State Roundup, April 17, 2018

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RAHN SOUGHT ETHICS RULING AFTER THE FACT: Following up on a Daily Record story from Monday, Michael Laris of the Post reports that senior Maryland transportation officials used an expedited and unusual process to choose a company to oversee a planned multibillion-dollar project to rebuild part of the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270, in what the state says will be the biggest such “public-private partnership” in the country. The group selected for the project includes Kansas City-based HNTB Corp., Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn’s former employer, as one of three prime contractors. Another partner in the winning venture includes a former senior colleague of Rahn’s from his days as head of the Missouri Department of Transportation. The speed in which the winner was selected, along with the winning group’s ties to Rahn, has led some to question the process.

  • Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that Rahn had a private dinner with an executive of HNTB and advised him to “think big” on the company’s proposal for a multi-year, multimillion-dollar project that state officials were to award weeks later. The February dinner occurred in the weeks before the transportation department held briefings and made its decision on a nearly $69 million contract to oversee a proposed $7.6 billion widening projects. The meal also occurred weeks before Rahn personally sought an ethics ruling on his participation in the awarding of that contract – a request Rahn made weeks after transportation officials awarded the job to HNTB.

RGGI SPURS ECONOMIC ACTION: The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multi-state power plant emissions-capping program that includes Maryland, has generated $4 billion in net economic activity, even accounting for the costs it has added to the price of electricity, a study released Tuesday found. Scott Dance of the Sun reports that under the program, power plants must bid and pay to be allowed to exceed caps on emissions of the greenhouse gases that scientists say are responsible for global climate change.

CLEAN ENERGY A PRIORITY FOR COLLEGE GOP: College Republicans across the country are calling on policymakers to make clean energy a priority. The College Republicans here in Maryland are no exception, writes Rosemary Wilson, Jacob Veitch, Anna Susie and Jillian Scott in a commentary for MarylandReporter.com. Now is the time for Maryland policymakers to build on the state’s clean energy progress. A new initiative to update the electric grid, spearheaded by Gov. Larry Hogan and the Public Service Commission, represents a tremendous opportunity to ensure that Maryland is well positioned to lead and benefit from the renewable energy revolution.

PRETTY CLOSE TO BIPARTISAN: The just-ended legislative session in Annapolis was not quite the bipartisan kumbaya festival that Gov. Larry Hogan has portrayed — but it wasn’t far off, opines the editorial board for the Post. But the cross words from Republican governor over certain actions by the Democratic leadership were trifles compared with the real work that got done in the General Assembly, which, mainly with Mr. Hogan’s active support or cooperation, enacted a slew of significant legislation. Bipartisanship is a distant memory in Washington and many state capitals. In Annapolis, this year at least, it was robust.

RX POT FACILITY CAN REFUSE CUSTOMERS: A medical marijuana dispensary in western Maryland has banned at least four customers because they posted complaints online about pricing or other issues, sparking concern from advocates and potentially violating state rules for the emerging industry. Joy A. Strand, the executive director of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, said registered dispensaries have the right to decline marijuana to patients or caregivers if they appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Tauhid Chappell of the Post writes.

RETIREMENT STOPS HARASSMENT PROBE: A Maryland judge under scrutiny from the state’s judicial disciplinary body over sexual harassment claims is set to retire before the group concludes its investigation. As a result, the group’s investigation will cease, and there will be no official findings, which would have been made public if he had been penalized, Lyn Bui of the Post reports.

TINY TOWN EMBRACES GREEN: Whitney Pipkin of the Bay Journal writes that straddling the northeast branch of the Anacostia River just outside of Washington, D.C., is a half-square-mile patch of green called Edmonston. It’s a tiny Maryland town where, despite its distance from the Chesapeake Bay, the residents seem to understand that what they do there affects what happens in the Bay. The article appears in MarylandReporter.

LINING UP FOR EX-SEN. OAKS’ SEAT: Eight people have applied to fill the Northwest Baltimore state Senate seat vacated by Nathaniel T. Oaks, who resigned last month after pleading guilty to federal crimes, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. Interviews will be held tonight after which the Democratic Committee is scheduled to vote publicly to fill the vacancy.

HOUSE RACE COFFERS: David Trone has poured $3 million of his personal fortune this year into his quest to succeed Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), while state Del. Aruna Miller (D-Montgomery) received far more in individual donations than any of her Democratic primary opponents, writes Paul Schwartzman for the Post.

CUMMINGS PUSHES OPIOID LEGISLATION: With drug overdose deaths ravaging communities across the country, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts are planning to introduce legislation Wednesday that would require $10 billion a year in federal funding to combat the opioid crisis, reports Luke Broadwater in the Sun.

MO CO DEPORTATION DEFENSE FUND: The Montgomery County Council will vote today on whether to spend $374,000 to help defend county residents who are facing deportation, a proposal that Council President Hans Riemer described as a way to push back against President Trump’s immigration crackdown, Jennifer Barrios of the Post writes.

SCHUH FIGHTS RX POT SHOPS: The Anne Arundel County Council began a hearing Monday on legislation that would make it harder for medical marijuana dispensaries, growers and processors to open within the county, Chase Cook reports for the Annapolis Capital. Bill 24-18 — introduced by County Executive Steve Schuh — prohibits granting variances for special requirements on medical marijuana projects within the county.

  • Amy Webb of AMVETS, in an op-ed for the Capital, questions the county’s opposition to medical marijuana when so many military veterans are for it. She writes that as an advocate for veterans on behalf of AMVETS, the issue of medical marijuana is often discussed. In 2016, AMVETS membership passed a resolution pushing for veterans’ access to medical marijuana, which makes it part of our legislative agenda. The American Legion has a similar resolution, and we are not alone in this.

WA CO PROPOSES MORE FOR PRE-K: Aided by a state-mandated funding coming in less than anticipated, Washington County government is proposing an additional $230,000 in operational funding to support pre-kindergarten expansion in Washington County Public Schools, CJ Lovelace of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.