State Roundup, February 13, 2019

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SENATE OKs SCHOOL START BILL: The Maryland Senate approved a bill Tuesday that seeks to overturn Gov. Larry Hogan’s order that public schools start classes after Labor Day, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. The bill, which passed 31-13, calls for returning control over school calendars to local school boards. The vote fell along party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

HOGAN PUSHES FOR LAND SWAP, SANS REDSKINS: The Hogan administration said Tuesday night that the Maryland governor is pressing forward with plans for a hotly debated parkland swap — but without any inclusion of a new stadium for the NFL’s Washington Redskins, writes Luke Broadwater in the Sun.

POLICE TRANSPARENCY BILL: Advocates for police accountability and transparency in Baltimore and across the state urged legislators in Annapolis on Tuesday to pass a bill giving police administrators the discretion to release disciplinary and internal affairs records when they deem it appropriate, Kevin Rector of the Sun is reporting.

BILL WOULD END HANDGUN REVIEW BOARD: Maryland lawmakers will consider abolishing a handgun permit review board, citing concerns that the board overturns too many decisions by the Maryland State Police. Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that Democratic members of the Senate Executive Nominations Committee said they wish to dissolve the Handgun Permit Review Board, but their legislation has been met with skepticism by a key Senate committee chair.

TECH INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN: Improving Maryland’s innovation infrastructure will enable the state to make the technology investments it needs to keep up with states like California and Massachusetts in the innovation economy, members of Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration told the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday. Tim Curtis writes the story for the Daily Record.

STATEWIDE FOAM CONTAINER BAN: Maryland could be the first state to ban foam food containers statewide, but it would mean taking legislation where it’s never gone before, Samantha Hogan of the Frederick News-Post reports.

THUMBS UP FOR KOPP: A bipartisan panel of Maryland lawmakers recommended Tuesday that Nancy Kopp retain her job as the state’s treasurer, writes Pamela Wood in the Post. Kopp beat out two other applicants who were interviewed by a group of 10 delegates and senators, securing eight votes. The recommendation will be forwarded to the full General Assembly for a vote next week.

WORKPLACE STUDY AT STATE HOUSE: A year after state lawmakers began to address concerns about sexual harassment among the legislature’s workforce, leaders of the General Assembly on Tuesday said they have hired a firm to conduct a “workplace climate survey,” Pamela Wood reports in the Sun.

EXPANDING HATE CRIME DEFINITION: Amid increasing reports of anti-Semitic and racist incidents in Maryland, state lawmakers on Tuesday heard from witnesses who support proposed legislation to expand the definition of hate crime laws to apply to attempts and threats to commit such acts, Catherine Rentz reports in the Sun.

GLASSMAN BACKS MD DRUG PANEL: In light of the impact drug costs are having on Harford County’s budget, County Executive Barry Glassman is supporting creation of a prescription drug advisory board in Maryland to “protect state residents, state and local governments, commercial health plans, health care providers, pharmacies … and other stakeholders … from the high costs of prescription drug products.” He has written letters to every Republican member of the General Assembly urging them to support the measure as well. Bruce DePuyt reports in Maryland Matters.

BAN ON UNNECESSARY MEDICAL PROCEDURES: Del. Heather Bagnall has proposed legislation to forbid health care practitioners, students and trainees from performing pelvic, rectal or prostate exams on unconscious or anesthetized patients without written consent or unless medically necessary, Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital writes.

DAIRY FARM AID: Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday proposed $1.5 million in funds to help struggling dairy farmers participate in a federal program that aims to protect dairies from plummeting milk prices paired with the rising cost of feeding cows, Alex Mann of the Carroll County Times reports. Hogan’s proposed $1.5 million will have to be approved by the Maryland General Assembly as part of the capital budget.

DOCUMENTING LYNCHINGS: Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters writes that HB 307, sponsored by Del. Joseline A. Pena-Melnyk, D-Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, would establish a commission to undertake a years-long mission to document the known – and so far unknown – incidents of lynchings in the state of Maryland. At least 41 black men are believed to have been killed by lynch mobs in the state, Pena-Melnyk said Tuesday.

SPEAKER HONORS SLAIN JOURNALISTS: House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch presented the annual Speaker’s Society Awards during Tuesday’s floor session. Diane Rey of MarylandReporter reports that the Speaker’s Medallion and citations were awarded posthumously to victims of the shooting at the Capital-Gazette newspaper. The Casper R. Taylor Jr. Founder’s Award honoring a current member of the House of Delegates “for putting the body in front of themselves” was given to Del. Adrienne Jones, who has served as speaker pro tem since 2003.

HIGH CRASH RATE ON JFX: The rate of crashes on the Jones Falls Expressway/I-83 in Baltimore is more than double that of comparable Maryland highways — and short-term solutions alone could cost the city up to $4 million, according to a recent study. Colin Campbell of the Sun reports that an average of nearly 38 crashes per mile occurred on the elevated, winding highway each year between 2010 and 2014, as opposed to about 16 per mile each year on other Maryland highways, according to a $65,000 study commissioned by the city.

CHINA INTERESTED IN BUILDING METRO CARS: Faiz Siddiqui of the Post reports that China’s state-owned rail-car manufacturer has shown increased interest in building Metro’s next-generation rail cars, a development that could put the transit agency at odds with Congress over concerns about the cybersecurity risks and economic conflicts of such a deal.

PUGH, AIDES OVERSPENT: Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, along with two of her aides, stayed in $400-per-night hotel rooms in Washington while attending a conference last month, spending more than the daily amount city rules typically allow, Ian Duncan of the Sun is reporting.

CARROLL MULLS MORE ZONES FOR RX POT: As the Carroll County Board of Commissioners and Department of Planning near the end of comprehensive rezoning for the industrial, commercial and employment campus zones in the county, the discussion turned to medical cannabis Tuesday. In 2016, the commissioners decided to only allow medical cannabis growing, processing and dispensing facilities in the industrial zones, Jennifer Turiano reports in the Carroll County Times.

JEALOUS STARTS B-MORE FIRM: Ben Jealous, the former NAACP president who was the Democratic nominee for governor last year, said Tuesday that he is starting a Baltimore-based investment firm named 20X. Jealous, who left California-based Kapor Capital in December, said he will serve as chairman of the new firm, which will focus on “social impact investing and advising” in the areas of technology and real estate, Luke Broadwater writes in the Sun.