State Roundup, April 3, 2018

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INMATE PSYCH TREATMENT: State-run psychiatric hospitals will face a deadline to admit patients referred by Maryland courts under legislation approved by the General Assembly Monday night. The measure now goes to Gov. Larry Hogan, Michael Dresser writes in the Sun. Judges have complained that defendants languish for weeks or months in jail before being admitted to psychiatric hospitals run by the Maryland Department of Health even after courts had found them mentally incompetent to stand trial or not criminally responsible.

REPLACING OAKS: Baltimore’s Democratic Party has scheduled a process for replacing former Sen. Nathaniel Oaks, who resigned from the General Assembly and pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges last week, writes Pamela Wood in the Sun. The Baltimore City Democratic Central Committee announced it will hold interviews and vote on a replacement for Oaks’ 41st Legislative District Senate seat on April 17.

HOW TO HANDLE VETO BAIT: The editorial board for the Sun offers Gov. Larry Hogan advice on how to handle several bills that were passed and sent to his desk with the purpose of having him veto them so the Democratic controlled General Assembly could over-ride the veto before end of session. Three have to do with public sector unions; one has to do with the estate tax; one allows voter registration on Election Day; one has to do with filling cabinet vacancies; and of course, the last one has to do with control over school construction, which the editorial board has already suggested should be vetoed.

HOGAN, ACLU REACH FB SETTLEMENT: The ACLU of Maryland is claiming a victory for free speech in the settlement of a federal lawsuit against Gov. Larry Hogan and staff members for blocking and deleting contrary political comments from his official Facebook page, William Zorzi of Maryland Matters reports.

TAKING MONEY FROM FOSTER KIDS: In an op-ed for the Sun, law professor Daniel Hatcher writes about the Dickensian process used by the Department of Human Resources to take money for poor foster children to use as state revenue. DHR requires its foster care agencies to target children who might be determined disabled or whose parents have died, apply for Social Security disability and survivor benefits on their behalf, and then apply to gain control over the children’s money as representative payee. Two pieces of legislation could begin to remedy the situation.

DIVERSITY IN RX POT INDUSTRY: A bill intended to diversify Maryland’s medical marijuana industry gained initial approval in the state Senate Monday night. The legislation is the state Legislative Black Caucus’s top priority in Annapolis this year, Rachel Baye of WYPR-FM reports.

CITY PROJECT FUNDING: Maryland’s General Assembly approved $11.7 million in funding for 37 projects across Baltimore City, writes Holden Wilen in the Baltimore Business Journal. Lawmakers last week put the finishing touches on a $1.09 billion bond bill. Within the capital budget, lawmakers are providing millions of dollars in state grants for projects across the state. In Baltimore, the city’s state delegation requested more than $17 million for 56 projects spread across the city.

LOBBYIST PARTIES: Lobbyists in Annapolis are lining up to host parties, receptions and a “backyard BBQ” for state lawmakers and government officials to celebrate the Maryland General Assembly’s last day of the 2018 legislative session Monday, Doug Donovan of the Sun writes.

DEM VOTER REGISTRATION DOWN: Despite a wave of anti-Trump activism from the left, Democratic voter registration in Maryland has actually fallen since the President’s election in November 2016.  Is that a problem? asks Adam Pagnucco of the Seventh State blog. To answer that question, let’s start with this fact: since November 2016, voter registration among Maryland Democrats has dropped from 2,179,948 to 2,134,776 in February 2018.  That’s a decline of 2%.  Over the same period, voter registration has dropped by 2% among Republicans, risen by 2% among independents and other party members and declined 1% overall.

LONG, DAUNTING MoCo BALLOT: Montgomery County legislators continue to advocate many proposals to encourage people to vote, such as same-day voter registration. But one of the most daunting aspects of voting in Montgomery County is the ballot itself, writes Len Lazarick in MarylandReporter.com.

SINCLAIR & PROPAGANDA: Timothy Burke of the Concourse writes that earlier this month, CNN’s Brian Stelter broke the news that Sinclair Broadcast Group, Maryland-based owner or operator of nearly 200 television stations in the U.S., would be forcing its news anchors to record a promo about “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.” The script, which parrots Donald Trump’s oft-declarations of developments negative to his presidency as “fake news,” brought upheaval to newsrooms already dismayed with Sinclair’s consistent interference to bring right-wing propaganda to local television broadcasts. Of course, it is the video that makes the point better than anything.