State Roundup, January 29, 2018

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STEPPING UP FOR CONSUMER PROTECTION: A bipartisan commission established to assess financial protections for Marylanders recommended Friday that state officials step in and act on behalf of residents when the federal government fails to do so because of recently gutted consumer regulations, writes William Zorzi in Maryland Matters.

TERM LIMITS DOA: Josh Hicks of the Post writes about why term limits, an idea that is seeming highly popular in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal to limit state lawmakers to two terms in office is widely considered dead on arrival.

BA CO INTERIM SUPER QUESTIONED: Liz Bowie of the Sun reports that some Baltimore County senators are calling for an extensive new audit to review millions of dollars of education technology contracts, as well as the relationships between county school system administrators and vendors over the past several years. At a meeting in Annapolis Friday with school system leaders, several county senators said they believe a much broader examination of the system’s purchasing is needed than one currently planned by the school board and interim Superintendent Verletta White. The article is topped by a short video of White.

  • White, interim superintendent of the 133,000-student Baltimore County Public Schools system, made the first of two appearances before state lawmakers, some of whom expressed concerns regarding her own failure to report income on required financial disclosure forms, reports Bryan Sears in the Daily Record. “We’ll do whatever we need to do to restore public trust,” said White during a Friday meeting with Baltimore County’s state Senate delegation. A video of the entire 55-minute Q&A tops the article.

STRIPPING RAPISTS’ RIGHTS: The Senate on Friday gave preliminary approval by voice vote to legislation enabling courts to strip parental rights from a mother or father who conceived the child through non-consensual intercourse, writes Steve Lash in the Daily Record.

HOWARD DELEGATION TO SEEK $1.75M IN BONDS: Howard County’s delegation to the Maryland legislature has approved nearly $2 million in state funding for county projects, ranging from renovations to Columbia’s Gateway Innovation Center to the county’s Harriet Tubman Community Center, reports Kate Magill for the Howard County Times. The 12-member delegation approved seven bond bills for $150,000 to $500,000 last week

PROTECTION FOR HOSPITAL PATIENTS: In an op-ed for the Sun, Del. Karen Young, AAUW President Eileen Menton and Dr. Anna Palmisano, opine that the viral video of a University of Maryland hospital patient being discharged onto a Baltimore street on a cold January evening wearing only a hospital gown and socks shocked thousands of viewers. This alarming incident should prompt state legislators to consider the need for better protection of hospital patients — some of our most vulnerable consumers.

EXPANDING COLLEGE TUITION GRANTS: A bill before legislators would extend free in-state tuition for public institutions to students who were 13 or older in foster care for at least a year, but later reunited with their parents or were adopted. Maryland lawmakers want to make it easier for foster kids to not only gain an adoptive family but to get a higher education, reports Hannah Brockway for Capital News Service.

PITFALLS IN TAX OVERHAUL: Pointing out the potential pitfalls of attempts to minimize the problems created for Marylanders by the federal tax overhaul, the editorial board for the Sun opines that Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal to change the law so that Marylanders can continue to itemize their state taxes under pre-Trump rules whether they do so on their federal returns or not is, in one sense, the simplest solution. In other senses, not so much. It will add massively to the administrative burden faced by the comptroller’s office, and it will potentially force Marylanders to calculate their taxes four different ways.

FUNDING METRO: Despite the worries of how to fund Metro, many lawmakers in both Virginia and Maryland say now is the time to make the push. Veteran politicians in Richmond and in Annapolis note it is the first time in memory that both political parties are taking seriously the need to provide financial support for the transit system. Top Virginia Republicans and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) have both said they are open to providing more state money to Metro, as long as certain conditions are met, Robert McCartney of the Post reports.

STRENGTHEN HATE CRIME LAWS: The editorial board of the Annapolis Capital is urging state lawmakers to strengthen the state’s hate crime laws after Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Paul Harris Jr. all but told them to do it. Harris signaled in December that the law as currently written made it impossible for him to find two young men guilty of two misdemeanor hate crimes — despite proof that they placed a noose at a local school last year. And last week, he followed through.

DREDGING AT DEEP CREEK LAKE: Gov. Larry Hogan’s fiscal year 2019 budget includes $1.115 million to underwrite a pilot dredging project at Deep Creek Lake’s Arrowhead Cove, Sen. George Edwards has said. Renee Shreve of the Garrett County Republican writes that the governor submitted his proposed budget to the Senate and House of Representatives last Thursday.

MD WOMEN SEEK BACKING FOR SEAT IN CONGRESS: A year after Maryland sent an all-male delegation to Congress for the first time in four decades, some female candidates are questioning whether elected officials and organizations in the state are doing enough to avoid a similar outcome again, John Fritze of the Sun reports. Amid a national surge of women launching bids for Congress and other offices, only about a half dozen are campaigning for the House or Senate from Maryland.

PUSH CONTINUES FOR FBI HQ: Adam Bednar of the Daily Record writes that although Prince George’s didn’t make the cut of choices for the Amazon 2 Headquarters, it still is working to get the new FBI headquarters. “We’ve been pushing aggressively on our federal partners, and we’ve asked the governor to do the same thing, to hold (President Donald Trump’s) administration’s feet to the fire to move forward with it,” Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker said.

