State Roundup, February 19, 2018

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HARASSMENT ACCOUNTS RELEASED: The Maryland Women’s Caucus released a report Friday that details anonymous accounts of sexual harassment in Annapolis, troubling vignettes presented as state lawmakers grapple with how to prevent such misbehavior in the future, Erin Cox reports in the Sun.

CONTRACEPTION EXPANSION EXEMPTS STATE WORKERS: When a new state law went into effect this year expanding access to contraception, it left out a big swath of Marylanders — those who work for the state, reports Meredith Cohn for the Sun. The state government — and many other large employers — were exempt from the law that went into effect Jan. 1.

PRESCRIPTION DRUG COSTS: A Maryland bill that would make the state a national test case for controlling prescription drug costs has garnered broad legislative support in Annapolis but could put the state on a legal collision course with the pharmaceutical industry, Josh Hicks writes in the Post. The proposal would create a commission to decide the maximum amount that health plans, pharmacies and state programs could shell out for the most expensive brand-name and patented medications. The state has a similar rate-setting commission that determines how much hospitals can charge for their services.

PRIORITY FORESTS: Maryland has enacted laws to protect and promote tree growth. But environmentalists say some projects expose a loophole that threatens some of the state’s most important forests, reports Scott Dance for the Sun. Preventing such losses in the future is their top priority in this year’s General Assembly session. Working with state Sen. Ronald Young and other lawmakers, they want to strengthen protections for priority forests.

DEFENDING THE BAY: The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital opines that the latest assessments by environmental groups depict a Chesapeake Bay that is gradually on the mend. Tis progress must owe something to the federal-state partnership of the Chesapeake Bay Program and to the EPA’s mandating pollution-reduction goals for bay watershed states. Yet, just as these policies pay off, Maryland’s representatives have to fight efforts to not only gut the Bay Program but to bar the EPA from enforcing the Clean Water Act. While it’s unfortunate this effort is necessary at all, we’re glad it’s being made — not just by the congressional delegation but by Gov. Larry Hogan.

FIX FOSTER YOUTH FUNDING: The #MeToo movement has shaken Annapolis this legislative session, with more attention on how our laws and policies are protecting – or failing – the most vulnerable among us. On Feb. 8, advocates testified on legislation that would tackle a malicious form of financial abuse – the ongoing theft by the state government of Social Security benefits intended for foster youth, writes youth advocate Rachel White for Maryland Matters.

ACLU-HOGAN SETTLEMENT: The American Civil Liberties Union is negotiating a settlement of a federal lawsuit it filed against the Hogan administration that alleged the governor violated the First Amendment rights of constituents by deleting comments from his Facebook page, Erin Cox of the Sun is reporting. The lawsuit, filed last August, accused the Republican governor of censoring people when his staff systematically deleted comments that were critical of his administration or challenged him to condemn President Trump. The commenters were labeled spammers and prevented from posting in the future.

KIRWAN ON REPORT: William Kirwan of the Commission on Excellence and Innovation writes in short piece for Maryland Matters that there has been misunderstanding of whether the commission will issue its final education report before or after the election. “I can tell you that we have no intention of taking the rest of the calendar year to complete our work. In particular, I have never said the final report would be delayed until after the election and I am confident it will not be.”

DISABILITY BENEFITS COULD BUST LOCAL BUDGETS: Del. Mary Ann Lisanti of Harford County is pushing legislation that would require local government pensions to provide a potentially budget-breaking disability benefit for some public safety employees, opines Caroline County Administrator Ken Decker in an op-ed for MarylandReporter. Lisanti’s bill is a response to a line-of-duty injury suffered by a police officer in one of Harford County’s municipalities. There’s no question that it is a situation that tugs at heart strings. It’s also the perfect example of the old legal adage: Hard cases make bad laws.

BASE INSURANCE ON DRIVING RECORD: Frederick Kunkle of the Post reports that a Maryland consumer rights group is urging the state to prohibit car insurers from using criteria such as gender, marital status and education levels when setting premiums. The Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition argues that using criteria that have nothing to do with a person’s driving record has unfairly jacked up the cost of state-mandated car insurance for some motorists, particularly women and low-income drivers.

