SCHOOL SECURITY: Two days after a triple shooting at a St. Mary’s County high school thrust Maryland into the center of a national reckoning over gun violence, state lawmakers on Thursday displayed bipartisan support for requiring districts to hire security administrators, provide more training for school police officers and devise active shooter plans for all schools, Scott Dance of the Sun is reporting.
- Just two days before a planned national march to end gun violence in schools, a Maryland House committee heard testimony on a proposal that would dramatically expand the Maryland Center for School Safety’s role and increase its funding. The measure before the House Ways and Means Committee would require local school systems to complete annual safety assessments and develop an emergency plan, subject to the approval of the Maryland Center for School Safety and the state school board, Kelsi Loos of the Frederick News-Post reports.
- It should have been a routine committee hearing on Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s bill to improve public school safety across Maryland — a gimme, in legislative parlance, like mom and apple pie, writes William Zorzi for Maryland Matters. But appearing before the House Ways and Means Committee, Hogan’s chief legislative officer, Christopher Shank, found himself on the wrong end of a legislative blow torch Thursday, as he fielded questions on the bill from members of the panel.
- The bill requires schools to have secure classroom doors that lock from the inside and surveillance technology in place by the 2020-2021 school year. Each classroom would also need a place of “refuge,” where students can wait out a shooting, Rachel Baye reports for WYPR-FM
HOUSE OKs $44.5B BUDGET: A few more Republican delegates than usual voted against the House version of Gov. Hogan’s $44.5 billion budget Thursday, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter. The final vote was 126-11. The GOP members repeatedly tried to take $1 million away from Democratic Attorney General Brian Frosh and his lawsuits against the Trump administration, and they also attempted to provide more income tax relief than Democrats were willing to offer from the windfall the state will reap from the federal tax cuts.
- This sets up a conference with the Senate next week to hash out differences between the spending plans. The Senate, where partisan divisions are less pronounced, passed its budget bills unanimously last week, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun. The differences between the two chambers’ spending plans are relatively minor, and next week’s budget conference is not expected to be unusually contentious.
METRO FUNDED: Maryland will give Metro its full share of $167 million a year in new, permanent funding, the governor and leaders of both legislative chambers said Thursday, putting the transit system on track to win a historic regional deal to support it, the Post’s Robert McCartney reports. Virginia and the District have committed to provide their share for a total of $500 million a year in the dedicated funding that Metro says it needs for capital investments to ensure safety and reliability.
DENTAL COVERAGE: As the General Assembly session winds down, Del. Mike McKay, R-Washington-Allegany, is pushing hard for approval of and funding for a pilot program to provide dental care for adult Medicaid recipients. McKay started the campaign for Medicaid dental care last year, sponsoring a bill to let the governor to add it to Medicaid services in Maryland. When the bill faltered, Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton, D-Charles, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, amended it into his own bill to study the problem, Tamela Baker reports in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.
UNION BILL: Controversial legislation spearheaded by Montgomery County lawmakers met resistance Thursday on the Senate floor as Republican lawmakers delayed votes by requesting more time to research the bills — fairly routine motions by the outnumbered minority that gives them some leverage over legislation they oppose, Glynis Kazanjian reports in MarylandReporter. The bills would eliminate the right of a new state employee to opt-out of being contacted by a labor union representative within 30 days of being hired.
DOCTORS ON THE STAND: Senate-passed legislation to permit doctors to spend more time testifying as experts in medical-malpractice cases received a chilly reception in a House committee Thursday. Steve Lash of the Daily Record writes that Del. Kathleen Dumais, vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said the law limiting the percentage of a doctor’s professional activities that can be devoted to courtroom testimony and related activities in malpractice cases has worked well in the more than 30 years it has been in effect.
BANNING RX POT PATIENTS: A medical marijuana dispensary in western Maryland has banned at least four customers because they posted complaints online about pricing or other issues, sparking concern from advocates and potentially violating state rules for the emerging industry, Tauhid Chappell of the Post writes. Joy Strand, the executive director of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, said registered dispensaries have the right to decline marijuana to patients or caregivers if they appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But other attempts to bar patients could be problematic, she said.
STATE CENTER DEBACLE: Christopher Summers of the Maryland Public Policy Institute opines in an op-ed in the Sun that on Monday, the Maryland House of Delegates voted to pass a bill that would put certain parameters on any effort to resuscitate the stalled State Center redevelopment project in West Baltimore. Problem is, redeveloping the site was a bad idea when first hatched by former Gov. Bob Ehrlich, and it got worse in the administration of Martin O’Malley. Now Gov. Larry Hogan needs to rethink it entirely rather than tweak it, or it will merely enrich a few developers at the expense of state and city taxpayers
NOTHING SACRED: Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland writes in a column that when it comes to education, nothing is sacred for the Maryland Democrats in the General Assembly.
MARYLAND & CONGRESSIONAL OMNIBUS BILL: Congress was poised Thursday to approve a $1.3 trillion federal spending bill that would set aside millions for the Chesapeake Bay and other Maryland priorities that had been threatened by deep cuts, John Fritze writes for the Sun.
- The federal omnibus spending bill includes full funding for a Fort Detrick laboratory that is one of its kind in the country. The bill fully restores funding for federal laboratories the Trump administration proposed to close, including continued operational costs of $44.3 million for the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center, Danielle E. Gaines and Kate Masters report for the Frederick News-Post.
- Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes that Maryland’s U.S. House delegation split Thursday on the $1.3 trillion spending package to keep the federal government open through Sept. 30. Just as the full House split in somewhat unpredictable fashion over the omnibus spending plan, which passed 256-167, the Maryland delegation also divided in not altogether coherent ways.
NEW MARYLAND U.S. ATTY: The Senate unanimously approved President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the U.S. attorney in Maryland late Thursday, rapidly moving his approval during the course of a single day after he appeared to stall for weeks, John Fritze reports in the Sun. Robert Hur, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland who was nominated in November, will succeed Rod J. Rosenstein in the post.
2nd RESIDENCY CHALLENGE UP: A Baltimore circuit judge is to decide today whether longtime defense attorney Ivan Bates meets a two-year residency requirement to run for city state’s attorney in June, writes Tim Prudente for the Sun. Bates’ attorneys and those of his political rival, Thiru Vignarajah, argued the matter for hours Thursday, presenting tax and utility bills, deeds, car registration, voting records and other documents as they sought to prove which of Bates’ houses serves as his legal home and for how long.
RX POT IN ARUNDEL: Dr. Gina Berman is confident her legal team has made the best case for allowing her company to build a medical marijuana dispensary in Anne Arundel County, even though County Executive Steve Schuh is trying to squeeze the budding business out of the county, Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital writes.