State Roundup, January 18, 2019

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HOGAN PREVIEWS BUDGET: Gov. Larry Hogan pledged to increase funding for public education and give all state employees raises in a $46.6 billion budget he will propose Friday to the General Assembly, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. Under the governor’s plan, each of the state’s local school systems would receive more state money in the next fiscal year than in the current year — even though funding formulas used to calculate how much systems should receive would have recommended a decrease for some of them.

STATE FILES CLAIM AGAINST AFSCME: While Gov. Hogan noted that he’d be including a 3% raise for state employees, including those represented by the state’s largest employee union, AFSCME Maryland Council 3, that raise wasn’t actually negotiated with the union, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters writes. The AFSCME negotiations fell apart early and remained broken beyond a statutory deadline for an agreement. Hogan announced on Thursday that the administration had filed an unfair labor practices action against the leaders of the union in late December.

LEGISLATORS SEEK FIX TO CASH BAIL: Legislators opposed to cash bail Thursday said they seek $10 million next fiscal year for pretrial service programs as courts move away from bail in favor of the monitored release before trial of defendants who do not pose a risk to public safety, Steve Lash reports for the Daily Record.

CONTRACTING PROBLEMS FOUND AT MTA: The state’s Office of Legislative Audits uncovered potential conflicts of interest among contracts made by a former Maryland Transit Administration employee, according to a report released Monday. Charlie Youngman of the AP writes that the report presented evidence that the unnamed MTA management employee had, through the particular wording of these contracts, gotten around state regulation of subcontractor procurement to pay a total of $4.5 million to a vendor with whom they had close relationships.

BREAD & ROSES PARTY CERTIFIED: The Maryland Board of Elections has certified the socialist Bread and Roses party, after its founder — who sought the Democratic nomination for a U.S. Senate seat last year — submitted the required 10,000 signatures, Rachel Chason of the Post reports.

LIBERTARIANS FILED SUIT: The Maryland Libertarian Party filed a lawsuit in federal court last month, alleging that the state’s ballot access laws are unconstitutional.  The Libertarians are asking the court to extend their party recognition for another four years without requiring the Party to spend huge sums of money gathering information the State already has in its official records, party chair Bob Johnston said in a press release. Maryland law requires smaller parties to renew their official status every four years either by attracting more than 1% of the gubernatorial or presidential vote or by filing a petition with the signatures of 10,000 registered voters.  In 2014 the Libertarians became the first smaller party in Maryland to reach the 1% goal, but in 2018 they fell short.  Now state law requires them to collect 10,000 signatures—even though the state’s own records already show that there are 22,338 registered Libertarians.

CONOWINGO PROBLEMS AIRED: In a packed room, environmental groups shared their goals for the coming legislative session for the Chesapeake Bay.They talked about oysters, forest conservation and renewable energy. They finally talked about the Conowingo Dam. Eastern Shore residents saw changes in the bay firsthand, some related to Conowingo Dam releases and some from the increased rain flow throughout the bay watershed, Jenna Miller of the Salisbury Daily Times reports.

PRESIDENTIAL AMBITIONS: If Gov. Larry Hogan, newly sworn in for his second term, has any presidential ambitions, he’s barely drawing the curtain back on them. Ryan Miner of A Miner Detail blog writes about the back and forth during Hogan’s Thursday press conference.

ICE ENDS ARUNDEL PACT: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a letter Wednesday it is ending its agreement with Anne Arundel County to house detainees at a correctional center in Glen Burnie, reports Rachael Pacella of the Annapolis Capital. County Executive Steuart Pittman recently proposed using money from the program to pay for legal assistance for the detainees. He said Wednesday he does not know why ICE wants to end the agreement, through which the county houses up to 130 detainees awaiting immigration hearings.

FELDMAN, HERSHEY PODCAST: A Miner Detail Podcast and MarylandReporter.com are partnering to bring news podcasts from the 90-day Annapolis legislative session. Sens. Brian Feldman, D-Montgomery, and Steve Hershey, R-Upper Shore, joined Ryan Miner and Len Lazarick at Harry Browne’s Thursday evening to discuss Gov. Larry Hogan’s second inauguration, a $15.00 minimum wage, and potential legislative coming out of the Senate Finance Committee. (We’ll be working on the audio for future podcasts.)

ELRICH COMMENT STUMPS: A few millennials were left scratching their heads at a comment this week by Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, who said at a public forum that he would oppose tearing down affordable housing to favor “millennials,” reports Jennifer Barrios in the Post.

PUGH’s $1M CAMPAIGN WAR CHEST: Since taking office two years ago, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has raised $850,000 in campaign cash, Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew reports. She now boasts a $969,000 war chest with 16 months remaining before the 2020 primary election for mayor.

NEW EXECS FIND FUNDRAISING EASIER: Maryland’s new county executives are quickly learning the joys of incumbency – when it comes to political fundraising, Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes. Outraised significantly by their opponents in their come-from-behind victories last year, some of the newbies are finding money freely flowing their way, according to their latest campaign finance reports, released this week.

SMALL BIZ HURT BY FED SHUTDOWN: Kathleen Cairns of WBFF-TV reports that on Thursday afternoon, U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen hosted a roundtable discussion in Baltimore with local small businesses and entrepreneurs who have been hurt by the current federal government shutdown. The meeting was held at the headquarters of a small business that provides software solutions for both the Small Business Administration and local small businesses.

NEW MARYLAND APPLE: The University of Maryland has landed a long-awaited patent for an apple dubbed Antietam Blush, the first fruit of a painstaking breeding process launched nearly three decades ago. Now the university is negotiating with a Pennsylvania nursery on a licensing deal to grow and sell seedlings, Scott Dance of the Sun reports.