JUSTICE REFORM DOWN TO WIRE: The Maryland House approved bills Wednesday that would make broad changes to the state’s criminal justice system and require convicted drunk drivers to breathe into ignition-interlock devices to start their vehicles, Ovetta Wiggins and Josh Hicks of the Post report. The bills, approved overwhelmingly by the House of Delegates, move to conference committees to be reconciled with the Senate versions before the 2016 legislative session ends in five days.
- With just five days left until the end of the Maryland legislative session, the House of Delegates and state Senate have a long road of negotiations ahead on criminal justice reform, writes Rachel Bluth of CNS. The story appears in MarylandReporter.com.
PURPLE LINE CONTRACT OK’d: The state Board of Public Works unanimously approved the Purple Line contract Wednesday morning in Annapolis, with Comptroller Peter Franchot predicting that the light-rail project will be “nationally recognized” and that millennials are “going to flock” to the Maryland suburbs as a result of the economic opportunities and improved transportation network the project will create, Andrew Metcalf reports for Bethesda Beat.
- On Wednesday morning, Gregory Sanders put on a purple shirt and a purple tie, drove to Annapolis, and got a $5.6 billion present for his 36th birthday: a light rail transit system. His father Harry was a transit activist in Montgomery County who led the campaign to build the Purple Line and co-founded the Action Committee for Transit in 1986. But when Harry died in 2010, his son wanted to see the vision through, writes CNS’s Jessica Campisi for MarylandReporter.com.
- The transit project, which Gov. Larry Hogan approved at the same time he killed Baltimore’s Red Line last summer, will be the state’s largest public-private partnership, writes Michael Dresser for the Sun.
TRANSIT SCORING & WILD GEESE: The derisive term “wild goose chase” refers to a 16th century horse race in which participants had to follow an erratic lead horse, like wild geese have to follow their leader in formation. House Bill 1013 establishes a convoluted and poorly defined scoring system for selecting transportation projects, writes former Transportation Secretary Bob Flanagan in an opinion piece for MarylandReporter.com.
- Flanagan also takes a look at the transportation scoring bill, addressing each section as he goes along. The analysis appears in MarylandReporter.com.
- The editorial board of the Sun opines that the customary partisan bickering doesn’t fully explain the tenor and testiness that has arisen over a measure with such a marginal impact on policy. It’s a bit like the famous saying about politics in academia — it’s vicious and bitter because the stakes are so low.
BPW IRATE OVER SCHOOL SPENDING CONTROL: Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot were fuming Wednesday that the General Assembly has barred school systems from spending state tax money on portable air conditioners, report Michael Dresser and Pamela Wood in the Sun. The General Assembly also put an end to the annual “beg-a-thon,” in which local school superintendents appear before the Board of Public Works to ask for more construction money.
- Franchot spoke out against amendments to the state capital budget that aimed to strip the influential three-member panel of some of its power, writes Danielle E. Gaines in the Frederick News Post.
- The tough talk from the state comptroller and the governor comes just a day after Hogan announced he would allow his capital budget to become law without his signature — the result of the House and Senate adding language that seeks to shield school superintendents and other officials from questions at the annual school construction and renovation appeals event that has come to be known as Beg-a-thon, reports Bryan Sears in the Daily Record.
WATERMEN OPPOSE STUDY: Watermen flooded a House committee hearing on Tuesday to oppose a bill that would require the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science to study a sustainable harvest rate for the public oyster fishery, reports Josh Bollinger in the Star Democrat. Both a House and Senate version of the bill were in the House Environment and Transportation Committee after the Senate bill had passed to the House for consideration by a 36-10 Senate vote.
NORTHROP GRUMMAN GETS TAX CREDIT: A Maryland Senate panel has approved $37.5 million in tax credits over five years for defense contractor Northrop Grumman, if it keeps 10,000 employees in the state, the AP is reporting in the Daily Record. The bill was approved Wednesday in a bipartisan vote, sending it to the Senate.
