State Roundup, March 7, 2018

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SENATE PANEL SCRAPS HOGAN TAX PLAN: Some Marylanders would see their state taxes go up while many others would see a decrease under tax legislation proposed by a state Senate committee. By unanimous vote, the Sun’s Michael Dresser writes, the panel decided to scrap Gov. Larry Hogan’s approach to adjusting Maryland tax law in the wake of the federal tax changes approved by President Donald Trump and Congress.

EARLY RELEASES QUESTIONED: Dozens of inmates convicted of violent crimes — carjackings, shootings and attempted murder — are using a state law intended to help addicted offenders get drug treatment to win early release, sometimes years before they are eligible for parole. Now some officials are objecting, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

BILL TO SHIELD ABUSE VICTIMS: Delegates advanced legislation Tuesday that would allow domestic abuse and human trafficking victims to keep private real estate property records that are normally public information if they are enrolled in the address confidentiality program, Glynis Kazanjian of MarylandReporter reports.

HOGAN MUM ON AMAZON VISIT: Gov. Larry Hogan and Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett would not say definitively Tuesday whether they recently toured the county with Amazon officials as the company continues its search for a location for its second headquarters, Andrew Metcalf reports for Bethesda Beat. On Monday, The Washington Post reported that Amazon officials toured sites in Montgomery County, Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., last week.

UNDERWATER GRASS COMEBACK: Researchers say Chesapeake Bay cleanup initiatives have triggered a major resurgence of the underwater grasses that are at the center of the estuary’s fragile food web, Scott Dance reports in the Sun. Scientists from across Maryland and Virginia say that from 1984 to 2014, concentrations of nitrogen in the bay fell by 23% while the acreage of areas covered with submerged vegetation more than tripled, to nearly 100 square miles.

HOGAN BLASTED OVER FISHERIES PANEL: A year after facing criticism for the firing of a longtime state crab scientist, Gov. Larry Hogan is again being accused of placing politics above science in the management of Chesapeake Bay fisheries, Scott Dance of the Sun writes. Last month, the Hogan administration declined to reappoint two watermen to a state panel that advises officials on issues related to commercial and sport fishing.

PAYING HEED TO FORESTS: The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital opines that the Chesapeake Bay’s Foundation’s focus on the strengthening the 1991 Forest Conservation Act is useful. Last year’s legislation stressed improving the ratio of forest removed to trees replanted; this year’s is about defining priority forests, forcing developers to justify cutting them down and mandating acre-for-acre replanting in such instances.

HBCU SETTLEMENT ‘WOEFULLY INADEQUATE:’ In an open letter to Gov. Larry Hogan, published in Maryland Matters, Del. Cheryl Glenn of the Legislative Black Caucus call’s Hogan’s “ ‘comprehensive settlement; offer of up to $100 million over ten years … woefully inadequate given the district court’s finding that, in the decades since Brown v. Board of Education, the state has violated the constitutional rights of students at Maryland’s Historically Black Institutions.”

TOO MUCH SCREEN TIME?: Are Maryland public school students spending too much time staring at computer screens? That’s a question the Maryland General Assembly is currently considering. House Bill 1110 would require the State Department of Education and the Maryland Department of Health to develop guidelines for the use of digital devices in public schools. The bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Del. Steven J. Arentz (R-Caroline) with 32 cosponsors, stems from growing concern over the negative effects of device overuse on children’s vision, Meghan Thompson reports in Maryland Matters.

***WHERE DOES MARYLAND’S MILK COME FROM? When you grab a gallon of milk from the shelves of your local grocery store, do you  wonder where it came from? According to the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the number of Maryland dairy farms has steadily declined since the 1980s. And, the USDA says that the dairy cow herd has been thinning 1,000 head a year since 2007. Read more about supporting Maryland’s dairy industry. SPONSORED CONTENT***  

‘SELF-INTERESTED NONSENSE:’ Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland gives a shoutout to the Sun’s Erin Cox for her tweet about a bill proposed by state Del. Pat McDonough that would prevent state agency heads from running for office unless they resign their post first. Of course, McDonough’s opponent in the Republican primary for Baltimore County executive is Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer. Griffiths writes “What’s truly galling, however, is the fact that McDonough introduced his legislation as Emergency Legislation. Emergency legislation requires a 3/5 vote in both house of the General Assembly, and Emergency Legislation can to into effect immediately.”

