State Roundup, October 19, 2017

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Mayor Catherine Pugh holds up Baltimore’s pitch for the second Amazon headquarters. From her Facebook page

VYING FOR AMAZON HQ2: To lure Amazon’s proposed second headquarters and its promised 50,000 jobs to the state, Maryland has prepared an incentive package measured in the billions of dollars, Sarah Gantz and Erin Cox of the Sun report. The massive collection of tax breaks and transportation projects for the online retail giant would be spread over at least 10 years, according to three people familiar with the state’s plans. The state’s contribution to the incentive package would be enhanced by additional breaks offered by the handful of local jurisdictions competing for the project, the sources said.

PROCEDURE COST COMPARISON: The Maryland Health Care Commission, the state’s independent regulatory agency, is unveiling a website on which people scheduling a hip replacement, knee replacement, hysterectomy or vaginal delivery can see price differences among different providers for the same procedure, reports Colby Itkowitz for the Post. The site is launching amid rising health-care costs and as some consumers turn to insurance plans with high deductibles.

CLIMATE CHANGE FIGHTS: Recently, two campaigns have been launched to jumpstart Maryland’s efforts to combat climate change, reduce harmful air pollution and establish Maryland as a national leader in clean, renewable energy, writes Karla Raettig of the League of Conservation Voters for MarylandReporter. These campaigns share a common goal – a 100% clean energy future. The Maryland League of Conservation Voters, along with many public health, labor, business, and faith leaders, supports doubling our state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to 50% by 2030 to meet this challenge.

SUPERINTENDENTS GET EARFUL FROM BPW: Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that Baltimore County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Verletta White’s first trip to the State House as the face of the county school system wasn’t an easy one. White, one of more than half a dozen new superintendents in the state, got her first taste of meeting with the Board of Public Works to advocate for a share of more than $250 million in school construction and renovation dollars. She faced some of the toughest comments of the meeting including a fiery soliloquy from Comptroller Peter Franchot, who was joined by Gov. Larry Hogan in expressing criticisms of the county’s response to installing air conditioning in schools among other things.

WA CO SCHOOL OFFICIALS DRAW BPW PRAISE: In an unrivaled show of unity, a large contingent of Washington County officials drew praise Wednesday from the BPW for its continued support of the proposed urban-improvement project in downtown Hagerstown. Gov. Larry Hogan called the county group “the largest and most distinguished delegation” of the state’s 24 local jurisdictions who went before the board to outline school construction funding requests for the upcoming year, CJ Lovelace of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports.

LAWMAKERS EYE LURING DEVELOPERS: Josh Schmidt of Capital News Service reports that legislators are considering how to entice private developers to build more homes for low-income families as affordable housing in Maryland becomes increasingly difficult to find, and lawmakers worry about unaccompanied youth left without stable shelter. The General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Ending Homelessness is taking steps toward crafting a bill that would provide financial benefits to for-profit and nonprofit developers for building affordable housing units, according to Del. Mary Washington, D-Baltimore.

PANEL RECOMMENDS JUDGE BE REMOVED: The Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities on Wednesday recommended Baltimore City Circuit Judge Alfred Nance be removed from the bench immediately, Heather Cobun reports for the Daily Record. The commission, in a 21-page opinion, concluded comments made by Nance from the bench were “undignified, discourteous, disparaging and demeaning” and demonstrated “a pattern of serious violations of the Maryland Code of Judicial Conduct that strike at the very heart of the integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary and the public’s confidence in such integrity and impartiality.”

Sen. Jim Brochin 

BROCHIN TO LAUNCH BA CO EXEC RACE: As state Sen. Jim Brochin considered where to announce his campaign for Baltimore County executive, he settled on a place with symbolism: Towson Manor Park, a community park almost replaced by a fire station. To Brochin, the saga represents a problem in Baltimore County, where he says development interests win out over citizen interests. He says he wants to run for county executive to change that, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun.

UNEXPECTED TRUMP EFFECT: In an op-ed for the Sun, Goucher pollster Mileah Kromer writes that the “Trump effect” was supposed to diminish Gov. Larry Hogan’s re-election chances due to their shared Republican Party affiliation. Public polling since Mr. Trump’s election, including the mid-September Goucher Poll, suggests that this particular political prediction has not come to fruition. Yet, a “Trump effect” does exist. It’s just not what was expected.

O’MALLEY’s PROMINENT ABSENCE: Six Democrats running for governor used Larry Hogan as a reliable punching bag at a Saturday forum, pounding away at the current Republican governor in front of an auditorium filled with progressive Montgomery County Democrats. This was not surprising at the United for Maryland event since “Moving Hogan out” is the prime focus of the group. But prominently mentioned only once during the two-hour face off was the two-term Democrat whom Hogan replaced and whose policies the candidates largely agreed with — Martin O’Malley. Len Lazarick reports the story for MarylandReporter.

MEMORIAL CROSS ‘UNCONSTITUTIONAL:’ A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that a 40-foot, cross-shaped war memorial that has stood on public land in Maryland for nearly a century is unconstitutional because it “excessively entangles” the government with religion, reports John Fritze for the Sun. A divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va., found that the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial — known locally as the Peace Cross — “aggrandizes the Latin cross” to the point that an observer would conclude the government entity that owns it is endorsing Christianity.

  • Peace Cross is a cultural symbol honoring the sacrifice of veterans.