State Roundup, March 2, 2018

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RELEASING TAX RETURNS: Presidential candidates — including President Trump if he runs for reelection — would have to publicly release their federal income tax returns to be on the ballot in Maryland, under a bill that received an initial nod from the state Senate on Thursday. The preliminary approval followed a long debate that largely centered around the 45th president, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports.

SCHOOL SECURITY DUSTUP: Maryland Democrats slammed Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday for a lack of urgency in addressing what they called a school security “crisis,” Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports. They said his decision to tie new schools safety funding to an administration proposal dealing with casino revenues represented a failure of leadership, given that legislative leaders have derided Hogan’s “lockbox” proposal as being a pale copy of their own. “It’s beyond disappointing,” said Sen. Bill Ferguson of Baltimore City.

BACKLASH OVER HARASSMENT LETTER: A letter from women lawmakers to reporters has touched off a firestorm of debate over how the General Assembly is dealing with the issue of sexual harassment and misconduct. Inside and outside Annapolis, the letter, written by a bipartisan group of four powerful women lawmakers in the House of Delegates was met with a strong backlash, especially among women, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports.

BARKLEY DENIES INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR: A former state lawmaker is publicly accusing a sitting member of the House of Delegates of “touching younger women in uncomfortable ways.” Bryan Sears of the Daily Record writes that former Del. Saqib Ali made the allegations against Del. Charles E. Barkley in a public Facebook discussion about sexual harassment policies in the Maryland General Assembly. Barkley, in an interview Thursday, said he was disgusted by Ali’s comments and strongly denied the claims.

INDUSTRIAL HEMP: The Maryland House of Delegates on Thursday approved a measure to let farmers grow industrial hemp if they do it in partnership with a university, Erin Cox reports in the Sun. Advocates for the plant say it is cheap, good for the environment and versatile, and that it has been unfairly maligned because of its relationship to marijuana. Unlike marijuana, hemp cannot be smoked to get a high, but growing it is still illegal in many states and at the federal level.

PROTECTING PRIORITY FORESTS: The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is again lobbying to strengthen the state’s forest conversation law — this time with a formula protecting forests while giving developers leeway, Chase Cook writes in the Annapolis Capital. New legislation defines priority forests and requires governments and developers to go through greater efforts and justifications before cutting down those forests.

POST-ACCIDENT DRUG TESTING: After a car accident took the lives of two Carroll County residents and a young man from Ellicott City, family members are testifying for legislation they hope will make it easier for police to enforce laws on Maryland roads. Catalina Righter of the Carroll County Times reports that a bill, cross-filed in the House of Delegates and Senate, proposes to lessen the certification a law enforcement officer needs to “request,” “require” or “direct” a driver to be tested for drugs in their system. The bill will have a public hearing in the House on Friday afternoon.

WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS: A task force studying wrongful convictions in Maryland is asking state lawmakers to establish a more streamlined process for compensating and supporting people who have been exonerated, including establishing a standard amount of compensation per year of incarceration, Heather Cobun of the Daily Record reports.

CONSUMER CELLPHONE CHOICE: In 2014, the federal “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act” permitted consumers to “unlock” their cellphones — allowing them to change providers, but keep their phones. Except that sometimes they can’t, because phones contracted to different carriers are wired differently. Del. Neil Parrott thinks you should know that before you buy that mobile, writes Tamela Baker in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. Parrott has a bill pending that would require carriers to inform consumers “which major carriers the cellphone is going to work on. Or it has to work on all major carriers together.”

‘LEFT-LANE BILL’ RETURNS: A Frederick County delegate will take his “left-lane bill” for another spin, Kelsi Loos of the Frederick News-Post. Del. William Folden on Thursday brought House Bill 965 to the House Environment and Transportation Committee, of which he is a member. The proposal would make it against the law to drive in the far left lane of a road unless the driver is passing another vehicle. Once it is safe to return to the right lane, the driver would have to make the change.

FRANCHOT’s FORMULA FOR SUCCESS: Seventh State’s Adam Pagnucco writes about Comptroller Peter Franchot’s 30-year career in Maryland government and how this Democrat, who bucks the Democratic establishment, find that his formula for success seems to work, even in this blue state. The analysis appears in MarylandReporter.

***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***

OAKS SAYS INFORMANT A ‘PROFESSIONAL SET-UP ARTIST:’ The FBI undercover informant in the probe of state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks, now under indictment on federal corruption charges, is a “professional set-up artist” who has been paid $1.1 million by the government for work in the last decade, a new court filing states, William Zorzi reports in Maryland Matters.

FORMER DEL. VAUGHN FOUND GUILTY: On Thursday, a jury found former state Del. Michael Vaughn guilty of conspiracy and bribery for accepting cash in exchange for votes to expand liquor sales in Prince George’s County. Vaughn had argued that the bundles of cash he collected from liquor store owners and a lobbyist in 2015 and 2016 were merely campaign contributions — expressions of appreciation from constituents that he failed to report because he was in a personal financial hole, Lynh Bui of the Post reports.

RASKIN BACKS MADALENO: Gubernatorial candidate Richard Madaleno has picked up an endorsement from U.S. Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), a welcome boost for the longtime state senator from Montgomery County, who has struggled to gain traction in the crowded Democratic primary, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports.

GLASSMAN EYES CRISIS CENTER: More than three years into his term, Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, who has filed to run again for the office, has several projects he’s pushing forward before the final year of his term ends. One goal he says he is confident of achieving, is the establishment of a 24/7 crisis center for people with mental health issues — in Harford there are growing numbers of suicides, he said — a facility he believes is lacking in the county, report Allan Vought and David Anderson of the Aegis

HUD’s EXPENSIVE DINING SET: Brittany Britto of the Sun writes that, according to CNN, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and its secretary Ben Carson are catching criticism after the department purchased a dining set that cost more than $31,000 — which came from a Baltimore interior design firm, according to CNN. Carson is a former Johns Hopkins surgeon.

THANK YOU HAPPY HOUR: honored over 100 News Match donors and their guests at a happy hour Wednesday night with Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot as guest bartenders. Treasurer Nancy Kopp was also scheduled behind the “Bar of Public Works” at Harry Browne’s on State Circle in Annapolis, but sent her regrets due to illness.