State Roundup, July 3, 2018

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MORE DETAINED DESPITE BAIL REFORM: A rule intended to reduce the jail population and eliminate excessive cash bails for the poor in Maryland has actually resulted in more defendants being detained without the option of pretrial release, according to a recent report by groups advocating the end of mass incarceration. Lyn Bui of the Post writes that the June 21 report, which analyzed pretrial jail populations in Prince George’s County before and after bail reform was implemented in 2017, suggests that while cash bails have decreased, judges have opted to hold more people without bond instead of releasing them on their own recognizance.

TRUMP OKs DISASTER AID: President Donald Trump has approved a disaster declaration in Maryland stemming from storms and flooding that occurred in May, and ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts, Jim Joyner of the Sun reports. The declaration announced late Monday covers areas affected by severe storms from May 27 to May 28, including parts of Ellicott City.

SWITCH IN DRUG PROGRAMS: Retired state employees will have nearly two months this fall to enroll in new Medicare coverage for prescription drugs before the current state-funded program expires at the end of the year, reports Tamela Baker for the Hagerstown Herald Mail. Current coverage for Medicare-eligible state retirees was set to expire next summer under legislation approved by the Maryland General Assembly in 2011. Sen. Andrew Serafini, R-Washington, said the idea was to shrink the state’s “unfunded liabilities” — debts the state had not set aside money to pay — “which were $16 billion at that time.”

PARK PANEL TO APPEAL BLADENSBURG CROSS RULING: The U.S. Supreme Court must overturn a lower court’s “grievously incorrect” ruling that a 40-foot-cross erected more than 90 years ago as a war memorial on state-owned land in Bladensburg violates the constitutional separation of church and state, the local park commission stated in papers filed last week with the justices. Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports that the park commission added in its filing that the Bladensburg Cross is not intended to promote Christianity but to symbolize the noble patriotic sacrifice of Prince George’s County residents, and now also others, killed in battle or terrorist attacks since World War I.

FRANCHOT WON’T ENDORSE JEALOUS: Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot said Monday that he will not endorse his party’s nominee for governor, and will likely remain neutral in Ben Jealous’ race against Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. In an interview with WYPR-FM, Franchot said he would be happy to meet with Jealous and offer him information from his agency, but he said there would be no endorsement, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.

INDEPENDENT SEEKS BALLOT SPOT: Earl Robbins still has some work to do if he wants to get on the November ballot as an independent candidate for Frederick County executive, reports Allen Etzler in the Frederick News Post. To get on the ballot, Robbins needs to turn in 1,794 valid signatures from registered county voters, equating to 1% of the electorate. Robbins’ first petition included 1,931 signatures, but only 1,611 of them were validated, Frederick County Election Director Stuart Harvey said Monday.

FLOREEN MULLS RUN FOR MO CO EXEC: Longtime Democratic council member Nancy Floreen is weighing an independent run for Montgomery County executive, saying residents of Maryland’s largest jurisdiction would be better served by having a different option than either of the men vying for her party’s nomination. Marc Elrich, a staunch progressive, is barely ahead of David Blair, a political newcomer who self-funded his campaign. The heated nomination battle is coming down to absentee and provisional ballots, The Republican nominee, Robin Ficker, ran unopposed, Jennifer Barrios of the Post reports

FICKER SUES OVER CAMPAIGN FINANCING: Robin Ficker, the Republican nominee for Montgomery County executive, is challenging state and county elections officials in court after his request for funds under the county’s new public campaign financing system was denied, JenniferBarrios reports in the Post. Ficker, a lawyer who was unopposed for the GOP nomination, said he filed the suit in Montgomery County Circuit Court after hearing from the State Board of Elections that he did not qualify for county campaign funds, which are being offered to candidates for the first time this year

HARFORD CENTRAL COMMITTEES: The Aegis is reporting that there will be a few new faces and many familiar ones on Harford County’s two state central committees following last week’s primary election. For the Republicans, eight of 12 current members are presumptive winners in the primary, pending the final count of absentee and provisional ballots scheduled for Thursday morning. For the Democrats, six of the 10 current members will likely be returning, pending the final certification of results from the primary.

3 THREATS SENT ON DAY OF SHOOTING: The alleged gunman in Thursday’s killings at the Annapolis Capital sent three threatening letters before the shooting rampage at the Annapolis newspaper, Anne Arundel County police said Monday. Ian Duncan and Talia Richman of the Sun report that Thomas Marquardt, the Capital’s former publisher, said the paper’s former attorney turned over to police mail received at his law office Monday — a document, signed in the suspect’s name, saying he was on his way to the newspaper “with the objective of killing every person present.”

WHAT LAWS COULD HAVE STOPPED KILLINGS? The editorial board of the Sun ponders whether any law could have stopped Jarrod Ramos from the mass murder at the Capital Gazette, writing that “surely we can all agree that someone who said in court documents that he had sworn a “legally binding oath” to kill a former Annapolis Capital reporter should not have been able to purchase a gun. Yet Jarrod W. Ramos, the man charged in the Thursday killing of five members of the Capital Gazette staff, passed a criminal background check and bought a pump-action shotgun legally from a dealer. Maryland has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. How could this happen?”

RAMOS STALKING VICTIM SPEAKS OUT: Speaking out Monday on the “Today” show, a woman recounted the online harassment and threats that led her to file a criminal harassment charge against Jarrod W. Ramos, Talia Richman of the Sun reports. The woman says she was terrified for years that Ramos would “show up anywhere, at any time, and kill me.”

ANNAPOLIS PLANNING PRESS FREEDOM FEST: Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley plans to host a fundraiser and music festival for press freedom following the attack at the Capital Gazette office last Thursday. “We want [the attack] to be something people don’t forget,” Buckley said Monday during a visit to the temporary Capital Gazette newsroom. Buckley said the city is in the early stages of planning an event on Bladen Street in front of Maryland State House, Danielle Ohl of the Annapolis Capital writes.

U.S. FLAGS AT HALF-STAFF: President Trump plans to issue a proclamation Tuesday ordering flags flown at half-staff on federal buildings to honor the five victims of the Capital Gazette shooting in Annapolis, the White House said. The decision follows a request by Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley, which he said was initially denied. John Wagner reports in The Post.  White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said the decision was made Monday night “as soon as the president heard about the request from the mayor.”