State Roundup, October 18, 2017

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Tuesday’s budget briefing in Annapolis included the members of three different House and Senate committees. At the end, Legislative Services Director Warren Deschenaux, seated far right, announced this would be the last of his many budget briefings as he heads into retirement. Many of the legislators gave him a standing ovation. MarylandReporter.com photo

BUDGET SHORTFALL SHRINKS: The budget shortfall for the next fiscal year in Maryland is not as large as originally projected, the chief legislative analyst told a joint panel of state lawmakers on Tuesday. Warren G. Deschenaux, of the Department of Legislative Services, said the anticipated budget gap of about $740 million has been reduced to $250 million. He said bond premiums, overestimates in health-care costs for state workers, a reduction in the Medicaid caseload and recent budget cuts made by the Board of Public Works accounted for the lower projection, reports Ovetta Wiggins for the Post.

ASBESTOS CASE BACKLOG: Attorneys for plaintiffs and defendants in more than 22,000 pending asbestos cases in Baltimore squared off in Annapolis before a Senate panel Tuesday over the best way to shrink the docket in the city’s circuit court, reports Steve Lash in the Daily Record.

HEARINGS ON PSYCH HOSPITAL ASSAULTS: State lawmakers said Tuesday that they will hold hearings to investigate the spike in assaults on staff members at the state’s largest psychiatric hospital, after The Baltimore Sun detailed the increase. Erin Cox reports that the Sun showed that assaults on staff at Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville nearly doubled from the last six months of 2016 to the first six months of 2017. The state is under a court order to hire more staff for the facility by the end of the year. The article is topped by a video report by Sun reporter Michael Dresser.

STREAMLINING SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION: Members of a Maryland legislative task force want to streamline the school construction process by removing the oversight of one government agency, writes Bryan Sears in the Daily Record. A work group that is part of the 21st Century Schools Facilities Commission voted to recommend to the full commission eliminating a requirement that school systems submit construction or renovation plans for review by the Department of General Services, saying that such efforts are often either redundant or increase costs by slowing down approvals needed to start projects that must be completed before schools re-open.

CORDISH’s TAX BREAK: Two construction workers fasten hooks to a 1,400-pound steel beam adorned with the signatures of county, state and casino officials and construction workers. The wires stretch taut as the beam is lifted into the air and a banner reading “Live! Hotel coming 2018” unfurls below the beam. The event took place less than 24 hours after Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh’s administration introduced legislation granting a big tax break to The Cordish Cos. and its Live Casino and Hotel properties. That deal is worth up to $36 million in property tax relief for the commercial property, reports Chase Cook in the Annapolis Capital.

BAKER RANKS HIGH IN PG: A poll conducted last month help explains why Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker (D) appears to start with an advantage over his opponents in the Democratic primary for governor: He has solid ratings in his home county, which has the biggest Democratic registration in the state, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters.

SEN. BOOKER BACKS JEALOUS: Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, has endorsed former NAACP head Ben Jealous’s campaign to be Maryland’s next governor, Erin Cox is reporting for the Sun. Booker and Jealous will campaign together at an event in Prince George’s County Thursday afternoon

MISSTEP BY HOEBER? Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland blogs that Republican Amie Hoeber may have announced her candidacy for Congress, but a newly posted sign is sending waves across the 6th District. The Hoeber campaign has posted a sign in Frederick County with the phrase “endorsed by Governor Hogan.” This sign is in the same design used by Hoeber in the 2016 general election after her endorsement by Gov. Larry Hogan well after the primary election. The problem is that the Hoeber sign implies an endorsement by Hogan in the primary that has not happened. “The governor has made no endorsements in Maryland’s congressional races this cycle,” said a spokesman for the Hogan campaign.

MO CO EXEC DEBATE: A sparsely attended debate between four Montgomery County executive candidates Monday night previewed a theme that will likely dominate airwaves and mailboxes until the June 2018 finish line: insider versus outsider experience. The forum/debate held by The Montgomery County Sentinel Newspapers featured County Council President Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda), at-large council members Marc Elrich and George L. Leventhal and Del. C. William Frick (D-Montgomery.) Ryan Miner of A Miner Detail blog posts video clips of the debate.

GLASSMAN ANNOUNCES RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN: Erika Butler of the Aegis reports that Harford County Executive Barry Glassman on Tuesday announced, as expected, that he will seek a second four-year term. “I am proud of the amazing story that we have to tell,” Glassman told the crowd gathered for his annual business breakfast fundraiser at Level Volunteer Fire Company.

AN ANNAPOLIS EYE: The race to become the next mayor of Annapolis has taken both candidates for a ride. Mayor Mike Pantelides’ campaign this week launched a web page and video and distributed a mailer condemning Democratic challenger Gavin Buckley’s pitch to install a Ferris wheel downtown, which is intended to attract families to the bar rich environment. Annapolis Capital reporter Danielle Ohl reports that Buckley said, “It’s a joke, but at the same time I’ll put it out there to see if the community is interested,” Embedded in the article is a video response from Pantelides.