State Roundup, June 22, 2018

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STATE EYES ONLINE SALES TAX COLLECTING: Buried deep in this AP story, written by Jessica Gresko, on the Supreme Court’s ruling that states can collect taxes from online sales even when a business doesn’t have a brick and mortar store located in the state, we learn that Maryland officials are scrambling to estimate potential new revenue for the state. Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration is reviewing the decision and will consult with the state comptroller’s office to determine its impact. Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat, said in a statement that he was “exceedingly pleased” by the court’s decision and noted that Maryland was one of the states that had asked the high court to overturn its previous decision, which he called “fundamentally outdated and unfair.”

EARLY VOTING RECORD: Michael Dresser and Lauren Lumpkin of the Sun report that early voting in Maryland ended Thursday with a record number of ballots cast in advance of the June 26 primary election, which sets the stage for dozens of races. By the time early voting centers closed Thursday night at 8 p.m., 222,100 Marylanders had voted — 56 percent more than the 141,590 that went to the polls early in the eight-day early voting period in the last gubernatorial primary in 2014. Almost 8% of Democrats and slightly over 6% of all voters cast ballots.

FROSH JOINS SUIT TO REUNITE SEPARATED FAMILIES: Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said Thursday that he would join a multistate lawsuit seeking to compel the Trump administration to reunite 2,300 children with their parents after families were broken up by immigration agents at the southwest border, reports Ian Duncan in the Sun. It remained unclear what the federal government planned to do to help those children despite President Donald Trump’s executive order Wednesday that he said would end family separations. Federal agencies also provided little information about how newly arriving immigrants would be handled.

  • The action comes as dozens of children separated from their parents at the border are being housed in Maryland. WBAL-TV 11 News has confirmed that as many as 15 children are staying at an undisclosed location in Anne Arundel County, reports David Collins of WBAL-TV. In addition to Maryland, the states set to join a lawsuit filed by Washington state are Massachusetts, California, Oregon, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Minnesota. New York has separately announced plans to sue.

COURT ORDERS SCHRADER, PETERS TO BE PAID: The state’s highest court ruled Thursday that the Maryland General Assembly ran afoul of the state constitution when it passed budget language barring Gov. Larry Hogan from reappointing and paying two Cabinet secretaries, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports. The Court of Appeals, in a 4-3 decision, ruled that Dennis R. Schrader and Wendi Peters, the former secretaries of the Departments of Health and Planning, respectively, had been legally reappointed by Hogan. Additionally, language inserted into the budget that was specifically aimed at prohibiting payment of salaries to either fell outside the powers of the legislature, the court said.

STATE LOOKS TO CUT ACCESS TO SEAL DOCS: The same day a civilian employee in the Anne Arundel County Sheriff’s Office was charged with leaking sealed indictments to members of a criminal gang, Maryland officials said they took a long-planned moved to restrict easy police access to that kind of information, Phil Davis of the Annapolis Capital reports.

WHEN THE GUBERNATORIAL CAMPAIGN CHANGES: For all their similarities, the Democrats running for governor would run very different campaigns against Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in the general election, Erin Cox of the Sun writes. A combative progressive such as former NAACP chief Ben Jealous could fire up the left — but encourage the state’s many centrist Democrats to cross party lines to back the popular Hogan. A more centrist, establishment candidate, such as Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, could offer a more traditional contest — but draw less enthusiasm from Democratic activists.

ARUNA MILLER VS MONEY REDUX: Paul Schwartzman of the Post writes that as a woman and an immigrant, state Del. Aruna Miller personifies the Democratic candidates dominating the 2018 midterm elections as she seeks to succeed Rep. John Delaney in Maryland and help her party retain the seat. But her chief rival in the race, businessman David Trone, is spending more than $10 million of his own money on his campaign, an amount that threatens to overwhelm any advantage Miller hoped to glean from endorsements from Emily’s List and a trove of state lawmakers.