HOGAN FRUSTRATES DEMS: Michael Dresser of the Sun writes that when Gov. Larry Hogan held a news conference this week to announce a plan to protect some $4 billion in casino revenues for public education, Del. Eric Luedtke could no longer hold his tongue — or rather, his thumbs. “This is old hat by now,” the Montgomery County Democrat tweeted Thursday. “Hogan often 1. Holds press conference to announce a GREAT IDEA that happens to have already been introduced by a legislator. 2. Introduces a duplicative bill. 3. Does literally no work to get the bill passed. 4. Takes credit when the other bill passes.”

SLOTS FOR TOTS? YOU WERE WARNED: The editorial board of the Sun take the “We told you so” road when it comes to “slots for tots.” It writes that while Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic arm wrestle over whose lockbox plan is best for those casino revenues for education, “We warned you … approximately umpteen times before the state legalized slot machine gambling in 2008, and again before Maryland voted to allow full casinos in 2012, that not one penny of extra funds would go to education as a result.”

COUNTRY CLUB TAX BREAK CONTINUES: By a 17-7 vote, Montgomery County’s House delegation in Annapolis on Friday voted down legislation sponsored by Del. David Moon of Silver Spring that sought to do away with a practice enabling many of the county’s private country clubs to receive a significant reduction in what they pay in property taxes, Louis Peck reports for Bethesda Beat.

HEROIN NEXT DOOR: In an opinion piece for Red Maryland, Brian Griffiths writes that it looks like Senate Democrats are poised to bring heroin to a neighborhood near you with a bill that would provide safe places for heroin addicts to shoot up with clean needles under medical supervision.

DELETING ‘NORTHERN SCUM:’ Maryland lawmakers who support changing the official state song think the time is right to finally wipe away “Northern scum” and other sensitive pre-Civil War phrases, Brian Witte of the AP reports. “I think exactly this is the year,” said Del. Antonio Hayes, a Baltimore Democrat who is sponsoring one of the bills to change the song. “Given what’s happened in Charlottesville, given what’s happened with the monuments and all of the tension here in Maryland, I think this is the year to do it.”

*** HEALTHY SOIL KEY TO MARYLAND FARMS: Prince Frederick farmer Benson Tiralla says that soil health is one of the most important aspects of farming. Monnett Farms was certified in the Farm Stewardship Certification and Assessment Program, which recognizes farms that have achieved high levels of environmental stewardship. Efforts like these by Maryland’s farmers are imperative to improve soil quality through nutrient management and keep the waterways clear. Read their story. SPONSORED CONTENT***

GETTING ON MARYLAND BALLOT EASY: Maryland is one of the easiest states to get on the statewide ballot, according to data compiled by Ballotpedia, a nonprofit online compendium about American elections, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter. Many states have low filing fees for public office, but most of those states also require collecting 1,000 or more signatures from registered voters to get on the ballot for the top offices. Other states have both petition requirements and high filing fees.

AR-15 RAFFLE PROTESTED: A group of protesters gathered Saturday afternoon in Jarrettsville to read the names of mass shooting victims outside an event for Sgt. Aaron Penman’s campaign, where an AR-15 rifle was to be raffled as part of the fundraiser. Penman, a Harford County Republican who is running for a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates, held a sold-out “gun/cash bingo” event Saturday evening at the Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Co. An AR-15 gun was used to kill 17 people at a school shooting in Florida earlier this week, Sarah Meehan writes in the Sun.

McDONOUGH EXPENDITURES: Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland questions Del. Pat McDonough’s campaign expenditures. McDonough, who is running for Baltimore County executive, also has racked up $4,140 in fines and late fees after filing his latest campaign report late, and leads his colleagues in Annapolis with 26 violations on his campaign account dating back to 2006, filing almost every single campaign report late. Griffiths then takes a close look at other expenditures, such as vehicles and meals, but not campaign office.

