MORHAIM REPRIMANDED: The House of Delegates punished Del. Dan Morhaim with a formal reprimand Friday because he advocated for policies that benefit medical marijuana companies without fully disclosing that he was a paid consultant for one, reports Erin Cox in the Sun.
- The 138-to-0 vote for a resolution of reprimand follows an investigation by the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, which concluded that Morhaim’s actions were “improper” and violated the principles — if not the letter — of state ethics law, Fenit Nirappil and Aaron Gregg report in the Post. “It is our duty to uphold the integrity of this body by rejecting improper influences,” Del. Adrienne A. Jones, co-chair of the ethics committee, said on the House floor Friday.
- The ethics committee recommended the reprimand for Morhaim for using his influence as a public official to seek changes in the law that could result in the financial benefit of a company for which he is a consultant. Doctors’ Orders LLC has been given preliminary approval for three separate licenses for growing, processing and dispensing medical marijuana, John Rydell reports for WBFF-TV.
- Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that Morhaim called the ethics review “a distraction from the important issues facing Maryland citizens, like our decades-long substance abuse crisis, our failure to make medical cannabis available to thousands of citizens who are suffering needlessly. How was that program blocked for 15 years? That is a subject worthy of in-depth reporting far more significant than this circus.”
- WYPR-FM’s Rachel Baye reports that the committee’s decision followed a months-long investigation into Morhaim’s role as both a member of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission and a paid consultant with Doctors Orders.
OPINIONS ON MORHAIM: In a commentary for MarylandReporter.com, Barry Rascovar opines that Morhaim’s apology wasn’t much of one. A day before that he had issued a three-page defense, blaming the media for “erroneous” reports of his activities. He later called what had transpired a “circus” in which his actions had been badly distorted. After reading the committee report, it is clear only Morhaim is at fault for what went wrong. It cost him his credibility, his subcommittee chairmanship and his leadership post in Annapolis.
- The editorial board of the Sun opines that the key question for the ethics committee in Del. Morhaim’s case, as set out in state law, was whether he intentionally acted to benefit himself or whether he was acting in continuation of his long-standing advocacy on the issue. Based on the evidence, the committee was unable to conclude for certain which was the case.
LEGAL RECREATIONAL POT: Fenit Nirappil of the Post writes that legalization of recreational marijuana is getting a full airing in the Maryland legislature this week, even as the main proponents of allowing adults to legally smoke pot acknowledge there’s little chance of passage this year.
- The editorial board for the Cumberland Times News believes it is a bad idea to legalize recreational marijuana, citing arguments from AAA Mid-Atlantic about marijuana use and impaired driving.
SEX TRAFFICKING BILL: The state Senate on Friday unanimously approved Gov. Larry Hogan’s bill to fight sex trafficking in Maryland, putting one more item on his legislative agenda closer to enactment. The legislation now goes to the House, where a companion bill has received committee approval. The measure would change the definition of “sex abuse” in current law to include sex trafficking. The bill is intended to make it easier for local social services departments to investigate cases of sex trafficking, regardless of whether the suspected trafficker has a family relationship with the victim. Michael Dresser reports the story for the Sun.
CALL FOR REDISTRICTING REFORM: Gov. Larry Hogan renewed his call for redistricting reform Friday, saying “the time is now” to end gerrymandering in Maryland, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports. The Republican governor’s exhortation came the same day that House of Delegates and Senate committees held hearings on the governor’s legislation that would hand the task of drawing congressional and legislative district lines to an independent commission.
- Reacting to the push to cure Maryland’s gerrymandered districts that have left only one Republican among its 10 members of Congress, 26 Senate Democrats are co-sponsoring a bill that would create an independent commission to draw the lines. But it would only happen if five nearby states also established independent commissions for redistricting and reapportionment, Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com writes.
SICK LEAVE ADVANCES: In effort to require Maryland employers to give sick leave to workers has advanced farther in the General Assembly than in past years, winning approval Friday in the full House of Delegates and a key Senate committee, Pamela Wood reports for the Sun.
- The full Senate is expected to consider the measure this week. If it advances, the two chambers — both of which have large Democratic majorities — will have to reconcile any differences before the bill can be sent to Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who has proposed his own version of the legislation, reports the Post’s Ovetta Wiggins.
ATTRACTING, KEEPING COMPANIES: The Hogan administration is asking the General Assembly for more power to attract companies to Maryland — and to keep those that are here from leaving. The push follows the revival of the state’s largely dormant “Sunny Day” program to negotiate record-breaking packages for Northrop Grumman and Marriott. It comes as the administration steers more funding to its reorganized economic development arm, the rebranded Commerce Department, writes Natalie Sherman in the Sun.
