State Roundup, February 15, 2019

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FED WORKERS FUND: The House of Delegates approved a bill Thursday that calls for establishing a fund to pay federal employees in Maryland who are forced to work without compensation during a U.S. government shutdown, Pamela Wood of the Sun reporrts.

TOUTING TOLL LANES: As part of its controversial plan to widen lanes on the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270, Maryland says it intends to focus on the implementation of toll lanes — as many as four on each highway — and abandon earlier considerations of more general-purpose lanes, bus rapid transit and bus-only lanes, the Post’s Luz Lazo reports.

KIRWAN REPORT: Rachel Baye of WYPR-FM reports that the Commission for Innovation and Excellence in Education, also known as the Kirwan Commission, recommends full-day preschool for all low-income 3 and 4-year-olds, higher academic standards, more training for teachers and raising teacher pay. And it proposes creating an “independent oversight board” to ensure that the new policies, once they are approved, are properly implemented.

  • No member of the 25-member commission voted against the final report, however two members abstained and a greater number said they would vote in favor of the report, but only if also allowed to provide written context and justification for their votes, reports Danielle Gaines for Maryland Matters. While commissioners who submitted additional comments generally supported the work of the panel, they took issue with a wide range of recommendations.

END TO ELECTED CIRCUIT JUDGES CALLED FOR: Steve Lash of the Daily Record writes that the state’s top jurist told a Senate committee on Thursday that Maryland should stop permitting the election of circuit court judges because the practice politicizes the judicial process, which must be free of even the appearance of being tainted by special interests or well-heeled donors.

OPINION: JHU COPS WOULD BE ACCOUNTABLE: The editorial board for the Sun opines that the question is whether the John Hopkins University policy proposal would result in an effective but enlightened version of policing or whether it would multiply the worst elements of law enforcement we have seen from the Baltimore police. There are no guarantees, of course, but in key respects, the legislation Hopkins is seeking would make its force substantially more accountable than the Baltimore Police Department.

HOGAN TALKS WITH AMAZON: Pamela Wood of the Sun reports that Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday that he has talked with Amazon officials following the company’s decision to back out of building part of its East Coast headquarters in New York City. Asked whether he would make another run at landing Amazon in Maryland, Hogan said: “We actually have had preliminary discussions with them already and we’re looking forward to meeting with them to discuss it further.”

ELECTION REFORMERS SPLIT: They sat side-by-side during a series of short Senate hearings Thursday, testifying in favor of election reform bills dealing with absentee ballots, campaign finance reporting periods, and early voting. But when it came to the question of whether there ought to be a national constitutional convention to address the scourge of money in politics, the same representatives of reform and good government groups couldn’t be farther apart. And what started as a difference of opinion has, over the years, turned very acrimonious, Josh Kurtz writes for Maryland Matters.

DEMS SUPPORT ANTI-GERRYMANDER BILL: Republican Del. Michael Malone is hoping momentum is building for his anti-gerrymandering bill, now that 22 Democrats have joined all 42 Republicans in supporting his effort to redraw the state’s congressional boundaries, Diane Rey reports in MarylandReporter.com.

SAFE INJECTION SITES: In an article about Maryland considering the use of safe injection sites for opioid addicts, Heather Mongilio and Samantha Hogan of the Frederick News-Post write about Samantha Kerr, who testified before the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday. Kerr has lived with anxiety her entire life and for years alcohol, cocaine and pills were the best way to make the feelings go away.

GARRETT PLANS FOR EARLY SCHOOL START: The Garrett County Board of Education heard the proposed 2019-20 school calendar Tuesday, which would have school starting Aug. 26 and ending May 28. Twenty people participated in crafting the calendar, and all were in favor of starting school before Labor Day, Human Resources Director Jane Wildesen said. The calendar committee, made up of teachers, service personnel, central office staff and parents, has met twice to finalize the proposal, Joseph Hauger of the Garrett County Republican writes.

HEADS UP ON TROUBLED TRANSFERS: Washington County school officials want to know when students charged with “reportable offenses” in another jurisdiction are transferred to Washington County. Last year, legislation to require notification died in House and Senate committees. This year, it is advancing, reports Tamela Baker for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

OPINION: BLACK LIQUOR NOT CLEAN: In a guest commentary for Maryland Matters, Tim Whitehouse of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility opines that under Maryland’s renewable energy program, residents and businesses pay extra for electricity so that a portion of it comes from renewable energy. But many of those credits don’t come from clean sources like wind and solar. In fact, a lot of our money goes to support multinational corporate owners of paper mills to burn black liquor, a dirty industrial byproduct of the milling process.

OPINION: DEMS HEAD LEFT: In an op-ed for the Annapolis Capital, Red Maryland’s Brian Griffiths opines that Democrats are working hard to push Maryland to the left with proposals such as the $15 minimum wage, codifying the right to abortion in the state Constitution and allowing physician assisted suicide.

STUDENT CHARGED WITH ILLEGAL WIRETAPPING: A Salisbury University student has been charged with illegal wiretapping after prosecutors said he streamed a meeting with a congressional staffer for Maryland Rep. Andy Harris via Facebook Live without permission. Jake Burdett, 20, was charged last week with two felony counts of making an illegal recording and distributing the video filmed during a Maryland Marijuana Justice rally at Harris’s Salisbury office in October, Lillian Reed and Jeff Barker report in the Sun.

FREDERICK SCHOOLS GET NAXOLONE FUNDS: The Maryland State Department of Education awarded Frederick County Public Schools a $141,459 Heroin and Opioid Policy Development Grant to place more naloxone, an overdose-reversing medication, in schools and to launch a campaign including information on substance abuse, Emma Kerr of the Frederick News Post reports.

HOGAN’s OXON COVE PARK PLAN: In a long, detailed story we missed earlier this week, Ovetta Wiggins and Liz Clarke of the Post report that Gov. Larry Hogan (R) informed the Washington Redskins that he is withdrawing from efforts to persuade the team to build its next stadium in Oxon Cove Park, adjacent to MGM ­National Harbor, “at this time,” his spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday night.

ULMAN BUYS STAKE IN ONLINE NEWS OUTLET: Former Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, former Baltimore Sun editor David Nitkin and writer Karen Nitkin have bought a stake in Baltimore Fishbowl. Through a new partnership, Bowled Over Investments LLC, Ulman and the Nitkins are hoping to use their expertise to grow the digital news site, founded in 2011 by Susan Gerardo Dunn as an alternative online-only source of daily journalism, essays and features, Brandon Weigel reports in Baltimore Fishbowl.

WHO DOESN’T LIKE OLD BAY? In the least surprising report of all time, The Goucher Poll has found a majority of Marylanders like Old Bay seasoning. The Sun’s Lillian Reed writes that the political poll asked Marylanders about their feelings toward the regionally beloved seasoning and 83% reported having a favorable opinion, according to a Goucher news release.