State Roundup, January 7, 2019

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SUPREMES TO HEAR MD DISTRICTING CASE: The U.S. Supreme Court said Friday it would hear a high-profile case alleging unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering in Maryland’s redistricting process, Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood of the Sun report. Attorney General Brian Frosh appealed the case to the high court in November after a panel of federal judges threw out the state’s map for the 6th Congressional District, which stretches from Montgomery County to Western Maryland.

HOGAN CALLS FOR END TO FEDERAL SHUTDOWN: Gov. Larry Hogan is repeating his call for the president and Congress to end the federal government’s partial shutdown. And this time, he’s teaming up with the governor of Virginia and the mayor of the District of Columbia. “The national capital region is home to well over 360,000 federal workers, many of whom are employed by departments and agencies affected by this lapse in appropriations,” Hogan, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wrote in a letter Friday that was sent to President Donald Trump and Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress.

PROGRESSIVE ISSUES: Ovetta Wiggins and Arelis R. Hernández of the Post report that raising the minimum wage, ensuring access to health care and shoring up money for education are among the topics that are expected to dominate the Maryland General Assembly when it convenes Wednesday for a 90-day session. Lawmakers are primed to take up many of the progressive issues they championed during their 2018 campaigns.

REFORM ON TAP ROUND 2: Standing before about 40 reform-minded Marylanders on a chilly January evening inside Dundalk’s only brewery, Comptroller Peter Franchot lifts tall his glass in unflinching resolve, vowing incontestable support for Maryland’s craft breweries but lamenting the penchant of “the Annapolis Machine” for antique beer laws that restrict a new wave of manifest economic growth. It’s Round 2 for Franchot in his prolonged battle to reform Maryland’s beer laws, Ryan Miner blogs for A Miner Detail.

OPINION: BET ON SPORTS BETTING: The editorial board for the Carroll County Times urges the state to approve sports betting to fund education initiatives, opining that the state has already made plans to use money from casino revenues from slots and table games to supplement education funding going forward. As House Speaker Mike Busch correctly notes, the sports betting revenues won’t be the only answer to funding the Kirwan commission’s recommendations, but every bit helps.

OPINION PIECES WELCOME: MarylandReporter.com welcomes opinion and commentary on issues before the Maryland General Assembly. Articles should be exclusive to MarylandReporter.com (don’t send them to multiple publications at the same time) and run 700-800 words. Send your articles to Len@MarylandReporter.com.

HOWARD COUNTY TOPICS: When the Maryland General Assembly convenes for its 2019 session next week, Howard County’s delegation — including a handful of freshman legislators — will press for local initiatives covering topics from fees on plastic bags to the voting process for school board members, and from tax relief for retirees to flood control for Ellicott City, Erin Logan and Jess Nocera of the Howard County Times report.

VOTING CHANGES IN BALTIMORE CITY? Baltimore could become part of a growing movement that would offer more voters a chance to participate in its Democratic primaries and a new way to determine the winners, the Sun’s Luke Broadwater reports. The General Assembly will consider a bill to allow the Baltimore City Council to establish open primary elections, as well as “ranked choice” voting for primary or general elections.

INCOMING MO CO DELEGATES: The 10-member freshman class of delegates from Montgomery County is a collection of progressive young activists, attorneys, Capitol Hill alumni and other political professionals. Seven of the 10 new members are women, as are 13 of the 24 delegates from the county. Five of the delegates are black and three are Asian American, writes Dan Schere for Bethesda Beat.

BILL TIES POLLUTION TO NEW ROADS: A rookie Montgomery County lawmaker is proposing climate legislation that could also take aim at Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to widen three major Maryland highways, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters. Del.-elect Vaughn Stewart plans to introduce a bill he’s calling the Transportation Climate Accountability Act of 2019. It would require a comprehensive study of the anticipated greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution of any state-funded highway project or a project being built through a public-private partnership.

OPINION: CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM: In a column for Maryland Matters, Frank DeFillipo urges the young, incoming lawmakers to curb their enthusiasm and learn when to rise and speak and when to remain planted and silent. “It’s the gift of experience. But the smart ones in the bunch will gain from the Cliff’s Notes of years: (1) Sit and listen to the elder statesmen for a session and learn the rules; and (2) Pick a single issue and become thoroughly knowledgeable instead of being a scatterbrain on every piece of legislation.”

