State Roundup, November 14, 2017

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REPORTED HATE CRIMES DROP IN MARYLAND: The number of hate crimes rose nearly 5% across the country in 2016, according to new data released by the FBI on Monday. It marks the second year in a row hate crimes have increased. Hate crimes in Maryland, however, have decreased 14%, reports Catherine Rentz in the Sun. Experts caution there is a big caveat with FBI data: It’s based on voluntary reporting from more than 15,000 police agencies across the country. Furthermore, hate crimes are generally underreported to police.

STATEWIDE $15 MINIMUM WAGE: It was a day of celebration and congratulations for Montgomery County leaders and workers’ advocates in Rockville Monday as Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett signed the recently approved $15-per-hour minimum wage bill into law. But the dozens of advocates on hand for the bill signing had another target in their sights — the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis, reports Andrew Metcalf of Bethesda Beat.

FUNDING METHOD OMITTED FROM LaHOOD METRO REPORT: The long-awaited report on Metro by former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood urges the region’s three jurisdictions – Maryland, DC and Virginia — and the federal government to provide the agency with permanent, dedicated funding, but it sidesteps the politically charged question of what kind of tax or other mechanism should be adopted for that purpose. Robert McCartney of the Post writes that the study also calls for replacing Metro’s entire, 16-member board with a five-member “reform board” for three years.

HOGAN BLASTS CITY SCHOOLS ON PROFICIENCY: Gov. Larry Hogan didn’t hold back when reacting to WBFF-TV’s Project Baltimore’s latest investigation. “Zero people proficient? That’s outrageous,” said Hogan. Fox45 analyzed 2017 state test scores released this fall and discovered of Baltimore City’s 39 High Schools, 13 had zero students proficient in math. Within those 13 high schools, which include Frederick Douglass, Patterson and Carver, 2,071 students took the test, none were proficient.

LAWMAKERS CRITICIZE SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION PANEL: Sen. Andrew Serafini and Del. Jefferson Ghrist say the commission charged looking into how education is changing and how school construction needed to change with it seems to be mired in “minutiae” while major issues have been left untouched. A year and a half of meetings and presentations, these two members of the committee say that the 21st Century School Facilities Commission hasn’t really approached its mission — and that despite all the presentations, there’s been little discussion of much, Tamela Baker of the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports.

CAREER ED PROGRAMS: In 2016, 97,857 students in Maryland were enrolled in career and technology education programs across 237 schools, according to the Maryland State Department of Education, with 148 distinct continuing education programs of study offered and about 38% of high school students in Maryland participating in these programs. The Kirwan education commission is weighing how to increase the scope and funding of these programs as part of its broad look into improving Maryland schools, CNS’s Georgia Slater reports in a story in MarylandReporter.

FINES INSTEAD OF JAIL: The “prohibitively high” caseloads of Maryland’s public defenders could be significantly reduced – at least in district court — if the state’s lawmakers continue to decriminalize minor offenses, as they did by making possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil offense, the state’s Office of the Public Defender stated in a recent report. Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports that specifically, the office’s 2017 annual report calls on the legislature to make punishable by at most a fine such jailable offenses as theft under $100 (90 days in jail), trespassing (90 days), disturbing the peace (60 days), driving without insurance (one year), malicious destruction of property under $1,000 (60 days), failure to send a child to school (10 days) and driving without a license (60 days).

GOV CANDIDATE ISSUES HARASSMENT PLAN: With sexual harassment in the workplace increasingly in the news, Krishanti Vignarajah, one of the eight Democratic candidates for governor, has released a broad proposal to combat the problem – in state government and throughout Maryland, writes Josh Kurtz in Maryland Matters. Vignarajah’s plan would create a state agency to clamp down on sexual assault and harassment, create incentives to eradicate the problems related to sexual harassment in the workplace, and require applicants for state jobs to declare that they’ve never engaged in sexual harassment.

  • Vignarajah said too many women, including herself, have experienced sexual assault, unwelcome sexual advances or harassment, Josh Hicks of the Post writes. “The fact that there has been such a groundswell of personal anecdotes highlights the pervasiveness of this problem,” said Vignarajah, one of two women in a crowded field of Democrats seeking to challenge Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in 2018. “We need to start talking about solutions of this scale.”

CIVIL RIGHTS ATTY SEEKS PG STATES ATTY SPOT: Arelis R. Hernández of the Post reports that a Prince George’s County civil rights attorney who heads the county’s Human Relations Commission is seeking to become the suburban jurisdiction’s top prosecutor in 2018. D. Michael Lyles, a former Bowie city councilman, will face former Del. Aisha N. Braveboy and state Sen. Victor R. Ramirez in the Democratic primary race to fill the seat being vacated by State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks (D).

MO CO EXEC FORUM: The group Progressive Neighbors held a forum for candidates for Montgomery County executive Monday night and Ryan Miner of A Miner Detail blog videotaped the event, which you can watch here.

TRUMP TAPS SALISBURY NATIVE FOR DHHS: President Donald Trump said Monday he intends to nominate a former pharmaceutical executive and Maryland resident as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. John Fritze of the Sun reports that Alex Azar, who grew up in Salisbury, worked most recently as the president of Lilly USA, the U.S. affiliate of drug giant Eli Lilly and Co. He was a deputy secretary of HHS under President George W. Bush.