GOV. HOGAN GOES TO WASHINGTON: Gov. Larry Hogan told a U.S. Senate committee Thursday that the federal government needs to increase funding and tighten international shipping requirements to help stem the opioid epidemic sweeping the nation, John Fritz of the Sun reports. Testifying before Congress for the first time, the Republican governor made an impassioned plea for additional funding — arguing in written testimony that the money included in a sweeping federal health bill approved in 2016 was “clearly not enough” to address the problem.
- Hogan told the panel that deaths from synthetic opioids was up 70% in 2017. “The federal government has got to step up in keeping it from coming into the country,” the governor said. Hogan has made fighting the opioid crisis a priority since being elected, writes Bryan Sears in the Daily Record.
PHARMACY GAG RULE: The Senate unanimously passed legislation Thursday allowing pharmacists to share with customers if they would spend less on a drug by paying with cash instead of using their health insurance, Tim Curtis of the Daily Record writes. Because of a contract provision known as the “gag rule,” pharmacists are often prohibited by pharmacy benefit managers from telling customers their copay for a prescription would charge them more than if they paid for the same medicine out of pocket.
DANCE PLEADS GUILTY: The guilty plea of former Baltimore County schools chief Dallas Dance led to renewed calls for an independent investigation into the school system. Several elected officials said it’s past due for an independent audit of the school system’s procedures for awarding contracts, Pamela Wood and Alison Knezevich of the Sun report.
- The Sun’s Doug Donovan writes that Dallas Dance was superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools. Verletta White is interim superintendent. For years, both earned outside income that they failed to report to the school system and the public. But Dance was charged with perjury, to which he pleaded guilty Thursday. White was not charged with a crime. How have similar actions led to such different results? The reason, say legal experts, is intent.
RX POT & JAILS: As expected, the Maryland Senate acted Thursday to expand a bill that exempts the Washington County Detention Center from the state’s new medical marijuana program, so it applies to local jails throughout the state, reports Tamela Baker in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mac Middleton proposed an amendment that struck language that would have limited the bill to Washington and Anne Arundel counties. The Senate approved the change, and the bill now is being prepared for a final Senate vote.
CELL PHONE PENALTY HIKED: The Maryland House of Delegates on Thursday approved a bill that increases the maximum penalty for using a cell phone while driving to $500, though it was unclear how frequently such large a fine would actually be issued. Scott Dance of the Sun writes that the legislation repeals a tiered fine system under which maximum fines are $75, $125 and $175 for first, second and third offenses, respectively.
AMAZON SECRET SLIPS: The list was supposed to be secret — a closely guarded summary of $2 billion in transportation projects the state of Maryland will fund in Montgomery County if Amazon builds its coveted second headquarters there. But secrets can be hard to keep. And so it came to pass that, as a Montgomery County Council committee sparred Thursday over whether to delay a long-planned parkway extension near the potential Amazon site, one lawmaker let a crucial piece of information slip, Jennifer Barrios of the Post reports.
- Council members bickered over whether postponing the construction of a long-planned parkway near the site pitched to the company by Montgomery County officials would impact the county’s chances of landing the project, Andrew Metcalf of Bethesda Beat writes.
EASING ADOPTIONS: A Frederick County delegate spoke in support of his proposal to shorten the time in which a person can revoke consent to an adoption. Del. Barrie Ciliberti testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday on House Bill 1425. It would reduce the window that a birth parent can change their mind on an adoption from 30 days to 20, Kelsi Loos of the Frederick News Post reports. It would also raise the age where a minor’s consent is required for an adoption from 10 to 14.
AGE EMANCIPATION: Advocacy groups expressed support Thursday for the concept of a bill providing a path to emancipation for 16- and 17-year-olds but called for a more in-depth discussion before moving forward. Heather Cobun of the Daily Record writes that Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, D-Howard, introduced HB 1304 to assuage concerns about another proposal, HB 191, which would ban marriage for anyone younger than 18. Opponents have expressed support for the latter bill if there were an emancipation option for young people who are mature and able to support themselves.
