State Roundup, September 6, 2018

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HOGAN BLAMES SCHOOLS CEO OVER AC PROBLEMS: As blistering temperatures Wednesday shuttered dozens of Maryland schools with inadequate air conditioning, the two men running to be governor were embroiled in a second straight day of finger-pointing over the issue, Erin Cox of the Post reports.

PG SCHOOLS ALSO SEND KIDS HOME: Temperatures again surged above 90 degrees across the Washington region Wednesday, and Prince George’s County, Maryland’s second-largest school system, was forced to send more than 134,000 students home early because of the hot weather and concerns that its aging air-conditioners weren’t up to the task of keeping students and teachers cool, the Post’s Donna St. George and Reis Thebault report It joins Baltimore City and Baltimore County in having to shut classes due to lack of adequate air-conditioning.

EDITORIAL: CONFLATING PROBLEMS: The editorial board of the Sun opines that it is open to “Gov. Larry Hogan’s calls for more independent oversight and accountability of Maryland’s schools. … there’s plenty of reason to believe that our current system in which appointed or elected school boards provide supervision for the superintendents they hire (and on whom they are largely dependent for information about what’s going on) is inadequate. … But where we part ways with the governor is in his effort Tuesday to conflate the actual malfeasance he describes with the forced closure or early dismissal of dozens of schools in Baltimore city and county due to the extreme heat and lack of adequate air conditioning. They are simply not related.”

JEALOUS TO PROPOSE SALES TAX CUT: Maryland Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous today will announce a proposal to reduce the state’s sales tax from 6% to 5.75%, a change he says would help boost the state economy. The tax cut would be the first rollback in the sales tax in more than a decade in Maryland, which has the highest sales tax in the region, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports.

  • The proposal, part of what Jealous is billing as his economic growth package, goes farther than any tax-cutting measure from Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has suggested so far. Based on a Department of Legislative Services estimate of the impact of a failed Republican bill to cut the rate to 5%, a cut of a quarter of that size would cost the state more than $150 million in revenue each year, the Sun’s Michael Dresser reports.

OPINION: DON’T RUN AFOUL OF CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS: In an opinion piece for Bethesda Beat, Adam Pagnucco writes about Maryland’s campaign finance laws, specifically those governing corporate donations. He concludes, “So if you intend to send corporate contributions to political campaigns in the future, do yourself a favor: Get a lawyer, analyze your ownership structure and figure out how to contribute without running afoul of the new law.”

HOGAN’s ED AD BLITZ: As summer break fades and students return to classes, Maryland voters settling into the grind of a new school year are being greeted on TV this week with a more than $1 million blitz of campaign ads touting Gov. Larry Hogan’s education record. Doug Donovan of the Sun writes that the three new campaign ads airing in rotation across the state this week demonstrate yet again the significant fundraising advantage the Republican governor has against his Democratic challenger, Ben Jealous.

THE CHANGES OF LIZ MATORY: Four years ago, Liz Matory was a Democratic candidate for the House of Delegates in Montgomery County. After coming in seventh and dead last in a race against three incumbents in District 18,  she became a field organizer for the gubernatorial campaign of Democrats Anthony Brown and Ken Ulman. This year, Matory handily won her primary against three men and is now the Republican nominee for Congress, running against eight-term Democratic incumbent Dutch Ruppersberger in the 2nd Congressional District. Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter writes about her transformation from born Democrat to Republican convert.

FRANCHOT, HOGAN DEFEND KOPP: Maryland’s treasurer received words of support Wednesday from her two colleagues on the Board of Public Works. Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, and Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat, spoke publicly for the first time Wednesday in support Treasurer Nancy Kopp, who serves with them on the three-member panel, Bryan Sears writes in the Daily Record. “I think you’ve done a hell of a job and I think it’s to the credit of the state, and you’ve made the state a better place and, personally, I appreciate it and I hope you’re here as long as you want to be here,” Franchot said to Kopp at the end of the Board of Public Works meeting

OPINION: KOPP IS DOING HER JOB: The editorial board of the Daily Record opines that some Democrats in the General Assembly are bandying about the idea of dumping Nancy Kopp as state treasurer. The root of their disaffection stems from Kopp’s performance on the three-person Board of Public Works, on which she serves along with Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot. It seems, according to a “report” on split votes by the board, that Kopp rarely disagrees with Hogan. To boot Kopp out of this job on the grounds that she hasn’t aggressively taken on the governor does a disservice to her and it does an even greater disservice to Maryland taxpayers.

HOGAN HOME ASSURANCES CALLED INADEQUATE: An opponent of the Hogan administration’s plan to widen two major highways accused the governor of offering inadequate assurances to Montgomery County residents concerned that their homes may be taken in the process, Bruce DePuyt reports for Maryland Matters. “I think he made a promise that he can’t keep,” said Benjamin Ross, head of the Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalition. “And he’s trying to back off of it.”

DIVERSITY IN RX POT PRODUCTS: Sarah Meehan of the Sun writes that medical marijuana patients won’t find pot brownies on local dispensary shelves, but a gray area in the law allows the shops to sell tinctures, tablets, powders and drinks alongside machines customers can use to make cannabis-infused oils. While state regulators worry the sale of cannabis-infused sweets would cross into recreational practice, they say they are working to better define which edibles are appropriate for the state’s medical market as demand for such products flourishes.

COST OF NEW BA CO SCHOOLS: The two candidates running for Baltimore County executive agree on this: It’s going to cost a lot to modernize the schools, reports John Lee for WYPR-FM. There’s another thing they have in common:  Republican Al Redmer and Democrat Johnny Olszewski aren’t providing many details on how to pay for promises they’re making.