GOP SENATE HOPEFULS FORUM: Red Maryland hosted a U.S. Senate Republican candidates forum on Facebook. Tony Campbell, Evan Cronhardt, Nnabu Eze, John Graziani, Bill Krehnbrink and Blaine Taylor participated in the two-hour event while Chris Chaffee, Christina Grigorian, Albert Howard and Gerald Smith declined to participate. They hope to unseat U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin.

MOONLIGHTING FOR ALMOND: Why is Jim Smith, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s chief of strategic alliances, engaged in a smear campaign against a prospective Baltimore County executive? Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew writes that a political organization controlled by Smith, whose day job at City Hall pays him $178,500 a year, has sent out multiple mailers tarring Jim Brochin as a tool of the National Rifle Association and hailing Vicki Almond as the “real Democrat” running in the June 26 primary for county executive.

FICKER CONTESTS MATCHING FUND DENIAL: Republican Montgomery County executive candidate Robin Ficker filed a lawsuit in Montgomery County Circuit Court last week contesting the State Board of Elections’ decision not to certify him to receive matching public funds under the county’s public campaign financing system, reports Andrew Metcalf for Bethesda Beat.

DELEGATE PROPOSES SALES TAX IN ANNAPOLIS: Ahead of the Tuesday primary, elected officials and candidates alike are seeking alternative revenue sources to relieve the Annapolis taxpayer’s load. District 30A House of Delegates candidate Aron Axe has floated the idea of a sales tax as a ballot referendum in lieu of raising property taxes, reports Danielle Ohl for the Annapolis Capital. Most Maryland municipalities do not collect a local sales tax — to do so would require authorizing legislation from the Maryland General Assembly.

INCUMBENT SENATOR’s FOE CONFIDENT OF WIN: Kaanita Iyer of Maryland Matters asks: Could state Sen. Gail Bates be surprised Tuesday in the Republican primary? Reid Novotny, Bates’ Republican challenger in District 9, concedes that the incumbent, who has over 15 years of experience in Annapolis, is a tough opponent. But he is confident of victory—he told Bates even before launching his campaign in February that he will win. And he says he is even more optimistic now because he “met so many great people and it has been such a great experience.”

CAMPAIGN AIDE FIRED: In the latest escalation of the increasingly heated Democratic primary contest for state delegate in Silver Spring/Takoma Park-based District 20, a surveillance videotape captured John Rodriguez, campaign manager for candidate Darian Unger, throwing a box of literature belonging to a rival slate of contenders into a dumpster on Sunday. Unger said early Thursday that, upon learning of the episode, he had fired Rodriguez, effective immediately, reports Louis Peck for Bethesda Beat.

RIVAL ACCUSES CANDIDATE OF HYPOCRISY: A member of the Montgomery County Council who voted for — but is not participating in — the county’s new public campaign financing system is being accused of hypocrisy by a rival. Kevin Harris, a former planner for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, is one of two Democrats challenging first-term incumbent Councilman Tom Hucker, who represents District 5, the Silver Spring area, in the June 26 Democratic primary, writes Bruce DePuyt in Maryland Matters.

VAN HOLLEN ON SEPARATION POLICY: On Sunday, U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) took part in a congressional fact-finding trip to the U.S.-Mexico border. On Wednesday afternoon he discussed the trip and the Trump administration’s child separation policy with Maryland Matters reporter Bruce DePuyt. The conversation took place just prior to Trump’s executive order Wednesday ending the White House policy of separating migrant parents from their children.

COURT RULES AGAINT PROBE: The Maryland Court of Appeals has reversed an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court ruling requiring an investigation into complaints levied against three attorneys who worked for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Chase Cook reports in the Annapolis Capital. The opinion released Thursday ruled the Circuit Court “lacked jurisdiction to consider the petition for writ of mandamus because the Court of Appeals retains original and complete jurisdiction over attorney disciplinary proceedings.”