HOGAN DECLARES OPIOID STATE OF EMERGENCY: Ian Duncan of the Sun reports that amid mounting overdose deaths, Gov. Larry Hogan pledged Wednesday to spend an extra $10 million a year to battle Maryland’s problem with heroin and prescription pill abuse. The Republican governor also declared a state of emergency because of the epidemic, which officials believe led to some 2,000 overdose deaths last year.
- Hogan signed an executive order calling for the state of emergency, an instrument many jurisdictions use to coordinate anti-opioid and heroin strategies. The action fulfills a campaign promise he made in 2014 but temporarily shelved after taking office in favor of other legislative and executive initiatives, Bill Turque of the Post reports.
- Clay Stamp, executive director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, will oversee the administration’s efforts, which are a result of the initial findings of a task force that urged greater cooperation among state agencies to tackle the issue, reports Heather Cobun of the Daily Record.
REFUSES TO APOLOGIZE TO MORHAIM: Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday accused Del. Dan Morhaim of illegally obtaining medical marijuana licenses and “trying to legalize heroin.” When the lawmaker said Hogan owed him an apology, the governor refused. Hogan criticized the idea to create legal “safe spaces” in Baltimore for addicts to shoot-up heroin, a concept used in other countries and backed by two Johns Hopkins researchers and Morhaim, Erin Cox of the Sun reports.
- According to Bryan Sears of the Daily Record, Hogan said, “I think it’s absolutely insane. As you know, I think today Del. Morhaim has the potential for being thrown out of the legislature for illegal activities and arranging to get himself two (medical) marijuana licenses after writing the legislation and trying to put people on the commission. Now he’s trying legalize heroin. I’m not sure if he’s just trying to get another license to sell heroin but his proposal is idiotic.”
HOUSE GIVES EARLY NOD TO PAID SICK LEAVE: The House of Delegates on Wednesday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would require businesses with 15 or more workers to provide paid sick leave. The measure, which the House passed in 2016, faces an additional vote in that chamber before being taken up in the Senate, where a similar measure failed last year, Josh Hicks of the Post writes.
- The bill, similar to one approved by the House last year, passed Wednesday after Republicans attempted to amend the proposal. Some of the Republican-proposed changes would have made House Bill 1 similar to a failed paid sick leave proposal offered by Gov. Larry Hogan, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record.
BAIL REFORM URGED: Advocates for criminal justice reform urged Maryland lawmakers Wednesday to pass legislation that would build on the state judiciary’s new rule instructing the courts to avoid setting bail that is beyond the defendant’s ability to pay, Michael Dresser reports for the Sun.
BREWSKI BILLS SCREW LOCALS: Brewski blogger Liz Murphy writes in a detailed column for the Annapolis Capital, “I’m angry, because there are currently three bills in front of the Maryland General Assembly that have thrown the often willful dysfunction of our state’s brewery laws into the spotlight. I realize now I was naive in believing that, given the opportunity to finally do right by local brewers, we would do so with ease. Instead, here we are, on the edge of undercutting them.”
HOGAN SLAMS CITY SCHOOLS: The rhetoric is ratcheting up in the Baltimore school budget battle, with Gov. Larry Hogan declaring on the radio that school finances are “an absolute disaster” and city schools CEO Sonja Santelises warning elected officials, as she has before, not to peddle “a false narrative,” Fern Shen of Baltimore Brew is reporting.
- Mayor Catherine Pugh said Wednesday she has confidence Gov. Larry Hogan will come to the aid of Baltimore public schools, despite his strong rebuke of the system this week, Yvonne Wenger of the Sun reports.
CITY OFFICE RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS: WYPR-FM’s Joel McCord and Kenneth Burns try to figure out why a state senator wants to increase the residency requirements to run for mayor and city council in Baltimore.
THE ANGST CONTINUES: Welcome aboard, Maryland Matters! With his “soft launch” essay for Maryland Matters, political observer Josh Kurtz writes that as the session hurtles toward sine die on April 10, the most important decisions are usually made behind closed doors by a handful of key dealmakers. One thing is clear at the halfway mark: The angst and uncertainty that pervaded at the beginning of session has yet to dissipate. When the General Assembly opened, one of the legislature’s veteran presiding officers, Senate President Mike Miller (D), was walking around with a cane, while the other, House Speaker Michael Busch (D), was thin and wan and the inevitable object of rumors about his health. It seemed like an apt metaphor for Maryland Democrats.
HOGAN CONDEMNS JEWISH CENTER THREATS: Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday condemned bomb threats sent to Jewish schools and community centers, two days after a threat was phoned in to the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, writes Ovetta Wiggins in the Post.
CONGRESSMEN CALL FOR THREAT PROBE: The Sun’s John Fritze writes that Maryland’s congressional delegation called Wednesday for a federal investigation into a recent wave of threats made to Jewish institutions in the state and across the nation, writing that religious-based threats “fan the flames of extremism that tears apart societies.” In a letter to Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein and Gordon B. Johnson, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Baltimore field office, the bipartisan group of lawmakers asked the Justice Department to use its “full resources” to “investigate and prosecute hate crimes and violence.”
CUMMINGS CALLS FOR SESSIONS TO RESIGN: U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings called for the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wednesday night following reports that Sessions spoke with Russia’s ambassador to the United States last year, reports Carrie Wells for the Sun.
- Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’ confirmation hearing to become attorney general, the Post’s Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller report.
CARDIN RECEIVED CLASSIFIED RUSSIAN INFO: John Fritze of the Sun reports that Sen. Ben Cardin received classified information about Russia’s involvement in elections when the Obama administration was attempting to disseminate that material widely across the government in order to aid in future investigations, according to a report Wednesday.
CARSON ADVANCES AS HUD CHIEF: The Republican-led Senate advanced retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson’s nomination to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday, ending debate on his appointment and setting up a final vote later this week, John Fritze of the Sun reports.
CARDIN TO OPPOSE CARSON FOR HUD: Sen. Ben Cardin said Wednesday he will oppose retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson’s nomination to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, John Fritze of the Sun reports. “I just don’t believe he has the background in housing that I would like to see,” the Maryland Democrat said. “I don’t think it’s the right position for him.”
FIXING METRO PROBLEM: An influential District business group said Tuesday that Metro’s problems have grown so acute that Congress should create a control board to run the transit agency on an emergency basis until a new governance structure is established, report Robert McCartney and Faiz Siddiqui in the Post.
CITY MINIMUM WAGE: After five hours of testimony from residents roughly split on the issue, the Baltimore City Council’s labor committee voted to advance a bill to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022 for many workers.The bill could go to the full council for a preliminary vote as early as Monday, Carrie Wells of the Sun reports.
ELRICH FILES FOR MO CO EXEC: The Post’s Bill Turque reports that Montgomery County Council member Marc Elrich has made his first formal move into the 2017 county executive race, filing on Feb. 22 with the Maryland Board of Elections declaring his intent to qualify for public funding under the county’s new campaign finance law. He joins council member George Leventhal as the second formally declared candidate. Leventhal has also filed to use public financing. Both are from Takoma Park.
PG PANEL REVIEWS VEHICLE USE: The members of the Prince George’s County vehicle use review board met late Wednesday for the first time to begin their evaluation of a program that provides County Council members with government vehicles and compensates them for travel, reports the Post’s Arelis Hernandez.