State Roundup, February 12, 2018

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SICK LEAVE TAKES EFFECT: Many business owners in Maryland are scrambling to prepare for the state’s new sick-leave policy, which took effect Sunday despite a veto last year from Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and a last-ditch attempt by the state Senate to delay it, Josh Hicks reports in the Post. Some business owners say they don’t know whether their employees qualify for the benefit, or wonder if their existing plans comply with the requirements. Others are concerned about a perceived lack of guidance from the state, or what will happen if they make an honest mistake.

PAROLE FOR JUVIE LIFERS: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Friday formalized his process for deciding whether to grant parole to inmates serving life sentences for crimes committed as juveniles, reports Ovetta Wiggins and Ann Marimow in the Post. The executive order comes as Hogan’s administration is facing legal and political pressure to overhaul the system, which has not paroled any juvenile offenders sentenced to life in more than 20 years.

GRAYING OF STATE LEGISLATURE: Spouses and children abound on the opening day of the Maryland General Assembly’s annual session, so Shirley A. Gravely-Currie’s presence next to her husband, Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George’s) was unremarkable. But then Gravely-Currie returned the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that. Ovetta Wiggins of the Post writes that her presence has drawn attention not only to her husband’s diminishing health but also the graying of the Maryland legislature, and the delicate question in this statehouse and others of how long is too long to serve.

CRAFT BREWERY CURBS: A bill introduced in the General Assembly Thursday is adding fuel to the ongoing debate over regulation of Maryland breweries. Amanda Yeager of the Baltimore Business Journal reports that House Bill 1052, sponsored by Del. Talmadge Branch and Dereck Davis, proposes to roll back many of the changes enacted under a contentious measure the legislature passed last year in an effort to pave the way for a new Guinness brewery opening in Baltimore County. That legislation, House Bill 1283, increased the annual barrel limit for taprooms but was met with blowback from many craft brewers, who argued the limitations were still too restrictive.

COMPENSATION FOR VICTIMS OF ROGUE COPS: As the trial of two former Gun Trace Task Force members unfolded in Baltimore last week, Ivan Potts was telling state lawmakers in Annapolis how the rogue unit ruined his life, reports Erin Cox and Kevin Rector of the Sun. “I just spent two and a half years in prison for something I didn’t do, at all,” Potts told the House Judiciary Committee. Lawmakers are now weighing reforms in the wake of the scandal — including whether and how to compensate the task force’s wrongly imprisoned victims.

LARGE RAISES FOR JUDGES: A proposal to give all 313 Maryland judges a $35,000 raise over the next four years faces a hearing Tuesday in the House Appropriations Committee, Len Lazarick writes for MarylandReporter.com. Under HJ3, the pay of the chief judge of the Court of Appeals would rise from $195,433 to $230,433 in 2021. Salaries for the 173 circuit court judges would go up to $189,433 and the pay for 117 district court judges, the lowest paid of the jurists, would go up to $176,333.

FOOTBALL BILL: A new bill in the Maryland General Assembly to limit tackle football and headers in soccer for kids in elementary and middle school is absorbing some early hits, Jeff Barker reports in the Sun. Coaches around the state took to social media and sports talk radio to oppose the legislation filed this week, and a youth football administrator started an online petition that had accumulated more than 2,500 signatures to “stop the bill.” A state senator who explored sponsoring the measure said he had reconsidered because the language seemed overly broad.

SCHOOL HOURS TO FIGHT CRIME: A significant spike in juvenile crime from 3 to 7 p.m. on school days has led to a push by the state’s juvenile justice agency to shift school start and finish times, according to a report by the Capital News Service. The department is advocating for a later opening and release to limit the amount of time kids spend unsupervised in the evening. The more time teenagers are congregated in one spot, the thinking goes, the greater chance of delinquency.

STADIUM COMPACT BUFFETED: The proposed “stadium compact” has been stuffed at the line of scrimmage, writes Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters. The idea, as conceived by opponents of using public funds for NFL stadiums, was to have Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., enter an agreement not to try to outbid one another in pursuit of the Washington Redskins. But a legislative panel in Virginia voted to table a similar bill, effectively killing the regional stadium compact effort for this year.

STATE RECOGNIZES TRIBE: In December, the 81-member Accohannock became the third Native American tribe in Maryland to be recognized by the state. But not everyone is celebrating. Other Native Americans are questioning the Accohannocks’ historical claims, Christina Tkacik writes for the Sun.