PARENTS SEEK HOGAN’s HELP: The mystery of how 16-year-old Annie McCann wound up in Baltimore and how she ingested a fatal amount of the numbing agent lidocaine has never been solved, more than nine years after her body was discovered behind a housing project dumpster. But her still-grieving parents have not relented in their search for answers, and this week took their case to Gov. Larry Hogan and asked him to order the state police to take over the case from the beleaguered Baltimore Police Department, Tom Jackman of the Post reports.

MANAGING LAWYERS MALL: The crab apple trees that flanked Lawyers Mall in Annapolis may have been unceremoniously razed earlier this year, but their legacy lives on in two bills seeking to prevent future unilateral decisions about the State House landscape, reports Erin Cox in the Sun. The bills moving through the General Assembly call for expanding the jurisdiction of the State House Trust to include Lawyers Mall, the bricked plaza that serves as a square for protests, tourists and lobbyists.

POLICE NAMES RESTORED: Maryland’s highest court voted unanimously Tuesday to restore the names of police officers to a statewide database of court records and for the fix to take place by the end of the week, Ann Marimow reports in the Post. The judges moved quickly to reverse a controversial decision that had blocked online public access to information previously available about arresting officers and the names of other law enforcement officials involved in criminal cases.

DEMS ENSURE WOMEN’s CENTRAL PARTY SEATS: There’s a surge of Democratic women running for office in Maryland this year — and party officials say they want to make sure it stays that way, Jennifer Barrios of the Post reports. New rules in place for the June 26 primary mean Democratic voters in 17 counties, some for the first time, will vote separately for men and women who are seeking central party positions. State party chair Kathleen Matthews said the rules will help ensure a pipeline of future female candidates for higher office. Maryland has no women in its congressional delegation or in any top statewide elective positions.

GOP PICKS NORMAN SUCCESSOR: The Maryland Republican Party has selected Jason C. Gallion, of Harford County, to run in this year’s primary election for the District 35 Senate seat following the sudden death Sunday of incumbent Republican Sen. Wayne Norman, David Anderson of the Aegis writes. The selection was made Monday under some duress, party leaders admitted. Sen. Norman, who was 62 and lived near Bel Air, died in his sleep sometime early Sunday, a family member said.

GOVERNOR CANDIDATES WOO HOWARD: The crowded and competitive race for the Democratic nomination to unseat Republican Gov. Larry Hogan was on full display Tuesday night in Columbia as five candidates for governor and four for lieutenant governor wooed and wowed an overflow crowd of about 160, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter. “Any one of them would be better than the person we have now” as governor, said Rushern Baker, the Prince George’s County executive who has a slight edge in favorability over the others in recent polling.

ASSESSING LT. GOVERNOR HOPEFULS: In an analysis for Maryland Matters, Josh Kurtz rewrites about the current crop of Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor in Maryland. Once upon a time – or at least in 1978 and 1986 – state Senate presidents (Steny H. Hoyer and Melvin A. Steinberg, respectively) were willing to give up their powerful posts to become candidates for lieutenant governor. Those days are long gone. As we well know, no Maryland lieutenant governor has ever been elected governor.

BROWN BACKS TRONE: U.S. Rep. Anthony G. Brown, Maryland’s former lieutenant governor, said Tuesday he is supporting businessman David Trone in the state’s 6th Congressional District, marking the first time a member of the state’s congressional delegation has weighed in on the competitive race, John Fritze of the Sun reports.