MADALENO TOUTS $15 WAGE: Sen. Richard Madaleno made his case to fellow lawmakers Wednesday to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2024, increase pay for disability caregivers and phasing out a tip-based payment system for workers in the hospitality industry, reports Glynis Kazanjian for MarylandReporter. “Raising the minimum wage to $15 would impact nearly 570,000 workers in our state,” Madaleno, D-Montgomery County, a candidate for governor, said. “Of those, 50% would be people of color and 55% would be women.”
OMNIBUS CRIME LEGISLATION: The Senate on Thursday gave preliminary approval to omnibus anti-crime legislation that would provide enhanced penalties for gun crimes, broader wiretapping authority in firearms investigations, stiffer punishments for witness intimidation and greater funding for witness-relocation and community-based educational, vocational and social programs that offer alternatives to gangs, reports Steve Lash for the Daily Record. The Senate could vote as early as next week on the measure, which has not yet been considered by the House of Delegates.
HIGHER ED IMPACTS ENVIRONMENT: Higher education can have real world greening impacts. Case in point: The Shore Power Project, launched several years ago at Washington College, has helped local governments on Maryland’s Eastern Shore find ways to reduce energy costs while also shrinking their carbon footprint, Timothy Wheeler of the Bay Journal writes in MarylandReporter. For students and staff at the private liberal arts college in Chestertown, the project offered a chance to help Shore communities address climate change by dealing with the shifting energy landscape.
FREDERICK ETHICS BILL: A bill expanding Frederick County ethics rules appears poised to become law. The House unanimously approved House Bill 630 on Thursday, writes Kelsi Loos for the Frederick News-Post.
GARRETT ANIMAL WELFARE BILL: The Senate Health, Education and Environmental Affairs Committee will hold a public hearing at 1 p.m. Tuesday for a Garrett County bill that would enable the Sheriff’s Office to enforce the county animal welfare regulations and issue summons to persons who violate those provisions, Renee Shreve writes for the Garrett County Republican.
***WHERE DOES MARYLAND’S MILK COME FROM? When you grab a gallon of milk from the shelves of your local grocery store, do you wonder where it came from? According to the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the number of Maryland dairy farms has steadily declined since the 1980s. And, the USDA says that the dairy cow herd has been thinning 1,000 head a year since 2007. Read more about supporting Maryland’s dairy industry. SPONSORED CONTENT***
RUNNING FOR SEN. NORMAN’s SEAT: Local and state Republican leaders recalled Wednesday a tense period of about 30 hours as they scrambled to find someone to put on the primary election ballot after the sudden death Sunday of incumbent state Sen. Wayne Norman. Jason Gallion, whom the Maryland Republican Party designated Monday to take Sen. Norman’s place on the primary election ballot, also attended the session, David Anderson of the Aegis reports.
PAY ISSUES PLAGUES BAKER: Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker (D) found himself under increasing attack on Thursday, as a gubernatorial rival, a candidate for his current post and an influential union leader lobbed sharp criticism his way, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports. At issue: pay raises for top school system personnel that some members of the Prince George’s County Board of Education say were not authorized.
- While the school system has been roiled by a state investigation into grade-tampering, on Wednesday, a minority bloc of the Prince George’s County Board of Education leveled a new set of allegations: that several central-office employees received large, unauthorized pay raises even as a board majority rejected a budget amendment, proposed by the minority bloc, that they said would have increased teacher pay by about 4%, Rachel Chason and Donna St. George of the Post report.
BAKER TOUTS PG ECONOMY: When Rushern Baker took over as Prince George’s County Executive seven years ago, the county had just about hit rock-bottom economically. “Businesses would not even entertain the idea of coming into Prince George’s County,” he told the Bowie Chamber of Commerce. However, thanks to changes Baker and members of his staff made, the county is in much better economic shape today. So much so, in fact, that Baker is trying to use his effort in the county as a springboard to the Democratic nomination for governor this spring, John McNamara of the Bowie Blade writes.
CARROLL CANDIDATE DISRUPTS MEETING: Katherine Adelaide, a Republican candidate in the District 1 race for county commissioner, was served with a criminal summons following a conflict at a meeting of the Taneytown mayor and City Council. Adelaide, 61, of Taneytown, was charged with refusal to leave public building or grounds, disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct. A summons was issued Tuesday, according to electronic court records, Catalina Righter of Carroll County Times reports.