State Roundup, August 3, 2018

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HOGAN SUPPORTS VOTERS RIGHT TO DECIDE ABORTION ISSUE: Maryland Democrats on Thursday called for a state constitutional amendment to guarantee a woman’s right to abortion — and Gov. Larry Hogan said he would support an effort by House Speaker Michael E. Busch to let voters decide, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun. The Republican governor, who has long expressed personal opposition to abortion, reacted to news of Busch’s plans to try to put the abortion issue on the 2020 ballot even before leading Democrats could stage a news conference to call on him to support Busch’s proposed constitutional amendment.

  • In a column for Red Maryland, Brian Griffiths writes that hte only way that abortion could be outlawed in Maryland would be an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban abortion and, sadly, we are nowhere near that amendment being adopted. So, what’s the point of Speaker Michael Busch’s amendment to the Maryland constitution? It has everything to do with politics.

STATE FUNDED ABORTIONS UNDER HOGAN: Despite his personal opposition to abortion, during Gov. Larry Hogan’s first three years as governor, the state has paid for 24,640 abortions under the Medicaid program at a total cost of $16.8 million, according to a legislative budget analysis (page 57). This does not include the number for fiscal 2018 which just ended. The vast majority (98%) are performed based on “Medical evidence that continuation of the pregnancy is creating a serious effect on the woman’s mental health, and if carried to term, there is a substantial risk of a serious or long-lasting effect on the woman’s future mental health.”

CAUCUS REJECTS CALLS FOR ANDERSON’s IMMEDIATE RESIGNATION: Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus on Thursday rejected calls for Del. Curt Anderson to drop off the November ballot over accusations of sexual misconduct, insisting that the General Assembly’s ethics investigators be given time to complete their work, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.

VW SETTLEMENT FUNDS: Maryland will use the millions of dollars it received in a federal settlement with Volkswagen to improve air quality in multiple ways, according to a draft plan unveiled by several state agencies Thursday. Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes that under the plan, the state would invest tens of millions of dollars on electric vehicle charging infrastructure and the replacement of old, dirty diesel engines with clean diesel engines, among other things.

HOGAN ON NATIONAL POLITICS: For the second time this week, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan held forth about local and national politics during a visit to Democrat-rich Montgomery County, floating the idea of open primaries and contemplating a future in national politics, Erin Cox of the Post writes. “You never say never,” Hogan told a gathering of business leaders in Bethesda when asked if he would consider running for national office. But the governor, whose approval rating hovers above 70% in a state where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 2 to 1, also played down the idea that he planned to run for higher office.

BARTENFELDER ON SNAP BENEFITS: In an op-ed for the Sun, Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder writes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that it will begin to phase out the use a popular computer program used to process SNAP/EBT benefits at farmers markets. Understandably, this has led to some concern and confusion among our farmers and citizens who rely on SNAP benefits to purchase fresh, nutritious foods from their local market. I can assure you that the Hogan administration is aware of the issue, and we are working hard to make this transition as smooth as possible for everyone involved.

MARYLAND SEEKS TO SAVE BLADENSBURG CROSS: The state of Maryland is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to review and overturn a lower court’s 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, Steve Lash reports in the Daily Record.

KENT MAY HAVE LONE SAY ON NEW BAY BRIDGE: Kent County may have veto power over any proposal for a new Chesapeake Bay crossing landing here after all, Daniel Divilio reports for the Cecil Whig. That news was presented to the Kent County Commissioners during their July 24 meeting. It came via correspondence with the state Office of the Attorney General over a section of the Maryland code dealing with the construction of toll roads in any or all of the nine Eastern Shore counties.

BALTIMORE SUES OVER OBAMACARE ‘SABOTAGE:’ Baltimore and other cities sued President Donald Trump’s administration Thursday, accusing federal officials of “sabotage” in attempting to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, reports Luke Broadwater for the Sun. “Having failed to persuade Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, President Trump and his Administration are waging a relentless campaign to sabotage and, ultimately, to nullify the law,” wrote the plaintiffs, which include Baltimore, Chicago and two Ohio cities, Columbus and Cincinnati.

HARASSMENT REPORTS RELEASED: Nearly a year after a county report investigating sexual harassment allegations against Washington County Commissioner LeRoy Myers was completed, it was released to Herald-Mail Media on Thursday. Tamela Baker of the Herald Mail reports that a copy of the report, with names redacted, was provided by Commissioner Wayne Keefer, along with a separate report looking into an unauthorized leak of information on multiple topics.