State Roundup, February 28, 2018

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AMAZON PROPOSAL BEFORE LAWMAKERS: Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal to offer $5 billion in incentives to lure Amazon’s second headquarters to Maryland will get its first formal assessment from lawmakers during two hearings in Annapolis today, Robert McCartney and Ovetta Wiggins report in the Post.

FAMILY PRESERVATION: The children of famous people such as radio host Casey Kasem, country music star Glen Campbell and actor Mickey Rooney are expected in Annapolis to testify for legislation to authorize judges to make it one of the legal duties of guardians of disabled people to preserve family relationships and maintain lines of communication. It proposes giving disabled person’s relatives — and, in some cases, friends — the right to petition courts to order caregivers to allow visitation, phone calls or electronic communications, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.

NARCAN LIABILITY PROTECTION: A Frederick County delegate has proposed a bill that would increase the dose of an opioid antidote emergency responders can carry, and protect them from civil liability in the use of the medication, Kelsi Loos of the Frederick News-Post reports. Del. William Folden, R-District 3B, testified before the Health and Government Operations Committee on Tuesday in support of House Bill 924, which would make it so that emergency services personnel can’t be sued after administering opioid overdose treatment to someone who appears to have overdosed.

DENT IN DISABILITY WAITLIST: Glynis Kazanjian reports for MarylandReporter that the Hogan administration is beginning to make a dent in a state waiting list that provides services for the developmentally disabled, but those on a waiting list of over 5,000 people who won’t qualify for 800 new slots opening up this year continue to seek relief.

WOMEN LAWMAKERS PUSH BACK ON ‘FRAT HOUSE’ COMMENT: Nearly every female lawmaker in Annapolis has signed on to an open letter that appears to push back against a recent report by their own women’s caucus that contained searing descriptions of alleged sexual harassment and assault by male colleagues, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports. The letter — signed by 57 of the state’s 60 female delegates and senators — says lawmakers were offended by a recent news broadcast that quoted an anonymous staffer in the report describing the Maryland General Assembly as a “frat house.”

RAPE KIT TRACKING: Maryland lawmakers are being asked to approve a bill that would allow a task force on sexual assault evidence kits to begin developing a tracking system to monitor progress of the kits as well as apply for federal funding, Heather Cobun of the Daily Record reports.

HOGAN & THE PIPELINE: The editorial board for the Sun opines that Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has taken a succession of actions on climate change that put him in stark contrast to President Donald Trump and many in his party’s leadership, pushing to ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, supporting the Paris Climate Agreements, opposing off-shore drilling, supporting higher standards for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. But there have been limits. The Hogan administration is championing a $103 million fund to expand natural gas service across Maryland as well as the Potomac Pipeline sought by TransCanada that would run under the Potomac River and C&O Canal near Hancock in Western Maryland.

SCHOOL SAFETY SAMPLING: In the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shootings, the Baltimore Sun sent reporters and photographers to Baltimore area schools to assess their security. What they found was that visitors more often than not encounter a video-and-buzzer system to gain entrance. Whether they actually converse with a staff member and are compelled to identify themselves before getting in the front doors is another question altogether. Once in the building, they’ll probably be directed to a front office to be greeted and vetted by a staffer. But it’s not a sure bet.

HOGAN INVESTMENTS: Edward Ericson of Maryland Matters writes that three years into his administration, a trust representing Gov. Larry Hogan (R) continues to invest in real estate projects, including at least 16 new land deals since taking office. Hogan’s investments are perfectly legal, approved by the State Ethics Commission and listed on his annual disclosure form. But because the disclosure process for state officials is so opaque, it leaves many questions unanswered about the extent of Hogan’s holdings, how much he knows about them, and what potential conflicts of interest, if any, may exist, says this long Maryland Matters investigative story.

HOUSE SENDS JUDGE PAY RAISE TO SENATE: The House of Delegates Tuesday approved a $20,000 pay raise over the next four years for 313 Maryland judges in a 105-31 vote. There was a significant split in Republican ranks with some delegates comparing the six-figure salaries with the near-minimum wage the state pays for disability caregivers. “There is no dearth of good people who want to be judges,” said Del. Trent Kittleman, R-Howard-Carroll. But Del. Barrie Ciliberti, R-Frederick-Carroll, said, “You get what you pay for,” saying Maryland judges are underpaid compared to their peers. If the Senate does not approve the House resolution, HJ3, by March 15, the full $35,000 raise for judges recommended by a commission goes into effect. Here are our previous stories about the proposal for the raise and the attempts to reduce it.

