointing out that on average, Maryland jurisdictions spend 50% of their budgets to support schools, while Baltimore City budgets 11% for them.)

SCHOOL FUNDING & LOW TAX BASE: The editorial board for the Sun explains how the Baltimore City school system is affected by the funding processes for school repairs that comes out of Annapolis, writing that Gov. Hogan’s continued insistence that mismanagement at the system’s North Avenue headquarters caused the problems grossly mischaracterizes the situation for a city that has a very low tax base.

Md. STUDENTS ‘MIDDLE OF PACK:’ The Kirwan Commission wrapped up its preliminary report Monday during a sometimes contentious discussion over how much the massive $1.3 billion infusion of new education funding from 2002 to 2008 had improved Maryland schools. Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter writes that the draft preliminary report based on a 16 months of meetings and consultant studies say, “Putting it bluntly, despite a significant increase in State funding over the past 15 years, Maryland students still perform in the middle of the pack within the US, which is in the middle of the pack against the rest of the modern world.”

FEDERAL POLICIES AT THE FORE: Maryland’s legislative session will begin Wednesday with Gov. Larry Hogan and the Democrats who control the General Assembly aiming to address federal policies that affect the state and lay the groundwork for what they hope will be big victories in November, Josh Hicks of the Post reports. Key themes include tempering Baltimore City’s crime wave, battling over paid time off for sick workers, responding to changes in the U.S. tax code, making health care more affordable, diversifying the state’s medical-marijuana industry and creating a dedicated revenue source for Metro.

MGM CASINO MARKET SHARE: Maryland’s newest casino continues to expand the state’s gaming revenue pie while simultaneously cannibalizing market share from the state’s original five gambling venues, reports Bryan Sears in the Daily Record. Overall, the state’s six casinos had their second-best month, reporting $141 million in revenue for the month of December on the strength of $56 million in revenue reported by MGM National Harbor.

MARYLAND’s ALL-PAYER MODEL OK’d: Federal health officials have authorized Maryland to continue its unique “all payer” health-care model for hospitals through 2019, while the state seeks approval to apply a similar plan to outpatient service providers such as doctors, skilled nurses and rehabilitation centers, Josh Hicks reports in the Post. Officials say expanding the program, which regulates how much hospitals can charge in exchange for having the federal government cover a larger share of Medicare costs than it does in other states, is one of the strongest steps Maryland can take to fulfill a federal requirement to lower its annual Medicare costs by $330 million.

ON BAIL REFORM: In this podcast, Marc Steiner and his guests look at bail reform, a critical issue that reached a crescendo last session and will prove to be major debate this session.

CECIL GOP UPBEAT ABOUT SESSION: Cecil County legislators expect to start strong in the state’s legislative session Wednesday, with some feeling confident that the tides will turn in Gov. Larry Hogan’s favor in the 2018 election. Del. Kevin Hornberger (R-Cecil), chair of the Cecil County delegation, said that the governor’s sound lead in the campaign race has signaled change will soon come to the majority Democratic House of Delegates and state Senate, Kate Tabling reports in the Cecil Whig.

DEMS GATHER IN ANNAPOLIS: Maryland Democrats will gather in Annapolis on today for their traditional pre-legislative session luncheon and pep rally amid hopes of regaining the State House in November, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun. U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen are among 10 elected officials scheduled to speak at the annual event, held the day before the General Assembly returns to Annapolis for its 90-day session.

DEL. LEWIS YOUNG TO SEEK RE-ELECTION: Del. Karen Lewis Young will contend to keep her seat in the State House, saying that affordable, accessible health care and tackling the opioid crisis will top her agenda, writes Kelsi Loos in the Frederick News-Post. “While we’re a prosperous state, we have some real challenges ahead of us,” Lewis Young, D-District 3A, said in a phone call Monday before heading to a fundraiser in Annapolis to kick off the campaign.

GOP SEEKS OAKS’ OUSTER: Maryland Republican Chairman Dirk Haire has released a statement Tuesday saying the GOP is launching a petition drive calling for Sen. Nathaniel Oaks’ ouster. He said the fact that Oaks will continue to be paid by Maryland taxpayers while under indictment is “an embarrassment to our state,” Josh Kurtz reports for Maryland Matters.

