State Roundup, February 12, 2019

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SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION FUNDS: Lawmakers have put forward more than a dozen bills this year seeking millions of dollars – billions, in fact – for school construction funding. But hammering out a long-term solution to long-needed school improvements could take more work than just one legislative session can provide, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters reports.

SCHOOL FUNDING ACCOUNTABILITY: Julie Gaskins, a Baltimore City mother, spoke in support Senate Bill 92, which establishes a new position in Annapolis — an inspector general with subpoena power to focus on corruption and fraud in public schools, Chris Papst of WBFF-TV reports. Gov. Hogan introduced this same bill for a second year in a row, because he says education funding is at a record high and so is the need for more accountability.

SCHOOL START DEBATE: The AP is reporting that a vote is near on a measure to enable local school boards in Maryland to decide when public schools start. The Maryland Senate could vote as soon as today on a bill. The measure in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly has prompted a battle with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

OVERFISHED ROCKFISH: In an article in MarylandReporter, the Bay Journal’s Karl Blankenship writes that striped bass or rockfish, one of the most prized species in the Chesapeake Bay and along the Atlantic Coast, are being overfished, according to a new assessment of the stock’s health — a finding that will likely trigger catch reductions for a species long touted as a fisheries management success. The bleak preliminary findings of the assessment were presented to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a panel of fisheries managers last week.

NO SIN TAX HIKE SOUGHT: Increases in taxes on alcohol and tobacco in the last decade are driving down teen smoking and drinking and other adverse health effects, a new report finds. Supporters of those taxes told a Senate subcommittee that while more could be done and while higher taxes would likely increase those benefits, they are not asking for additional tax increases, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record.

THREE CHALLENGE KOPP: Nancy Kopp will have competition to hold onto her position as Maryland’s treasurer. Three people and Kopp have applied to be the state treasurer, a job that entails overseeing the state government’s finances and investments, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

NEW BAY BRIDGES: Three of the 14 sites being considered for the next Chesapeake Bay bridge crossing are in Baltimore County, according to a rendition posted by Del. Robin Grammer to Facebook. In his post, Grammer said the sketch was provided by the Maryland Transportation Authority and the Federal Highway Administration, Christina Tkacik of the Sun reports.

LYNCHING HISTORY STUDY: Backers of legislation that would create a commission to explore and address Maryland’s lynching history will make their case today before the Maryland House Judiciary Committee, the latest step in a grass-roots movement that appears to be gaining momentum across the state, Jonathan Pitts of the Sun reports.

ELRICH BACKS $15 MINIMUM: Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich was one of six local elected officials to gather in Annapolis last Thursday to advocate for the Fight for Fifteen bill, which would raise Maryland’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, Dan Schere reports for Bethesda Beat. Elrich said he learned during his 17 years as a teacher that raising the minimum wage is essential for lifting up poor families economically.

OPINIONS: FOR A TRANSPARENT JUDICIARY: The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital opines that the Maryland judiciary clearly would prefer that the public only have a limited understanding of what it does. Just look at the evidence. Now, the state’s top judicial officials oppose legislation before the General Assembly that would increase public scrutiny of the courts. Measures under consideration would allow cameras in courtrooms, track judges’ sentencing of violent criminals and include the names of judges in online public court records.

  • Attorney David Plymyr, in a guest column for Maryland Matters, opines that Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera of the Maryland Court of Appeals delivered the quadrennial State of the Judiciary address earlier this month, describing the state of Maryland’s judiciary as “fundamentally sound.” Given the inexcusable dearth of information that is made available to measure the performance of Maryland judges, I guess we’ll just have to take her word for it. Although perhaps not for much longer.

OPINION: CHILL TO FREE SPEECH: In an editorial for Red Maryland, Brian Griffiths opines that Del. Pat Young of Baltimore County has proposed legislation that will chill free speech in Maryland and attempt to regulate how news and television stations present analysis and opinion.

FROSH: REDISTRICTING NOT ‘EXCESSIVE:’ A three-judge panel disregarded legitimate political considerations when it struck down a congressional district in western Maryland because it was drawn with such a partisan bias by the state’s Democratic leadership as to violate the Republicans’ constitutional right to political association, Maryland’s attorney general stated in papers filed Friday with the Supreme Court. Steve Lash reports the story for the Daily Record.

HOGAN PREZ WATCH: Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters writes Gov. Larry Hogan’s adroitness was on full display during an interview on CNN on Monday night, as he repeatedly disavowed any interest in challenging President Trump in 2020, even though that was clearly the reason the network invited him on in the first place.

OPINION: HOGAN ON BORDER SECURITY: In an op-ed for CNN, Gov. Larry Hogan dips his toe into national politics and offers up what he calls a dose of reality to our national leaders, President Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi included, on border security, building the wall and another possible government shutdown.