State Roundup, April 2, 2018

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PUSHING FOR A VETO, OVERRIDE: General Assembly leaders sent a dozen controversial bills to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday afternoon, hoping to provoke an early signature or veto. The Sun’s Erin Cox reports that the bills sent to Hogan include legislation to curtail the governor’s power in deciding which schools get built, to automatically register people to vote, new rules on when he can make recess appointments, a couple pro-labor union initiatives and a change to the state’s estate tax.

HOGAN SHOULD VETO, VETO SHOULD STAND: The Sun editorial board sees politicization on both sides in the school construction debate. It wrote: “We objected strongly to the antics of the comptroller and the governor over the last four years, but we also believe the Board of Public Works plays an important role as an additional check on state expenditures, and we don’t like the idea of exempting hundreds of millions of dollars in annual spending from that process. The new bill does increase the transparency of the IAC, but that’s still no substitute for vesting ultimate responsibility in officials who are answerable to the voters. For that reason, we think Governor Hogan should veto this bill and the legislature should let that action stand.”

  • The editorial board of the Capital Gazette agrees, writing that “You can argue that sessions of the Maryland Board of Public Works too often devolve into the Larry and Pete Show, with Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot ripping into local officials and school administrators who have inexcusably failed to install air conditioning or take mold problems seriously enough. But it doesn’t follow that it’s a good idea for the General Assembly, with virtually no hearings and in the waning days of an election-year session, to rush through a huge change in the way state government has operated for decades. And that change is likely to diminish visibility and accountability.”

RESIGNATION: A former legislator turned consultant has resigned his position on a board that oversees school construction just as the legislature sent a bill that would reconstitute the panel and take away oversight from the Board of Public Works, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record.

AN ARMED GUARD IN EVERY PUBLIC SCHOOL: In an article in MarylandReporter, Zach Shapiro of Capital News Service reports that, determined to pass meaningful legislation in the wake of the Parkland and Great Mills high school shootings, Maryland lawmakers are considering a measure to put an armed school resource officer in every public school. The bill comes as part of a four-bill package being rushed through the General Assembly as session nears end.

FRANCHOT SLAMS MILLER: Comptroller Peter Franchot, who has taken repeated political hits during this year’s General Assembly session, slammed Senate President Mike Miller in a radio interview Friday and accused the Democratic “machine” in Annapolis of corruption, Scott Dance of the Sun reports.

SAVING OBAMACARE: The Sun’s Erin Cox writes that state lawmakers have just a week left to resolve some of the costliest and most controversial problems of the year: shoring up Obamacare, alleviating an expected rise in income taxes, expanding the medical marijuana industry and bolstering school safety. If compromises aren’t reached by April 9, state residents could pay tens of millions more in taxes next year, the individual insurance market could collapse, minority-owned firms could remain shut out of the lucrative marijuana industry and Maryland would have missed the opportunity to respond to public outrage over school shootings.

AMAZON EFFECT: Few issues expose traditional fault lines in Maryland politics — rural vs. suburban, Republican vs. Democrat — like funding for mass transit. For many legislators outside the state’s two population centers, every dollar spent on subway and bus service is a dollar that can’t be spent on improving roads, writes Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters. But late last week, the state Senate agreed to provide the Washington area’s beleaguered Metro system with $167 million a year in new funding for equipment and maintenance. Call it the Amazon Effect.

RESTORING LOCAL HIGHWAYS FUNDS: A bill aimed toward restoring/increasing highway user revenue allocations to Maryland municipalities has gained traction in this year’s General Assembly session. Both the House and Senate have approved the proposed legislation, Renee Shreve of the Garrett County Republican. “We’re at third base, and we’re headed for home,” Friendsville Mayor Spencer Schlosnagle said about the recent success of House Bill 807/Senate Bill 516. “We’re hoping to bring in a home run on this.”

CHILD CARE AID: Maryland lawmakers have agreed to boost spending on the state’s child care voucher program that advocates say has relegated low income families to the lowest-quality programs available, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports. The House of Delegates gave final approval Friday to legislation that would require the state to increase its spending on the Child Care Subsidy program for low-income families.

CONSENT & COLLEGE: Sex education classes in Maryland would have to include instruction on consent under a bill that is moving through the General Assembly, a measure an advocate called “one of the most important things that we can do to prevent college sexual assaults.” Ovetta Wiggins and Rachel Chason of the Post report that, under the measure, middle and high school students would learn what consent means and about how to respect personal boundaries.

