State Roundup, December 4, 2017

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PHONY DRIVERS LICENSES: The state issued hundreds of fraudulent driver’s licenses designed for immigrants in the country without legal documentation, a recent audit found. Two Motor Vehicle Administration Workers were fired as a result. As many as 826 driver’s licenses were issued using counterfeit documents, according to a state legislative audit released to the public this week. Because many of the licenses had fraudulent home addresses, MVA investigators were unable to confiscate most of the improperly issued IDs after the fact, reports Erin Cox for the Sun.

SAY ‘HI’ TO RX POT: The AP is reporting that Maryland began the sale of medical marijuana to residents in pain on Friday, ending years of delays by embarking on a program that features some of the most liberal policies in the nation on who can qualify for the prescribed cannabis. Dozens of people stood outside a licensed dispensary in Montgomery County, Potomac Holistics, where owners began making sales soon after receiving their first shipment Friday afternoon. William Askinazi, one of the owners, said people who work at the store were euphoric that the day had finally arrived.

FBI HQ UPDATE: A Senate committee has given the General Services Administration an additional two months to come up with a plan for building a new headquarters for the FBI, a massive project that was abruptly halted earlier this year, writes John Fritze in the Sun. Maryland and Virginia are both vying for the new HQ.

FRANCHOT’s BREWING CONTROVERSY: A proposal by Comptroller Peter Franchot promises the likelihood of a second consecutive year for beer and the state’s growing local brewing industry to become one of the most contentious issues of the 90-day legislative session that begins in roughly a month, reports Bryan Sears in the Daily Record. Some in the local brewing industry express concerns that the bill will become stuck in a political quagmire of special interests and perhaps the legislature’s disdain for the comptroller. Others are concerned lawmakers see them as a collection of guys making beer in a garage rather than a burgeoning manufacturing industry.

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FEDERAL TAX CUT & MARYLAND: Political pundit Barry Rascovar in his Political Maryland blog writes that now that a massive trillion-dollar tax cut is a virtual certainty in Washington, Maryland officials must quickly figure out if the appropriate reaction is panic or relief. The impact on budget-makers in Annapolis and in the counties is enormous. Since Maryland’s tax laws are coupled to rules for the federal income-tax collections, what happens on Capital Hill tax-wise reverberates almost immediately in Maryland. But will it mean more state and local tax revenue or less? At the moment, there is no easy answer.

METRO EYES UBER EFFECT: Metro has hired a consultant to build ridership models that take into account the impact of ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft as part of the transit agency’s effort to determine where its riders have gone and how to win them back, Faiz Siddiqui of the Post reports. Uber and Lyft have billed themselves as complements to transit, but in Metro’s case, gains by the apps have coincided with service declines that have sent tens of thousands of commuters seeking more reliable alternatives.

ISSUES MAY DISRUPT HOGAN POLLING: The first public poll in Maryland taken since the decisive Virginia elections last month shows that Gov. Larry Hogan (R) remains about as personally popular as ever – but that the issue environment, heading into the 2018 General Assembly session and state elections, may favor Democrats and their priorities, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters.

CANCER SCREEN WEEK: Gov. Larry Hogan, a cancer survivor, is joining other governors in is issuing a proclamation to declare the first week of December as “Cancer Screen Week,” the AP is reporting. The governor says the preventative measures increase the chance of catching cancer early, when they are most likely to be treated successfully.

SEX TRAFFICKING: The Capital News Service is reporting that last year, Maryland had the 13th-most sex trafficking cases in the country with 161, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. This year, the hotline reported 61 sex trafficking cases in the state as of June 30. Half of the incidents involved a minor, and about 84% included a female victim.  Now, a U.S. House Energy and Commerce hearing has examined legislation that would close loopholes in federal law that critics fear has allowed pervasive online sex trafficking, and it has the backing of Maryland congressmen.