BIG AMAZON GAMBLE: The editorial board of the Frederick News Post opines that, like a gambler in high-stakes poker, Gov. Larry Hogan has pushed all of his chips to the center of the table and gone all-in to win the great Amazon headquarters game. Hogan’s bid is $5 billion — that’s right, billion with a B — to win the national competition and bring 50,000 jobs to Maryland.

OFF-SHORE WIND: Paul Rich, the director of project development with US Wind Inc., told members of the Maryland Senate Finance Committee last week the company signed a letter of intent with Salisbury-based Devreco to establish and operate US Wind’s operation and maintenance facility in Ocean City and its laydown and handling facility at Tradepoint Atlantic in Baltimore, according to the Daily Record. The O&M facility will eventually provide support services for the 25-year life of the offshore wind farm. Rich told the committee the wind farm will create nearly 3,000 skilled jobs during the development and construction phase and an additional 4,100 jobs during its 20-year operating period.

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WHY MANNING IS RUNNING: Chelsea Manning stepped out of prison last spring into a world that she recognized only from her dystopian nightmares, reports Jenna Portnoy in the Post. In New York City, she noticed an overwhelming number of heavily armed police. It reminded her of what she describes as the suppression of protests around President Trump’s inauguration a few months earlier, and riots after the 2016 Freddie Gray incident, in which Gray was fatally injured in police custody in Baltimore. By summer, her attention — and the world’s — shifted to Charlottesville, where a white-supremacist rally to protest the removal of a Confederate statue turned deadly. Her answer, for now, is to run for U.S. Senate against Ben. Cardin, the 74-year-old two-term lawmaker and senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

SCHOOL DAZED: Two Democratic gubernatorial candidates – Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz – have been singed with school scandals. This spells bad news for them but good news for incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters.

CASA BACKS JEALOUS: Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous has picked up the endorsement of CASA in Action, one of the region’s most prominent immigrant advocacy groups. Jealous’s campaign announced the endorsement Friday, adding to the backing he’s received from a variety of national and state progressive groups and U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Fenit Nirappil of the Post reports.

DEARTH OF RUNNING MATES: The long shadow being cast by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) may make it difficult for the Democrats running against him to find a high-profile running mate, writes Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters. Only one has been named thus far and even longtime State House lobbyist Bruce Bereano said, “I have not — and I’m being totally honest with you — I’ve not heard of anybody.”

MADALENO SPEAKS: A Miner Detail Radio host Ryan Miner interviewed gubernatorial candidate Rich Madaleno, who spoke about growing up in Montgomery County, how he first got started in politics and coming to terms with his sexuality during college. Shifting to policy, Madaleno believes he’s already beaten incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, and he’ll fight for Amazon to come to Montgomery County, a $15 statewide minimum wage, funding for our public schools and massive infrastructure upgrades. He ends the interview saying that will soon make a decision on a running mate.

LT. GOV. RUTHERFORD EMBRACES WONKINESS: Sitting behind his desk with a history of the Board of Public Works and binders full of state code nearby, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford wants to make one thing clear: He’s not dull. “I prefer the term wonky,” the Republican said in a recent interview with Fenit Nirappil for the Post, his voice low and somewhat somnolent. Whatever the right adjective is for his personality — boring, dorky, bland — Rutherford, 60, is embracing it and having fun as he and Gov. Larry Hogan (R) make their case for a second term in November.

LEGGETT POINTS FINGER AT DISTRICT 39 INCUMBENTS: Accusing incumbent state legislators in District 39 of “smoke-filled room” tactics, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett on Thursday took aim at the process by which the lawmakers had chosen a non-incumbent candidate to join their slate in this year’s Democratic primary, Louis Peck reports for Bethesda Beat.

UNION BACKS BEYER FOR DISTRICT 18 SENATE SEAT: Leading off his Politics Roundup column, Louis Peck of Bethesda Beat writes that SEIU Local 500, which claims more members in Montgomery County than any other local union, has decided to endorse political activist Dana Beyer of Chevy Chase in June’s Democratic primary for the open District 18 Senate seat, according to sources.

OUTRAGE OVER OFF-SHORE DRILLING, FLA. WAIVER: Matt Laslo of WYPR-FM reports that most of Maryland’s Congressional lawmakers—along with their colleagues from up and down the East Coast—have been up in arms over the Interior Department’s announcement that it will allow drilling for gas and oil in the Atlantic Ocean. That anger turned to outrage this month when Florida was given a waiver that blocks drilling off the state’s shores. “It’s political,” fumed Maryland’s senior Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin. “It’s outrageous.”

KUSHNER MUST RELEASE INVESTOR NAMES: Doug Donovan of the Sun reports that a federal judge ruled Friday that the apartment company owned by Jared Kushner, senior adviser and son-in-law of President Donald J. Trump, cannot hide the names of the firm’s investors to protect them from what it calls unfair media coverage of a lawsuit filed by Baltimore-area tenants. Two tenants filed a class-action lawsuit in Baltimore Circuit Court in late September saying the firm has charged them improper fees and threatened eviction to force payment.