State Roundup, December 24, 2018

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Denali (The Big One) , the tallest mountain in North America, and the Alaska Range, taken Sept. 5, 2018,. Photo by Len Lazarick.

MERRY CHRISTMAS: This is our last State Roundup till Dec. 31. We’re a week away from the end of the matching grant challenge and $1,000 short of our $25,000 goal. Any tax-deductible donation up to $1,000 to our nonprofit news organization will be doubled by four national foundations. Thanks to the hundreds of donors who have given so far and pushed us so close to the goal.

LARGEST CONTINGENT OF WOMEN IN STATE HOUSE: Next month, Katie Fry Hester of Howard County will be part of the largest group of women to ever serve in the Annapolis State House. The cadre includes lawyers, millennials, public policy workers and former legislative aides; women who have always been politically active and women who have rarely, if ever, shown up at town council meetings, reports Ovetta Wiggins in the Post.

STATE, HEALTH CARE WORKERS REACH PACT: Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday that a contract deal has been reached with about 1,500 state health care workers, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun. The agreement with the American Federation of Teachers-Healthcare Maryland will grant the members of that union a 3% cost of living increase on July 1, followed by another 1% increase in 2020 — contingent upon state revenues exceeding projections by $75 million.

FISCAL STORM CLOUDS GATHERING: State fiscal leaders will return to Annapolis in January in the unusual position of not having to deal with a structural deficit in the coming year. The following years are not projected to be so good. Fiscal leaders, including the legislature’s own analysts, and Comptroller Peter Franchot are encouraging the General Assembly to think beyond the coming year, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports.

ELRICH EASES A BIT ON I-270 WIDENING: Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich hasn’t embraced Gov. Larry Hogan’s $9 billion proposal to widen Interstates 495 and 270 by adding toll lanes, voicing his displeasure at several recent public appearances. But in an interview Thursday night, Elrich suggested that he and the Republican governor had some common ground on their goals for I-270, Dan Schere of Bethesda Beat reports.

ANNAPOLIS IN MINIATURE: Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters offers up his assessment of what to expect to see in Annapolis this coming session after Gov. Hogan’s historic re-election, and with the recent turn of events with the Kirwan Commission and opposition to the widening of the I-495 and 270, among others.

SPORTS BETTING: The odds are pretty good that Maryland will try to cash in on sports betting this coming year, writes Ovetta Wiggins in the Post. Gov. Larry Hogan, House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Mike Miller are hoping to forge an agreement during the 2019 legislative session on a measure to expand legalized gambling in Maryland to include wagering on professional sports teams and contests.

FUTURE OF MD GOP: In the wake of Gov. Hogan’s victory, the Maryland Republican Party re-elected as chairman Dirk Haire, an Anne Arundel resident and partner at the law firm Fox Rothschild. He was unopposed. Luke Broadwater of the Sun sits down with Haire to talk about the party and its future.

FED SHUTDOWN IN MARYLAND: Rob Merritt was taking his wife and two young daughters to tour Fort McHenry on Saturday when the family encountered — perhaps fittingly — a wall. The federal government shutdown began Saturday and affects one-quarter of the government and about 800,000 employees who will be furloughed or work without pay at such departments as State, Agriculture, Justice, Commerce and Interior, of which the National Park Service is a part, Jeff Barker of the Sun reports.

OPINION: WORKING ON KIRWAN: The editorial board for the Sun opines that while House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Mike Miller may well be right that it’s already too late for the General Assembly to sort through the complex policy and fiscal issues presented by the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, the time should be used wisely.

OPINION: KIRWAN BAD AT MATH: Pundit Barry Rascovar, writing in his Political Maryland blog, asks: What is $4.4 billion divided by 188? William “Brit” Kirwan, the former math professor and respected university big wig, thought he knew the answer. He didn’t come close — and learned last week he had flunked his course in applied political mathematics. Indeed. Kirwan’s Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education has botched the job.

DEL. KORMAN ON ANNAPOLIS: State Del. Marc Korman (D-Bethesda), the newly elected chairman of the Montgomery County House delegation, joined A Miner Detail Podcast to discuss the upcoming Annapolis legislation session. Korman and Miner discuss Metro funding, 270/495 traffic mitigation, the 2019 state budget, the sexual harassment reports and much more. You can listen to the program here.

FUTURE FARMERS OF MARYLAND: April Simpson of Stateline writes, in Maryland Matters, about the future of farming in Maryland and the obstacles that young farmers must overcome to succeed, such as learning about the business in the first place, finding affordable land and securing capital, diversifying crops and animals and offering value added products from their farm.

OPINION: WINNERS & LOSERS: Ryan Miner of A Miner Detail blog compiles his lists of winners and losers in state politics. No surprise he kicks off with Gov. Larry Hogan. But there are a few surprises in both categories.

PITTMAN TAPS WOMAN FOR FIRE CHIEF: For the first time in county history, a woman has been appointed to be the permanent Anne Arundel fire chief. County Executive Steuart Pittman announced Friday he has chosen Spokane Fire Department Assistant Chief Trisha Wolford to head the Anne Arundel County Fire Department. She will start early next year, Phil Davis of the Annapolis Capital reports.

OPINION: 287(g) PROGRAM FAILED: The editorial board of the Annapolis Capital opines that when the Capital reported the first year’s results under the 287(g) program run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in which corrections officers in the county’s two jails check inmates for immigration violations, no one was more surprised by the results than we were. That’s because one thing was clear. In this community, 287(g) is a failure.

ACTION IN ELLICOTT CITY: Last week Howard Executive Calvin Ball directed county officials to resume acquisition talks with property owners in the historic district. The acquisitions had been discussed as part of a larger plan to mitigate flooding in the old mill town, which since 2016 has seen two deadly floods. A $50 million, five-year plan would have included construction of flood mitigation features and razing 13 buildings. But, reports Erin Logan for the Howard County Times, one property owner whose building sits at the bottom of Main Street in historic Ellicott City says he wants to rebuild his structure instead of allowing Howard County to acquire it.

HELPING IMMIGRANT FAMILIES: Julie Schwietert Collazo founded Immigrant Families Together this summer with a simple mission: to raise enough money to pay the bond of a woman held at the border, writes Christina Tkacik in the Sun. Others pitched in to help. Since then, their efforts have grown into not only providing bond for people in detention — they’ve helped 58 altogether — but also supporting them as they await their asylum hearings. Regional teams work in California, Michigan, New York, Arizona, North Carolina and Maryland.

FIGHT AGAINST HATE: In 2018, hate crimes and hate incidents happened in city parks, historic main streets, and in suburban neighborhoods. Now, some Maryland students, parents, teachers, and principals are pushing back with a message of diversity, understanding, and empathy, Mary Rose Madden of WYPR-FM reports.