State Roundup, January 9, 2019

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DEMS, GOP RALLY FOR OPENING DAY: As Maryland’s 188 lawmakers prepare to head into their 90-day session today political party leaders gave them conflicting messages about bipartisanship, writes Pamela Wood for the Sun.

FRANCHOT SNUBBED: Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters notes that Comptroller Peter Franchot was snubbed at the Democratic event on Tuesday, by not being recognized from the podium as other Democratic leaders were. Franchot received more votes in the last election than any political candidate in Maryland history.

HOGAN TO STAY THE COURSE: Gov. Larry Hogan is promising to stay the course he established during his first four years in the office. “There’s no ‘now it’s a second term so we’re going to do something new,’” said Hogan during an interview with Bryan Sears of the Daily Record. “If people wanted something new they’d probably have voted for (Democratic gubernatorial nominee) Ben Jealous. We’re going to keep making progress on the same things we’ve been focused on for four years. We’re just going to do it for four more.”

THE NEWCOMERS: Pamela Wood of the Sun introduces some of the “fresh faces” that will be cropping up during the 90 day session. There’s been turnover in leadership positions, allowing these fresh faces an opportunity to take power in the state capital.

WHAT VOTERS WANT: A new Gonzales poll being released today – the kick-off of the 90-day General Assembly session – shows that voters back a measure to hold the line on the cost of prescription drugs; legislation to create a statewide health insurance mandate; and a bill to boost the state’s renewable energy goals. Support for the prescription drug legislation is especially robust, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters.

RX POT OWNERSHIP RULES EYED: Maryland’s medical marijuana regulators said Tuesday that the General Assembly likely will have to clarify whether state rules governing the cannabis industry were meant to prevent big out-of-state companies from dominating the market by taking over homegrown firms, reports Doug Donovan for the Sun.

HOGAN TARGETS VIOLENT CRIME IN BALTIMORE: Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday announced a $13 million plan to address unrelenting violent crime in Baltimore City, which the Republican chief executive described as “completely unacceptable,” Justin Moyer of the Post writes. A state-of-the-art violent crime operations center would open in the city to host 200 law enforcement officers from 16 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, Hogan said, including an elite team of Maryland state troopers, a dedicated prosecutor and members of FBI anti-gang units.

CARROLL DELEGATION IN TOUGH SPOT: Democrats gained eight seats in the Maryland House of Delegates in the November midterm election and while Republicans picked up a seat in the Senate, they fell short of their “Drive for Five” goal in that chamber. That leaves Republicans — including the majority of lawmakers representing Carroll County — in a precarious situation as senators and delegates flock to Annapolis for the start of the 2019 Maryland General Assembly session today, Alex Mann of the Carroll County Times reports.

ARUNDEL’s $2M IN BOND BILLS: Anne Arundel County delegates and senators are carrying at least $2 million in local bond bill requests to the Maryland General Assembly. The bills — which have to be approved by the delegation and ultimately the General Assembly — provide funding for local groups and charities. Lauren Lumpkin of the Annapolis Capital reports on those requests.

OPINION: NEW FACES, LOTS OF WORK: The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital opines that there are a lot of firsts happening among the 47 state senators and 141 delegates taking the oath of office today at the State House. For the first time, an African-American woman will be sworn in as a delegate from Anne Arundel County. For the first time, two women will be among the five state senators representing the county. For the first time in 20 years, a Democrat will represent District 33 in the House. The to-do list is big and they need to catch on quickly.

OPINION: A BETTER WAY TO HONOR JOURNALISTS: In a column for MarylandReporter.com, Len Lazarick makes the case for honoring the slain Capital Gazette staffers, not with a plaque renaming the utilitarian press pit at the State House in their honor, which he calls “a fairly empty gesture that does little to advance journalism or journalists.” Instead, he writes, “how about honoring journalists by promoting more openness and transparency in government … video live stream the House and Senate proceedings … to keep the public informed about what government is doing to them and for them.”

OPINION: GERRYMANDER CASE MAY BACKFIRE: The editorial board for the Carroll County Times opines that while the Supreme Court’s agreeing to hear Maryland’s gerrymandering case in March may be seen as a light at the end of the tunnel for those who want to end partisan gerrymandering, it may not end as many had hoped.

DEALING WITH FURLOUGHS: A Towson mom launched a GoFundMe campaign to keep her college basketball-playing son in school because she can’t pay tuition without a paycheck from her federal job. Maryland farmers can’t access federal programs offering guaranteed loans and relief from tariffs. Nobody answers the phone at federal taxpayer assistance centers around the state, even as tax filing season opens at the end of the month. This is how the partial federal government shutdown is affecting Marylanders, writes Jeff Barker for the Sun.

DNR CHIEF RESIGNS: Mark Belton, secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, submitted his resignation to Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday as he returns to his former post as Charles County administrator. Belton has been leading the agency — responsible for state parks, crab and oyster fisheries and hunting and boating regulation — since February 2015, early in the Republican governor’s first term, Scott Dance of the Sun writes.