State Roundup, January 16, 2018

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MARIJUANA WORK CONTINUES: Maryland lawmakers ran into controversy immediately Monday as they opened debate on how to reshape the state’s medical marijuana industry to include cannabis firms led by African-Americans, Erin Cox reports in the Sun. While General Assembly and marijuana industry leaders widely agree it’s unacceptable that none of the 15 lucrative licenses to grow marijuana are held by minority-owned companies, the passage of a compromise designed to fix that appears contentious.

$15 MINIMUM WAGE: A coalition of Democrats, union leaders and workers launched a campaign to raise Maryland’s minimum hourly wage to $15 on Monday, saying they chose to do so on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to carry on his message of justice and fairness, reports Scott Dance in the Sun.

  • Sen. Richard S. Madaleno and Del. Shelly L. Hettleman announced Monday that they will introduce legislation this year to raise the state’s lowest allowable wage from $10.10 an hour to $15 by 2023. Madaleno said the $10.10 minimum, which takes effect in July under legislation signed by former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), is not keeping up with inflation and leaves too many workers struggling to make ends meet, Josh Hicks of the Post reports.

HOGAN SETS UP SICK LEAVE OFFICE: Gov. Larry Hogan is creating a state office to assist small businesses in response to legislation mandating paid sick leave for workers. Hogan, a Republican, responded Monday by issuing an executive order creating the Office of Small Business Regulatory Assistance. Under the state Constitution, the legislature has 50 days to consent or pass a resolution of disapproval, the Daily Record is reporting.

FUND SCHOOL SECURITY PROGRAM: Ron Halber and Maury Litwack write in a column for Maryland Matters that, with the increase of religious bias crimes, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Orthodox Union, and many of their faith partners, particularly in the Muslim community, lobbied last year for the creation of the Maryland State Grant Program for Schools and Child Care Centers at Risk of Hate Crimes or Attacks, which would provide funding for both capital and operating money for security. The bill passed but has not been funded. Now is the time for that funding, they write.

CASH BAIL DECLINES: In the six months since Maryland’s retooled bail rule went into effect, nearly 60% of criminal defendants are being released on their own recognizance or with unsecured bond after appearing in front of a district court commissioner. But the number of arrestees held without bond also increased to approximately 20% by the end of last year, according to data provided by the Maryland Judiciary, Heather Cobun of the Daily Record reports.

COLD SCHOOLS: WHO IS TO BLAME? Liz Bowie and Doug Donovan of the Sun report that while freezing temperatures forced several Baltimore schools to close to start 2018 and city and state officials immediately began hurling heated words about who was to blame for broken boilers and burst pipes, the real question is how much of the problem in the city’s fault and how much of it sits at the feet of the state funding process?

HELPING BALTIMORE CITY: State Sen. Bill Ferguson and other District 46 lawmakers, in an op-ed in the Sun, offer up several key issues that can help make Baltimore more successful. They write that “ultimately, Baltimore’s success is contingent on meaningful support from our state government, and a healthy Maryland is contingent on a successful Baltimore City. We have a deep-seated belief in the potential of the General Assembly’s work; the question is if our colleagues from outside of the city share that holistic vision for our state.”

METRO FUNDING: State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery) said Monday’s Metro derailment in Washington, D.C., underscores the need for Maryland, D.C. and Virginia to approve a new source of maintenance funding for the beleaguered system, writes Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters. “It’s distressing,” she said. “After all of the inconvenience of SafeTrack, it’s very worrisome to have a problem like a derailment.”

CHILD CUSTODY LAWS: Recommendations of a four-year-old, 18-month study on child custody decision made in the state courts have never been implemented. The editorial board of the Post is urging the General Assembly make the much needed changes this year.

Monday night’s wreath laying . Governor’s office photo

MLK & MARYLAND LEADERS: Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters writes that Gov. Larry Hogan (R) told the crowd gathered at an event honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that the slain civil rights leader would appreciate the state’s diverse leadership.

LOSING DISCOVERY: Discovery’s exit will cost Montgomery County and Maryland tens of millions of dollars in lost payroll, tax receipts and vendor sales, Robert McCartney, Abha Bhattarai and Rachel Siegel of the Post are reporting. It will deprive Silver Spring of the high-profile anchor company that sparked the suburb’s commercial revival beginning in the late 1990s. It will also force the county to find a new occupant for the landmark edifice close to the Silver Spring Metro station.

FUNDRAISING REPORTS: Wednesday will be one of the first big moments of truth in Maryland’s 2018 election, with candidates for governor and other state and county offices required to show — for the first time in a year — how much money they have raised for their campaigns, writes Josh Hicks in the Post.

SCHUH LOVES JOB: Steve Schuh loves his job as Anne Arundel County executive and he hopes to keep it. In a normal re-election year, a county executive would keep his job if he has been fairly successful and hasn’t screwed up, as Schuh believes is true and a recent poll seems to indicate. But this election year is not normal. “Democrats are very angry,” said the Republican county executive in his third annual year-end interview with MarylandReporter.com’s Len Lazarick for The Business Monthly in late December.

NEW DISTRICT 17 SLATE: Less than a week after Del. Andrew Platt announced he would not seek another term in District 17, the district’s two other incumbent delegates disclosed Monday that they’re forming a slate with Rockville City Council member Julie Palakovich Carr in advance of this year’s Democratic primary, writes Louis Peck for Bethesda Beat.

10 LAWMAKERS TO WATCH: Now that the Maryland General Assembly has dispensed with the business of 2017 – overriding two of Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) vetoes last week – lawmakers will turn to their busy and uncertain election-year agenda, begins Josh Kurtz in a column for Maryland Matters in which he offers up 10 legislators to pay attention to this session, beginning with Del. Ariana Kelly of Montgomery County, head of the Women Legislators of Maryland.

ON CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE HEARSEY: Danielle Gaines of the Frederick News Post profiles Chris Hearsey, a Montgomery County Democrat who is running for the 6th District congressional seat. He wants to bring his science background to Congress, where he thinks America’s elected officials should be focusing more on building up the country’s economy for the future.