State Roundup, August 24, 2018

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SCHOOL OVERHAUL RECOMMENDATIONS: The commission examining how to overhaul Maryland’s public schools system received far-reaching recommendations Thursday that call for major expansions of early childhood education and a change in how teachers are paid, writes Michael Dresser for the Sun. The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education heard recommendations from three of its work groups as the panel moves into its final phase of writing a highly-anticipated report for the General Assembly and Gov. Larry Hogan.

COAL-FIRED PLANTS MUST SCRUB TOXINS: Maryland will start requiring three coal-fired power plants to scrub toxic metals such as mercury and arsenic from water discharged into the Potomac and Patuxent rivers, the latest example of Gov. Larry Hogan (R) putting distance between his state and Trump administration policies, Erin Cox of the Post reports. Permits issued late last month for the three of the state’s seven coal-fired plants say that, starting in 2020, those plants will have to adhere to Obama-era environmental rules, not the laxer requirements endorsed by the current occupant of the White House.

BAY CONCERNS OVER LOSS OF COWNOSE RAYS: Chesapeake Bay watermen have long viewed the cownose ray as a pest, preying on a vulnerable oyster population. Their contempt even inspired tournaments of bow-wielding ray hunters — a practice the state has banned, at least temporarily. But, reports Scott Dance in the Sun, new research backs up concerns that the winged creatures could themselves be susceptible to overfishing, an outcome some scientists fear could harm the bay’s health.

CONSPIRACY, BIAS CLAIMS AGAINST TWO DELEGATES STAND: A federal judge has preserved conspiracy and discrimination claims, among others, against two Republican state delegates in a lawsuit over a Muslim retirement community in Harford County. Dels. Rick Impallaria and Pat McDonough are accused of civil rights violations and various federal and state law violations for allegedly conspiring with the county to hold up permits for the Joppatowne development, which is marketed to Ahmadiyya Muslims, Heather Cobun reports in the Daily Record.

RAZING BUILDINGS PROPOSED FOR ELLICOTT CITY: Howard County officials are proposing razing at least 19 buildings and expanding waterways in Ellicott City during the next five years in a $50 million plan they hope will mitigate flooding and save lives if another devastating storm cascades through the historic mill town, Sarah Meehan and Jess Nocera report in the Sun. The plan, announced Thursday by Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman and County Councilman Jon Weinstein, comes after two fatal floods within a 22-month span left the wreckage of homes and businesses in their wake.

4th LARGEST CASINO MARKET: The Baltimore-Washington region has become fourth-largest casino market, bringing in $1.77 billion in gaming revenue in 2017 and surpassing New York City at $1.57 billion, according to an annual report from American Gaming Association, Katishi Maake of the Washington Business Journal reports. The four casinos that comprise the region are MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Live Hotel and Casino in Hanover, Horseshoe Casino Baltimore and Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in Ranson, West Virginia.

TROUBLE AT UM: In a column for his Political Maryland blog, Barry Rascovar writes that the Regents at the University of Maryland moved decisively to take control of the multi-pronged investigation surrounding the death of a Terrapin football player. And for good reason. Everyone from College Park President Wallace Loh down the chain of command to the athletic staff could be found culpable. The regents face arduous and difficult decisions that may well involve Loh’s tenure.

JEALOUS, HOGAN GET MORE ENDORSEMENTS: Gov. Larry Hogan and his Democratic challenger, Ben Jealous, spent Thursday touting competing endorsements they’ve received in the gubernatorial campaign, Pamela Wood reports in the Sun. Hogan, a Republican, announced that the statewide Fraternal Order of Police endorsed him, four years after the organization supported Democratic nominee Anthony Brown. Jealous gathered with a couple of dozen Democratic lawmakers at Suitland High School in Prince George’s County to announce the endorsements of the leaders of the General Assembly.

GOP POLLS TOUT HOGAN FANS IN MILLER, BUSCH DISTRICTS: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is wildly popular in the legislative districts of the General Assembly’s presiding officers, according to Republican-funded polls released Thursday. The polls, commissioned by the Maryland Republican Party, were made public to coincide with the lawmakers’ public endorsement Thursday of Ben Jealous, the Democratic nominee for governor, writes Josh Kurtz in Maryland Matters.

MR. OUTSIDE: In a column for his Maryland Matters website, Josh Kurtz opines that part of the reason why Democratic insiders have been slow to publicly embrace Ben Jealous for governor can be boiled down to this: He isn’t one of them. He’s not part of the club. He hasn’t gone through the rituals and the dues-paying and the hazings of Maryland politics. He hasn’t kissed enough butts. The insiders don’t understand him and they’re pretty sure he doesn’t understand them.

DONORS FROM OUTSIDE U.S.: In his quest for the Democratic nomination for governor, Ben Jealous raised more than $2 million. Nearly half of his roughly 20,000 donors had addresses in California, Maryland or New York. But several dozen donors listed addresses outside the United States, Rachel Baye of WYPR-FM reports.

AN ACCIDENTAL ‘LIKE:’ The campaign of Ben Jealous removed a “like” this week by its Twitter account of a six-month-old tweet that characterized corrupt police officers in vulgar terms and mocked #BlueLivesMatter, Doug Donovan writes in the Sun. A spokesman for the Democratic candidate for Maryland governor said the “like” by @BenJealous was an “accident” by a staffer and that the former president of the NAACP “disavowed” it.

GIANGRANDE VS YOUNG: Candidates for a crucial state Senate seat had a bit of a standoff early this week in downtown Frederick as their respective campaigns gear up for November. Outside a fundraiser on Monday for District 3 state Senate candidate Craig Giangrande that included a visit and a speech from Gov. Larry Hogan, Giangrande’s opponent, Sen. Ron Young, and his supporters held a demonstration showing signs supporting Democratic candidates in Frederick County, Allen Etzler writes in the Frederick News Post.

RED MARYLAND BACKS A LIBERTARIAN: Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland endorses the Libertarian candidate for the 4th District House seat currently held by Anthony Brown, writing that “the Republican candidate is not a good alternative, … George McDermott, a conspiracy theorist who has run alternatively as a Democrat or a Republican when the mood fancies him. … is not a serious candidate.”

PITTMAN-SCHUH ENRIVO FORUM: The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is hosting a forum in which County Executive Steve Schuh and his Democratic challenger Steuart Pittman will discuss their environmental policies, Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital writes. The forum is from 7 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 17 at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation headquarters in Annapolis.

COLLEGE FACULTY PROTESTS ITS PRESIDENT: About 25 Frederick Community College faculty members dressed in black, wore anti-bullying buttons, and refrained from applauding during employee convocation on Thursday in silent protest of President Elizabeth Burmaster. Emma Kerr of the Frederick News-Post writes that members of the faculty have criticized Burmaster in recent years for creating an unhealthy work environment through physical and verbal aggression, all while cutting benefits and services that faculty members say they need to do their jobs. A few faculty members first expressed concern over three years ago, recently culminating in a vote of no confidence from the Faculty Assembly and calls for Burmaster’s removal.