State Roundup, August 2, 2018

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BUSCH WANTS RIGHT TO CHOOSE IN STATE CONSTITUTION: House Speaker Michael E. Busch plans to lead an effort to enshrine a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy in the state constitution, joining a number of other states attempting to preempt any possible move by the Supreme Court to erode abortion protections, Erin Cox reports in the Post.

STATE OFFICIALS BLAST SUSQUEHANNA NEIGHBORS: Gov. Larry Hogan set off a testy interstate exchange Wednesday as he decried a recent surge of debris and sediment flowing into the Chesapeake Bay after last month’s heavy rainstorms and charged that upstream states are failing to do their part to curb pollution, Michael Dresser and Scott Dance report in the Sun. Hogan promised to raise the issue next week when he meets with governors from other states in the bay’s watershed and with officials of the federal Environmental Protection Administration.

  • Comptroller Peter Franchot remarked: “To be blunt, we’re literally drowning in Pennsylvania’s trash. I have a problem with that. Imagine if I threw my trash in my neighbor’s yard.” Bryan Sears of the Daily Record writes that his comments sparked a discussion among the three members of the state’s Board of Public Works — Franchot, Gov. Larry Hogan and Treasurer Nancy Kopp — about the cleanup of the bay and the responsibility that must be shared by states along the Susquehanna River.

COURT CLERK FAILED TO COLLECT OVERDUE FINES: For the fourth time in 10 years state auditors found that the Baltimore Circuit Court clerk’s office failed to pursue a variety of overdue criminal fines and civil fees, including $7.6 million in delinquent penalties unpaid since before 2008, Doug Donovan reports for the Sun. Maryland’s Department of Legislative Audits also found that another $4 million in “deferred fees” — court costs that judges order defendants to pay after they leave jail — remains uncollected because the clerk’s office is not connected to a state database that provides those release dates.

HANDS-ON BAY RESTORATION: In 80-degree heat on a sunny Friday at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Maryland Oyster Restoration Center, a small crew of volunteers scoop shells onto suspended racks, shake the racks to filter out shell fragments and debris, then dump the remaining shells — soon to be hosts for new oysters — into larger bins. Over the course of the morning, 12 to 16 bins weighing a ton each will be filled, with plenty of brow-wiping, sweating and water breaks, Jim Joyner reports for the Sun.

BUS DRIVER SHORTAGE MAY WORSEN: With a little over a month until Carroll students return to school, the need for bus drivers for the upcoming school year is becoming more apparent. Emily Chappell of the Carroll County Times reports that while Mike Hardesty, director of transportation with Carroll County Public Schools, said this is something that happens every year, the 2018-2019 school year is likely to see more of a shortage of drivers due to the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. A General Assembly veto override of the bill in 2018 means that Maryland companies with 15 or more employees are required to provide them with earned sick and safe leave, among other specifications.

MILLER URGES SUPREME COURT TO SAVE CROSS: The president of Maryland’s Senate and seven of his legislative colleagues are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to review and overturn a lower court’s “utterly unrecognizable” decision 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, reports Steve Lash for the Daily Record.

LEGISLATORS EMBRACE STATE CENTER PLAN: Never underestimate the willingness of elected Maryland officials to carry water for profit-seeking developers. That’s what’s happening on the always-controversial Baltimore State Center project, in which three prominent state delegates – Maggie McIntosh of Baltimore, Tawanna Gaines of Prince George’s County and Adrienne Jones of Baltimore County – threw away the facts and embraced a developer’s propaganda pitch aimed at securing a highly lucrative $1.5 billion contract at the state’s expense, pundit Barry Rascovar of Political Maryland opines.

ARUNDEL RX POT DISPENSARY IMPERILED: When Abigail Diehl’s company received approval from the county in February to build a medical marijuana dispensary off Generals Highway, she thought her bureaucratic struggles were over. But, Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital reports, opponents to the project have appealed the county’s approval to the County Board of Appeals and an abrupt change to zoning laws has put the business in doubt. Diehl said the company, which is female-owned, is struggling to get a foothold in Anne Arundel. Other medical marijuana dispensaries have had difficulty finding suitable locations and weaving through county bureaucracy

REPORTS SAY FOOSE CHIEFS FACED BIAS: In reports obtained by the Sun, human rights investigator Cheryl Brower wrote that she had found reasonable cause to believe some Howard County school board members discriminated against three of former Superintendent Renee Foose’s chiefs: Tim Thornburg, director of staff relations; Grace Chesney, chief accountability officer; and John White, director of communications, Tim Prudente of the Sun reports. They were targeted for supporting her, Brower wrote, and in the cases of Chesney and Thornburg, for being gay.