FREDERICK LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES: The Frederick County state delegation outlined numerous legislative priorities at a public hearing on Saturday, including a compromise ethics reform bill reached by Sen. Michael Hough (R-District 4) and County Executive Jan Gardner (D). The bill — a settlement between Hough and Gardner after their dueling reform bills failed to pass last session — would work to decrease the influence of developers when it comes to land use in Frederick County, Kate Masters reports for the Frederick News Post.

WA CO GOP TO TAP NOMINEES: In her Political Notes column for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail, Tamela Baker writes that the Washington County Republican Central Committee plans this week to name a nominee — or nominees — for the Maryland House of Delegates seat recently vacated by Judge Brett Wilson, and state Sen. George C. Edwards filed Tuesday for the 2018 Republican primary.

MO CO GOP TURNOVER: Montgomery County Republicans ousted their first-term leader in favor of returning a former chairman to the party’s top spot on Tuesday, amid concerns over candidate recruitment and the party’s image in the age of Donald Trump, Glynis Kazanjian of the Sentinel reports. The close vote (22-24) of the MCGOP Central Committee replaced first-term Chairman Richard Jurgena in favor of Treasurer Mark Uncapher, who returns to the chairmanship he once held for five terms. Members voting to oust Jurgena stressed the need to change strategy in what will be a pivotal midterm election next year.

MAYORS BACK BERLINER: When the county executive campaign of County Council member Roger Berliner released a list of endorsements from current and former municipal elected officials this week, it was largely names from in and around Berliner’s District 1 political base. But two names on the list stood out: former Takoma Park Mayors Kathy Porter and Bruce Williams, who are backing North Bethesda resident Berliner over two Takoma Park residents—at-large Council members Marc Elrich and George Leventhal—in the executive race, Louis Peck reports in Bethesda Beat.

RASKIN JOINS CALL FOR CONYERS TO RESIGN: U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin of Takoma Park Friday joined other Montgomery County area members of Congress in publicly calling for the resignation of Michigan Rep. John Conyers—the House’s senior member who is facing multiple allegations of sexual harassment from women employed by his office, Louis Peck reports in Bethesda Beat.

JUDGE NANCE STEPS DOWN: The Daily Record is reporting that Baltimore City Chief Judge Alfred Nance, whose recommendation for removal from the bench was before Maryland’s high court, retired Friday. A spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan said Nance submitted a retirement letter to the governor but declined to release the letter because it is a personnel matter.

BUCKLEY INAUGURATION: Danielle Ohl of the Annapolis Capital interviews Annapolis Mayor-elect Gavin Buckley about the inauguration, which occurs today, and how he intends to govern. Buckley says he has no intention of cleaning house. Instead, he plans to meet with rank and file employees of each city department before meeting with the heads.

  • Selene San Felice of the Capital gets a different look at Buckley as he and his 6:06 club jog through the streets of Annapolis. “It’s a great way to start the day because by 7 you’ve already done some exercise,” Buckley says. “You feel tougher because of that, even though we don’t look tough. Middle-aged men in Lycra … we’ve reached a certain point where we shouldn’t be squeezing into Lycra.”

ASTLE MULLING RE-ELECTION BID: In Annapolis Thursday, Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com bumped into Sen. John Astle , who lost the Democratic Primary to Buckley. “Thank god I lost. I’m the happiest loser you’ve ever met. What was I thinking?” He agreed that Annapolis has a weak mayor by charter, “but you get blamed for everything.” Asked whether he was planning to run for reelection, the six-term senator said, “I’m mulling it over.” 

PRIVATE CITY PATROL EXTENDS INTO COUNTY: Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew reports that northwest Baltimore City residents, angered at the use of Pimlico slots money to buy a $50,000 patrol vehicle for the Shomrim watch group, pressed a city official to explain why the Pugh administration supports a group whose patrols extend into Baltimore County.

  • higgy01

    Thanks to O’Malley the state has issued tens of thousands of illegal driver licenses. Any license issued to an illegal alien is, itself, illegal. It does not matter whether the recipient had real or false documentation. Thanks to the dims, past and present, getting a license also enables the person to register. According to the U. S. Constitution only a citizen has the right to vote.