State Roundup, January 21, 2019

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HOGAN TOUTS $46.6B BUDGET PLAN: Maryland Democratic legislative leaders emerged largely upbeat Friday from an initial meeting with Gov. Larry Hogan to discuss his $46.6 billion budget proposal, a contrast from some past years when battle lines were drawn over spending priorities. The spending plan does not include any dramatic changes or major initiatives that could be controversial. It boosts overall spending by 4% and increases funding for schools, health departments and public safety. Ovetta Wiggins and Rachel Chason report in The Washington Post.

KIRWAN COMMISSION REPORTS: An ambitious proposal to make Maryland’s public schools some of the best in the country — at a cost of $3.8 billion a year in additional spending — was approved Friday by a state commission, Liz Bowie reports in the Sun. The Kirwan commission, which worked for two years on its recommendations, still must decide how much of the added cost it thinks should be paid by the state and how much by local governments. Those crucial decisions are to be made next fall, in time for legislation in next year’s General Assembly.

KIRWAN FUNDING REPORT: The liberal Maryland Center on Economic Policy is offering a plan to fund the ambitious multi-billion-dollar Kirwan Commission recommendations in a report published Friday. It that outlines ways to change the state’s income tax, corporate tax and sales tax systems in a way that would generate $1.9 billion annually by 2030, while limiting the damage to the pocketbooks of low- and middle-income Marylanders, reports Danielle Gaines for Maryland Matters.

OPINION: CHARTER SCHOOLS SNUBBED BY KIRWAN: In an open letter to Brit Kirwan, who has headed the commission that has come up with education funding formulas for the state, Mark Sutherland of the Chesapeake Lighthouse Foundation for charter schools in Maryland, is dismayed that the report failed to address the success of charter schools despite having heard Sutherland’s testimony. The letter appears in MarylandReporter.

TAX CREDITS FOR STUDENT DEBT: Gov. Hogan on Friday announced that the Maryland Higher Education Commission has awarded $9 million in tax credits to nearly 9,500 state residents with student loan debt, Morgan Eichensehr of the Baltimore Business Journal reports.

SUIT SEEKS TO OVERTURN CONVERSION THERAPY BAN: A psychotherapist filed a federal lawsuit Friday seeking to overturn Maryland’s ban on treating minors with conversion therapy, a controversial practice that attempts to change clients’ homosexual orientation, Jean Marbella of the Sun reports. Christopher Doyle is suing in U.S. District Court in Maryland, saying the ban violated his rights to free speech and the practice of religion, as well as the rights of clients “to prioritize their religious and moral values above unwanted same-sex sexual attractions, behaviors, or identities.”

CHILD SUPPORT REFORM BILL: Legislation will soon be introduced to remove a controversial provision in Maryland family law that sharply reduces noncustodial parents’ child-support obligations once they have hosted their children overnight 128 times in a year, Steve Lash reports in the Daily Record.

BLACK CAUCUS SEEKS SOLUTION ON LAWSUIT: Maryland’s black lawmakers are asking Gov. Larry Hogan to meet with them to discuss settling a long-running lawsuit that alleges the state fostered segregation at its public universities, reports Pamela Wood for the Sun. Members of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland delivered a letter Friday to Hogan’s office, seeking the meeting “to resolve what we view not as a legal matter, but rather, a matter of political will.”

QUIET FREDERICK DELEGATION KILLS BOOZE BILL: The Frederick County delegation in Annapolis killed a proposal to allow the sale of wine, beer and liquor in co-op-owned grocery stores with their silence on Friday. Del. Karen Lewis Young (D-District 3A) was the sole voice to affirm her support of the proposed bill, which the delegation unanimously sent to be drafted the week before. But no one would second her motion to approve the bill, and it died before a vote could be taken, Samantha Hogan of the Frederick News Post reports.

WA CO SEEKS TWEAK IN SCHOOL LAW: Local school systems must provide help for students in need of mental-health services. But the fine points of an education measure passed by the General Assembly last year adds to those responsibilities, and Washington County school officials believe it goes too far. They are asking local lawmakers for help in “tweaking” the law, Tamela Baker reports in the Hagerstown Herald Mail..