ATTY SAYS FBI PROBE LARGER THAN OAKS: The FBI investigation that led to bribery and obstruction-of-justice charges against a Baltimore state senator was part of a larger attempt to implicate members of the Baltimore City Council and the Maryland legislature, the senator’s attorneys said in a new court filing, Justin Fenton of the Sun reports. Attorneys for state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks said that for more than a year the FBI “coerced, cajoled and enticed multiple associates and friends of Senator Oaks” as part of a “dragnet ‘investigation’ into members of the Baltimore City Council and the Maryland legislature.”

FRICK SAYS NO: David Lublin in his Seventh State blog has some interesting comments on three candidates for Montgomery County executive, particularly House of Delegates Majority Leader Bill Frick’s willingness to reject the recent increase in the county real estate recordation tax.  “Frick’s willingness to stand out on this and other issues looks smart in a field with many candidates that voters have trouble sorting out,” says Lublin.

TRANSCANADA HEARING: A Jan. 22 hearing has been scheduled to resume the TransCanada natural-gas pipeline hearing that was continued last month in Hancock, according to the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. More than 200 people attended the Dec. 19 session held by the Maryland Department of the Environment at Hancock Middle-Senior High School.

FROSH ON EMOLUMENTS CLAUSE & TRUMP: A week-long stay by the University of Wisconsin football team at a Florida resort owned by President Trump is providing new potential fodder for a lawsuit alleging that the president’s private business has put him in violation of the Constitution. Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) said that the football team’s stay goes against the Constitution’s domestic emoluments clause, which prohibits the president from accepting benefits or financial rewards from state governments, Jonathan O’Connell of the Post reports.

JEALOUS EYES VOTING TACTICS: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous has been picking up union endorsements for so long that he told one crowd at an endorsement rally, “We now have more organizations that have endorsed us than we need voters to win.” The trick, Jealous also knows, is getting these groups to get their members to the polls, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters. In an interview a few minutes after the rally, Jealous laid out his strategy for doing just that.

MO CO CANDIDATES LIST: Here’s MarylandReporter’s updated candidates list for Montgomery County offices. It includes everyone from county executive to all those council candidates as well as State House hopefuls.

PUCA DROPS OUT:Tony Puca, a Democrat who was running for Montgomery County Council, has dropped out of the District 2 race and is instead running for a House seat in Legislative District 15. Puca, who was never shy about taking on incumbent Councilman Craig Rice, said he feels he can be more effective in Annapolis than on the council — especially since Rice changed his position and voted in favor of a $15 minimum wage bill last year. Puca is recovering from open heart surgery and the loss of his long-term girlfriend, but said he will be 100% by the Feb. 27 filing deadline, writes Glynis Kazanjian for

FORMER POLITICAL INSIDERS JOIN LAW FIRM: Two formers Annapolis insiders are joining corporate boutique law firm Nemphos Braue LLC. American Joe Miedusiewski, a former state delegate and senator from Canton who later became a lobbyist, has joined Old Line Government Affairs LLC, a subsidiary of Nemphos Braue. Attorney Brett S. Lininger, a former lobbyist who served in Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s administration, has also joined the firm as of-counsel, Holden Wilen reports for the Baltimore Business Journal.

BA CO TO SUE OPIOID MAKERS: Baltimore County has announced plans to file a federal lawsuit against pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors of opioids, writes Jim Joyner in the Towson Times. County officials say the suit — which is not yet filed — will seek monetary damages for expenses incurred by the county in its fight against opioid abuse. The county did not name companies that will be cited in the lawsuit. Last week Anne Arundel County government filed a similar lawsuit.

SALVADORANS IN MARYLAND WORRIED: Thousands of Marylanders from El Salvador who have been living in the country legally for years could face deportation next fall after the Trump administration announced Monday it will revoke their protected status, John Fritze reports for the Sun. Maryland is home to the fourth-largest community of Salvadorans with Temporary Protected Status in the nation — about 20,000 people — according to the New York-based Center for Migration Studies. Most live in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.