***FAMILY FARM USES THE LATEST ADVANCEMENTS: This farm may date back to the Depression era, but its practices have kept up with the times. Hutchison Brother Farm’s follows GreenSeeker, a system using sensors and computerized applicators to apply just the right amount of fertilizer. Using optical sensors to assess how each plant is growing, the computer program then varies the rate of fertilizer applied to that crop based on what it senses the plants needs. This precise fertilization makes for healthier plants and prevents nutrient runoff into waterways. Read the farm’s story. SPONSORED CONTENT***

GRASSO, SANCHEZ SWITCH EXPECTED RACES: With two strokes of a pen, a handful of Maryland elections were dramatically transformed in the minutes just before Tuesday night’s filing deadline for candidates, Josh Kurtz writes in Maryland Matters. In Prince George’s County’s 47th District, Del. Carlo A. Sanchez (D), who had been running for state Senate, dropped back to the House race in the one-seat subdistrict he represents, District 47B. And in Anne Arundel County, term-limited County Councilman John Grasso (R), who had been waging a longshot Republican primary challenge to County Executive Steve Schuh, decided to run for state Senate in District 32 instead – a seat he had first expressed interest in 10 months ago.

JILL CARTER JOINS RACE FOR OAKS’ SEAT: Jill P. Carter, the director of Baltimore’s Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement, on Tuesday filed to run for state Senate against Sen. Nathaniel T. Oaks, who is facing federal corruption charges. Carter, a former state delegate, becomes the third candidate in the race along with Oaks and J.D. Merrill — a former Baltimore public school teacher and administrator who is also former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s son-in-law, reports Luke Broadwater in the Sun.

NO OPPOSITION FOR 7: As many a state senator faces a tough primary race or general election, seven of the senators are getting free rides back to the State House with no candidates filed against them in either the primary or the general election by Tuesday’s filing deadline, Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter writes.

VIGNARAJAH PICK MAKES HISTORY: Democrat Krish Vignarajah has picked Sharon Blake, former president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, as her running mate in the race for Maryland governor, reports Erin Cox in the Sun. Vignarajah is the only woman in the crowded seven-way Democratic primary for governor, and her selection of Blake, 67, creates the state’s first all-female gubernatorial ticket in almost 25 years.

CONSERVATION RANKS FOR MD CONGRESSMEN: The League of Conservation Voters issued its annual congressional scorecard on Tuesday, and both Maryland senators — Ben Cardin (D) and Chris Van Hollen (D) — received perfect scores. Five of the state’s Democratic House members — Reps. Anthony Brown, John Delaney, Jamie Raskin, John Sarbanes and Dutch Ruppersberger — also got 100% on the LCV scorecard. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D), the House minority whip, got a 97% score. Rep. Elijah Cummings scored 63%. But that’s because he missed several votes due to illness. He was in line with LCV’s priorities on every scored measure whenever he did vote. Maryland’s lone Republican House member, Andy P. Harris, scored just 6%, but that was a tick higher than the 5% average for the entire House Republican caucus, writes Josh Kurtz in Maryland Matters.

MO CO CANDIDATES LIST: Here is MarylandReporter’s updated list of candidates for local, state and federal offices in Montgomery County as of Feb. 27, the filing deadline. Candidates for county executive and county council are listed first, followed by the state legislature, Congress and statewide offices. The list includes over 150 candidates, including 38 just for the four at-large seats on the Montgomery County Council, Glynis Kazanjian writes.

FIELD FOR BA CO EXEC GROWS: Two last-minute entrants on Tuesday brought the field of candidates running for Baltimore County executive to seven: four Democrats, two Republicans and one independent write-in candidate, Pamela Wood of the Sun is reporting.

KAMENETZ’s LAST BUDGET: The need to build new schools and set aside money for retired workers could force Baltimore County, some officials say, to cut spending or do something the county has avoided for more than a quarter-century: Raise taxes. Pamela Wood of the Sun writes that, bolstered by a new report that expresses concern about key financial indicators, elected officials from both political parties are criticizing outgoing County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who is running for governor, for promising school construction programs that future county politicians will need to find a way to pay for.