State Roundup, October 26, 2018

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UM REVIEW OUTLINES FOOTBALL PROGRAM PROBLEMS: An extensive independent review of the University of Maryland’s football program determined it “fostered a culture where problems festered because too many players feared speaking out” — but stopped short of calling the program “toxic,” report Talia Richman and Luke Broadwater for the Sun. The Sun obtained a copy of the roughly 200-page report, which the University System of Maryland’s governing body has not released. The Board of Regents is to meet again today in closed session.

LAWMAKERS BACK LOH: Eight Maryland lawmakers have sent a letter to the University of Maryland’s governing body defending school President Wallace Loh amid the scandal that has engulfed the Terps’ football program, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. State Sens. Jim Rosapepe and Paul Pinsky, along with six state delegates who represent Prince George’s County, wrote in a letter last week that they are worried Loh would be made into a “scapegoat” by the media and the state’s Board of Regents.

CARDIN, VAN HOLLEN WANT TO KEEP METRO PANEL: U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both Maryland Democrats, sent a letter Wednesday asking Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans to maintain the transit authority’s Riders Advisory Council. Cardin and Van Hollen were joined by Virginia Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner in making the request, Dan Schere reports for Bethesda Beat. The committee is a group of 21 volunteer members from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia who have been meeting once a month since 2005 to give input on issues related to train, bus and MetroAccess service, the latter of which serves commuters with disabilities.

AUDIT IDs PROBLEMS WITH CITY SCHOOLS ADMIN: A state audit of the Baltimore City School system has found that, among other problems, administrators failed to bill for hundreds of thousands of dollars that the school system was owed by outside organizations that it loaned its employees out to. Testing the cases of four loaned employees, the Office of Legislative Audits found the school system never billed the $352,500 it was owed for two of them. Equally striking: the exact same problem had been identified six years earlier, the last time the state conducted an audit of City Schools, Fern Shen reports for Baltimore Brew.

INVASIVE BUG FOUND IN CECIL: A spotted lanternfly has been found in a trap in Cecil County, raising concern that the invasive species could soon establish itself in Maryland, Scott Dance of the Sun is reporting. The insects can damage or destroy crops and leave porches covered in goo. The Maryland Department of Agriculture will conduct surveys throughout the fall and into the winter in search of any lanternfly eggs, in hopes of preventing it from gaining a foothold in the state.

STATE WORKERS PROTEST: Hundreds of state employees, including social workers, demonstrated outside the Maryland State House late Wednesday night to demand raises and better working conditions from the administration of Gov. Larry Hogan (R). Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports that the public rebuke of Hogan, from workers represented by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 3, came just before the start of early voting in the highly charged governor’s race.

MORE EARLY VOTERS TURN OUT: Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters reports that tens of thousands of Marylanders shuffled through early voting centers Thursday at a rate far outpacing four years ago and a few voters met the candidates for governor while they were out at the polls. First-day early voting turnout more than doubled since 2014, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections. According to unofficial tallies, 88,578 voters cast ballots on Thursday, compared to 42,880 on the first day of early voting in 2014.

  • Jean Marbella of the Sun writes that one turnout expert said that early voting has drawn huge numbers this year across the country as a highly motivated electorate seemingly can’t wait to officially register their views. “It’s masses of people,” said Michael P. McDonald, an associate professor of political science at the University of Florida. “It’s like Black Friday,” he said. “We’ve never seen anything like this for a midterm election.”
  • With Election Day more than a week away, Washington County residents wasted little time in casting ballots on Thursday as the early-voting period began, CJ Lovelace reports in the Hagerstown Herald Mail.. “There were 60 people in line before we even got the doors open,” county Elections Director Kaye Robucci said. “Plus, yesterday when we were setting up, people kept stopping in thinking that we were open.”

SUSPICIOUS PACKAGES DELAY EARLY VOTE: Suspicious packages found outside Crofton Community Library temporarily halted early voting there, but across Anne Arundel County and the rest of the state polling sites were busy Thursday, the Annapolis Capital is reporting. As some residents walked up to the Pip Moyer Recreation Center in Annapolis, they remarked about a line forming so early. Polls opened at 10 a.m. and remained open until 8.