TRANSPARENCY IN MO CO HOUSING COMMISSION: Montgomery County’s state lawmakers are considering legislation that could give the county’s inspector general the authority to investigate the Housing Opportunities Commission to ensure greater transparency, Dan Schere reports in Bethesda Beat.

OPINION: CONTROL DRUG COSTS: In an op-ed for the Sun, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, opines that while the Democratic and Republican parties differ on many issues, there’s one thing that we should be able to agree on: People shouldn’t have to choose between paying bills and purchasing life-saving prescription medications.

OPINION: DON’T REGULATE INNOVATION OUT OF EXISTENCE: On the other hand, writes Marty Rosendale, CEO of the Maryland Tech Council, in a op-ed for the Sun, even the threat of onerous regulation can push innovative health businesses out of Maryland, taking their tax bases and well-paying jobs with them. Even worse, it could cause patients to lose access to life-saving treatments all-together, as companies are forced to remove their treatments from Maryland, leaving patients to scramble and cross state lines to get access to the care they need.

OPINION: DEMS KILLING REDISTRICTING REFORM: In a column for Red Maryland, Brian Griffiths opines that Democrats don’t want to pass a bill like HB44 or SB91. The bills would change redistricting methods by mandating single-member districts in the House of Delegates, among other things. “One reason why Governor Hogan’s redistricting reforms have gone nowhere is that Democrats have enough baked-in advantages that it becomes politically expedient for them to do nothing,” he writes.

FUN WITH LOBBYISTS: Doug Donovan of the Sun posts the events that lobbyists in Annapolis are holding for members of the General Assembly. The Department of Legislative Services compiles the weekly “protocol calendar,” But only people on the department’s email list receive the calendar, although Gov. Larry Hogan attempted to pass legislation two years ago to post it on the agency’s website. The legislature rejected the bill.

EX DEL. FRICK JOINS LAW FIRM: Former state Del. Bill Frick has joined a Washington legislative and public advocacy law firm. Frick, who unsuccessfully ran as one of six candidates in the Democratic primary for Montgomery County executive last year, represented District 16 in the Maryland legislature for 10 years, writes Charlie Wright for Bethesda Beat.

SPECULATION ON HOGAN CHALLENGE TO TRUMP: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is acting a lot like a guy who wants to run against Donald Trump in 2020 — and the president’s reelection team is taking notice, reports Alex Isenstadt of Politico. The second-term Maryland governor has been implicitly going after Trump in speeches, meeting with Never Trump Republicans, and planning a March trip to Iowa as vice chair of the National Governors Association.

NEW NATURAL RESOURCES CHIEF: Gov. Larry Hogan has appointed his deputy chief of staff as Maryland’s new secretary of natural resources, the Sun reports. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio was named Friday to the Cabinet position and is slated to begin her appointment in early February.

HOGAN RETURNS $31,000 IN DONATIONS: Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes that the campaign of Gov. Larry Hogan Jr. (R) returned $31,000 in illegal contributions from a Montgomery County developer in November, newly released campaign finance records show.

HARRIS ‘UNAWARE’ OF MAN’s LINKS: Rep. Andy Harris said he was unaware of Chuck Johnson’s “previous associations” before meeting recently with the right-wing figure, who was banned from Twitter after the site said he threatened Baltimore civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson, Jeff Barker of the Sun reports. Here’s the Twitter feed from HuffPost’s Matt Fuller that shows Harris and Johnson together plus some other pictures.

ON THE GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN: Lillian Reed and Jonathan M. Pitts of the Sun interview Maryland congressmen about their view of President Trump’s latest offer to end the government shutdown. Views divide along party lines.

FEDS LINK CONTRACT END TO PITTMAN MOVE: Federal immigration officials say Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman undermined their public safety mission by ending participation in the 287(g) program, which trained corrections officers to screened inmates for immigration violations. A spokesman for the agency said the decision to end a contract with the county for housing immigration detainees was directly tied to Pittman’s decision to stop participating in the screening program, reports Rachael Pacella for the Annapolis Capital.