State Roundup, August 22, 2018

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FEDERAL WAIVER TO STOP HEALTH INSURANCE HIKES: State officials plan to announce today that the Trump administration has approved a federal waiver that is expected to stave off increases in health insurance costs for more than 200,000 Marylanders, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun. The two main sponsors of the legislation designed to control costs under Obamacare confirmed that the federal government has given Maryland the green light for its reinsurance program.

MARYLAND WARY OF TRUMP POLLUTION PLAN: President Trump’s administration on Tuesday proposed a new set of rules that would give states greater control over limits on pollution from coal-fired power plants — and likely allow many of those plants to operate longer than they would have under a plan President Barack Obama had set in motion, Scott Dance of the Sun reports. The Trump plan comes as Maryland officials are pressing the federal government to require coal plants in upwind states to do more to scrub their emissions of harmful pollutants.

BOYCOTT PENNSYLVANIA? A recent torrent of pollution flowing into the Chesapeake Bay from upstream in New York and Pennsylvania could give new impetus to legislation in Annapolis calling for an official Maryland economic boycott of Pennsylvania. Del. Ben Kramer, D-Montgomery, who is all but certain to be elected to the state Senate in November, used last week’s Maryland Association of Counties convention in Ocean City to promote his boycott bill, which stalled during this year’s General Assembly session but is likely to be introduced in 2019, Josh Kurtz reports in Maryland Matters.

FEDS CHECK MD ELECTION SYSTEMS: U.S. Department of Homeland Security team is in Maryland this week to evaluate the state’s election systems, after officials learned last month about a transaction between a venture fund with Russian ties and a company involved in the state’s election infrastructure, Brian Witte of the AP is reporting.

CNBC GIVES N.Va. EDGE OVER MO CO FOR AMAZON HQ2: Bethany Rodgers of Bethesda Beat writes that a new CNBC analysis has put Northern Virginia ahead of other D.C.-area jurisdictions in the hunt for Amazon’s second headquarters. Montgomery County earned a grade of B- from the cable business news network, which cited its “tough” regulatory climate as a potential shortcoming. CNBC analysts ranked Austin and Dallas as the two leading contenders on Amazon’s short list of 20 potential locations and recognized Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Miami, Nashville and Northern Virginia as strong competitors.

WHY SUBSIDIZE AMAZON? In the Baltimore Business Journal, columnist Robert B. Engel of the Free & Fair Markets Initiative, opines that Amazon is closing in on a home for its second headquarters, often called HQ2, and Maryland is a top contender. But a closer look at the stream of corporate welfare that has already made its way into the tech giant’s coffers raises a critical question: Why should the third-richest company in the world get another penny from Maryland taxpayers? To date, Amazon has received a staggering $46 million in subsidies from Maryland taxpayers.

JEALOUS TOUTS MD AS HEALTH SYSTEM LEADER: Ben Jealous said Tuesday that Maryland will lead the way to reforming the country’s broken health care system if he is elected governor, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. The Democratic nominee, speaking to reporters, said that where other states have failed or have yet to implement a universal health care system run by the government, Maryland will succeed, comparing the Mid-Atlantic state to a province in Canada. The move, according to Jealous, would be a boon to small businesses in the state.

JEALOUS OFFERS ‘DREAMER’ COLLEGE PLAN: Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous wants the state to cover the cost of community college tuition for ‘dreamers’ — undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. If elected, Jealous said he plans to allocate $3 million to pay for an estimated 700 undocumented immigrants to attend community college free, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports.

HOGAN & THE OCEAN CITY CONVENTION CENTER: Marta Hummel Mossburg of the Maryland Public Policy Institute writes in a column that while Larry Hogan is not the tax and spend governor that his predecessor Martin O’Malley was, he is acting exactly like O’Malley by pledging $20 million in taxpayer funds to expand the Ocean City Convention Center so that it can become a more expensive burden on taxpayers after he is gone. For starters, the center required more than $1 million in fiscal 2017 from the Maryland Stadium Authority to plug its deficit and like its sister centers in Baltimore City and Montgomery County, can’t operate without annual subsidies.

