State Roundup, September 7, 2018

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SCHOOLS AC PLANS: As the rising temperatures this week closed dozens of schools in Baltimore and Baltimore County, the lack of air conditioning in old schools became a political issue, Liz Bowie of the Sun reports. Gov. Larry Hogan blamed city and county school officials for not getting the work done quickly enough. Both school systems, however, have detailed plans that they say they have kept state officials updated on. The county had 90 schools without air conditioning seven years ago, and now have only eight. The city has a five-year plan that would add air conditioning to more than 60 schools in the next several years.

DRINKABLE SCHOOL WATER: With new and renovated Baltimore City school buildings rapidly opening and a pilot program under way, more than two dozen schools this year are allowing students and teachers to drink from fountains they say are safe to use. The majority of those schools were recently rebuilt or renovated under the 21st Century School Buildings Program, a $1 billion initiative established in 2013 by the Maryland General Assembly in partnership with the city, the Maryland Stadium Authority, the city school system and the state’s Interagency Committee on School Construction, Talia Richman of the Sun reports.

JEALOUS’s TAX CUT PROPOSAL AIRED: Democratic gubernatorial challenger Ben Jealous attempted to lay claim to the mantle of tax-cutter Thursday when he vowed at a Baltimore news conference to seek a cut to the state’s sales tax if he is elected. The proposal to lower the 6% tax to 5.75% is part of what Jealous is billing as his “Innovation Maryland” economic growth package, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.

ONE GUBERNATORIAL DEBATE SET: After more than a month of negotiations, the campaigns of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic challenger Ben Jealous agreed to participate in a single, hourlong televised debate on Sept. 24, the two camps announced jointly Thursday, Doug Donovan and Michael Dresser of the Sun write.

COLUMN: JEALOUS COULD LEARN FROM GILLUM: In a column for his Political Maryland blog, Barry Rascovar writes that if Ben Jealous is regarded as a longshot to become governor of Maryland, Andrew Gillum’s chances to win the governorship of Florida looked like a moonshot — until he pulled off a miracle last month. Now Jealous needs to take lessons from this fast-rising Tallahassee political star. Gillum, like Jealous, came from behind to defeat a field of Democrats, running to the left of them with a strong endorsement from Sen. Bernie Sanders.

FIXING LAWYERS MALL: Statues of Thurgood Marshall and three companions are being sent away from Lawyers Mall in Annapolis. And it’s for their own good, writes CNS’s Howard Fletcher in MarylandReporter.com. The Maryland Board of Public Works voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve emergency funding for an underground infrastructure replacement project. The project involves replacing underground steam, chilled water and condensate pipes, installing concrete vaults and electrical junctions, and other related underground utility work along Bladen Street and beneath Lawyers Mall.

MD ATTY GEN SEEKS $20M FROM DRUG MAKER: The Maryland attorney general’s office on Thursday accused the manufacturer of a powerful fentanyl spray of violating consumer protection laws thousands of times by engaging in a “deceptive scheme” to buy the help of doctors and deceive insurance companies to boost sales, Ian Duncan reports in the Sun. The attorney general’s office is seeking $20 million in various penalties from Arizona-based Insys Therapeutics for allegedly paying doctors thousands of dollars as rewards for writing prescriptions to treat conditions other than the drug’s approved purpose of managing the pain of cancer patients.

REVIVAL OF TRAIN TUNNEL FIX SOUGHT: Maryland’s U.S. senators asked CSX Corp. Thursday if it is considering reviving the long-awaited expansion of the aging Howard Street Tunnel. “As the Port of Baltimore continues to see record growth both of international cargo and volume, a solution to the Howard Street Tunnel bottle-neck is more important than ever,” Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin said in a letter to James M. Foote, president and CEO of CSX Corp. The letter was also signed by the Democratic members of the state’s U.S. House delegation, Jeff Barker of the Sun reports.

TEACHERS UNION BACKS OLSZEWSKI: Baltimore County’s teachers’ union announced its support Wednesday for Democrat Johnny Olszewski Jr., a former public school teacher, for county executive, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. The endorsement from the Teachers Association of Baltimore County brings money and manpower to a candidate’s campaign. Speaking at the union’s office in Towson, union President Abby Beytin said Olszewski “has always been there for education” from his time as a student member of the school board to his career as a teacher and state delegate.

POLL SAYS BALL-KITTLEMAN RACE TIGHTENING: A month-old poll conducted for an independent expenditure group set up to support Democrat Calvin Ball’s bid for Howard County executive showed a close race shaping up between Ball and the man he is trying to oust, Allan Kittleman, the Republican incumbent. The robo-poll of 452 likely voters, taken July 1 and Aug. 1 by a Mississippi-based Democratic firm, Chism Strategies, showed Kittleman with 38%, Ball with 35.2% and 26.8% of voters undecided. That gap was within the poll’s 4.6-point margin of error, Josh Kurtz writes in Maryland Matters.