ARUNDEL MONEY BILLS: The Anne Arundel County delegates and senators have put forth about $6.3 million in local bond bill requests, legislation that awards money to local groups, parks, charities and others, Chase Cook reports for the Annapolis Capital. Organizations like the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds and schools benefit from these bills. Often the money is used to build or renovate, as with Maryland Hall’s ongoing improvements.

AA DELEGATION OKs MASSAGE PARLOR REGULATION: The Anne Arundel County Delegation gave its blessing Friday to legislation that enables the county government to regulate massage parlors, Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital reports. The delegation unanimously passed the bill after debate on Friday. The specifics of how the county would regulate massage parlors is not laid out in the legislation; it does allow the county to require massage parlors to seek verification, be inspected and display certain licenses.

HOGAN CRIME BILLS WON’T WORK: In an op-ed for the Post, Marc Schindler of the Justice Policy Institute and Kevin Ring of Families Against Mandatory Minimums opine that, as violence in Baltimore continues at unacceptably high levels, city residents are desperate for solutions. Unfortunately, Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed crime bills that sound tough but that won’t actually reduce crime. Stealing a page from the Trump-Sessions playbook, the governor’s plan relies on lengthy mandatory-minimum prison sentences. This approach will waste taxpayer dollars and exacerbate racial disparities in the state’s prisons without making the public safer.

COURT UNDERCUT GUN LAW: The Maryland law that requires a background check when someone wants to sell or give a gun to another person was written to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals. But a Maryland Court of Appeals decision more than a decade ago that loosened the definition of a gun transfer has significantly weakened that law, researchers at Johns Hopkins say, and made it easier for so-called straw purchases to occur, Andrea K. McDaniels of the Sun reports.

CITY SUBWAYLINK SHUT: Baltimore’s entire Metro SubwayLink system will remain closed for a month, the Maryland Transit Administration announced Sunday, after safety inspections showed sections of track needed emergency repairs that couldn’t wait until this summer, reports Colin Campbell in the Sun. Gov. Larry Hogan has devoted $2.2 million in emergency funding to run free coach buses for passengers along the subway’s route, in addition to the normal MTA bus routes, the MTA said Sunday.

BENEFIT OF PHARMACY BENEFIT MANAGERS: In a column for MarylandReporter, Dr. Edmund J. Pezalla writes that there is so much rancor and finger pointing these days over prescription drug prices that consumers are often left to wonder: who is fighting on their behalf? The answer: Pharmacy Benefit Managers, who are hired by companies and public programs that provide prescription drug coverage to reduce drug costs by negotiating for rebates and discounts from big drug companies and drugstores.

***COLD WEATHER DOESN’T STOP MARYLAND’S FARMERS: Across Maryland, farmers have wrapped up their harvest and gone into winter mode. But that doesn’t mean that their work is done until spring. Some farmers are doing paperwork and analyzing data to make decisions about next year’s crop. Others serve on boards or expand their education. Here’s what five farmers do during the winter to improve their farms. Read these farmer’s stories. SPONSORED CONTENT***

CHARGES AGAINST PICKETERS DROPPED: Charges against two men arrested last Monday night while protesting near the Maryland State House have been dropped, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record. A spokesman for the Department of General Services’ Maryland Capitol Police confirmed in an email that civil citations issued to Jeff and Kevin Hulbert would be dropped.

CAUTION ON BAY BRIDGE EXPANSION: In an op-ed for the Sun, author David Healey urges caution as Maryland tries to figure out what to do about congestion on the bay bridge, whether to build a new span or find alternative models that can help travelers reach the Eastern Shore.

CAMPAIGN DONATIONS TO CITY HALL 17: Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew does an interesting analysis of off-year donations to Baltimore City’s “City Hall 17,” and who got the money, who gave the money and who didn’t to help stoke the campaign coffers of these elected officials.

HARRIS TURNS AGAINST OFF-SHORT DRILLING: Scott Dance of the Sun reports that after previously saying he supports President Donald Trump’s plans to expand offshore drilling, U.S. Rep. Andy Harris is opposing such energy projects off Maryland’s coast because of opposition in Ocean City and other communities.

KUSHNER SEEKS TO CONCEAL INVESTORS: Rather than reveal its investor’s identities as ordered by a federal judge, the apartment company owned by Jared Kushner has asked the judge to transfer a tenants’ lawsuit against it back to the Baltimore court where it was first filed, Doug Donovan reports in the Sun. The company owned by Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to President Trump, had moved the case from Baltimore Circuit Court to U.S. District Court in November by asserting in federal filings that all of the firm’s investors, including Kushner and his parents, reside outside of the state.