State Roundup, January 4, 2019

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ON TAP IN ANNAPOLIS: With Maryland’s 188 lawmakers go back to work Wednesday for their annual 90-day General Assembly session. From abortion to marijuana to sports betting, Pamela Wood of the Sun takes a look at at some of the key issues they’ll be facing.

FINANCIAL TOLL OF OPIOID CRISIS: How do Maryland and Baltimore City rank when it comes to the per capita cost of the opioid overdose crisis? Doug Donovan of the Sun writes both rank 4th in terms of lost productivity, lost wages, criminal justice expenses and health care costs.

COUNTY EXECS LINE UP BEHIND DRUG PRICE REFORM: Howard County Executive Calvin Ball took part in an Eastern Shore event Thursday with other county executives to advocate creation of a state committee to review and establish what advocates say would be “affordable and fair” drug costs for state residents, writes Jess Nocera for the Howard County Times.

  • Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner, Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said Thursday at a gathering of the Maryland Association of Counties that they support the creation of a drug affordability board to help bring down drug costs, Tim Curtis writes for the Daily Record.

OPPORTUNITY ZONES: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) unveiled legislative initiatives Thursday aimed at encouraging private investment to revitalize some of the state’s most depressed communities, Arelis Hernandez of the Post reports. During a news conference, Hogan promised to take advantage of “opportunity zones” or areas designated by the U.S. Treasury Department where investors can qualify for capital gains tax breaks.

BAIL REFORM PART 3: In Part 3 of a Capital News Service series on bail reform and trial courts, Shruti Bhatt, Angela Roberts and Nora Eckert report that defendants who reject plea bargains and are convicted when they choose to go to trial for many types of crimes face longer sentences – sometimes substantially longer – than defendants who make a deal. The article appears in MarylandReporter.

OPINION: SURPLUS COULD BECOME A MIRAGE: Political observer Barry Rascovar of the Political Maryland blog opines that Maryland begins the New Year with a whopping cash surplus and an ocean of additional dollars expected to flow into the state Treasury over the coming 18 months. But it quickly could turn into a mirage during an overdue economic slump, international trade wars, nervous markets and a highly erratic president.

CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATES BACK IN D.C.: Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters reports on Maryland’s congressional delegation first day back in D.C. and what various members expect out of the new session with a divided Congress.

STATE TRANSIT OFFICERS CONTRACT: Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration reached a contract agreement with the police officers who patrol the state’s toll facilities, port and BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport. Under the contract with Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 34, which represents Maryland Transportation Authority Police officers, officers would receive a 5% cost of living increase in July, followed by another 1% increase in January 2020 if the state’s revenues exceed projections by at least $75 million, Pamela Wood writes for the Sun.

BAY REGION GETS FEDERAL GRANTS: The Chesapeake Bay region has received $13.1 million in grants for environmental projects from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The grants, combined with $21.9 million in matching funds, will support 49 projects to improve water quality and wildlife habitat across six states and the District of Columbia, Donna Morelli reports in the Bay Journal.

FEDERAL PRE-SCHOOL PROGRAM GRANT: Maryland’s Department of Education received a $10.6 million federal grant to help improve preschool programs in the state, Morgan Eichensehr of the Baltimore Business Journal reports. The Preschool Development Grant will fund a needs assessment to be conducted by the state, investigating the availability and quality of early childhood programs aimed at children up to age five. The funding will also support the development of a strategic plan to improve preschool programming statewide.

SHUTDOWN & WESTERN MARYLAND: Samantha Hogan of the Frederick News-Post writes about how the federal shutdown has affected Western Maryland. The Department of the Interior, under which the National Park Service operates, currently does not have funding. All national parks — including Catoctin Mountain Park, Monocacy National Battlefield and the C&O Canal in Frederick County — are closed, although visitors may still be able to access the grounds.

REDISTRICTING: As Gov. Hogan’s emergency redistricting commission  has its first meeting Friday, long-time advocate Howard Gorrell describes how the 6th Congressional District could be redrawn in a commentary for Maryland Matters.

O’MALLEY WON’T RUN: Just in case you were wondering: Former Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is also a former Democratic presidential candidate, shot down speculation that he would run for president again in 2020, instead saying he hoped Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke would throw his hat in the ring, Caitlin Oprysko reports for Politico.