VA SEEKS PACT WITH MD ON STADIUM: A Virginia lawmaker has filed a bill intended to head off a potential bidding war for a new Redskins stadium, proposing that his state enter into an agreement with Maryland and the District not to provide certain incentives to the National Football League team, Laura Vozzella of the Post reports.

MIELE TAPPED FOR NEW POST: Del. Christian Miele of Baltimore County, who lost a close race for the state Senate, has landed a position with the Hogan administration as a deputy secretary for the Department of Disabilities, Pamela Wood reports in the Sun. Miele’s appointment will be effective Wednesday, when his term as state delegate ends.

MD LAW MAY ENCROACH ON 1st AMENDMENT: Brian Witte of the AP reports that parts of a Maryland law aimed at stopping foreign interference in local elections on social media platforms such as Facebook appear to encroach on the First Amendment, a federal judge has ruled. The law requires certain media websites to self-publish information about the political ads they run online and keep records of them for state inspection.

COURT SIDES WITH TRUMP ON TRANSGENDER SERVICE: A federal appeals court sided with the Trump administration Friday in a case about the Pentagon ‘s effort to restrict military service by transgender people, but the ruling won’t change who can serve or enlist at this point. Groups representing transgender individuals responded to the restriction by suing the administration in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Washington state and California, Jessica Gresko of the AP reports.

FORMER DEL. HARPER DIES: Nina Rosita Harper, a retired AT&T manager and longtime East Baltimore community activist who served in the Maryland House of Delegates, died of complications of cancer Dec. 29 at Good Samaritan Hospital. The Belair-Edison resident was 68, Lorraine Mirabella of the Sun writes.

SARBANES TOUTS ETHICS BILL: Tagged the “For The People Act,” a bill pushed in Congress by many Democrats during last year’s election campaigns offers changes that would affect voting, political money, redistricting and ethics. And there to talk about it was the congressman who introduced it, John Sarbanes, along with Elijah Cummings, the new chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Chris Kaltenbach reports in the Sun.

HOYER ON FEDERAL GOV’T: U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland sits down for the 7-minute interview with Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet the Press on the border wall, the shutdown and impeachment.

OLSEWSKI SUPPORTS MALL CURFEW: Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said Friday he supports establishing a curfew at the White Marsh Mall, which has drawn complaints about unsupervised teens. Olszewski met Friday with representatives of the shopping center and plans another meeting next week. Several County Council members have pushed for a curfew and more security measures at the mall ever since a large fight led to the arrest of nine people in August, Alison Knezevich of the Sun reports.

ARUNDEL PROSECUTORS EXIT: When Anne Colt Leitess becomes Anne Arundel County’s State’s Attorney today, it’ll come as nearly a quarter of the county’s prosecutors exit. Leitess, who defeated incumbent State’s Attorney Wes Adams in November’s general election for her second term in office, comes at a time of significant turnover at her new office. Spokeswoman Carol Parecco said every attorney handling homicide charges filed in the June 28 fatal shooting of five people in the Capital Gazette newsroom is either resigning or retiring from the office, Phil Davis reports for the Capital.

DRUG CRISIS IN ARUNDEL: Phil Davis of the Capital writes that in a report, Anne Arundel County Department of Health employees told members of County Executive Steuart Pittman’s transition team about low morale and frustrations with a failure to implement “progressive, evidence-based harm reduction programs” in the drug crisis under former County Executive Steve Schuh, who was recently appointed the head of the state’s Opioid Operational Command Center.

OPINION: USE TAX CREDIT: The editorial board for the Sun urges low-income workers to take advantage of Earned Income Tax Credit. A Baltimore-based nonprofit that provides free tax preparation for qualifying individuals statewide estimates that there is in the neighborhood of $50 million “on the table” — meaning left uncollected because EITC-eligible families aren’t filing their tax returns. That’s a lot of money for people earning somewhere in the neighborhood of the minimum wage.