State Roundup, April 18, 2018

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HIGHWAY CONTRACT PULLED FROM BPW SKED: A $69 million state contract to oversee the largest public-private highway project in the country has been pulled from the Board of Public Works’ schedule after questions were raised over Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn’s relationship with the winner of the contract and his handling of the bidding process, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports. The withdrawal of the contract with a consortium headed by Kansas City, Missouri-based HNTB comes as officials express concerns about the speed of the procurement, the waiving of standard competitive bidding processes and the relationship between the company and Rahn, who previously worked for HNTB.

METRO’s MODEST ADVANCE: For the past two years, a chorus of regional elected officials, business leaders and other advocates said Metro should get additional money only on condition that far-reaching reforms were adopted to improve the transit system’s governance and management. Although Metro is on the verge of obtaining $500 million a year in additional funding under a landmark accord, the accompanying changes in governance are considerably more modest than those originally envisioned by elected officials, business leaders and transit advocates, Robert McCartney of the Post reports.

POST-CONVICTION RELIEF: Alex Mann of Capital News Service reports that many bills remained in the balance as the minute hand ticked toward midnight on April 9, the last of Maryland’s 90-day legislative session. Among them was legislation addressing the rights of criminals to petition for post-conviction relief — a process of challenging a conviction in court. Until two years ago in Maryland, filing a petition for a writ of actual innocence or petitioning to test newly discovered DNA evidence were two ways a defendant could seek post-conviction relief — and potentially win their freedom.

HOGAN TO PICK OAKS’ REPLACEMENT: Gov. Larry Hogan will choose between two people to temporarily fill the seat left by former state Sen. Nathaniel T. Oaks after the Democratic Central Committee for Baltimore’s 41st District remained split after five votes, Christina Tkacik reports in the Sun. Hogan will chose between former Del. Jill P. Carter and Joyce J. Smith, both of whom received two votes from the committee.

HOW TO WIN, LOSE DEM GUBERNATORIAL PRIMARY: The Democratic gubernatorial primary is so competitive this year, that campaigns and strategists think they may need the support of no more than a quarter of the electorate to win — maybe as few as 125,000 votes. Consequently, the campaigns are focusing most of their efforts on appealing to certain segments of the electorate, and they all have theories for how they can win. The editorial board of the Sun offers a run-down of the best-case scenario for each of them — and how things could go wrong.

JEALOUS TEACHERS PET: Theresa Mitchell Dudley, president of the Prince George’s County teachers union, was standing on a chilly street corner in West Baltimore Tuesday morning, helping to promote the state union’s endorsement of Democrat Ben Jealous for governor that she and her members helped engineer. The Jealous endorsement on Saturday by teachers from across the state was a major boost for him and a firm rejection of Rushern Baker, the Prince George’s county executive who the teachers there detest for multiple reasons — one of the few points of view they share with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

SIERRA CLUB BACKS ARUNA MILLER FOR HOUSE: The Maryland Sierra Club on Tuesday gave its endorsement to state Del. Aruna Miller of Darnestown in the eight-way Democratic primary for the District 6 congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. John Delaney, Louis Peck reports in Bethesda Beat.

CALIF. SENATOR ENDORSES ALSOBROOKS IN PG: Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) is backing Maryland state’s attorney Angela Alsobrooks in the race for Prince George’s County executive, citing her “strong track record of getting things done,” Rachel Chason reports in the Post.

SCHUH ACCUSED OF TRYING TO INFLUENCE RX POT DECISIONS: The former Anne Arundel County administrative hearing officer said he was fired by County Executive Steve Schuh after the critic of the state medical marijuana laws tried to influence his decisions on variances for dispensaries, reports Chase Cook for the Annapolis Capital. Doug Hollmann said Schuh was trying to influence his decisions through meetings and emails. It is against the county code for the county executive to influence or supervise a quasi-judicial decision by the administrative hearing office.

AA COUNCIL HEARS SCHUH PROPOSAL: 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 in 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.

WHITE NAMED BA CO SCHOOLS SUPER: The Baltimore County school board voted Tuesday night to make Verletta White its permanent superintendent, following months of stalemate, writes Liz Bowie for the Sun. White has been the interim superintendent for the past nine months, during which the school board’s ethics panel determined she had previously violated ethics rules as a schools employee. The eight-to-four vote came after fierce debate by a deeply divided school board.

PRAISE THE TWO MIKES: Political pundit Barry Rascover writes in his Political Maryland blog that as expected in an election year, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan heaped fulsome praise on his bipartisan successes in the recently concluded General Assembly session — days after excoriating Democratic Assembly leaders as corrupt villains. But the two people who do the lion’s share of the work to make everything come together are Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch. [Editor’s note: Rascovar’s opinion about Hogan’s role is at odds with most of the commentary on the session by reporters on the scene and editorial boards.]