State Roundup, August 20, 2018

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CHANGES AT UM ATHLETICS? The University of Maryland is drawing criticism for its decision to reach a lucrative settlement with a football coach whose hard-charging style is under scrutiny following the practice-field death of a player. Strength and conditioning coach Rick Court resigned on Tuesday, becoming the first person connected to the Terrapin football program to depart College Park in the wake of Jordan McNair’s death, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports.

  • The University System of Maryland Board of Regents’ decision to take over the death investigation of a player that died at practice leaves questions about whether there will be personnel changes beyond the College Park football team or the athletics department, WTOP-AM’s Chris Cioffi and John Domen report. Even before the Friday decision, strength and conditioning coach Rick Court resigned; head football coach DJ Durkin was placed on administrative leave following the death and subsequent ESPN report that coaches bullied players.

CRAB INDUSTRY SUFFERS: Teo Armus of the Post take a close look at the Maryland crab industry and what happens to it when the federal government won’t issue it enough H2-B visas to bring in the annual crab pickers – most from Mexico — to do the jobs needed to keep it thriving. About a third of picking jobs remain unfilled across the Eastern Shore this summer, as few Americans have responded to openings and Mexican laborers are stranded at home without permission to come here to work.

LOWER SHORE KEY BATTLEGROUND: The three counties that make up Legislative District 38 on the Lower Eastern Shore are a key battleground for the Republican drive to pick up five state Senate seats, with Democratic leaders fighting hard to protect incumbent Jim Mathias, the only Senate Democrat with a majority of registered Republicans in his district, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.  The battle lines were sharply drawn this past week with Democratic Senate President Mike Miller, House Speaker Michael Busch and other top Dems boosting Mathias, 66, at a fundraiser on Assawoman Bay. Gov. Larry Hogan and Senate GOP leaders are behind Del. Mary Beth Carozza, 56.

DIVIDED BY SMART GROWTH: A state effort to update smart growth policies in Maryland is highlighting divisions between advocates who want a statewide land use policy and county leaders who are concerned such efforts take away decisions traditionally left to local governments, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. The discussion at the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference comes as the state Department of Planning is a year away from finalizing smart growth guidelines known as “A Better Maryland” meant to replace the controversial “Plan Maryland” program.

CALLS FOR MARYLAND PROBE INTO PRIEST ABUSES: Following this week’s release of an exhaustive grand jury report in Pennsylvania documenting decades of child abuse by Catholic priests, there are calls for Maryland’s attorney general to take on a similar investigation. A spokeswoman for Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said the office does not confirm or deny the existence of any investigations, and declined to comment further, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. [In a brief interview with Maryland Reporter at MACo, Frosh confirmed that he does not have same power to convene a grand jury as does the Pa. AG. Those powers rest with the local state’s attorneys.]

HOGAN TAKES SPOTLIGHT AT MACo: It was billed as a back-to-back candidates forum, but in the end, Gov. Larry Hogan had the stage to himself. With Democratic candidate for governor Ben Jealous unable to attend the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference in Ocean City, Hogan closed out the four-day event Saturday with an unanswered speech on pocketbook issues, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

  • The Post’s Erin Cox writes that the crowds started gathering as soon as Gov. Larry Hogan stepped onto the beachfront boardwalk in Ocean City, and the governor didn’t flinch when a shirtless, sweaty man threw an arm around his shoulders to pose for a photo. Hogan (R) was in his element, and he worked the sandy, sun-kissed crowds for nearly two hours, drinking beers with local firefighters, celebrating the 125th anniversary of a local business, snarfing french fries with local politicians and taking selfies with everyone who wanted one. His Democratic opponent, Ben Jealous, was nowhere in sight.

DEMS, JEALOUS TARGET EDUCATION ISSUES: A brief news conference in the MACo convention hall Saturday morning by two Democratic senators and the new president of the Maryland State Education Association showed that Democrats still think the education issue gets them an advantage over the governor. Democratic candidate for governor Ben Jealous has vowed to pay for the Kirwan Commission’s education recommendations through a variety of measures, including legalizing marijuana in Maryland and earmarking those revenues for education funding, including significantly higher teacher salaries, Josh Kurtz writes for Maryland Matters.

  • Democrats supportive of Jealous are hoping to turn the tide on a two-week period of bad news for Jealous that included a highly-publicized cursing incident and an independent poll putting him 16 points behind a first-term Republican in a state where Democrats how a 2-1 voter registration advantage, Bryan Sears reports for the Daily Record. The focus on education was a pressure point highlighted in a 1,400-page opposition report commissioned by the Democratic Governors Association.

DEVELOPER DEFENDS MIA MOVE: Developer David F. Tufaro said criticism of Maryland Insurance Administration’s pending move to Montgomery Park boils down to a landlord upset about a lost tenant, reports Adam Bednar for the Daily Record. Tufaro, a longtime Baltimore resident, is a partner in the Montgomery Park complex, which includes 2.2 million square feet of office and warehouse space near Baltimore’s Carroll Park neighborhood. Earlier this year the Department of General Services, through a competitive process, chose to move the administration from The Kornblatt Co.’s St. Paul Plaza building downtown.

BREAD & ROSES PARTY: Tamela Baker of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail writes about Jerome Segal, who sought this year to unseat U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., in the Democratic primary. The experience so disillusioned him that he decided to form his own state party. There was just one hurdle — he needed to produce petitions signed by 10,000 voters to the Maryland Board of Elections. Earlier this month, he showed up at the board’s Annapolis office with nearly twice that many. And now he’s waiting for the board to certify the “Bread and Roses” party, which espouses what Segal calls “the new socialism.”

NEXT STEPS FOR LIGHT RAIL IN ARUNDEL: The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital opines that Gov. Larry Hogan made the right call Monday when his administration rejected absurd calls to cancel or reduce light rail service from Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh and others. Now that this service has reopened after repairs to July flood damage, the question for Schuh, state Senate candidates Pam Beidle and John Grasso and even Hogan is now clear: What next?

ARUNDEL SUPER ASSURES PARENTS ON LEAD LEVELS: In an op-ed for the Annapolis Capital, Arundel schools Superintendent George Arlotto writes that when The Capital published its Aug. 13 story about higher than acceptable lead levels in drinking water outlets at nine schools, the reaction was predictable: parents were — and are — concerned. “Rest assured, we are every bit as concerned. We are working as quickly as possible — and as the law allows — to remedy those situations as we await results of tests from the remainder of our schools.”

NORTH ARUNDEL SCHOOL NEGLECTED: In an op-ed for the Annapolis Capital, social worker Charlene MacPherson opines that after reading the Anne Arundel County Public Schools water testing results of 2018, “I have become highly concerned as both a parent and a former student of the school system. I have lived in Linthicum since I was born in 1986 and love this area. However, even as a student, it was extremely clear that there were preferences of the southern county over the northern. As a student-athlete at North County High School from 2000-2004, it was clear infrastructure, overcrowding and underfunding was a problem for the northern part of the county.”

THE LEGACY OF JOHN ELDRIDGE: Following the death several weeks ago of Maryland Court of Appeals Judge John C. Eldridge, Maryland Matters’ Frank DeFilippo writes that Eldridge’s legacy involves a mountain of legislation he drafted as Gov. Marvin Mandel’s chief legislative officer. They survive today as the laws and the government we live by. Eldridge was among those who saw in Mandel’s improvised ascendency to the governorship an opportunity to join in taking a backwater state by the scruff of the neck and yanking it, kicking and screaming, into what was then the 20th century.