State Roundup, October 2, 2017

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ARMY CORPS AID IN DISASTER PLANS: Amid the most active hurricane season in more than a decade, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is developing a plan to help Maryland officials better know where and when to order evacuations ahead of  a tropical cyclone, Scott Dance of the Sun reports. Officials have mapped the potential storm surge for cyclones as strong as Category 4 — they don’t believe it’s possible for a Category 5 storm to hit Maryland — and will work with local officials to map out evacuation zones. Then officials will analyze transportation systems to determine how long it would take for residents to clear out.

EXPANDING RX POT INDUSTRY: Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus expects the General Assembly to swiftly pass a bill expanding the medical marijuana growing industry to include African-American firms, reports Erin Cox in the Sun. And some members suggested the powerful voting bloc should “take a knee” if the legislation is not on the governor’s desk by the end of January.

PRICE GOUGING LAW: Opponents of a new law allowing Maryland to challenge generic drug price-gouging lost the first round of a legal battle Friday as a federal judge refused to block the measure, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.

NEW LAWS INCLUDE BAN ON FRACKING: Maryland on Sunday became the third U.S. state to permanently ban hydraulic fracturing, ending several years of debate over whether to allow the gas-extraction method. Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports that passage of the fracking ban was one of the surprises of the 2017 legislative session in Annapolis, coming after Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced that he had changed his position on the bill and would support it. It is one of several high-profile laws that took effect in Maryland on Oct. 1.

RAISING CAMPAIGN CASH: Maryland candidates have begun to hustle for dollars ahead of next year’s election, freed from a key obstacle that once hindered their ability to raise cash, Erin Cox of the Sun reports. The 2018 election cycle, which includes races for governor, attorney general, General Assembly and several county executives, is the first full cycle since a Supreme Court ruling lifted the cap on the total amount donors may contribute to candidates.

SPLITTING THE BLACK VOTE? Two black men from Maryland, with vastly different backgrounds and political styles, are vying for the chance to become the third African American ever elected governor in the United States. Black political leaders in Maryland are watching closely, aware that some African American candidates who have run statewide in the past say they have not felt fully supported by the Democratic establishment. Political leaders say they are worried that the two could split the all-important black vote, especially if another African American gets into the race, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports.

BIG CHANGES IN STATE SENATE? There are 33 Democrats in the Maryland Senate. But how many will be back after the 2018 elections? That’s one of the most intriguing (and ignored) questions of this election cycle, writes Josh Kurtz in Maryland Matters as he ponders what the status is of those senators, from John Astle, who just lost a race for Annapolis mayor, to Barbara Robinson, who is 79 and is being challenged by someone 40 years younger.

HOGAN, ACLU CONTINUE FB TALKS: The ACLU of Maryland and Gov. Larry Hogan are asking to stay a federal lawsuit over the deletion of Facebook comments from the governor’s page so that they can negotiate a possible solution, Heather Cobun of the Daily Record reports. The joint motion was filed Friday, the day Hogan’s response to the complaint was due, and proposes to stay proceedings until Nov. 15.

TRUMP SEEKS TO DISMISS SUIT: President Donald Trump moved Friday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Maryland and the District of Columbia alleging that his real estate empire has received unconstitutional gifts from foreign governments since he took office, reports John Fritze in the Sun. In a filing in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Justice Department attorneys said that neither Maryland nor the District has standing to sue the president over the contentious issue. They also argued that the local jurisdictions are misreading the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

READY FOR OPEN ENROLLMENT?: Gene Ransom of Med Chi offers some advice in Maryland Matters about how to get ready for the 2018 Affordable Care Act and Open Enrollment.

NAM DOCUMENTARY ‘LEFT-LEANING:’ Vietnam War veteran Blaine Taylor criticizes Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s documentary on that particular war, writing in MarylandReporter that “the North Vietnamese veterans were uniformly portrayed as valiant freedom fighters who won, American veterans depicted as having turned against their own war, and U.S. anti-war movement members, draft-dodgers, and those who left our country also being ‘right.’ ”

USELESS POLLS: In a commentary for MarylandReporter, political pundit Barry Rascovar writes that voters should be wary of polls, and the best evidence of that is the most recent Goucher poll, which find that the 2nd place finisher in a Democratic Primary for governor isn’t even in the race.

POLITICS OF ETHICS REFORM: The editorial board of the Frederick News-Post writes that when an ethics bill proposed by Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner failed in the 2017 session of the General Assembly last spring, Sen. Michael Hough got most of the blame. He had proposed a competing bill that divided the county delegation and effectively blocked the Gardner bill. Hough, R-District 4, insisted that his motives were pure, but the circumstantial evidence weighed strongly against that.

MO CO COUNCIL CANDIDATE DANG: Hoan Dang, a Montgomery County Council Democratic at-large candidate, joined Ryan Miner of A Miner Detail Radio on to discuss his campaign platform. Dang says that, if elected, he will focus on investing in education, infrastructure, affordable housing, and making government work more efficiently for Montgomery County residents.

B’MORE ASKS STATE TO LOWER NOx LIMIT: Maryland’s limits for emissions of the ozone-producing substance NOx, which are out of compliance with federal rules, are getting a makeover. The state recently drafted new rules for power plants that would require lower emissions. But NOx or nitrogen oxide, which contributes to the formation of health-harming smog, is a deep concern for many in Baltimore, where experts say 12% of adults have asthma. Now, writes Fern Shen for Baltimore Brew, a City Council committee unanimously approved a resolution calling for the state to lower the limit on these emissions further still.