LG PICKS: Ryan Miner of A Miner Detail appears to have done substantial digging about who the Democratic candidates for governor have picked as their running mates for lieutenant governor. Candidates for governor must file with lieutenant governor picks to get on the ballot. Feb. 27 is the filing deadline.

MADALENO PICKS RUNNING MATE: Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., a Democratic candidate for governor, plans to announce today that he has chosen Luwanda Jenkins, a former aide to Gov. Martin O’Malley, as his running mate, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports. Jenkins, 55, who was raised and attended public schools in Baltimore, brings geographical diversity but not widespread name recognition to the Madaleno campaign.

ROSS PICKS CRAFT BREWER: Alec Ross, a Democratic candidate for Maryland governor, plans to announce today that he has chosen Julie Verratti, a craft beer brewer who worked to support small businesses for the Obama administration, as his running mate. A graduate of the Georgetown law school, she has worked for both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Small Business Administration.

SCOTT HUMBLED BY SHEA’s PICK: Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott said he was “honored and truly humbled” to be picked as Jim Shea’s candidate for lieutenant governor, during their formal announcement last Thursday. Since being first elected in 2011, Scott has risen from near obscurity to being the prominent chairman of the city council’s Public Safety Committee at a time when the Baltimore Police Department has come under scrutiny in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death and a series of corruption scandals, write William Zorzi for Maryland Matters.

CENTRAL COMMITTEE BARS DUAL SERVICE: The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee last week voted to bar an individual from seeking a seat on the panel while simultaneously running for public office. The move was a reversal of an earlier recommendation by the MCDCC’s Rules Committee—and prompted strong protests by an affected candidate, Louis Peck and Andrew Metcalf report in Bethesda Beat.

  • That individual, Jordan Cooper, a candidate for delegate in District 16 and up until this vote a candidate for the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee in District 16, writes in Maryland Matters that despite the reality that many of these members of the MCDCC have never been elected into their current office, they are nonetheless responsible for having effectively appointed one in three members of the Montgomery delegation to either the Maryland House of Delegates or the state Senate, bypassing the voters.

BEILENSON TO RUN FOR ED BOARD: Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes that Dr. Peter Beilenson, the former Baltimore City health commissioner who has held a variety of high-profile roles in public health over the last quarter century, is planning to run for a seat on the Baltimore County Board of Education. Beilenson has created a campaign website and has begun to inform friends of his decision to run.

MO CO COUNCIL DEBATE: Key differences in governing styles began to emerge Wednesday at a Democratic debate held for seven of the 30 candidates running for four at-large seats on the Montgomery County Council, Glynis Kazanjian of the Montgomery Sentinel writes. The debate was the last in a series of four hosted by the County’s real estate and property management groups.

OPEN MEETINGS VIOLATIONS: A state board has determined the Worcester County Board of Education violated the Maryland Open Meetings Act during several meetings last year. On Feb. 7, the state’s Open Meetings Compliance Board issued an opinion outlining multiple violations made by the Worcester board between May and November of 2017. The violations stemmed from the school board’s failure to provide the public certain information related to its closed session meetings, Charlene Sharpe of the Dispatch reports.

CORDISH LEAVES WHITE HOUSE: A former Baltimore-based developer who led a White House effort on infrastructure and government innovation is leaving the job, the White House said Friday. Reed S. Cordish, a former partner at the Cordish Cos., joined the Trump administration in January 2017 as the head of the Office of American Innovation. The group is tasked with bringing private-sector ideas to longstanding government problems, John Fritze writes in the Sun.

WASHINGTON IN ANNAPOLIS: Pat Furguson of the Annapolis Capital writes that we celebrate the Presidents’ Day holiday with a day off of work for most of us yet rarely a thought of the deeds of the men so honored. Here in Annapolis, the singular action taken by George Washington helped forge the new nation years before he became our first president. In what is now called the Old Senate Chamber of the State House, Washington resigned his commission as commander of Continental Army, ceding control of the military to civilian command.