State Roundup, October 4, 2018

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METRO RIDERSHIP SOLUTION: Metro’s leaders have said publicly that they have no clear solution to the system’s ridership decline, but an internal document dated May of this year shows otherwise; it lays out a detailed plan for increasing riders on the nation’s second-busiest subway, Faiz Siddiqui reports in the Post. According to the internal “ridership action plan,” the agency needs to: launch all-day peak service, extend Yellow Line service to Greenbelt, run all eight-car trains and overhaul the Metrobus system, among other things.

STATE FACILITIES CRISIS: Maryland officials could face a multibillion-dollar crisis when it comes to maintaining its buildings and other facilities. That’s the concern raised Wednesday by Treasurer Nancy Kopp during a meeting of the Board of Public Works. Kopp said the total of deferred maintenance requests is as much as $3.5 billion, reports Bryan Sears in the Daily Record.

STATE SCHOOL THREAT APP ANNOUNCED: Maryland has a new tip line and mobile app to make it easier to report potential threats at schools. Gov. Larry Hogan announced the new Safe Schools Maryland initiative on Wednesday, the AP is reporting.

STATE’s HIGHEST SALARIES: The largest state salaries in Maryland in 2018 are found at the University of Maryland Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Drew Hanson of the Washington Business Journal reports. Dr. Bartley Griffith, a transplant surgeon at the UMMC and a professor at the UMd. School of Medicine, and Dr. Bradley Taylor, UMMC’s director of coronary revascularization and an associate professor at the medical school, are tied for the highest-paid employees on the state payroll with approximate annual salaries of $980,000.

LOBBY FIRM TURNOVER: More changes are coming for a top State House lobbying firm embroiled in a lawsuit with former employees who left to start a competing firm. Alexander & Cleaver announced that Brian Hammock, who took over as the firm’s managing attorney for government relations, is leaving after less than a month, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports. Returning in various capacities are two veteran lobbyists, Robin Shaivitz and Lyle Fowlkes.

APOLOGY OVER TWEET: A county supervisor from Central Virginia has apologized for a tweet in which he joked about shooting protesters who were arrested Tuesday outside the Capitol Hill office of Baltimore County Republican Rep. Andy Harris, according to a Virginia newspaper. “I didn’t mean it to be a threat to anybody, and it was a stupid joke, and I regret it,” Goochland County Supervisor Manuel Alvarez Jr. told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

RAUCOUS DEBATE FOR HOWARD EXEC: To the sound of shouts, loud applause and a few boos, the candidates for Howard County executive came out swinging at a debate Wednesday night sponsored by the YMCA and the NAACP, much as they had in a quieter but equally combative debate for the League of Women Voters last week. Incumbent Republican Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman and Democratic challenger Calvin Ball, a 12-year veteran of the County Council, traded charges and pointed fingers over education funding, police treatment of minorities and immigrants, development, public campaign financing, affordable housing, spending on a new courthouse and Ellicott City flood remedies. Len Lazarick reports in MarylandReporter.com.

A DEM RISING STAR FOR HOGAN: In a commentary for Maryland Matters, Josh Kurtz writes that since the Democratic primary, Gov. Larry Hogan’s campaign has trotted out the names of dozens of Democrats who have decided to cross party lines and endorse the Republican’s reelection bid. Most of the names have been unremarkable and unsurprising – has-beens, wannabes and irrelevancies. But collectively, they still add up to something. The Salisbury mayor, who offered his endorsement in a statement released by the Hogan campaign on Tuesday, is a genuine Democratic rising star.

OP-ED: CHOOSE JEALOUS: In an op-ed for Maryland Matters, Jay Hutchins of the Maryland Working Families party opines that in a few short weeks, Maryland has the opportunity to elect a new governor. Ben Jealous, the Democratic nominee, is the best choice Marylanders can make, but that choice only matters if people vote. This race is too important for voters — and Democratic leaders — to take a pass.

MARYLAND MATTERS ELECTION GUIDE PART I: Maryland Matters introduces its 2018 election guide with short pieces on the major party candidates running for governor, comptroller and attorney general.

NEUMAN BACKS PITTMAN: Former Republican County Executive Laura Neuman endorsed Democrat Steuart Pittman Wednesday, saying he would be a more effective leader over County Executive Steve Schuh. Neuman lost to Schuh in a bitter Republican primary four years ago. She assumed county leadership after then-County Executive John Leopold’s conviction for abusing his office. Neuman criticized Schuh for putting “most of the Leopold machine on his campaign payroll,” and returning those employees to county government, Chase Cook and Danielle Ohl report in the Annapolis Capital.

