State Roundup, February 6, 2019

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FRANCHOT BLASTS BILLS STRIPPING HIS POWERS: Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot blasted bills Tuesday that would strip away his office’s enforcement powers and limit the types of campaign donations he can accept. Franchot said the bills were vindictive measures that are not in the best interest of Marylanders, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun.

LIVE-STREAMING BILLS INTRODUCED: Greater transparency, public participation and ease of access are major reasons for bipartisan, video live-streaming bills reintroduced in the Maryland House and Senate this week, legislators said. Maryland General Assembly, State Board of Elections and Maryland Transportation Authority meetings would all be live-streamed if legislation passes this session, David Jahng of Capital News Service reports in MarylandReporter.

GOV WOULD LOSE SOME PAROLE DECISIONS: Maryland governors would be stripped of the final say in parole decisions for inmates sentenced to life who have served 30 years in prison, under legislation being considered by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, Steve Lash reports for the Daily Record. Senate Bill 121 is designed to ensure due process for inmates by obviating the political risk a governor would run by releasing a convicted killer.

ADDITION TO JUSTICE REINVESTMENT ACT: After a comprehensive law overhauled the state’s criminal justice system, Maryland has seen a decline in the state’s prison and jail populations and more streamlined treatment for addicts who are charged with crimes. But advocates want to add to the law to keep inmates from returning behind bars, CNS’s Natalie Jones reports in MarylandReporter.

COUNTIES COULD VETO HIGHWAY PLANS: Maryland lawmakers will hear testimony this week on a measure that would give counties potential veto power over the Hogan administration’s $9 billion plan to widen the Capital Beltway, Interstate 270 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, Bruce DePuyt reports for Maryland Matters. The bill would extend power that nine Eastern Shore counties have had since the 1970s to all Maryland subdivisions.

ANNAPOLIS SEEKS MORE FUNDS: The city of Annapolis needs a raise, according to House Speaker Michael E. Busch and other members of the Anne Arundel County General Assembly delegation. Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters reports that, according to Mayor Gavin Buckley, each year, the city provides traffic control and security for rallies, responds to emergency calls at buildings within the capital complex and has specialized teams such as a bomb squad and hazmat unit that might not otherwise exist in a city of 40,000 people. And while the city is privileged to be the seat of state power, the costs can add up.

BLACKED OUT ETHICS FILINGS? A proposal to bring Baltimore in line with state ethics laws would shield the home addresses of city employees in public financial disclosures — a move that would make it difficult for the public to know whether residency requirements for officials are being followed, Ian Duncan reports in the Sun.

JHU POLICE BILL INCLUDES LURES FOR CITY DELEGATION: Legislation that would authorize Johns Hopkins University to create an armed police force contains several provisions aimed at gaining support from Baltimore lawmakers. The bill contains provisions that include requiring the state to provide $3.5 million for the city’s Children and Youth Fund and $1 million toward Mayor Catherine Pugh’s YouthWorks summer jobs program. It also calls for the Hopkins police force to establish at least one Police Athletic League center in Baltimore to offer activities for youth, Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood of the Sun report.

MTA RETURNS TO FEDS FOR HOWARD TUNNEL PROJECT: The Maryland Department of Transportation will again seek federal funding for the long-awaited Howard Street Tunnel project, the Baltimore Business Journal’s Holden Wilen reports. An application being submitted next month to the U.S. Department of Transportation grant marks the state’s latest step in the effort to reconstruct the Howard Street Tunnel to allow for double-stacking of shipping containers to and from the Port of Baltimore. Double-stacking would allow the Port of Baltimore to continue a steady stream of growth and create more jobs, port officials say.

CASINO TAKES UP: Maryland casinos earned nearly $137 million in January, with all but one posting year-over-year gains, Amanda Yeager of the Baltimore Business Journal is reporting. Total revenue from the state’s six casinos grew by 7% compared with January 2018 revenue, according to data released by Maryland Lottery and Gaming on Tuesday. Hollywood Casino Perryville was the only Maryland casino to see a year-over-year decrease last month, with a 4% decline.

DELMARVA GOV CONFAB ON HOLD: Organizers have postponed a planned “conversation” at Salisbury University with the governors of Maryland, Virginia and Delaware, citing the controversy over whether Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam should resign, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports.

BA CO SCHOOLS HIRE SUPER SEARCH FIRM: After months of little public discussion, the Baltimore County school board voted Tuesday night to hire a firm to do a national search for a new superintendent. The board used a piggyback contract to pick Ray and Associates, a firm known for handling searches for large school systems across the country, including a number in Maryland, Liz Bowie of the Sun writes.