WEAKENED DRINKING BILL: The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Wednesday approved watered-down legislation that would permit parents and other adults to be jailed for up to one year for providing alcohol to or hosting drinking parties attended by minors who become impaired and seriously injure themselves or others in driving from the event, Steve Lash reports for the Daily Record.
IMPERILED HANDGUN BOARD APPOINTEE: A Hogan administration appointee who said he thinks Maryland’s concealed carry law is unconstitutional may lose his conditional post on a panel that awards gun permits, Erin Cox writes in the Sun. Today, a Senate panel will reconsider its endorsement of one of Gov. Hogan’s appointees to the Handgun Review Board, which determines who should be allowed to carry concealed handguns.
HOGAN ASKS OBAMA HELP ON GERRYMANDERING: Gov. Larry Hogan is pulling out all the stops — including asking for President Obama’s help — in pressing Maryland’s Democratic-controlled legislature to vote on his plan for redistricting reform before lawmakers adjourn for the year on Monday. It is almost certainly not going to happen, reports Josh Hicks in the Post.
- As of Wednesday, Obama had not responded to Hogan’s March 31 letter, Hogan’s aides said. Erin Cox of the Sun writes that in his January State of the Union speech, Obama called for an end to gerrymandering, saying that it wasn’t enough to elect new public officials, the country needed to change the way it selected its leaders.
- The Carroll County Times editorial board urges Obama to answer the call and convince Maryland Democrats to allow a floor vote on Hogan’s proposal.
GROWLERS, TAXES ETAL: New and expanding small businesses in Frederick County could be eligible for property tax breaks under a law that passed the General Assembly, writes Danielle Gaines in the Frederick News Post. Another approved bill filed by local lawmakers, also awaiting the governor’s signature, would loosen county liquor laws to allow the sale and refill of “growlers” — big jugs for beer and wine. A third bill would permit the sale of alcohol to people getting hair cut and blow-dried.
HOGAN’S POPULARITY SOARS: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s popularity has soared to record levels in heavily Democratic Maryland, according to a new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll. Fenit Nirappil and Scott Clement of the Post write that about two-thirds of Marylanders, 66%, approve of Hogan’s tenure more than a year after he took office, up 5 percentage points since October and higher than any governor in Post polls dating to 1998.
CLUSTER DONATES TO SZELIGA: John Fritze of the Sun reports that the executive director of the Maryland Republican Party has made a small donation to Del. Kathy Szeliga’s campaign for Senate, bolstering the narrative that the Baltimore County lawmaker has the backing of the state party apparatus. Though only a small contribution, the money runs counter to a general principle that party operatives do not take sides in primary elections.
EDWARDS, VAN HOLLEN ON SOC SEC: The two leading Democratic candidates running for Maryland’s open Senate seat continue to battle over Social Security, using four-year-old ambiguous quotes as weapons in an effort to convince voters that the other candidate isn’t committed to the program, John Fritze of the Sun reports.
NURSES UNION BACKS EDWARDS: A national nurses union that was one of the first to back the presidential bid of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is now lining up behind Rep. Donna F. Edwards in the competitive Democratic Senate primary in Maryland, writes Rachel Weiner of the Post.
BARVE AD: For the first television ad in his 8th Congressional District Democratic primary campaign, Del. Kumar P. Barve recounts the story behind the passage of a 1997 law requiring HMOs to pay for blood work, Bill Turque writes of the Post. The commercial tops the story.
ON RASKIN: Sen. Jamie B. Raskin is the most liberal of the nine candidates running for the Democratic nomination in Maryland’s 8th congressional district and, according to the few polls that are out there, a frontrunner. Bill Turque of the Post offers up five things you should know about Raskin.
ON MATTHEWS: Kathy Cunningham was fresh out of Stanford in 1975 when she applied for a job with Newsweek’s famously acidic Washington bureau chief. It didn’t go well. “He very undiplomatically told me that I didn’t belong in his office and that I should go out and cut my teeth in a small market,” said the woman now known as Kathleen Matthews, and a candidate for the U.S. House from the 8th District. She stayed to become a reporter and anchor for WJLA (Channel 7) and later an executive with Marriott International, writes Bill Turque in the Post.