State Roundup, January 17, 2018

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Gov. Larry Hogan briefs reporters on his budget Tuesday. Governor’s office photo

HOGAN PREVIEWS BUDGET: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan previewed the final budget of his four-year term on Tuesday, highlighting that the $44.4 billion plan includes no tax increases, record money for K-12 education and holds tuition increases at Maryland public colleges to 2%, Erin Cox of the Sun reports. The governor declined to say how much aid he would send Baltimore to help stem its record homicide rate, but he listed a series of economic development programs that would receive millions more next year to continue their missions.

DUELING TAX RELIEF PLANS: Maryland Democrats sketched out a three-part tax relief plan Tuesday that they say will lower state tax bills for 92% of taxpayers and save them as much as $1 billion in unintended tax increases. Within hours, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said he’d push a competing tax proposal — which he has not detailed — to accomplish the same goal, Erin Cox of the Sun reports.

ADDRESSING HARASSMENT: In an op-ed in the Sun, Amy Bernstein argues for a different approach to addressing sexual harassment in the State House, writing that the leaders of the Maryland General Assembly recently announced their intention to form a new commission devoted to studying how sexual harassment allegations arising in the state legislature can best be handled — and better still, how such behavior may be ended before it begins. “I don’t question the lawmakers’ good intentions, but this approach to the matter is ridiculous and likely to result in a lot of grand-standing, wheel-spinning and other time-honored ways of looking busy without accomplishing much of substance.”

MIDDLING MD SCHOOLS: The chairman of the commission studying Maryland’s education policy and funding formulas told legislative fiscal committees Tuesday that despite being ranked among the best in the nation in years past, state schools are actually in the “middle of the pack” in the United States, William Zorzi reports for Maryland Matters.

ON TERM LIMITS: Len Lazarick compiles comments from Maryland Reporter and the his Facebook page on his column addressing the fact that term limits in the General Assembly are a good idea, but it won’t happen. They run the gamut of opinion and make interesting reading.

FIX RX POT INDUSTRY: The Sun editorial board opines that it’s no surprise that an effort to overhaul Maryland’s medical marijuana law and to help bring more diversity to the roster of state licensed growers is proving contentious. There’s far too much money at stake for it to be any other way. Nonetheless, there is no reason lawmakers can’t move forward quickly with a bill that addresses the broadly shared goals of bringing minority-owned firms into the lucrative industry while providing adequate supplies and protections for patients. Indeed, there’s every reason they should.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Prosecutors would be able to seek harsher penalties when adults are victims of human trafficking under legislation proposed by Del. Mark Chang, Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital reports. Originally the Glen Burnie Democrat’s legislation would have simply changed the general human trafficking punishment from a misdemeanor to a felony. But amendments will push the focus to a different portion of the state’s trafficking laws specifically addressing human trafficking and sexual coercion.

OPPOSITION TO OFFSHORE DRILLING: Selene San Felice of the Annapolis Capital reports that the Trump administration’s new offshore drilling policy could put hundreds of millions of dollars of blue crabs at risk, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation president said at a rally Tuesday. While the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management held a meeting inside the Doubletree hotel in Annapolis on Tuesday, elected officials and local environmental leaders promised to stop their efforts for offshore oil drilling off Maryland’s coast at a rally in a separate ballroom of the hotel.

HOGAN UPBEAT ON METRO BUCKS: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) expressed optimism that the local governments responsible for the Metro system, and the federal government, will come up with a new source of maintenance funding this year for the Washington, D.C. area’s transit system, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters writes.

ACLU THREATENS TO SUE DGS: Citing freedom of speech, a civil rights group on Tuesday threatened to sue a Maryland agency if it fails by Feb. 1 to lift a prohibition on solicitations for funds on Lawyers’ Mall, a popular site for political protest with the State House and a statue of Thurgood Marshall as backdrops, Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports.

**THERE’S NO OFF-SEASON FOR MARYLAND’S LIVESTOCK FARMERS: Taking care of livestock is a year-round business for Maryland farmers Benson and Jamie Tiralla. Farmer’s markets may be closed, but when winter hits, the Tirallas are just as busy. Farmers across the state are maintaining their farms and preparing for the coming season in order to keep this $8.25 billion industry thriving. Here’s the Tiralla’s story. SPONSORED CONTENT***

HOGAN’s COFFERS: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) will report raising $4.85 million during the past year, according to a fundraising memo obtained Tuesday, Josh Kurtz writes in Maryland Matters. Added to the $584,000 that Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R) raised independently since January 2017, the Hogan-Rutherford campaign took in more than $5.4 million in the past 12 months. It had more than $9 million in the bank as of last week.

BAKER BLASTED BY PARENTS: It went under the radar last month, blogs Brian Griffiths for Red Maryland, but some parents are calling for the resignation of Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker for his involvement in the Prince George’s County Grade Fixing scandal. A video of some of the comments is at the bottom of the piece.

REDMER HIRES CAMPAIGN STAFF: Topping off his political notes column in Maryland Matters, Josh Kurtz writes that State Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer Jr., one of two Republicans running for Baltimore County executive, announced Tuesday that he has hired three top campaign staffers: Campaign Director Zachary Peters, Finance Director Nicole Ossola, and Communications Director Hannah Marr.

MANNING’s CHANCES? In her first utterances as a U.S. Senate candidate, Chelsea Manning declares war on establishment politicians, proclaiming, “We don’t need them anymore” in a video that includes clips of white supremacists, police assaulting protesters and grinning congressional leaders meeting with President Trump. Her candidacy brings drama to an otherwise staid primary and gives Republicans an opportunity to stoke divisions among Democrats. But analysts say Manning’s maverick approach may not play well in Maryland, writes Jenna Portnoy for the Post.

DOCTOR RUNS FOR CONGRESS: Dr. Nadia Hashimi’s congressional campaign website reads like a book, complete with chapters about her childhood, medical education and narratives about her campaign platform. For good reason, writes Danielle Gaines in a profile about the author and candidate who is running for the 6th Congressional District seat currently held by presidential hopeful John Delaney.

BREAKING THE GOLDWATER RULE: President Trump’s election has manifestly frightened and concerned perhaps a majority of American citizens — himself included, writes conservative Towson University professor Richard Vatz in an op-ed in the Sun. To accept that such a volatile president presides over the world’s largest and most effective nuclear weapons stockpile is sobering indeed. However, he continues, the attempts by U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin and others to flout the Goldwater Rule is just “unprofessional venting.”