State Roundup, February 11, 2019

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WAGE HIKE DEBATED: Maryland lawmakers heard hours of conflicting testimony Friday on whether to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. Pamela Wood of the Sun reports that the lengthy afternoon hearing was the first step in what’s expected to be one of the most significant policy debates during this General Assembly session.

HOGAN COMPARED TO RACIST GOVERNORS: Some Republicans are calling out a Democratic state senator, saying he compared Gov. Larry Hogan’s order to start school after Labor Day to former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who blocked black students from attending public schools in the 1960s. As the Maryland Senate debated Friday a bill to return control of school calendars to local school boards, state Sen. Paul Pinsky argued that one person — Maryland’s governor — should not be allowed make a decision on behalf of students statewide, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

REDISTRICTING BILL: As the Democratic and Republican parties battle over how to draw congressional districts, one Maryland delegate thinks he has a simple solution to the problem. Del. Michael Malone is sponsoring a bill that would require congressional districts to be compact and respect geographic boundaries and local city and county boundaries. It’s the same legal standard required for the state’s districts for delegates and state senators, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

$21M CUT TO JUDICIARY SUGGESTED: The General Assembly’s budget analysts have recommended that lawmakers slash $21 million from the Maryland Judiciary’s $549 million budget request next fiscal year over the objections of Maryland’s top jurist. Steve Lash of the Daily Record writes that the Department of Legislative Services’ suggested cuts include an $8.7 million reduction for the Judiciary’s travel, publications, building maintenance and postage and a $1.3 million cut for self-help centers for unrepresented litigants.

JUDGES RETIREMENT AGE: Saying “73 is the new 50,” Del. Jon Cardin is pushing a bill to bump up the mandatory retirement age for judges in Maryland from 70 to 73. If passed,  HB182 would require a constitutional amendment and have to be approved by voters in the 2020 general election. Diane Rey of MarylandReporter reports that while several spoke in favor of the bill during a hearing, concerns were raised that judges over age 70 might have reduced mental acuity and would prevent younger, more diverse candidates from joining the bench.

B’MORE DELEGATION SKEPTICAL ON JHU ARMED POLICE: The lobbying effort to authorize an armed police force at the Johns Hopkins University has won over friends in high places. But to get its police force, the university needs to aim a little lower: at the 22 Maryland delegates and senators who make up Baltimore’s General Assembly delegation. And they are far from sold, writes Luke Broadwater in the Sun.

EXPANDING EMISSIONS EXEMPTION: Vehicle owners who are 70 or older and drive fewer than 5,000 miles a year are permitted under Maryland law to skip emissions tests required for most vehicles. But to Del. William Wivell, R-Washington, 5,000 miles is 5,000 miles, regardless of the owner’s age. So he’s trying again to persuade the General Assembly to extend the waiver for any vehicle with such low annual mileage, Tamela Baker of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports.

HELP FOR DAIRY FARMERS: A silver lining on the country’s struggling milk market has finally appeared, writes Samantha Hogan in the Frederick News-Post. Despite low milk prices, Maryland dairy farmers had reason to be hopeful this week with a new federal milk insurance program preparing to roll out and Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announcing on Thursday a plan to help cover some of their additional costs. For the handful of dairy farms left in the state, it could be the lifeline that keeps them afloat until milk prices rise again.

RANKED CHOICE FOR MO CO: Another ranked-choice voting bill will be under consideration in the Maryland General Assembly, this one with the unanimous support of the Montgomery County House delegation, Danielle Gaines reports in Maryland Matters.

PIMLICO’s FUTURE: Baltimore’s lawmakers are hoping to draw the reluctant owners of Pimlico Race Course into discussions about redeveloping the aging horse racing track. Del. Sandy Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat whose district includes the track, is among the sponsors of legislation that would require city and state officials and track owners to meet and come up with a plan to move forward on an ambitious redevelopment proposal drawn up by the Maryland Stadium Authority, Pamela Wood and Luke Broadwater report in the Sun.

DREDGING BAN PROPOSED: State legislation could ban the Maryland Department of Natural Resources from dredging the Chesapeake Bay’s Man O’ War Shoal for shells destined to become homes for new baby oysters elsewhere, Charlie Youngman of Capital News Service reports.

KIRWAN WRITES IN THE POST: Brit Kirwan makes a pitch for the work of the education commission he chairs in the Washington Post.  “Many on the commission assumed that since Maryland had been ranked among the best school systems in the nation by a major publication for several years running, its students must be achieving at high levels compared with other students in the United States and even in the world. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Student achievement is mediocre overall in Maryland.”  Kirwan describes how they plan to fix that.

WHAT’s UP IN ANNAPOLIS: Joel McCord of WYPR-FM writes up a partial list of committee hearings and other items of interest in Annapolis for the week of Feb. 11-15.

CHANGE MARYLAND INC. FORMED: Supporters of Gov. Larry Hogan have formed a new non-profit corporation aimed at influencing state policy. The entity, called Change Maryland Inc., was created Feb. 1 by Hogan campaign chairman Thomas E. Kelso, who is also head of the Maryland Stadium Authority, to engage in “public policy development, issue advocacy [and] grassroots organizing … in the state of Maryland,” according to its articles of incorporation, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

DEM PREZ WATCH: Here’s the Chicago Tribune’s updated list of Democrats running against President Donald Trump. Yes, there is a Marylander on it.

BLACKFACE IN UM YEARBOOKS: The racist images that roiled Virginia’s political landscape this week have forced some self-reflection within the walls of Maryland’s colleges and universities, with the president of the state’s flagship school acknowledging that such images are sprinkled throughout the pages of the Terrapin yearbooks from the 1960s and ’70s. These images of blackface, nooses and KKK robes shouldn’t come as a surprise, historians and sociologists say, Liz Bowie and Talia Richman report for the Sun.

POLYSTYRENE BAN IN ARUNDEL? Anne Arundel County was one vote away in 2018 from banning polystyrene containers, commonly used as takeout containers and lunch trays in public schools. Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital writes that Democrats pressed the issue as an environmental decision to protect local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. With a Democratic controlled council and county executive office, the container ban has little standing in the way of its passage in 2019.

PATAPSCO PARK AWAITS AID TO REOPEN: Local legislators, like state Del. Eric Ebersole and state Sen. Clarence Lam, have described flood damage to Patapsco Valley State Park as “extensive” and that rebuilding the park would require “a lot of” resources and financial support, potentially from the state, Cody Boteler of the Catonsville Times reports. Lam said he’s been working with the Department of Natural Resources on getting trails reopened and was “exploring how the state can assist with some funding.”

PENCE AT PORT CALLS FOR WALL: Vice President Mike Pence brought his call for a more secure southern border to the Port of Baltimore, telling a crowd Friday he won’t rest until border agents have the necessary equipment, personnel — and barriers, Tim Prudente reports in the Sun. “We’re going to build that wall one way or another, I promise you,” Pence told the crowd.