State Roundup, March 12, 2018

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DIVERSITY PUSH MAY BACKFIRE: For months, Maryland lawmakers have planned to address the lack of diversity in the state’s nascent medical marijuana industry by offering more licenses. A new round of licensing was supposed to give the black-owned firms that were all but shut out of the first round another chance to gain a foothold in the lucrative industry. But, reports Erin Cox in the Sun, legislation lawmakers have now come up with favors companies that already hold licenses to grow and process marijuana. Only one of the 30 licenses awarded two years ago is held by a firm owned by African-Americans.

PATIENT DUMPING: Bolstered by a recent “patient dumping” incident in Baltimore that garnered embarrassing national attention, legislation to outline a bill of rights for Maryland hospital patients passed the state Senate on Friday. But, writes Scott Dance for the Sun, even with the heightened concern, the proposal could be headed for failure. Advocates who originally backed the measure are now begging lawmakers to kill a revised version of it.

EVIDENCE OF PREDATORY BEHAVIOR: A bill to allow evidence in court of sexual predatory behavior by people accused of sex crimes advanced last week in the Senate, but chances of the legislation progressing in the House are dim, with one committee leader wanting judges to decide the issue, reports Glynis Kazanjian for MarylandReporter. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee passed an amended bill Thursday that will effectively allow prosecutors to introduce evidence of other sexually assaultive behavior by defendants. Maryland courts typically never allow that unless it is for the same victim.

HOME SHARING REGS: Marylanders looking to make extra money sharing their homes with travelers could face stiffer state regulations and taxes under a bill being considered by the House Economic Matters Committee. The bill is the latest attempt by Maryland lawmakers and traditional businesses to find ways of overseeing the gig economy — independent contractors who offer goods and services through a provider that uses an online or smartphone app, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record.

SINGLE-PAYER: The Maryland Senate heard testimony last week on a measure that would establish a single-payer health system, a “Medicare for all” system in which everyone automatically qualifies for care, with the state picking up the tab. Former NAACP president Ben Jealous, a Democratic candidate for governor, is a full-throated supporter, and another Democratic candidate, attorney James Shea, has also said a single-payer system ultimately makes the most sense, according to Maryland Matters.

HOMESCHOOL OVERSIGHT BILL: In an opinion piece for Red Maryland, Brian Griffiths writes that a bill that is the essence of nannystatism is trying to interfere with Maryland’s homeschoolers. The bill, he writes, “would force you, if you are a homeschooler, to open up your home on demand and be judged by a government official as to how good of a job you are doing in instructing your own child.”

METRO FUNDING BREAKTHROUGH IN VIRGINIA: The Virginia General Assembly agreed Saturday to give Metro $154 million a year in permanent, new funding, on the condition that Maryland and the District make somewhat larger contributions to provide the transit system with a total of up to $500 million more annually. Robert McCartney of the Post reports that the breakthrough in Richmond follows a similar advance in Annapolis, when Gov. Larry Hogan endorsed a Metro funding bill passed by the Democratic-dominated House, which would give Metro $150 million a year in dedicated funding if Virginia and the District each pledged the same amount or more.

FETAL HOMICIDE POLL: As lawmakers in Annapolis ponder legislation that would expand the state’s fetal homicide law, a poll conducted for the Maryland Catholic Conference shows strong support for the measure, Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes. Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said they would support legislation to expand Maryland law to enable prosecution for the death of a fetus before the age of viability, while 26% were opposed and 12% were undecided. The poll  of 625 registered voters, conducted Feb. 20-22 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy of Washington, D.C., had a 4-point margin of error.

***MORE DAIRY FARMS ACROSS MARYLAND CLOSING: Dairy prices, like those for all farm commodities, have their ups and downs. But right now, Maryland’s dairy industry has experienced an extraordinarily extended downturn that began in 2015. It’s costing farmers more to make milk than they receive from their buyers, and that’s a situation that many dairy farmers can’t afford to wait out. While many farms are facing foreclosure, one Maryland family is transitioning out of the dairy biz before this happens. Read their story. SPONSORED CONTENT***

WOMEN LAWMAKERS BLOCK TITLE DROP: What’s in a title? A lot more meaning than Del. Keith Haynes expected, writes Scott Dance for the Sun. The Baltimore Democrat said Friday he is withdrawing his proposal to change the title of the city school’s chief — from “CEO” to “superintendent” — amid criticism from his colleagues that the shift appears sexist.

ACLU SUES DGS: The ACLU of Maryland filed suit Thursday against the Department of General Services, saying DGS’s ban on financial solicitations on Lawyers’ Mall – a popular site for political protest at the foot of the State House – violates the constitutional right to freedom of speech, Steve Lash reports in the Daily Record.

APPOINTMENTS CONTROVERSY: Concerns about a possible hiring-policy change at the Maryland Department of Health involving Gov. Larry Hogan’s appointments office prompted legislation that would add more oversight to enforce laws enacted by the state more than a decade ago, Alex Mann writes for CNS.

  • Del. Clarence Lam, in an op-ed for the Sun, writes that multiple people have come forward with stories of applicants and current employees under consideration for open positions or promotions undergoing extreme vetting by the Governor’s Appointments Office, which, he’s told, has also gone so far as to overrule the decision of an office supervisor in selecting a candidate to fill a vacant position. He said it recalls what had happened under Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s administration, where unqualified people were put into positions of authority.

SEN. NORMAN LAID TO REST: The Aegis writes about the funeral service held Friday morning for Harford County Sen. H. Wayne Norman Jr. Dignitaries from around the state, led by Gov. Larry Hogan, paid final respects to the popular senator from Bel Air who died in his sleep Sunday at age 62.

DELEGATE CANDIDATE’s RECORD: Mila Johns, a Democratic candidate for delegate in the 18th District, has a record involving a peace order, driving with expired plates, and a DUI, writes Brian Griffiths for Red Maryland.

SCHOOLS STUDY GUN VIOLENCE: Universities, including several in Maryland, are stepping up to research gun violence even as the federal government’s hands are tied against doing the same, reports Talia Richman for the Baltimore Sun.

POST-EMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: A new study for a conservative think-tank criticizes the large unfunded retiree benefits of the Prince George’s County Public Schools, saying it threatens to “crowd out” increased spending on education. Len Lazarick reports in MarylandReporter that the study for the free-market Maryland Public Policy Institute pegs the future costs of other post-employment benefits, mainly health insurance, for school system employees at $3.1 billion. The pension system for which the county picks up half the costs had $1.4 billion in county liabilities.

KRASNOW QUALIFIES FOR PUBLIC FINANCING: Among their Politics Roundup for Bethesda Beat, Louis Peck and Andrew Metcalf write that, three months after kicking off her campaign for Montgomery County executive, former Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow said Thursday that she has qualified to receive matching funds under the county’s new public campaign financing system.

BA CO EXEC HOPEFULS SEEK SCHOOL REFORM: Candidates for Baltimore County executive are proposing a raft of reforms after former county school Superintendent Dallas Dance pleaded guilty to perjury charges last week, Pamela Wood of the Sun writes. Reviewing ethics laws, publicizing contracts and strengthening oversight procedures are among the suggestions from candidates from both parties.

VAN HOLLEN, RUBIO TEAM UP: Sens. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Marco Rubio of Florida are teaming up on a bill aimed at bolstering protections for U.S. elections against foreign interference, Julia Lerner of CNS reports. Van Hollen, a Democrat, and Rubio, a Republican, introduced the “Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines Act of 2018” in mid-January amid warnings from the U.S. intelligence community that Russia will try to interfere with the 2018 midterm election as it did in the 2016 presidential election.