PITTMAN WON’T RETURN DONATION YET: Anne Arundel County executive candidate Steuart Pittman has received $4,000 in campaign donations from a doctor who is being sued by the county for allegedly overprescribing opioid medication. Pittman, a Democrat, said he was aware of the donations and the lawsuit. If William Tham is found to have over-prescribed medication, Pittman said he would return the donations, Chase Cook writes in the Annapolis Capital.

SCHUH CONTINUES TO BACK GRASSO: Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh will continue to endorse County Councilman John Grasso in his bid for a District 32 state Senate seat despite Grasso’s “insensitive and inappropriate” posts on Facebook about Muslims, Selene San Felice of the Annapolis Capital reports. Schuh’s campaign said Wednesday that Grasso expressed remorse for the posts that came to light a day earlier.

ANNE ARUNDEL FORUMS FOR LEGISLATIVE CANDIDATES: The League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women are sponsoring four forums in the next two weeks for candidates for the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates in four legislative districts representing Anne County.

Districts 30 Oct. 10, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. at Congregation Kneseth Israel, 1125 Spa Road, Annapolis, MD 21403.

Districts 31A & 31B Oct. 9, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. at Chesapeake Arts Center, 194 Hammond’s Lane Brooklyn Park, Maryland 21225.

District 32 Oct. 17, 7 p.m.- 9 p.m. at Ark and Dove Presbyterian Church, 8424 Piney Orchard Pkwy, Odenton, MD 21113.

District 33 Oct. 11, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church, Zimmerman Hall, 611 Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd, Severna Park, Maryland 21146.

LAZARICK, BROADWATER ON MPT’S STATE CIRCLE: Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com and Luke Broadwater of the Baltimore Sun will be on Maryland Public TV’s State Circle show Friday night at 7 p.m. to discuss Maryland politics.

LEGGETT ON HIS LEGACY: Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett will leave office at the end of the year, having announced in 2016 that he would not seek another term (he is term-limited anyway). Leggett, a Democrat, spoke this week with Dan Schere of Bethesda Beat about his 12 years in office.

WHY POLICE WON’T PROBE KAVANAUGH CLAIMS: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has called for a “full investigation” into allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford 36 years ago, when both were teenagers. But neither the Maryland State Police, which reports to Hogan, nor police in Montgomery County, the Washington suburb where the assault allegedly occurred, are likely to launch such a probe. Dan Morse and Erin Cox of the Post explain why.

VAN HOLLEN ON KAVANAUGH NOMINATION: Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters sits down with Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen to discuss Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who grew up in the district that Van Hollen represented in various legislative bodies since 1991. The Q&A addresses the judge’s temperament, the FBI report and other related topics.

U.S. PREGNANCY-RELATED DEATHS RISE: The number of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States is on par with some underdeveloped countries. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation with a rising maternal mortality rate, according to one study led by University of Maryland researcher Marian F. MacDorman. Between 2000 and 2014, that rate increased 26%. Andrea K. McDaniels of the Sun reports that an East Baltimore nonprofit made up of nurses and therapists – Baltimore Healthy Start Inc. – is trying to prevent moms from dying.

EX-MD CANDIDATE ISSUES STATEMENT ON ACCUSER: In an unprecedented move, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday released an explicit statement that purports to describe the sexual preferences of a woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of misconduct. Elise Viebeck of the Post reports that the statement, which was circulated to the hundreds of journalists on the Judiciary Committee’s press list, was from Dennis Ketterer, a former Maryland Democratic congressional candidate and television meteorologist who said he was involved in a brief relationship with Kavanaugh accuser Julie Swetnick in 1993.

CALIF. CANDIDATE TO REPAY MO CO TAX CREDIT: Choosing between California and Maryland for his primary residence seems to have been a bit confusing for a congressional candidate. TJ Cox, a Democrat, is running in a close race in California. He claimed two houses — one home in Bethesda, Md., and another in Fresno, Calif. — as his primary residence, according to the Fresno Bee. Dana Hedgpeth of the Post writes that his staff said that it was an “honest mistake” and that he’ll repay $692 he received from Montgomery County in a tax credit. At first, Cox’s staff had said it was the fault of tax collectors in Maryland.