SEPTIC LAW REVIVAL: A bill to require Best Available Technology for all new construction on septic everywhere in Maryland is struggling to survive in the Senate. The bill, SB266, sponsored by Sen. Joan Carter Conway, D-Baltimore City, would establish a 2012 regulation issued under former Gov. Martin O’Malley that required BAT systems for all new construction on septic, even beyond the critical areas, Daniel Menefee writes in MarylandReporter.com.
OPEN CONTAINER: The Sun’s Michael Dresser writes that the Maryland Senate passed legislation Friday that would make carrying an open container of an alcoholic beverage a civil offense rather than a misdemeanor. Under the legislation, which was approved 43-3, police would issue a citation rather than make an arrest in most cases.
CHARTER SCHOOL BILL: A House of Delegates committee has killed a flagship item on Gov. Larry Hogan’s legislative agenda, turning down a measure setting up a statewide authority to oversee charter schools, writes Michael Dresser for the Sun. The Ways and Means Committee voted, 15-8, to not send the measure to the House floor. The vote split along party lines, with Democrats opposed and Hogan’s fellow Republicans supporting it.
AID IN DYING BILL PULLED: For the third year in a row, Democratic lawmakers have given up on passing aid-in-dying legislation that would let some terminally ill patients legally end their lives, Erin Cox reports in the Sun. The measure’s two sponsors said they will withdraw their “death with dignity” bill, citing insufficient political support in the House of Delegates.
BI-PARTISANSHIP: Tamela Baker of the Hagerstown Herald Mail writes that despite the usual partisanship, there have been a number of instances this year in which members of Washington County’s delegation, all Republicans, have joined forces with Democrats to sponsor bills they believe are good for the state. And that, the county’s two state senators say, is not as unusual as you might think.
MARKETING MARYLAND: In an op-ed for the Sun calling for more marketing dollars for the state, Winifred Roche of the Maryland Tourism Coalition writes that, “We all know that Maryland doesn’t lack for world-class attractions, but now it’s time to amplify our message and invest more in the state’s 10th largest private sector employer. Destination marketing is one of the greatest returns on investment a state can make with its tax dollars, and it’s particularly important in Maryland because of fierce competition from surrounding regions for the same guests.”
CITY CONTROL OVER POLICE: Baltimore City’s state lawmakers are likely to abandon an effort to give the city control over its police force, which is technically a state agency, Pamela Wood is reporting for the Sun. Del. Curt Anderson, a Democrat who is chairman of the city’s delegation in Annapolis, is sponsoring a bill that would make the switch. But after receiving legal advice Friday that indicated the city would be open to more lawsuits and more expensive payouts if the change is made, Anderson said he’s likely to withdraw the bill.
- Kenneth Burns of WYPR-FM reports that Anderson cited a three-page opinion from the Attorney General’s Office that said returning control of the police department to the city would be “extremely expensive.”
ARUNDEL PROJECTS POSSIBLE: Capital funding requests from Anne Arundel County nonprofits and community groups total about $6 million this year — though there’s no money promised to such projects in the state’s proposed budget, Amanda Yeager of the Annapolis Capital writes. As in previous years, Gov. Larry Hogan did not include funds for local capital project requests sponsored by lawmakers, called bond bills, in the fiscal 2018 spending plan he unveiled in January.
THE REAL KATHLEEN MATTHEWS: Martha McKenna of Emerge Maryland takes issue with Maryland Matters’ Josh Kurtz unflattering description of Kathleen Matthews in one of his first columns for the new blog.
STUDENT LAWMAKERS: Allen Etzler of the Frederick News Post writes about the Maryland Student Legislature, composed of students from six colleges throughout Maryland. Students take the roles of the state legislature, governor and lieutenant governor and come up with legislation, debate it and vote on it before passing it along to state lawmakers for a review.
SAVING METRO: It will be at least fall — and more probably next year — before an overdue Metro safety oversight body is up and running, further delaying millions in federal transit aid that agencies in the District, Maryland and Virginia are counting on, Robert McCartney reports for the the Post. What’s more, the three jurisdictions’ failure to meet a federal deadline for establishing the Metro Safety Commission after more than a year and a half casts serious doubt on their ability to achieve the bigger task of overhauling the transit agency’s governance and funding structure before financial problems overwhelm it, analysts said.
IMMIGRANT PROTECTIONS IN HOWARD: The Howard County Council today will attempt to override Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman’s veto of a controversial immigration bill that affirms protections for undocumented immigrants. Fatimah Waseem of the Howard County Times reports that the bill, which drew almost two dozen hours of impassioned public testimony earlier this year and passed the five-member council by a 3-2 margin on Feb. 6, needs four votes to override.
GETTING RID OF RACISM: In a column for the Post, David Rotenstein of Silver Spring writes about actions to move what people deem to be monuments to racists from prominent display, writing that “ditching a century-old memorial — celebrating a period long past, built by people long dead — doesn’t address other, more subtle markers of white supremacy, including the county’s legacy of segregated housing in residential subdivisions and apartment communities.”