State Roundup, May 8, 2018

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HOGAN TO SIGN 200+ BILLS: Gov. Larry Hogan is scheduled to sign more than 200 bills this morning in Annapolis — including the “Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act.” Maryland law does not currently allow prosecutors in rape and sexual assault cases to present evidence of previous acts by defendants that could prove a pattern of behavior. The new law will authorize judges to allow such evidence under certain circumstances, Doug Donovan of the Sun reports.

DOUBLE-DIGIT HIKES PROPOSED: Insurers are proposing double-digit premium increases in Maryland’s individual-health-plan market, a consequence of what the state’s health insurance commissioner called a “death spiral.” Carolyn Johnson of the Post reports that CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield requested an 18.5% increase on the HMO plans used by the vast majority of its individual-plan members — and a whopping, 91.4% increase on its PPO plans. Kaiser Permanente requested a 37.4% increase on its HMO plans. The average rate increase requested, across insurers and plans, was 30%.

IT’s TRUMP’s FAULT: In a column for the Post, Petula Dvorak heads out to Hoopers Island to talk with watermen whose crab businesses are suffering because no immigrants have been allowed in to help pick crab. No one wants to blame President Trump and they seem eager to find other reasons for the problem. But the problem should be laid squarely at the president’s feet. Harry Phillips, owner of Russell Hall Seafood, understands that.

RECESS APPOINTMENTS IN COURT: Months after two of Gov. Larry Hogan’s once-nominated Cabinet members settled into different government positions, the Maryland Court of Appeals on Monday heard arguments about the General Assembly’s effort to slash the secretaries’ salaries in the 2018 budget, Danielle Gaines reports for the Frederick News Post.

HORSESHOE CASINO TAKE DOWN: Southwest Baltimore’s Horseshoe Casino reported the only year-over-year revenue decrease among Maryland’s casinos last month, according to data released Monday by Maryland Lottery and Gaming. Altogether, the state’s six casinos pulled in nearly $143.5 million in April, with five posting year-over-year gains. Amanda Yeager of the Baltimore Business Journal writes that the combined revenue grew by 5.7% compared with April 2017. Horseshoe, meanwhile, saw an 11.5% year-over-year decrease, with $21.7 million in earnings.

UNION POKES MILLER WITH ENDORSEMENTS: One of the unions that made a splash by holding a rally opposing Senate President Mike Miller (D-Calvert) on the last day of this year’s General Assembly session has taken the next step in its campaign to tweak the veteran lawmaker by endorsing 11 state Senate candidates in the June 26 Democratic primary, Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes. Service Employees International Union Local 500 said Monday that the candidates it is endorsing will go to Annapolis and change the leadership in the state Senate and change the way things are done in the legislature.

CAMPAIGNING CAN BE A DOG: Jordan Cooper might be the only political candidate in Maryland whose conversation with a potential voter has been interrupted by his campaign partner aggressively devouring the voter’s dog’s food. Meghan Thompson of Maryland Matters writes that Jasper, a massive 6-year-old golden retriever, goes canvassing with Cooper every day, knocking on doors and convincing voters why he should represent Bethesda-based District 16 in the House of Delegates.

JEALOUS TOUTS FREE COLLEGE: Gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous, joined at a rally by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, called on Maryland Monday to provide free community college for state students as part of a broader plan to make higher education more accessible, reports Doug Donovan for the Sun. Jealous, one of seven contenders for the Democratic nomination in the June 26 primary, released a fleshed-out version of a plan that would eventually make public colleges and universities free for Marylanders.

EMBRY STUMPS FOR BAKER: Elizabeth Embry, the gubernatorial running mate to Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, joined A Miner Detail radio program host Ryan Miner. Embry, Baker’s top surrogate on the campaign trail, spoke on education funding, Superintendent Kevin Maxwell’s resignation, infrastructure, opioid addiction and how to effectively reach out to Marylanders in Western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore.

TRONE DRAWS FIRE: In a congressional primary where policy differences appear to be few, and where the ability to mobilize supporters looms large, Democrat David Trone’s presence in the race for Maryland’s open 6th District seat has emerged as perhaps the defining element of the campaign. At a recent candidate forum, Trone was the only office-seeker to draw a candidate-specific question. In fact, he drew several during the 90-minute event, from both on-stage rivals and members of the audience. The attacks are not unexpected, and Trone handles them professionally, offering crisp rebuttals without seeming offended, alarmed or even mildly irritated, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters writes.

AFZALI ON COUNTY EXEC RACE: In her race for Frederick County executive, Del. Kathy Afzali, R-District 4, said she is “in it to win it” on the latest episode of Frederick Uncut, Kelsi Loos writes for the Frederick News Post. Afzali said her competitive spirit was in some ways forged in her former career as a dancer of relatively short stature on Broadway. She appeared in “Cats,” “Peter Pan” and “Grease.” You can find the podcast here.

EX-CON DOESN’T SHY FROM RECORD: When Calvin Hawkins asked his former prison warden, Salanda Whitfield, whether he should run for Prince George’s County Council, Whitfield hesitated. “Are you sure you want to do that?” the retired corrections official asked Hawkins, who served nearly six years in prison after being convicted of armed robbery at 21. “No matter how long you’ve been out, people have this suspicion that you’re not worthy.” Hawkins, 56, said he would run on his 23-year record in county government and make no excuses for past mistakes, Rachel Chason of the Post reports.

BA CO BOARD CONSIDERS NEXT STEPS: Rebuked in its selection of Verletta White to be the next schools chief, the Baltimore County school board may decide Tuesday night whether it will push back against the state superintendent’s decision or move on and name its next interim leader, Liz Bowie reports in the Sun.