State Roundup, January 3, 2019

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BPW NIXES PIPELINE PLAN: The Maryland Board of Public Works unanimously rejected Wednesday plans for a pipeline that would carry fracked natural gas through three miles of Western Maryland, after years of environmentalists and neighbors fighting the project, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

HEALTH INSURANCE MANDATE: Health insurance premiums on plans in Maryland’s individual insurance market decreased this year as a result of a reinsurance fund state lawmakers approved last year, but the fund only has enough money to last a few years. To keep premiums down over the long term, state lawmakers who return to Annapolis next week are considering a new health insurance mandate and a fine for anyone who lacks insurance, Rachel Chason of WYPR-FM reports.

MEDIATION ORDERED IN HBCU CASE: The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered mediation for Maryland and its historically black institutions rather than ruling on cross-appeals argued last month in a lawsuit that dates back to 2006, reports Heather Cobun for the Daily Record. The court instructed the Maryland Higher Education Commission and the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education Inc. to meet with a mediator promptly to resolve the litigation, finding “neither party has a realistic appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of their respective claims and contentions.”

MAKING BAIL DECISIONS: In the second article of a project on bail reform and trial court, Capital News Service reports that in some jurisdictions, “risk assessment” algorithms help determine sentences for those convicted of crimes. And increasingly, similar algorithms are being used in the beginning stages of the criminal justice process, where they have a hand in deciding where a person will spend their time before trial — at home or in jail.

ALCOHOL REGULATION TO RETURN: When the Maryland General Assembly returns to the State House next week, legislators will be taking another look at measures aimed at alcohol regulation and the state’s brewing industry — one of the 2018 session’s more contentious topics, Amanda Yeager of the Baltimore Business Journal writes.

BPW SETS DEAL WITH LAWYERS IN OPIOID SUITS: Maryland’s Board of Public Works on Wednesday approved a deal in which outside lawyers will help the state investigate the opioid industry for potential litigation — and receive a percentage of whatever money they help recover, reports Luke Broadwater for the Sun.

STURGEON COMEBACK: When David Secor started his career at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory almost three decades ago, one of his first projects concluded that the Atlantic sturgeon had all but disappeared from polluted Maryland waters. So Secor and other biologists were shocked and then intrigued when, over the past decade, watermen and recreational fishermen started spotting what looked unmistakably like sturgeon flopping and splashing around the Nanticoke River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. One even landed on the deck of a fisherman’s boat, Scott Dance reports for the Sun.

REDSKINS LANDSWAP: Nearly 2,500 acres of state parkland along South Mountain would become federal property under a controversial proposal that could pave the way for a new Washington Redskins stadium in Maryland, CJ Lovelace of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail is reporting. The nonbinding agreement, quietly signed by Gov. Larry Hogan and now-former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in September 2017, surfaced last month through a public-records request by The Washington Post.

CANNABIS LAW FIRM RAMPS UP: After a busy 2018, the quickly expanding law firm Offit Kurman is forming a collaboration between its cannabis law practice and law firm Vicente Sederberg to better serve its clients entering new markets, Annamika Roy reports in the Daily Record.

OLSZEWSKI TAPS PRESS AIDE: Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski announced several new members of his leadership team Wednesday — including naming former Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith as press secretary, writes Colin Campbell for the Sun.