‘DRIVE FOR FIVE:’ While many Marylanders are watching the twists and turns in the race for governor, political insiders have their eyes fixed on a lower-profile but significant effort that could dramatically remake how governance works in the state. Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports that from Frederick County to the Eastern Shore, Republicans have embarked on a campaign they’re calling the “Drive for Five” — an effort to flip five seats in the state Senate and end the Democrats’ supermajority in the General Assembly.

REFORMING MARYLAND’s PARTIES: The editorial board of the Sun opines that, with the rising numbers of unaffiliated voters, Maryland’s Democratic and Republican parties may want to consider some reforms including open primaries and public financing of campaigns, among others.

DGA LAUNCHES PRO-JEALOUS AD: The Democratic Governors Association has launched its first television ad in Maryland on behalf of gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous, a six-figure buy that highlights the Democrat’s plan to “fully fund” education, reports Ovetta Wiggins in the Post. The ad follows months of advertisements from the Republican Governors Association on Gov. Larry Hogan’s behalf.

ENDORSEMENTS IN DISTRICTS 30, 31: The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital makes its endorsements for the General Assembly Districts 30 and 31, with a few surprises, including some first-timers and some old-timers.

TRONE, HOEBER TRADE A FEW PUNCHES: Democrat David Trone and Republican Amie Hoeber met this week for their first—and only—face-to-face debates for the open District 6 congressional seat and, with both candidates vowing to restore civility to political discourse, the events were largely polite affairs. But a few jabs were thrown during the two sessions, held Tuesday night in Gaithersburg and Wednesday morning in Hagerstown. Those punches, in turn, reflected recent attack ads that have hit the airwaves in Maryland’s most competitive U.S. House race of 2018, Louis Peck reports for Bethesda Beat.

ELRICH, CAUTIOUS ON DEVELOPMENT: Marc Elrich is not a fan of neckties. But on Saturday, the Democratic nominee for Montgomery County executive paused to loop one over his head before making his way up the driveway of a home in affluent Somerset. Dozens of his followers were packed shoulder to shoulder at the small-dollar fundraiser, including Susan Mezey, a newcomer to local politics drawn to Elrich by his cautionary stance toward development, Jennifer Barrios of the Post reports.

REDMER, OLSZEWSKI BRING OUT HEAVY-HITTERS: Baltimore County executive candidates Johnny Olszewski Jr. and Al Redmer Jr. relied on political heavy hitters to help persuade voters on the first day of early voting Thursday, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. Olszewski, a Democrat, appeared on the west side of the county with two members of Congress, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin and U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings. And Redmer, a Republican, made two campaign stops on the eastside of the county with Gov. Larry Hogan.

SAVE THE CLEAN AIR ACT: In a opinion piece for MarylandReporter, pediatric nurse Christine Wallace opines that from Annapolis to Baltimore to the D.C. suburbs, Maryland’s cities score an F on the American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air report for smog pollution. A large body of scientific evidence demonstrates that breathing in unhealthy levels of air pollutants, such as smog or particle matter, contributes to serious health concerns. Under the Clean Air Act, our country has made great progress in cleaning up the air we breathe, making our communities healthier. But, now, basic rights ascribed by the Clean Air Act are under threat.

THE FATHERLESSNESS PROBLEM: Businessman Tyrone Keys and Towson U. professor Richard E. Vatz assert in an op-ed for MarylandReporter that Maryland and Baltimore have a terrible problem of violence and intimidation, and their root cause is not drugs, police corruption and incompetence or poverty.The root cause of the murder, assaults, bullying, and intimidation that now defines Baltimore and most of Maryland is fatherlessness. 

RETIRED JUSTICE O’CONNOR & JUDICIAL ELECTIONS: Steve Lash of the Daily Record interviews Doug Gansler and U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, both attorneys, about retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who’s farewell announcement from public life this week quiets the voice of perhaps the most eloquent opponent of judicial elections to ever speak out against the practice in Maryland.