State Roundup, April 19, 2018

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RAHN OWNED STOCK IN HNTB: State Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn will amend his state financial disclosure filings after a review by The Daily Record found he failed to disclose the ownership and later sale of stock in a company that formerly employed him, reports the Record’s Bryan Sears. Rahn owned 28 shares of stock in HNTB, a Kansas City, Missouri-based architecture and engineering consulting firm. Rahn was a senior vice president for the firm before being tapped by Gov. Larry Hogan in 2015 to serve as head of the Maryland Department of Transportation.

BPW DELAYS VOTE ON FAST-TRACKED CONTRACT: Erin Cox of the Sun reports that the Board of Public Works delayed a vote Wednesday on a fast-tracked $68.5 million transportation contract amid questions about the expedited bidding process and ties between the winning bidder and the state’s transportation secretary. The contract would have paid a consortium of companies to oversee a part of Gov. Larry Hogan’s $7.6 billion plan to relieve traffic congestion on major highways in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.

  • Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) said it was “unclear” whether the contract would ever be brought back to the board, which has the power to approve or reject such deals, writes Michael Laris for the Post. Franchot praised Hogan for pursuing what he said are desperately needed highway improvements, but said a project of this magnitude “needs to have a process and a review that everybody is comfortable with.”

HEALTH EXCHANGE BEGINS TO SHORE UP MARKET: On the heels of legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan, the board of trustees of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange voted Monday to take initial steps toward applying for a federal waiver that would allow the state to experiment with a new way of stabilizing its Obamacare-born individual marketplace, Morgan Eichensehr reports for the Baltimore Business Journal. These waivers authorize states to forego certain Affordable Care Act rules and experiment with different health care strategies, to try and stabilize volatile markets.

STATE LEADS IN MINORITY, WOMEN BIZ OWNERS: Maryland has the highest rate of per-capita minority and women business ownership in the United States, a recent study shows, Lorraine Mirabella of the Sun reports. The state has nearly 42 minority owners for every 100,000 residents, according to a survey by Paychex, a payroll, human resources and insurance services company. It also has 17.5 women-owned businesses per 100,000 residents.

SAFE SITE FOR ADDICTS: In an op-ed for the Sun, Dr. Mike Benusic urges the state to adopt safe sites for addicts to do drugs. He write that “in the last decade, deaths from opioids have quadrupled in Maryland. We now have the fifth highest rate of overdose deaths in America. And despite a State of Emergency declared in early 2017, that year is among the worst on record for intoxication deaths. These facts were presented again and again during House and Senate hearings on bills that would bring a tested solution to Maryland — allowing sites where people could use drugs under medical supervision.”

WOMEN EMERGE IN DISTRICT 18 RACE: Women are beginning to emerge as top tier candidates in Montgomery’s competitive District 18 legislative race at the same time some politicos are saying incumbent Del. Al Carr and Del. Jeff Waldstreicher, who is running for Senate, may be vulnerable, Glynis Kazanjian reports in MarylandReporter. “There are incredibly strong non-incumbents candidates in this race, and as a result the incumbents — both Jeff and Al — could lose,” said Susan Heltemes, District 18 Democratic activist and founder of a decades-old District 18 breakfast club. “That is a given because of the quality of the candidates.”

REMOVING OAKS FROM BALLOT: The Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee is asking the Maryland Democratic Party to oust Nathaniel T. Oaks from his position representing the 41st District on the panel for “malfeasance in office,” after he pleaded guilty to two federal felonies last month, William Zorzi reports in Maryland Matters.

MADALENO RELEASES TAX RETURNS: Maryland gubernatorial candidate Richard Madaleno released six years of federal and state tax returns Tuesday night and called on all other candidates running for governor to do the same, Ovetta Wiggins reports in the Post. The decision to release the returns was a jab at President Trump, who has refused to make his own tax filings public. On Tuesday, the president filed for an extension for his 2017 returns. As a candidate, he promised to let the public see his tax forms but never provided them.

OTHERS TO FOLLOW SUIT: About half of Maryland’s Democratic candidates for governor committed this week to releasing their income tax returns after Sen. Richard Madaleno became the first in a crowded race to do so. Madaleno, who represents a portion of Montgomery County in the Maryland Senate, released six years’ worth of returns on Tuesday evening to coincide with the annual tax filing deadline, Danielle Gaines reports in the Frederick News-Post.

LT. GOV. PICKS PAYING OFF: When candidates for governor select their running mates, one of the things they hope is that their No. 2’s can lend some fundraising muscle to the ticket. That is starting to pan out for at least some of the Democratic candidates. New campaign finance reports filed this week show that two of the Democratic running mates have collected significant amounts of money since joining with their principals in February, writes Josh Kurtz in Maryland Matters.

FORUM FOR CANDIDATES FOR GOVERNOR: The Greater Baltimore Committee and Associated Black Charities will host a town-hall style Maryland Gubernatorial Forum Thursday, April 26, 5:30-7:30 p.m. in downtown Baltimore to educate their constituents and other voters about mainstream candidates running for governor, their election agendas and positions on key regional and statewide issues. Seven Democratic candidates vying in the primary have accepted invitations to participate. They are: Rushern Baker, Benjamin Jealous, Kevin Kamenetz, Richard Madaleno, Alec Ross, Jim Shea and Krish Vignarajah. Registration is required. For more information and to register for the event.

CARDIN OPPOSES POMPEO: The AP is reporting that U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin announced Wednesday that he opposes the nomination of CIA director Mike Pompeo to serve as President Donald Trump’s next secretary of state. The Maryland Democrat, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, thanked Pompeo for his service in the military, in Congress and as CIA director. But Cardin expressed concern over Pompeo’s past statements about Muslims and the LGBT community.

BAKER TOUTS RECORD IN PG: Delivering his eighth and final State of the County address, gubernatorial candidate Rushern Baker said massive private sector investment in Prince George’s County offered validation for the policies and vision he pursued in two terms as county executive and is a sure sign that his long-neglected county has arrived as an economic force, both regionally and throughout Maryland. But he acknowledged that gains in the county’s public schools are fragile and will require constant vigilance, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matter writes.

DANCE ASKS FOR PROBATION: Former Baltimore County School Superintendent Dallas Dance is asking a judge to give him probation rather than jail time for failing to disclose nearly $147,000 he earned from part-time consulting jobs, Liz Bowie of the Sun reports.