JHU POLICE PLAN: Maryland lawmakers will not endorse Johns Hopkins University’s proposal to create its own police force in Baltimore — at least not this spring, the Sun’s Erin Cox, Scott Dance and Alison Knezevich report. Del. Curt Anderson, chair of Baltimore city’s delegation to the General Assembly, said Friday the university did not establish enough community support for the idea, and the delegation plans to refer the bill to be studied over the summer.

  • Tim Curtis of the Daily Record writes that Hopkins wants to create a police department modeled after private departments at similar private universities like the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Southern California. The police force is needed because of the rise in crime and the perception of crime in the areas surrounding Hopkins’ campuses, leaders told a House of Delegates committee last week.

CYBERSECURITY VS. BALLOT ACCESS: Cybersecurity experts are asking lawmakers to bring Maryland’s ballot access laws — which they say prioritize accessibility to an extent that makes the voting system vulnerable to hacking — in line with other states ahead of November’s elections. But legislators say they must balance those concerns with ensuring ballots can be easily obtained by all eligible Marylanders who want to vote, Rachel Chason of the Post reports.

RESEARCH DOG ADOPTIONS: Dogs used in research could have a better chance of eventually becoming pets under a bill winding through the General Assembly. The state Senate already has approved the measure, which includes dogs and cats, though it is dubbed the Beagle Freedom Bill because the breed is the most common dog used in research. A hearing is slated for Tuesday in the House of Delegates and nearly 100 lawmakers already have signed on as co-sponsors, Meredith Cohn of the Sun reports.

RX POT LICENSE EXPANSION: Erin Cox of the Sun reports that a plan approved by a key Maryland Senate committee Friday would grant 21 new licenses to grow or process medical marijuana, but leave only 15 of them open for competition for minority-owned firms at the center of the effort to expand the industry.

CRAFT BREWERS VOW TO RETURN: The state’s craft brewing community and its allies failed to convince the legislature this year to ease restrictions on the production and distribution of craft beer, but the industry expects to try again next session, Timmy Chong reports for Capital News Service.

SCHOOL CALENDARS: The Maryland General Assembly is on the verge of passing a bill that would allow school districts to extend their school years without state approval to account for snow days, Michael Dresser of the Sun writes.

ARUNDEL BILLS: Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital outlines where some of the bills that were proposed by Anne Arundel County legislators stand, including hate crime measures and boat safety bills.

OAKS RETURNS: When Nathaniel Oaks resigned from the Maryland Senate and pleaded guilty to a felony Thursday, a U.S. District Court judge told the Baltimore Democrat that his four-decade-long political career was over. But by Friday, it was clear that lawmakers and voters had not seen the last of him.

PRANCING & POLITICS: Two Democratic gubernatorial candidates are clashing over the implications of the verb “to prance,” according to the AP. State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. has accused tech entrepreneur Alec Ross of engaging in dog-whistle politics by implying a state senator “prances around Annapolis talking” instead of getting things done. Madaleno is the only gay gubernatorial candidate.

  • Ross said he “of course” feels bad if his comments were misconstrued. “But I was not talking about Rich’s sexuality — he is the one doing that,” said Ross, who added that he would never attack someone because of who they are, Rachel Chason of the Post writes. And Julie Verratti, Ross’s openly gay running mate, quickly responded to the discussion via Twitter, saying that Ross is a “good + decent person who made a poor language choice.”

DOCTOR RUNS FOR HOUSE: The conventional wisdom suggests that the Democratic primary in Maryland’s 6th congressional district is a three-way race between state Sen. Roger Manno, Del. Aruna Miller and businessman David J. Trone — and with good reason. But a fourth candidate, Nadia Hashimi, a pediatrician and novelist, is trying to make history. If elected, she’d be the first female Democratic physician to serve as a voting member of Congress, Josh Kurtz writes for Maryland Matters.

TRONE HITS AIRWAVES: District 6 congressional candidate David Trone, co-owner of Total Wine & More, is taking his campaign’s message to broadcast TV. Trone spent nearly $80,000 on ads that are running on shows that air on NBC4 and WUSA9, the local CBS affiliate in the region, from March 28 through April 3, Louis Peck and Andrew Metcalf of Bethesda Beat report.

‘IMBECILE’ JUDGE: Maine Gov. Paul LePage says a federal judge who allowed a lawsuit Maryland has brought against President Donald Trump to proceed is an “imbecile.” The Republican governor hurled the insult after learning Judge Peter J. Messitte allowed the lawsuit accusing Trump of receiving unconstitutional gain through the presidency to move forward, the AP is reporting.