State Roundup, January 30, 2018

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HOGAN SIGNS ON TO GERRYMANDER CASE: Gov. Larry Hogan has signed on as a supporter of a U.S. Supreme Court challenge to Maryland’s congressional redistricting map. The Republican signed on to an amicus brief Monday along with Ohio Gov. John Kasich , a Republican. Former California Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, and Gray Davis, a Democrat, also have signed the friend-of-the-court brief, according to the AP.

SENATE PANEL OKs NEALL: Robert R. Neall won a unanimous recommendation from a Senate committee Monday to be confirmed as Maryland’s secretary of health, Michael Dresser reports for the Sun. The swift approval of Neall’s nomination by the Senate Executive Nominations Committee came as a stark contrast with the panel’s handling of Gov. Larry Hogan’s last nominee to lead the Department of Health. Last year the committee repeatedly delayed hearings on Dennis R. Schrader’s nomination, prompting Hogan to withdraw his nomination but to leave him in charge of the department over legislators’ objections.

FIGHT OVER RECESS APPOINTMENTS: The state board tasked with reviewing handgun permit appeals has become the next battleground in a fight over the governor’s authority to name recess appointments, as Senate President Mike Miller (D) said Monday night that lawmakers will consider legislation this session to curtail service by unconfirmed appointees, Danielle Gaines of the Frederick News-Post reports.

HELP WITH SEPTIC UPGRADES: Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed legislation that would cut fees and offer new financial assistance for some Marylanders whose homes are connected to septic systems, writes Scott Dance for the Sun. The measure would reward residents who pay to upgrade their septic systems with new technology that reduces the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and other pollutants that can seep through the ground into waterways. Those residents would no longer have to pay a $60 annual fee (known by many as the “flush tax”) that funds bay cleanup efforts.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE EDUCATION: Several measures will be considered in the state legislature this year as Maryland attempts to catch up to other states that have committed millions of dollars for students to attend community college on free or reduced tuition, writes Tim Curtis in the Daily Record. Educators and legislators hope improving access to education will help the state fill the 80,000-plus job vacancies that require more training than a high school education.

FETAL HOMICIDE: When she was killed, Laura Wallen didn’t know that the baby she was carrying was a boy. But she had chosen a boy’s name, Reid. If Mark and Gwen Wallen can sway the Maryland General Assembly, their daughter’s name will be united with that of their never-born grandson in a law allowing prosecutors to bring a murder charge against the killer of an unborn child no matter the stage of fetal development. The Wallens know they are sliding into the abortion issue but Mark Wallen insists the legislation is about domestic violence, not abortion, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.

JENNINGS BACKS OFF BASHING B’MORE: State Sen. J.B. Jennings was candid with the audience at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel in Baltimore on Monday. “I used to bash Baltimore,” Jennings, the Senate’s minority leader, told the crowd at the Greater Baltimore Committee Maryland General Assembly Legislative Forum. “It was easy to do.” But, writes Joanna Sullivan for the Baltimore Business Journal, Jennings said it was imperative for everyone — regardless of where they live in the metro area — to do something to quell the violence. “It’s our town,” the Republican lawmaker said. “We have to do something. It’s affecting all of us.”

OAKS’ ATTYS ARGUE ENTRAPMENT: Lawyers for indicted state Sen. Nathaniel T. Oaks argue in a new court filing that the FBI entrapped their client after pursuing him relentlessly for years, Luke Broadwater and Ian Duncan report in the Sun. “The government hatched, designed, and engineered a crime in this case, and then spent more than two years in a coordinated, unrelenting, and multifaceted campaign to try to induce Senator Oaks to commit it,” wrote the federal public defenders who represent Oaks.

MONEY FOR WEALTHY AMAZON: In an op-ed for the Post, Peter Galuszka, a former Maryland resident and current Virginia one, expresses concern for Gov. Hogan’s incentive package to Amazon to locate its HQ2 in Maryland, writing that it could start a bidding war among D.C., Virginia and Maryland when each jurisdiction has crucial and unmet needs. He asks why be so good to the super-wealthy Amazon, anyway? Amazon’s stock has been trading at nearly $1,300 a share. Its market cap has jumped to around $624 billion. A stock analyst believes it could be $1.6 trillion within about 20 years.

GOP CHALLENGER TO FROSH: A leader of a prominent Washington, D.C., trade association is gearing up to run against state Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) in the fall. Craig Wolf, the president and CEO of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, confirmed in a brief phone conversation Monday that he would join the race soon. He did not respond to a follow-up email seeking more information about his candidacy, Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters reports, adding that Wolf appears to be a credible opponent who could conceivably spend heavily to bloody the incumbent.

CHALLENGE TO SEN. KELLEY: Another generational battle is on tap for a Baltimore-area state Senate seat. Rob Johnson, an attorney and community activist, told Maryland Matters he will file papers today to challenge Sen. Delores G. Kelley in the Democratic primary in Baltimore County’s 10th District. Johnson ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the House of Delegates in 2014, on a ticket headed by Kelley.

SIERRA CLUB BACKS BERLINER: The Montgomery County Sierra Club endorsed council member Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda) Monday in the race for county executive, citing the need to create new programs and policies to address climate change, Rachel Siegel of the Post reports.

KRASNOW SMACKS BACK AT FRICK: Former Montgomery County deputy planning director Rose Krasnow defended herself Monday after Del. Bill Frick (D-Bethesda) claimed Friday he’d never heard of her on a radio show in one of the first dustups among candidates in the Montgomery County executive race, writes Andrew Metcalf for Bethesda Beat. In a statement shared with Bethesda Beat, Krasnow wrote, “Perhaps Mr. Frick’s dismissive remarks about me are a reflection of his attitude toward women.”

ROSENSTEIN IN THE FRAY: Less than a year after leaving Maryland with a reputation for staying above the political fray, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein was thrust again into the maelstrom Monday after a report indicated he approved the continued surveillance of a Trump campaign adviser, writes John Fritze for the Sun. The former U.S. attorney for Maryland, who served in that job under presidents of both parties, extended the surveillance of Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, according to a controversial congressional memo described by The New York Times.

MARYLANDREPORTER GETS NEWS MATCH: MarylandReporter.com, the 8-year-old nonprofit news website on state government and politics, and Maryland Matters, another member of the Institute for Nonprofit News, both met their 2017 News Match challenge grants, raising $28,000 each from hundreds of donors, MarylandReporter reports.

CUMMING RECOVERING: U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Baltimore Democrat who was hospitalized in late December for a knee infection, said Monday he hopes to be finished with his recovery in the next two weeks. “It’s going real well,” Cummings told The Baltimore Sun’s John Fritze in a phone interview. “Recovery is expected to be full.” Cummings has been hit with a series of health problems over the past year. He underwent a minimally invasive heart procedure in May, which led to an infection that kept him in the hospital longer than expected.

JERRY WALKER RECOVERING FROM FLU: Anne Arundel County Councilmember Jerry Walker is at home recovering from the flu after being taken to the hospital by ambulance Saturday night. Walker said his heart rate was spiking “all over the place” and he was given intravenous solution. The situation was “pretty scary,” he admits. Len Lazarick, MarylandReporter.com.

REMEMBERING FORMER U.S. REP. HOLT: In this 3-minute video in the Annapolis Capital, Gov. Larry Hogan remembers Marjorie Holt during a funeral service for the former U.S. representative at the Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church in Severna Park Saturday. Holt was 97 years-old and the first Republican woman elected to Congress from Maryland.