State Roundup, January 29, 2019

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HOGAN TO ANNOUNCE ‘MAJOR TAX CUT:’ Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday night promised to announce plans for a “major tax cut” when he delivers his annual “State of the State” speech Wednesday. Speaking at a panel discussion about bipartisanship in today’s heated political environment, Hogan decried dysfunction in Washington while pledging to focus on fiscal issues in Maryland, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

PANEL TO PROBE POVERTY: House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch is starting a work group to explore causes of poverty in the state and potential solutions, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. Del. Stephen Lafferty, a Baltimore County Democrat, will lead the House of Delegates Study Group to Study Economic Stability in Maryland.

PREPPING FOR NEXT SHUTDOWN: Concerned about the effects of a recently ended partial federal government shutdown, Maryland lawmakers are considering ways to cope should politicians in Washington force another closure, Pamela Wood reports in the Sun. Del. Jessica Feldmark, for example, is introducing legislation to ensure that federal employees who are required to work without pay can apply for unemployment benefits.

SCHOOL START DATE PROPOSAL: A proposal from two powerful committee chairmen that would undo one of the most high-profile achievements of Gov. Larry Hogan’s first term – his order that public school systems in Maryland start class after Labor Day – is meeting with mixed reaction around the state. Senate Bill 128 would give control of the school calendar to Maryland’s 24 local boards of education. It is up for a hearing this week, Bruce DePuyt reports for Maryland Matters.

SENATOR URGES BIZ TO AID BALTIMORE: A state senator from Baltimore City is calling on business leaders to come to the aid of a jurisdiction plagued by violence and government dysfunction, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. “If you want to reform a great American city, dig in in Baltimore,” said Sen. Bill Ferguson during comments Monday to members of the Greater Baltimore Committee.

LOBBYISTS VENT OVER ASSEMBLY WEBSITE: The General Assembly tech folks thought they had spiffed up the hearing schedule on the legislative website for this session, but instead they got an earful of grievances and questions from lobbyists at a training session Monday. They liked the previous bland text-driven listing, and its weekly updates, Diane Rey of MarylandReporter reports.

JUDGE BLOCKS PARTS OF STATE MEDIA ACT: Walter Olson of the Cato Institute writes that last year, amid the outcry over Russian online operations during the 2016 election, the Maryland legislature reacted by passing a law imposing disclosure and compliance burdens on social media providers and newspapers that accept online advertising. Now, in a victory for freedom of the press, a federal judge has blocked enforcement of key provisions of the state’s Online Electioneering Transparency and Accountability Act. The decision provides a reminder that lawmakers should not allow panics over “bad” kinds of speech to undermine basic freedoms protected by the First Amendment. You can read the opinion here.

IS LOH LEAVING? In the wake of University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair’s death from heatstroke following a preseason workout in May, a slate of top university officials were let go, resigned or announced their retirement — including university President Wallace Loh, who said in October that he would retire in June. But three months later, and less than six months from Loh’s scheduled departure, the system has yet to form the committee and has shared little information about where the process stands, reports Kevin Rector in the Sun. And Loh hasn’t directly answered the question of whether he intends to leave.

THE FRANCHOT SHOW: Josh Kurtz writes, in an analysis for Maryland Matters, about Comptroller Peter Franchot’s swearing in to his fourth term following a record-smashing victory in November. The Monday event was a showy display of politics, messaging and stagecraft. Nothing is subtle in Franchot World. The theme of the event was “the lighted path forward.” Hogan was there to administer the oath of office and testify to Franchot’s commitment to bipartisanship. Half a dozen of his cabinet members came along.

OPINION: ‘BULL’ ON HOGAN: The editorial board of the Sun calls “bull” on Gov. Larry Hogan’s contention that he has no idea why the ACLU and NAACP Legal Defense Fund are demanding that he provide more funding for Baltimore City schools. “We are quite certain,” the board writes, “he is aware of a three-year-old calculation by the Department of Legislative Services that, had Maryland kept up with the statutorily required inflation increases mandated under a 2002 law, Baltimore City Schools would be getting about $300 million more per year than they are now.”

OPINION: CHANGE CITY POLICE GOVERNANCE: In a commentary for the Afro, Del. Cory McCray is urging the state Senate to pass bills that he has put forward to improve the Baltimore City Police Department, which the state has oversight on. He writes that among problems he is trying to fix is that there has been no state audit for the department and funding comes through the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention as a single grant.

HOGAN PREZ WATCH: Ovetta Wiggins and Arelis R. Hernández of the Post report that Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is touting his dealings with Democratic lawmakers as a model of bipartisanship, drawing a national spotlight and accolades from Republican dissenters who are seeking a less-polarizing alternative to President Trump. But Hogan’s first-term record includes cross-party nastiness as well as collaboration. At times, he forged compromise with lawmakers on major issues. In other moments, he was disengaged.

  • Holden Wilen of the Baltimore Business Journal writes about Monday’s event with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu in which Hogan announced that he would put forth a plan for a tax cut. But moderator Judy Woodruff of PBS NewsHour turned to a possible presidential run. Hogan joked that he wasn’t hanging out with the governor of New Hampshire just to “suck up” to him. New Hampshire hosts the first primary election.

MO CO PUBLIC FINANCE LAW WORKED: A leading force behind Montgomery County’s public campaign financing law that took effect in the 2018 election cycle says the system yielded the desired goal of getting big money out of politics at the county level, Dan Schere of Bethesda Beat reports. “If the question is, do I think it was successful, in a word ‘yes,’” said former Montgomery County Council member Phil Andrews, who advocated for reforms.

LEOPOLD SEEKS TO VACATE CONVICTION: Former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold has asked the courts to vacate his 2013 conviction of misconduct in office, arguing that his defense attorneys at the time did not effectively represent him, Selene San Felice reports in the Annapolis Capital.