State Roundup, September 14, 2018

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STATE REMAINS UNDER EMERGENCY ORDER: Gov. Larry Hogan kept Maryland under a state of emergency Thursday even as the full force of Hurricane Florence approached landfall on the coast of the Carolinas, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports. The governor maintained his declaration even as the storm appeared to follow a more southerly track than projections earlier in the week.

BEZOS STILL MUM ON HQ2, SORT OF: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) sat across from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos during a dinner Thursday night, but didn’t leave with any inside information on the forthcoming HQ2 decision. “The whole thing was very interesting, but we didn’t get any answers like you are thinking of,” Hogan told Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters.

  • Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters will be … decided by Dec. 31. That was the response the etailing giant’s CEO and founder, Jeff Bezos, gave to fellow billionaire and The Carlyle Group LP co-founder David Rubenstein when asked in an interview about its yearlong search for its so-called HQ2, a $5 billion, 50,000-employee endeavor that has 20 markets around North America, including Greater Washington, vigorously vying to host it, Andy Medici of the Washington Business Journal reports.

TASK FORCE REVIEWS LIQUOR LAWS: A panel some thought would target Comptroller Peter Franchot’s oversight of segments of the alcohol industry could also be looking at other aspects of the state’s highly regulated industry. Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that lawmakers say the foundation of Maryland’s expansive liquor laws  and its tiered system of manufacturers, distributors, and retailers is unlikely to change. A new task force created by the legislature, meeting for the first time Wednesday, heard extensive testimony on public health concerns related to alcohol use in Maryland and the need to continue that control. And it raised the specter of taxes as a means to those ends.

PURPLE LINE CONSTRUCTION: More than a year since the ceremonial shovels broke ground, construction on Maryland’s light-rail Purple Line has ramped up along its 16-mile path. While train tracks won’t appear until early 2020, the $2.4 billion project is in full swing throughout parts of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, Katherine Shaver of the Post reports.

HOGAN SEEKS TO EXPAND STEM PROGRAM: Gov. Larry Hogan wants to further expand a program that encourages students to study math, science and technology. Hogan was to meet Thursday with senior executives from IBM and Maryland businesses leaders to advocate for further expansion of the Pathways in Technology Early College High School program. It’s known as P-TECH for short, according to an Associated Press story. The program enables students to graduate with a high school diploma and a no-cost, two-year associate degree in a STEM field in six years or less.

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STATE SUES TO KEEP ACA: Maryland has asked a federal judge to declare the Affordable Care Act constitutional and enforceable, the Daily Record is reporting. The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, comes after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in June he would not defend the ACA against a lawsuit brought by 20 states, led by Texas, alleging the law is unconstitutional.

YORK CASINO NEW CHALLENGE TO MARYLAND: As if Maryland’s casino industry didn’t face enough challenges from out-of-state competitors, it now has to brace for the development of a mini-casino in York, Penn., that might prove appealing to Maryland residents along the Pennsylvania border, Jason Scott of the Central Pennsylvania Business Journal writes.

FREDERICK COUNTY SUES STATE OVER RUNOFF MANDATES: Frederick County took its ongoing challenge against Maryland stormwater management mandates to the state’s highest court Thursday, Cameron Dodd of the Frederick News Post reports. Representatives for the county and the Maryland Department of the Environment appeared for oral arguments in the Court of Appeals seeking action in a years-old dispute over standards for mitigating runoff into Chesapeake Bay.

OP-ED: EXPAND INSPECTOR GENERAL DUTIES: In a op-ed for the Sun, reitred Anne Arundel County attorney David Plymyer writes that Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal that the General Assembly create the position of inspector general with jurisdiction over the state’s 24 local school systems does not go nearly far enough. The problems of fraud, waste and abuse in Maryland are not limited to school systems.

JEALOUS JOINS FORCES: Michael Dresser of the Sun reports that Maryland’s Ben Jealous joined forces Thursday with two other candidates of color who won Democratic nominations for governor in their states to call on progressives to throw out the old political playbook and take bold stands to win elections in majority white states. Jealous, who is running to unseat Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, appeared at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual conference with Stacey Abrams of Georgia and Andrew Gillum of Florida for a sometimes raucous panel discussion that did not shy away from racial themes.

BALL, KITTLEMAN DEBATE: Howard County Executive incumbent Allan Kittleman highlighted a growing business climate in one of the first debates in the race, while his opponent Calvin Ball questioned how the county’s economy is doing compared other counties in the state. At the Howard County Chamber of Commerce’s Candidate Forum on Sept. 13, both Kittleman, a Republican, and Ball, a Democrat and county councilman, laid out their respective visions for leading the county for the next four years, George Berkheimer reports in MarylandReporter.

FLOREEN’s SUPER PAC: Deep-pocketed supporters of Nancy Floreen’s independent bid for county executive have a powerful, new way of giving her a boost—by pouring unlimited amounts of money into a super PAC recently created to help her candidacy, reports Bethany Rodgers for Bethesda Beat. The County Above Party PAC established Aug. 29 is chaired by Charles K. Nulsen III, president of the development firm Washington Property Co. and an early backer of Floreen’s campaign.

LEGGETT HONORED: The singular and pioneering 30-year political career of Ike Leggett (D) is drawing to a close – after a dozen years as Montgomery County executive, two years as chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party, and 16 years on the County Council. So let the parade of tributes begin, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters.