State Roundup, August 31, 2017

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ROUTE 50 ADDITION ANNOUNCED: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Wednesday that the state will add a fourth eastbound lane over the Severn River Bridge, located near Annapolis on Route 50, to relieve traffic congestion for vehicles heading toward the Eastern Shore, Josh Hicks of the Post reports.

WITHOUT BUSCH: But in marking the start of a $22.8 million construction project to relieve traffic congestion in Annapolis on Wednesday, Gov. Hogan didn’t invite House Speaker Michael Busch to the event in Busch’s home district, Michael Dresser of the Sun is reporting. It was at least the third time in the past year that Hogan, who has frequently boasted of a bipartisan approach to governing, has not invited Democratic lawmakers to announcements of transportation projects in their counties. Many Democrats were invited to Monday’s groundbreaking for the Purple Line.

HEALTH PREMIUMS TO RISE: As many predicted, health insurance premium rates for small-group markets and individual plans sold on Maryland’s exchanges are going up in 2018, reports Tamela Baker in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. But they won’t being going up by as much as insurers requested. The Maryland Insurance Administration announced late Tuesday the approved premium rates to be offered in the state for coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2018. Open enrollment begins Nov. 1 and runs through Dec. 15, about half the usual enrollment period.

EDUCATION IMPROVEMENT PANEL SETS HEARINGS: After nine meetings over the past year, the 24-member Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education has heard from dozens of experts and consultants on many aspects of education policy, practice and funding. They’ve spent hours learning how the best performing systems in the world got that way, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter. The commissioners have mostly listened and asked questions, with limited discussion. Now, it’s time to make some recommendations and decisions for a report due to the governor and legislature in December. The commission has also scheduled a series of four public hearings around the state beginning Sept. 14 on the Eastern Shore.

MOSBY BACKS HOGAN STAND: One day after meeting with Gov. Larry Hogan to discuss crime, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby gave broad support for his “truth in sentencing” proposal. “I’m supportive of anything that’s going to go after violent repeat offenders,” Mosby said when asked on WBAL Radio’s “C4 Show” whether she agreed with the governor’s idea, writes Justin Fenton in the Sun.

IN DEFENSE OF JUDGES: Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera, in an op-ed for the Sun, defends the criminal court judges in Baltimore City and how they mete out sentences for violent offenders, writing that much about sentencing is misunderstood, as the recent controversy regarding the issue of suspended sentences demonstrates. The use of this term implies that a defendant who is given a “suspended sentence” is excused from serving jail time. In fact, over 90% of the cases in the data set that has been referenced widely in the press involve “split sentences.” A split sentence occurs when a defendant is sentenced to a period of incarceration and part of that period of incarceration is suspended. Although part of the sentence is “suspended,” the defendant serves jail time.

NEIGHBORS CONCERNED ABOUT RX POT BIZ: Hampden and Wyman Park residents took their concerns about a proposed medical cannabis dispensary to City Hall on Wednesday, as Baltimore City Council members weigh whether to put zoning restrictions on the businesses. In Baltimore — as well as other jurisdictions — some residents have been surprised to learn about proposals for the dispensaries. Just one dispensary in the state has earned a final state license, but dozens more across the state have preliminary licenses they hope to finalize in the coming months, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

  • When the city updated it zoning laws earlier this year, it didn’t take medical marijuana dispensaries into account, Dominique Maria Bonessi reports for WYPR-FM. “It is unfortunate because Baltimore City is a bit behind the eight-ball in what they did in terms of the zoning code,” says Leah Heist, president of Chesapeake Integrated Health Institute LLC, one of the two dispensaries with licenses to open in Hampden. “Unlike every other jurisdiction in the state that addressed cannabis dispensaries specifically, Baltimore City did not take any action.”

OPIOID ED BEGINS IN SCHOOLS: The Start Talking Maryland Act went into effect in July, requiring Maryland schools to offer specific education programs on opioid addiction. It also requires public schools to stock and train staff on how to administer naloxone, sometimes called by its brand name Narcan, a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid-induced overdose. Officials with Washington County Public Schools said they are working through a new policy to satisfy that requirement, the Hagerstown Town Herald-Mail reports.

SMART GROWTH IS NEEDED: In writing about Gov. Larry Hogan’s recent pronouncement to scrap PlanMaryland, Gerrit Knaap is executive director of the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education writes in an op-ed for the Sun that PlanMaryland simply placed existing state programs such as Priority Funding Areas, Rural Legacy areas, Sustainable Communities and other state designations on a single map to better coordinate existing state programs. It’s primary shortcoming, however, was that it did not provide a compelling vision for a 21st century Maryland. That vision is precisely what Maryland needs right now.

IMPRESSIVE BUT POLITICALLY UNKNOWN: In the Baltimore legal community, in charitable circles, among certain policy wonks and civic do-gooders, Jim Shea, 65, is a pretty big deal. In these worlds, the former managing director of the Venable law firm, who has also served as chairman of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents and in a variety of other leadership positions, is well known and well respected, writes Josh Kurtz in his Maryland Matters blog. But spreading the word of his accomplishments and intentions to the broad Democratic primary electorate – and convincing voters he’s best equipped to take on popular Gov. Larry Hogan (R) — will be a challenge, especially with better-known candidates in the field, Shea readily concedes.

HOGAN CAMP COULD BE FINED: Gov. Larry Hogan’s re-election campaign could be slapped with a $250 fine for a minor violation of state election law, an inconvenience that has erupted into a messy partisan brawl, Fenit Nirappil of the Post reports. Hogan’s campaign attorney Dirk Haire, who also chairs the Maryland Republican Party, says he’ll ask the state prosecutor’s office to launch an official misconduct investigation if Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) doesn’t act to block the fine, which was proposed by staffers at the state Board of Elections in response to a complaint from Maryland Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Matthews.

EMILY’s LIST BACKS MILLER TO REPLACE DELANEY: The only woman running so far to replace Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) has won the backing of Emily’s List, an advocacy group that supports female candidates for office who are in favor of abortion rights, Jenna Portnoy of the Post writes. Del. Aruna Miller (Montgomery) is one of five Democrats who have announced plans to seek the 2018 nomination. Delaney said last month that he would not seek reelection and instead would run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.

PUGH ON REMOVED STATUES: Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh said Wednesday it cost the city “less than $20,000” to remove Confederate monuments from public spaces in Baltimore this month, and some parties have expressed interest in acquiring them, writes Luke Broadwater in the Sun.

HANCOCK ATTY RUNS FOR DELEGATE: The only attorney with a practice in Hancock has decided to run for House of Delegates for that district. “I would like to serve District 1C and the people of Maryland as an advocate for children, families and the elderly, “ Jordan Lysczek, a Republican, told Ryan Miner of A Miner Detail blog. “I’m going to work within our community and state leaders to bring jobs to the district and creatively solve the opioid problem. And I will work on behalf of Western Marylanders, protecting our values and ensuring that our Second Amendment rights aren’t weakened any more than they are in Annapolis.”