State Roundup, March 26, 2018

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STABILIZING OBAMACARE: Maryland’s Republican governor and Democratic legislature have forged a striking bipartisan proposal to accomplish what Washington has failed to do: stabilize Obamacare. Given the stakes — 150,000 Marylanders potentially losing health insurance in an election year — lawmakers in the General Assembly worked quickly and quietly to try to avert the crisis by agreeing on a new $380 million tax to stabilize the individual insurance market, Erin Cox and Scott Dance report for the Sun.

SCHOOL SAFETY LEGISLATION: With the sting of a Maryland teenager’s on-campus shooting death still fresh, a Senate committee Friday heard testimony on legislation to mandate that each school board form a team of experts to assess safety threats, require a safety officer at every public school and ensure local police chiefs to have a role in approving gun purchases, reports Steve Lash for the Daily Record.

CRIME REDUCTION DEBATE: Maryland lawmakers arrived in Annapolis this year determined to pass a bill that would reduce the soaring rate of crime and violence in Baltimore. Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports that deciding the best way to do that, however has proved painful and divisive, as lawmakers from across the political spectrum debate how best to try to save lives while weighing the potential harm of harsher criminal penalties.

MANNO VOTES AGAINST AMAZON PLAN: When the Maryland Senate gave final approval last week to a package of tax incentives designed to attract Amazon’s second headquarters to Montgomery County, seven of the eight senators in the Montgomery delegation voted in favor of the bill. The lone dissenter: Sen. Roger Manno of Silver Spring, who objected to the size of the tax breaks being offered to convince Amazon owner Jeff Bezos to choose Montgomery over 19 other finalists around the country, write Louis Peck and Andrew Metcalf for Bethesda Beat.

TEMP LIQUOR LICENSE FOR ARUNDEL BOOKSTORES: Sen. John Astle, D-Annapolis, has put forth legislation that would give the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board authority to give what is called a “Bookstore Beer and Wine License,” according to the legislation. If the liquor board approves an application, it would allow the bookstore to sell beer and wine during public lectures, readings, discussions or similar bookstore events. Del. Herb McMillan, R-Annapolis, has cross-filed the bill in the House of Delegates, Chase Cook reports in the Annapolis Capital.

SUPREMES TO HEAR MD GERRYMANDER CASE: In a column for MarylandReporter, Michael Collins writes that the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday is scheduled to hear Benisek v. Lamone in what could be a landmark decision for—or against—political gerrymandering.  The decision will either inflame or temper partisan passions, but in either case, will shape the nation for generations to come.

SUPPORT FOR TWO-YEAR COLLEGES: A Senate bill has made it halfway through the legislature to create a free-tuition program for most community college students. But the clock is ticking every day toward the General Assembly’s April 9 adjournment date. That bill would cost $31 million, starting in 2020. But it could move Maryland forcefully into the top tier of states promoting workforce development through their community colleges, Barry Rascovar of Political Maryland writes.

BUSINESS EXPRESS: The Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation has unveiled Maryland Business Express, a new website that will make it easier for Maryland’s small business owners and entrepreneurs to plan, start, manage and grow their business, the Cumberland Times News reports. Accessible at businessexpress.maryland.gov, the new site combines information previously spread across many state agencies into one site while also providing a clear outline of the steps involved in starting a business.

TARIFFS ON CHINA, MARYLAND’s LOSS: President Trump’s announcement to impose new tariffs on about $50 billion in Chinese goods marked the fulfillment of a campaign promise to counter what he says are unfair trade practices used by the nation’s largest trading partner. Dozens of U.S. States – including Maryland – are bracing for the blowback, Jeff Jeffrey and Holden Wilen of the Baltimore Business Journal report.

FRANCHOT ON THE HOT SEAT: A long-simmering feud between state Senate President Mike Miller and state Comptroller Peter Franchot burst into open view Thursday night. In a conversation with reporters, Miller blistered his fellow Democrat as a “shameful” publicity hound and political “chameleon” who has infuriated lawmakers and picked unnecessary and irrelevant policy fights, Josh Kurtz and Bruce DePuyt report in Maryland Matters.

SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION OVERSIGHT: Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland writes that under a plan by state Del. Maggie McIntosh, the Interagency Committee on School Construction, which recommends school construction allocations to the Board of Public Works, would be reconstituted from five members into a nine-member commission. If enacted the bill increases Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch’s current appointees from one to two, and places the State Treasurer on the commission, giving them control over five of the nine members since the treasurer is appointed by the legislature. This is especially troubling, as Busch’s current appointee, former Del. John Bohanan, has been skirting state ethics laws for the last several years, Griffiths writes.

MUSK’s BORING PLAN: The billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk has unveiled a map showing the proposed route for his underground transit system between Baltimore and Washington. The high speed system, which would deliver people between downtown locations in both cities in about 15 minutes, is proposed to run in underground loops, Liz Bowie of the Sun reports.

SPOTLIGHT ON CANDIDATE: Did the Maryland Chamber of Commerce inadvertently and indirectly ‘dis a powerful state senator in an electronic newsletter that features a Q&A with chamber member Tim Adams, the CEO of Systems Application and Technologies Inc.? What the interview does not say is that Adams is a candidate for state Senate – challenging Senate Majority Leader Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Prince George’s) in the Democratic primary. The oversight isn’t necessarily a big deal. The online newsletter was made to spotlight business leaders. Still, it’s interesting to note, Josh Kurtz writes in Maryland Matters.

2nd MOSBY CHALLENGER CLEARED: A Baltimore judge ruled Friday that defense attorney Ivan Bates has lived in Baltimore city since 2016 and therefore qualifies as the third candidate in the race for state’s attorney, Tim Prudente reports in the Sun. The circuit court judge affirmed Bates’ candidacy in the second of two dueling election lawsuits. The judge threw out Tuesday a similar challenge to the residency qualifications of Bates’ rival. Both are running against incumbent Marilyn Mosby.

GUBERNATORIAL FORUM: Ryan Marshall of the Frederick News-Post writes that while each of the six Democratic gubernatorial candidates on the stage at Hood College on Sunday argued why he or she should be the one to do the job, they all had a common mission in mind: defeating Gov. Larry Hogan in November’s election. The forum included candidates Ben Jealous, Kevin Kamenetz, Rich Madaleno, Alec Ross, Jim Shea, and Krish Vignarajah. Democrats Rushern Baker, Ralph Jaffe and James Jones were not present.

CALIF. SENATOR BACKS JEALOUS: Add U.S. Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) to the list of national progressive celebrities endorsing former NAACP President Ben Jealous to be governor of Maryland, Josh Kurtz writes in Maryland Matters. Harris, a former California attorney general and district attorney for San Francisco, announced her endorsement in a statement released Friday morning.

CAESARS BUYS UP LAND: Jeff Barker reports in the Sun that Caesars, losing business at Horseshoe Casino to increased competition and Baltimore’s image problems, is doubling down on its bet on the city. State land records show the casino’s partnership group is spending millions to buy up properties around the casino in South Baltimore to push a transformation of the gritty industrial area of warehouses and parking lots into a more inviting entertainment district.

BALTIMORE’s BOLTON GOES TO WHITE HOUSE: Charging ahead with the dramatic remaking of his White House, President Donald Trump said Thursday he would replace national security adviser H.R. McMaster with the former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, a Baltimore native, McDonogh School grad and foreign policy hawk entering a White House facing key decisions on Iran and North Korea, the AP is reporting.