State Roundup, January 10, 2019

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MILLER BEING TREATED FOR PROSTATE CANCER: Longtime state Senate President Mike Miller used a cane Wednesday on the first day of Maryland’s General Assembly session and said he has hip and knee problems. “People have been wondering about my health. I’ve got a cane. I’ve got a bad hip. I’ve got a bad knee,” Miller told reporters after Wednesday’s Senate session. Miller, 76, said he would talk more Thursday about his health, writes Pamela Wood and Luke Broadwater in the Sun.

LAWMAKERS SWORN IN: The House of Delegates and state Senate held simultaneous ceremonies at noon on opposite sides of the State House. While lawmakers are expected to hash out tricky issues over the next 90 days, the first day was largely reserved for celebration and optimism, Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood of the Sun are reporting.

DAY IN PICTURES: Here’s a photo gallery of opening day from MarylandReporter.

EDUCATION FUNDING: Long-time Democratic leaders in the House and Senate vowed to place the first marker on what they see as a coming historic increase in state education funding, Bryan Sears writes in the Daily Record. The vast majority of those increases and how they will be paid for are deferred for at least a year.

MINIMUM WAGE HIKE: As Maryland lawmakers got back to work Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan expressed concern about the consequences of increasing the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. “It sounds really good to just, without any real discussion, say: ‘Hey, people should make more money, especially people that are in their first job,’” Hogan said, but he questioned whether raising the wage would put Maryland at a disadvantage for attracting businesses. He noted that neighboring Virginia’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

HOGAN DEFENDS CRIME PACKAGE: Gov. Larry Hogan defended his latest initiative to curtail crime in Baltimore City while Democratic leaders in the Maryland General Assembly said they want to help Baltimore while also balancing the needs of the rest of the state, Holden Wilen of the Baltimore Business Journal reports.

PROGRESSIVE CAUSES TOUTED: Legislative leaders signaled support for several progressive causes on the first day of this year’s General Assembly session, suggesting that a boost in the minimum wage, a referendum on recreational marijuana and an effort to clamp down on rising drug prices are all likely winners this year, Bruce DePuyt writes in Maryland Matters.

LIKE FIRST DAY OF COLLEGE: Rachel Baye of WYPR-FM writes that, according to Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings, the first day for a new lawmaker is like the first day of college. “You just show up at the dorm,” Jennings said. “You haven’t been to class yet. You don’t know who your professors are. You don’t know who’s in class with you. You don’t know who you’re going to hang out with, you know, at the student hall. You don’t know any of it. That’s what today is.”

FIRST DAY FOR DEL. CAIN: Diane Rey of MarylandReporter follows the family of new Del. Alice Cain, a Democrat from Anne Arundel County, on her first official day in office as she is sworn in and speaks with staff. Like many legislators’ families, the Cains made the first day of the 2019 Maryland General Assembly a family affair. Her husband, Frank, was on hand for the ceremony. Other legislators cradled babies, chased after toddlers, or found seats for elderly relatives to watch the proceedings.

FIRST DAY FOR DEL. KERR: For freshman Del. Ken Kerr (D-District 3B), the day was marked by a wave of nostalgia from before he ever contemplated politics, writes Samantha Hogan in the Frederick News-Post. Early in his teaching career, he led a group of fourth-graders through the State House and marveled at the House chamber. He recalled thinking, “Wow, this is really cool. It’d be great if I could do this someday.”

PG, MO CO EXECS SHOW UP: In a column for Maryland Matters, Josh Kurtz writes about County Executives Angela Alsobrooks of Prince George’s and Marc Elrich of Montgomery, both of whom attended the opening day in Annapolis. “We just want to make sure that Prince George’s County gets its share,” Alsobrooks said. “And to be honest, I don’t know why we have to beg for it.”

SUIT FILED OVER ISRAELI BOYCOTT BAN: A former Maryland state representative has filed a civil rights lawsuit against Gov. Larry Hogan and Attorney General Brian Frosh, taking aim at an executive order denying government contracts to businesses that boycott Israel. The suit, filed Wednesday in federal court by Syed Saqib Ali, alleges that the Maryland leaders violated his First and 14th Amendment rights when Hogan signed an executive order in October 2017 requiring all state contractors to promise they will not boycott Israel, Lillian Reed of the Sun reports.

TEDCO MIRRORS HOGAN TECH INITIATIVE: Gov. Larry Hogan unveiled plans for a Maryland Technology Infrastructure Fund at his Opportunity Zone announcement last week. But this is something TEDCO has been planning for a while as it tries to find more ways for tech startups in Maryland to gain traction, Tim Curtis writes in the Daily Record. The infrastructure fund would allow Maryland to offer matching public funds for physical spaces like labs and research centers that could fuel Maryland’s startup economy.

ARUNDEL STUDY FINDS FEDS SPUR DRUG PROBLEM: Anne Arundel health officials say the federal government is contributing to the county opioid crisis by restricting low-income residents with public housing assistance to “areas where drugs are readily available,” Phil Davis reports in the Annapolis Capital. In a draft report for the county’s Mental Health Agency’s Fiscal Year 2020 plan, officials wrote that Housing and Urban Development are effectively confining low-income residents to very specific areas by the way they calculate eligibility for housing vouchers.

FEDERAL SHUTDOWN CONSEQUENCES: Eight House Democrats who represent the capital region, home to the biggest concentration of federal workers, denounced the shutdown on Wednesday and slammed President Trump. During a news conference outside the Capitol, several members said their offices are being flooded with calls, emails and letters from constituents panicking about how they will pay their bills, Jenna Portnoy of the Post reports.