JEALOUS MAY HAVE ADVANTAGE: In an op-ed for Maryland Matters, Jason Waskey. former Maryland state director of Obama for America, opines that conventional wisdom suggests Larry Hogan, a popular incumbent running for reelection, might have the upper hand against his Democratic opponent, Ben Jealous. But after taking a closer look at the basic math, it is Jealous who has the advantage. Democrats aren’t happy and they’ve making that known at the ballot box.

HOGAN HITS AIRWAVES: Gov. Larry Hogan is the first candidate to go up on the airwaves in the governor’s race, putting what his campaign said Tuesday is more than $1 million behind an ad that highlights toll and tax reductions under his tenure, reports Erin Cox for the Post. The ad for Hogan (R) is scheduled to air statewide starting today, his campaign staff said, and hits many of the same pocketbook issues that propelled the governor’s upset win in Democrat-leaning Maryland four years ago.

WHY UNION WENT FOR HOGAN: In the Seventh State blog, Adam Pagnucco, who has worked for building trades unions, explores why LiUNA, one of the country’s biggest labor organizations, endorsed Gov. Larry Hogan after endorsing Sen. Richard Madaleno in the Democratic primary.

A FIGHT OVER THE WRONG ISSUE: The editorial board of the Sun opines that in their kerfuffle over legalizing marijuana to fund pre-K programs, neither Gov. Larry Hogan nor his gubernatorial opponent Ben Jealous got the facts right. But that’s beside the point, the board writes. “If our experience so far with medical marijuana tells us anything, it’s that Maryland is fully capable of screwing up a sure thing like legalizing pot … If universal pre-K is important (and we believe it is), Maryland should figure out a simpler way to fund it.”

SCHUH’s FUND-RAISING EMAIL: On a busy day in the already overheated Maryland gubernatorial election, on a day with biblical storms when most voters were riveted to another round of stunning headlines about their president, the most significant development in Maryland politics Tuesday may have been found in a hyperbolic fundraising email, Josh Kurtz writes in a long piece for Maryland Matters that goes into detail about the events of the day in three campaigns.

SIERRA CLUB BACKS ELRICH: The Montgomery County Sierra Club has shifted its endorsement to Democratic county executive candidate Marc Elrich, after the environmental club’s first pick, Roger Berliner, lost to Elrich in the June primary, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports. The nod from the group, which has 6,000 members in the county, adds to the wide array of endorsements from labor unions and progressive groups that Elrich had received in the days leading up to the primary election, Jennifer Barrios of the Post reports.

A DANGEROUS RESOLUTION: In a column for the Annapolis Capital, Maryland Planned Parenthood President Karen Nelson opines that on Sept. 4, the Anne Arundel County Council is expected to vote on a dangerous resolution that will decide the direction Anne Arundel County takes to attempt to restrict the right for women to make personal health decisions for themselves. While Resolution No. 30-18, sponsored by County Councilman Michael Peroutka, purports to recognize and declare the humanity of preborn children and urges citizens of Anne Arundel County to encourage the humane treatment of all human beings, it is actually the first step on a slippery slope to declare a public policy that would attempt to eliminate access or ban abortion in Anne Arundel County.

ARUNDEL SHERIFF HOPEFULS ON GUN CONTROL: As the race for Anne Arundel’s next sheriff closes in on the general election, the two candidates and other Democratic hopefuls for county law enforcement agencies are advocating for greater measures to restrict access to firearms, writes Phil Davis for the Annapolis Capital. The Democratic and Republican candidates for Anne Arundel County sheriff — sheriff’s deputy James Williams and Anne Arundel County police officer Jim Fredericks, respectively — said they want further restrictions on who can possess a firearm after run-ins with law enforcement or other state agencies.

SECURITY IN SCHOOLS: The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital opines that there will be physical reminders of the increased security at Anne Arundel County schools when classes resume Sept. 4. Students, and teachers who already are finding their way back to the classroom, will see more security cameras and double-entry, security vestibules. But will it be enough? The continued demand for changes to buildings has to be balanced with meeting the need for more counselors, school resource officers and mental health professionals — the people who can theoretically head off a violent act.