State Roundup, July 19, 2018

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LEADERSHIP SHUFFLE IN THE HOUSE: House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch announced major changes in the House leadership Tuesday that presumes he and many of his Democratic appointees will be re-elected against Republican opponents and he himself will be re-elected speaker to an unprecedented fifth term, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.

  • Busch has announced the first round of leadership changes in the House. Del. Kathleen Dumais has been promoted to majority leader in the Maryland House of Delegates, replacing Bill Frick who ran for Montgomery County executive and lost. Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) will succeed Joe Vallario to head up the Judiciary Committee, which he has run for the last 25 years. Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters outlines all the changes.

HOGAN, JEALOUS AT TAWES: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and his Democratic challenger, Ben Jealous, stood inside the iron gates of the marina in Somerset County, barely 50 feet from each other at the 42nd annual J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake, Maryland’s premier summer political event. The candidates have never met. And they didn’t speak on Wednesday, focusing instead on trying to secure votes in what is expected to be a heated gubernatorial race, report Ovetta Wiggins and Teo Armus of the Post.

DEBATE SCHEDULE CONFUSION: The campaign of Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday that the governor will debate Democratic challenger Ben Jealous twice in September — but the Jealous camp says it has not agreed to a debate schedule. Hogan’s campaign announced that the governor would engage in one-hour televised debates on Sept. 17 and Sept. 24. Jealous’ team said it has not committed to those dates.

JEALOUS ON THE EASTERN SHORE: In an interview with Ryan Eldredge of ABC 47, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous talks about his candidacy and what he would like to help happen in the state of Maryland. He could only talk in generalities about the Eastern Shore and acknowledged that he lacks hands-on experience on the Eastern Shore. “I believe that you have to listen before you lead. I started off 500 days ago listening to people all over the shore as part of a 24 county tour of our state. And it’s because I listened that I was able to win the support of activists throughout the shore and win every county,” said Jealous.

JEALOUS WANTS TO REVIVE RED LINE: Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous says that if he is elected governor in November, he’ll work to revive Baltimore’s Red Line. That might be more than anyone can deliver, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports. When Republican Gov. Larry Hogan withdrew the state’s support for the $3 billion east-west light rail line after entering office in 2015, he didn’t just kill the project. He drove a figurative spike through its heart — giving up federal funding, and spending the state’s portion on other transportation priorities — making it difficult for any future governor to resurrect it.

BAKER, JEALOUS MAKE UP: Former NAACP chief Ben Jealous and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III bickered throughout their battle in the Maryland Democratic gubernatorial primary. On Wednesday, the two politicians traded compliments and said they had patched things up, Teo Armus of the Post reports.

MARYLAND VOTERS NOT AS ENERGIZED: GOP pollster Jim Burton, in an op-ed for Maryland Matters writes that last month’s primary elections demonstrated Marylanders are not as energized as we have seen voters in many other states’ elections since President Trump took office. Enthusiasm and interest among Democratic Party voters appears tempered compared to Democratic turnout in other states. For example, in Virginia’s 2017 election, Democratic turnout was up 170% more than the last time there was a contested primary in 2009. And in Texas earlier this year Democratic turnout increased 87% over 2014.

OPEN MARYLAND PRIMARIES? Neal Simon, an independent candidate for U.S. Senate, contends in a column for Maryland Matters that Maryland primaries should be open to voters of all parties. He cites Montgomery County as an exampole. Liberal candidate Marc Elrich beat Potomac businessman David Blair by just 80 votes. The two candidates each received about 37,000 votes. That may sound like a lot for a county election, but if Elrich goes on to beat his Republican opponent in November, it will mean he was nominated by just 6% of the county’s registered voters, and 3.5% of its 1.04 million residents.

MARYLAND JOINS SUIT OVERTAX DEDUCTION CAP: Maryland has joined three states in a lawsuit to invalidate a cap on the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes, Allen Etzler of the Frederick News Post reports. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, was led by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood and joined by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey. It argues that the new cap on state and local taxes — referred to as SALT — was enacted to target Maryland and similarly situated states, that it interferes with states’ rights to make their own fiscal decisions and that it will disproportionately harm taxpayers in these states.

STATE RELEASES HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION PLANS: An ambitious plan to widen lanes on the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 is entering a new phase with the release of a long list of possible construction alternatives this week, writes Luz Lazo of the Post. Maryland transportation officials Tuesday unveiled 15 preliminary options that include the addition of congestion-priced toll lanes as well as dedicated bus lanes that would address traffic congestion on the two major highways. The alternatives provide the most detail of what the project might look like on I-270 and the Beltway.

HEALTH CARE COST AWARENESS CAMPAIGN: Amid national discussions about the ever-rising costs of health care, the Maryland Health Care Commission is expanding a campaign aimed at increasing transparency around hospital pricing in the state. The commission’s year-old “Wear the Cost” campaign is adding features that will allow Maryland consumers to examine pricey hospital procedures, and better communicate with the doctors about care costs, Morgan Eichensehr of the Baltimore Business Journal writes.

HARRIS JOINS EFFORT ON MEDAL OF FREEDOM: After the Maryland congressional delegation urged President Donald J. Trump to award a Capital Gazette reporter and editor the Presidential Medal of Freedom, U.S. Rep. Andy Harris has pledged his support, Danielle Ohl of the Annapolis Capital reports.