State Roundup, January 8, 2019

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PANEL RECOMMENDS STRIPPING COMPTROLLER OVERSIGHT: A state task force has recommended removing Comptroller Peter Franchot’s oversight of the alcohol industry, which the comptroller has sought to shake up in recent years by advocating looser restrictions on homegrown breweries, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters reports. The Task Force to Study State Alcohol Regulation, Enforcement, Safety, and Public Health voted 13-7 on Monday to remove the comptroller’s oversight of alcohol as well as motor fuel and tobacco, the two other industries under the supervision of the comptroller’s Field Enforcement Division.

BAY HEALTH DECLINES: Scientists rated the health of the Chesapeake Bay a D-plus in a report released Monday, the first time in a decade that the health of the bay has decreased, Rachel Chason of the Post reports. Officials at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which issues a report card every two years, cited record regional rainfall as the cause of increased pollution and poor ­water clarity in the bay, which had seen substantial improvements to its health in recent years.

OPINION: FARMERS COMMITTED TO BAY: In a column for American Farm Publications, Maryland Farm Bureau president Chuck Fry writes about the voluntary compliance work that Maryland farmers have been doing for 30 years to ensure that phosphorus doesn’t enter the Chesapeake Bay from their lands. “Our farmers,” he writes, “have a vested interest in the health of the Chesapeake Bay and the health of our communities.”

HOGAN APPROVAL REMAINS HIGH: Gov. Larry Hogan enters his new term with universal high approval from every sector of Maryland — blacks, whites, Republicans, Democrats, men, women, rural and suburban — according to the latest Gonzales Maryland Poll. All groups approve by 70% or more, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter. President Donald Trump, on the other hand, continues to have high disapproval from almost two-thirds of Maryland voters. Half of them favor beginning impeachment proceedings.

YES TO REFERENDUM, NOT SO MUCH FOR SPORTS BETTING: A poll of Maryland voters found strong support for a referendum on whether to legalize sports betting in the state. Pamela Wood of the Sun reports that registered voters polled by Gonzales Research & Media Services supported the referendum, which is expected to be considered in the General Assembly session that starts Wednesday, by 83%. However, the poll released Tuesday found only 49% of voters surveyed support allowing sports betting in Maryland, while 36% opposed it.

RISING GENERAL ASSEMBLY STARS: The freshman class of the state Senate – one of the largest in recent memory – is epitomized by two dynamic young leaders, Sen.-elect Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City), who is 36, and Sen.-elect Sarah Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel), who is 30. Both have been touted by political insiders as rising stars for several years, and both have gotten plenty of attention since their election. But they are NOT among six senators that Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters suggests that we watch.

10 TO WATCH: Here’s the Daily Record’s list of 10 people in state government to watch during the 90-day session. It leads off with Sen. Cory McCray, the ambitious Baltimore delegate who jumped to the Senate — and vice chair of the Democratic Party — after one term by knocking off Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, the Senate president pro tem and longtime ally to Senate President Mike Miller.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN ANNAPOLIS: In this 50-minute segment for WYPR-FM, Tom Hall, Washington Post reporter Ovetta Wiggins, Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters and WYPR reporter Rachel Baye preview the 439th session of the General Assembly that begins on Wednesday.

REDISTRICTING, TAXES, EDUCATION: At the Maryland Public Policy Institute Legislative Session Friday morning, MarylandReporter.com Editor Len Lazarick will moderate a panel on congressional redistricting with Cato Institute Senior Fellow Walter Olson of the governor’s redistricting commission, Lu Pierson of the League of Women Voters, and Todd Eberly, political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Joanna Sullivan, editor-in-chief of the Baltimore Business Journal, moderates a panel on Maryland taxes and regulatory climate with Commerce Secretary-designate Kelly Schulz, economist Anirban Basu, economist Richard Clinch, and Mike O’Halloran, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. Andy Green, editorial page editor of the Baltimore Sun, moderates a panel on education. For more information, click here.

SHUTDOWN GETS PERSONAL: Tyra McClelland has applied for free or reduced-price lunch for her child and contemplated whether to purchase allergy medicine or food. And Tryshanda Moton, who is supposed to close on the purchase of a new home at the end of the month, is unsure how she will deal with the bank’s request for two recent pay stubs. These were among a dozen federal workers who joined Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) in Largo on Monday to discuss the impact the continuing partial government shutdown is having on them, their families and their co-workers.

ONLY DUTCH, TRONE FORGO PAY: Twenty House members from Virginia, Maryland and D.C. represent hundreds of thousands of federal workers, but only seven lawmakers say they will forgo salaries as the partial government shutdown stretches into a third week. In Maryland, they are nine-term Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger and freshman Rep. David Trone, both Democrats, reports Jenna Portnoy for the Post.

BA CO DURING SHUTDOWN: The Social Security office in Baltimore County is up and running during the partial government shutdown, but U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin said the county is still feeling the effects of the stalemate going on the Washington, D.C., reports John Lee of WYPR-FM.

VAN HOLLEN SHAKES THINGS UP: U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen is shaking up the shutdown stalemate with a plan for Democrats to block Senate Republicans’ priorities until they agree to vote on House bills to fund the government, writes Robin Bravender for Maryland Matters. The Maryland Democrat floated the maneuver in a tweet over the weekend, prodding Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), “Mitch, don’t delay. Let’s vote!”

  • Post opinion writer Greg Sargent offers kudos to Van Hollen, the one Democrat who is pushing a plan to force McConnell’s hand. Sargent calls the plan “a good one.” Van Hollen tweeted over the weekend that Senate Democrats should block any and all measures in the Senate that are unrelated to funding the government until the Senate votes on reopening it. Since then, several progressive groups and a handful of Democratic senators have endorsed the strategy.

OPINION: WHAT NOW, O’MALLEY? In a column for his Political Maryland blog, Barry Rascovar opines that for someone who has campaigned since 2015 to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate, it’s ironic Martin O’Malley received more publicity from ending his quest than during it. Now O’Malley faces important mid-life decisions. He’ll be 56 next week. He’s run twice for president (for reasons still not perfectly clear), served twice as governor, mayor and as a city councilman. What lies ahead? He seems to have exhausted the political possibilities.

RENAMING STATE HOUSE PRESS ROOM: Maryland’s top political leaders are supporting a plan to rename the State House’s main media work area in honor of the five employees who were killed at The Capital newspaper office last year, writes Pamela Wood for the Sun. House Speaker Michael E. Busch, a Democrat who represents the Annapolis area, is proposing to honor the victims by renaming the space affectionately known as “the bullpen” or “the press pit.”

OPINION: WHY LEITESS WON: The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital opines that the swearing-in Monday of Anne Colt Leitess as state’s attorney for Anne Arundel County closes the loop on one of the more unusual political stories in recent history. She’s not the first person to ever lose an election and then pick herself up, run again and win — but it doesn’t happen often. … We don’t believe, however, that she won because Democrats scored victories up and down the ballot. She won because she made a convincing case she could do a better job …”