State Roundup, January 23, 2019

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HOUSE TO BEGIN LIVE-STREAMING IN 2020: In an unusual bipartisan statement, House Speaker Michael Busch, together with House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga and Del. David Moon, announced late Tuesday that the House of Delegates will begin live-streaming floor sessions during the 2020 legislative session, reports Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter, who has been advocating for the change for a number of years.

RETIRED STATE WORKERS PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT: Maryland’s Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike are committed to passing legislation this year that will restore a prescription drug benefit program for retired state workers, but the hard work of crafting legislation is only just beginning, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters reports. Del. Eric Bromwell (D-Baltimore County), vice chairman of the Economic Matters Committee, has introduced legislation in the House of Delegates that would keep the state’s existing prescription drug benefits in place indefinitely.

McMILLEN WARNS OF COLLEGE BETTING SCANDAL: Former Maryland congressman and basketball star Tom McMillen is urging Gov. Larry Hogan and legislative leaders “to take all necessary steps” to avoid a college athletics betting scandal if the state legalizes gambling on football, basketball and other sports, Jeff Barker reports in the Sun.

PROPOSED DELAY ON BELTWAY EXPANSION: Gov. Larry Hogan’s plans for expanding the Capital Beltway and I-270 could be pushed back for a year by a bill that would first require a completed environmental assessment. Maryland House Bill 91 would require all pre-solicitation reports for Public-Private Partnerships — or P3s — to be held until an Environmental Impact Statement is finished. This would force Department of Transportation and the Maryland Transportation Authority to pull their current pre-solicitation report, and not present a new one until 2020. David Jahng of Capital News Service reports in MarylandReporter.com.

RENEWABLES STUDY MISSING: As lawmakers prepare to introduce and debate legislation to double Maryland’s reliance on clean energy, they are wondering what happened to a report from Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration on the effectiveness of the state’s current Renewable Portfolio Standard, Josh Kurtz reports in Maryland Matters. The preliminary study was due on Dec. 1 – and some advocates of the proposed Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2019 are quietly suggesting the Hogan administration may be “slow-walking” the report.

JUDICIARY OPPOSES PARTIAL EXPUNGEMENT: The Maryland Judiciary continues to oppose legislation that would allow for partial expungement of criminal records until courts can be sure their technology and staff will be up to the task, Heather Cobun of the Daily Record reports. House Bill 13, introduced by Del. Erek Barron, D-Prince George’s, would allow crimes an individual was not convicted of to be expunged even when one or more charges arising from the same incident resulted in a conviction.

OPINION: FACTS VS. DREAMS FOR MD SCHOOLS: Proposing a costly, far-reaching overhaul of Maryland’s public education system may make sense in theory, but facts on the ground can smash those dreams to smithereens, opines Barry Rascovar in his Political Maryland blog. The shoot-for-the-moon Kirwan Commission now has put in place a wildly ambitious, best-practices plan for making Maryland schools not just markedly better but world-class.

BLOOMBERG TOUTS ARMING JHU POLICE: Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire ex-mayor of New York and benefactor of the Johns Hopkins University, said Tuesday it’s “ridiculous” the institution doesn’t have an armed police force, Pamela Wood and Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. “When you have a city that has the murder rate that Baltimore has, I think it’s ridiculous to think that they shouldn’t be armed,” Bloomberg said of the Hopkins security force.

BPW TO VOTE ON STATUES CONTRACT: Maryland’s Board of Public Works today is set to vote on a contract to erect bronze statues of two abolitionist heroes to the State House, reports Luke Broadwater in the Sun. The board is set to consider a contract to design and erect statues of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass in the Old House of Delegates Chamber.

BILL COULD BAR PUBLIC DNA DATABASE USE: A bill under consideration by lawmakers could bar police from using public DNA databases to assist in identifying criminal suspects, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. Maryland is the only state that already prohibits law enforcement from using familial DNA searches of samples within criminal databases.

SERAFINI RETURNS TO SENATE: The third week was the charm for Sen. Andrew Serafini, R-Washington, whose presence at this year’s Maryland General Assembly had been delayed as he recovered from knee surgery, reports Tamela Baker for the Hagerstown Herald Mail. Serafini, who was appointed to the District 2 Senate seat in 2015, won election to the seat in November. The first order of business when he got to the Maryland State House Monday was to take his oath of office.

OPINION: THE GERRYMANDERED 6th: In an opinion piece for Bethesda Magazine, Adam Pagnucco takes a look at gerrymandering in Maryland, and in the 6th and 8th congressional districts specifically, the demographic changes in the counties affected and what that has meant to the elections over the years.

OFFICIALS TO CALL FOR END TO SHUTDOWN: Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr., Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman and Harford County Executive Barry Glassman will hold a news conference today to call for an end to the federal government shutdown, Scott Wykoff reports for WBAL-AM.

PROBLEMS FOUND IN MO CO ECONOMY: A pro-business group is again sounding alarm bells about Montgomery County’s economy, warning that sluggish growth and high taxes are making Maryland’s largest and wealthiest subdivision a less attractive place for private-sector investment, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters writes.

IMMIGRATION RESOLUTIONS REJECTED: After hearing hours of civil testimony the Anne Arundel County Council rejected two resolutions asking County Executive Steuart Pittman to revive a federal immigration screening program and not to use proceeds from another for legal fees for detainees, reports Pat Furgurson for the Annapolis Capital. The two resolutions were voted down on a 4 to 3 vote, with Republicans supporting the measures and the Democratic majority voting against.

KAMALA HARRIS TO OPEN B’MORE OFFICE: Doug Donovan of the Sun reports that when U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris announced Monday that her Democratic campaign for president would locate its national headquarters in Baltimore, community and religious leaders, elected officials and political observers began speculating on which neighborhood the California Democrat might choose. Downtown or inner city? Gentrified Fells Point or struggling Penn North?