HOUSE OKs $5.6B MORE FOR AMAZON: Opposition from lawmakers was across the board Wednesday as a final vote took place in the House of Delegates to ultimately approve a $5.6 billion tax incentive package to lure Amazon.com to Montgomery County, sending it to the governor, Glynis Kazanjian of MarylandReporter writes.
- Erin Cox of the Sun writes that the massive tax incentive package comes on top of an additional $2 billion in promised infrastructure and transportation improvements for the White Flint Mall area of Montgomery County, one of the 20 spots across the country Amazon picked as finalists for its so-called HQ2 project.
- The AP is reporting that the House of Delegates voted 79-59 Wednesday for the bill, sending it to Gov. Larry Hogan, who submitted the plan to the Democrat-controlled legislature. A spokeswoman for the Republican governor said he will sign the bill.
- Not everyone agreed with the package, according to the Post. “Amazon is getting the gold mine and we’re getting the shaft,” said Del. Herb McMillan (R-Anne Arundel), describing the package as “corporate welfare.”
- Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital reports that Del. McMillan likes tax cuts but not when it goes to benefit a large corporation that hasn’t even selected Maryland as its new home. The Annapolis Republican rose in opposition Wednesday to Senate Bill 877, calling the $5.6 billion state tax break for Amazon was “corporate welfare” and saying that money should be used to support other Maryland businesses and residents.
HOGAN VETOES SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION BILL: Gov. Larry Hogan pulled out a stamp and a red marker Wednesday to veto a bill that would overhaul the state process for vetting and approving the construction and renovation of schools, Scott Dance reports in the Sun.
- Hogan undertook his veto authority with a flourish, drawing a big red “X” through House Bill 1783 and then holding it up for the assembled crowd to see and applaud, writes Danielle Gaines for the Frederick News Post.
- Maryland Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, the long-serving but frequently overlooked member of the state Board of Public Works, on Wednesday faulted her two colleagues — the governor and comptroller — for bringing politics and “theatrics” into the panel’s decision-making, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters writes.
- Hogan criticized the bill for removing power from the elected Board of Public Works and giving it to the politically appointed IAC, reports Rachel Baye for WYPR-FM. “This bill, if allowed to become law, would become an unmitigated disaster for our state, which would create a disgusting cesspool of cronyism and corruption in the school funding process,” he said.
DEL. SIMONAIRE’s PERSONAL STORY: When Del. Meagan Simonaire implored her colleagues Wednesday to ban conversion therapy for children, she spoke in the third person, as if the story she was telling had happened to someone else. The Anne Arundel County Republican spoke of a bisexual girl whose parents suggested using the therapy to “fix” her sexual orientation. Then Simonaire revealed the truth: She was that girl. Less than a week earlier, her father, state Sen. Bryan Simonaire, had argued passionately to keep conversion therapy legal, Erin Cox of the Sun reports.
- The Republican from Pasadena, who is not seeking re-election after one term, split with her father over the measure. The senator tried to block the ban on the Senate floor last week, saying families should have the right to use “loving” conversion therapy. The bill bans licensed medical professionals from practicing the therapy on minors, Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital reports.
- Simonaire, 27 and a first-term Republican, said she wanted to put a name to the 20,000 children she said go through the therapy. She spoke respectfully of her parents as she told the story of how she told them of a relationship that she had with a woman — a relationship she ultimately broke off for fear of her family’s reaction, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports.
- The Senate bill was sponsored by Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery County), an openly gay senator and gubernatorial candidate, writes Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters. “I want to acknowledge the bravery exhibited by my General Assembly colleague …,” Madaleno wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday.
- The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital praises Del. Simonaire for coming forward. “Her speech was one of the bravest things we’ve seen on the floor of the General Assembly. She had not been a high-profile legislator — she is, after all, a 27-year-old serving her first term. But few can have exited the stage so well. We wish her well in whatever she does next.”
BUMP STOCK BAN: The bump stock — a previously obscure gun accessory that became infamous last year when a shooter in Las Vegas used one to speed up his lethal rate of fire at helpless concertgoers — is on its way to being banned in Maryland, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.
SEXUAL PREDATOR ACT: After failed attempts over more than a decade, legislation allowing prior sexual predatory behavior to be used in criminal prosecutions of alleged sex offenders passed the Senate unanimously Wednesday and was sent to Gov. Larry Hogan, Glynis Kazanjian of MarylandReporter reports.
- Hogan has said he will sign the proposed Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act into law, which would go into effect July 1. Sen. Jim Brochin, D-Baltimore County, has introduced the legislation for more than a dozen sessions only to see it annually fail in the General Assembly, writes Steve Lash for the Daily Record. Enactment of the bill would be “the crowning achievement I always wanted,” Brochin, who is leaving the Senate this year to run for Baltimore County executive, said after the Senate vote.
- The Maryland Senate voted unanimously to approve the legislation long sought by Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun. Gov. Larry Hogan has endorsed the bill and plans to sign it. ”I am so ecstatic that the time is finally up for serial sexual predators,” Mosby said. “We have closed a loophole for those predators claiming consent.”
UNION SEEKS ‘END TO MILLER TIME:’ A union known for advocacy on progressive policies is placing a target on one of the biggest figures in Maryland politics. Leaders of SEIU 500 have declared an “end to Miller time,” calling for a rally and hinting at an effort to oust longtime Senate President Mike Miller. The effort is the latest chapter in a long-simmering feud that appears to be close to boiling over from the perspective of the union. Miller, in an interview, said he didn’t know the leaders of the union, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.
ANDERSON STEPS DOWN AS DELEGATION CHAIR: Del. Curt Anderson, a former broadcaster turned lawyer and legislator, announced Wednesday that he is stepping down as chairman of the Baltimore delegation to the Maryland House of Delegates after 12 years.
RX POT DIVERSITY BILL: A bill to diversify Maryland’s medical marijuana industry received final approval in the state Senate on Wednesday — after a similar effort to bring in more minority-owned businesses faced a bitter defeat in the final minutes of last year’s session, Rachel Chason of the Post reports.
HOGAN OPPOSES TRUMP VEHICLE EMISSIONS PLAN: The Hogan administration is joining several other states in opposing President Donald Trump’s move to relax vehicle emissions standards. Ben Grumbles, the state’s secretary of the environment, signed a letter this week expressing “deep concern” that the federal government could weaken the standards for greenhouse gas emissions.
BAN ON FOAM CONTAINERS MISGUIDED: In a guest column for MaylandReporter, city restaurateur Casey Jenkins writes that Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh is asking for Baltimore City businesses to contribute more to the health of the city. But unfairly she is asking restaurants and hospitals to add an even bigger burden by eliminating inexpensive foam food containers.
PSC OKs GAS CO. ACQUISITION: Maryland’s Public Service Commission has approved the $4.5 billion acquisition of WGL Holdings Inc., the parent company of Washington Gas, by Canadian energy company AltaGas. The companies had previously reached a settlement agreement with Maryland’s PSC, but the official approval removes another hurdle to finalize the deal. Virginia and the federal government have already approved, Andy Medici of the Washington Business Journal reports.