State Roundup, February 20, 2019

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After getting re-elected by the legislators, State Treasurer Nancy Kopp is sworn in by Speaker Pro-Tem Adrienne Jones, as, from left, Senate President Mike Miller, husband Robert Kopp and Gov. Larry Hogan look on. Governor's Office Photo

KOPP RE-ELECTED: Maryland’s lawmakers re-elected Nancy Kopp to serve as the state’s treasurer for another four-year term, Pamela Wood of the Sun is reporting. Kopp, a Democrat who has held the position since 2002, won an overwhelming number of votes Tuesday during a joint session of the House of Delegates and the state Senate.

  • With the legislature meeting in joint session in the House of Delegates chamber, Kopp was the choice of 134 members of the House and Senate. Forty-nine cast ballots for other candidates, including two who participated in the formal vetting process: former Amtrak official William Campbell and former federal contractor Elliot M. Reed. Several state lawmakers received write-in votes, among them Deputy House Majority Whip Benjamin T. Brooks (D-Baltimore County), who came in second with 24 votes, Bruce DePuyt reports for Maryland Matters.

Del. Benjamin Brooks greets State Treasurer Nancy Kopp as she walks to the House rostrum. Brooks gained the next highest votes for the post. Governor’s Office Photo

POT LEGALIZATION TO BE STUDIED: Leaders of Maryland’s General Assembly created a work group Tuesday to study legalizing recreational use of marijuana — a signal the legislature won’t pass legislation this year on the issue, the Sun’s Pamela Wood reports. The bipartisan group will make recommendations at the end of December that could be used to develop bills for the 2020 legislative session.

CURING ‘HODGEPODGE’ SENTENCING: “Hodgepodge” is not a term one generally wants to hear associated with a state’s penal code, but it’s how a veteran member of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee has come to describe it. Samantha Hogan of the Frederick News-Post writes that Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick & Carroll) is again calling for a complete review of the state’s sentencing system. Each session, lawmakers bring bills to Judicial Proceedings — on which he has served since 2015 — asking to modify the classifications or sentence for an offense.

VACCINE REPORTING: Doctors and other health care providers in Maryland will be required to report every flu shot and vaccine they administer to a common state database under a bill that passed a public health subcommittee Tuesday. Diane Rey of MarylandReporter writes that an amended version of HB316 passed the subcommittee 7-2 and will move on to the full House Health and Government Operations Committee.

MINORS WOULD GET SAY ON HIV PILL: State legislation could allow minors to consent to preventative treatment for human immunodeficiency virus or HIV. Pre-exposure prophylaxis—commonly referred to as “PrEP”—consists of a single pill of a medicine called Truvada taken every day. Charlie Youngmann of the Capital News Service reports that this can reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV from sex by 90% and among intravenous drug users by 70%, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

PUGH BLASTS STRONACH GROUP: Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is blasting the owners of the Pimlico Race Course after the company urged construction of a “super track” for horse racing in Laurel, not Baltimore, reports Luke Broadwater for the Sun. In a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan and General Assembly leaders, Pugh urged them to reject The Stronach Group’s efforts to emphasize horse racing at its Laurel Park track.

BICYCLE BILL: When the House of Delegates votes on a traffic safety bill later this week that would boost penalties for motorists involved in crashes with “vulnerable” road users, Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes, it’ll mark welcome progress for Maryland bicyclists – who had their annual lobbying day in Annapolis Tuesday.

SALARY HISTORY: For the third year in a row, activists, attorneys and business groups met Tuesday afternoon at the House Economic Matters Committee in Annapolis to consider a bill that would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about their salary history, Anamika Roy of the Daily Record reports.

SUPREMES REJECT MD DRUG REGULATION: The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected Maryland’s bid to restore a law that state Attorney General Brian Frosh said was needed to protect residents from “monstrous price increases” by generic drug makers, Jeff Barker reports in the Sun.

SOME INFO BLOCKED IN 9-1-1: In anticipation of an update to statewide 9-1-1 communication systems by 2021, gruesome imagery of crime scenes or injuries, individuals’ medical histories and identification of domestic violence or rape victims may be protected from public view under legislation in the Maryland General Assembly, Jared Beinart of the Capital News Service writes. Many aspects of a 9-1-1 call are currently available to the public through Maryland’s Public Information Act, said House bill 215 sponsor Del. Michael Jackson, D-Prince George’s, the former sheriff there.

UM REGENTS SUPPORT TRANSPARENCY BILL: The University System of Maryland Board of Regents supports legislation to change the board’s composition and increase transparency, the board’s chair told legislators Tuesday. Tim Curtis of the Daily Record writes that bills in the Senate and the House of Delegates would change the composition of the board, mandate online streaming of meetings and require employment decisions about university presidents to be voted on in public.

ARUNDEL TO END WAIVERS: Anne Arundel County officials moved Tuesday to end the controversial practice of asking victims of sexual assault to waive their rights to an investigation, Catherine Rentz and Alison Knezevich of the Sun are reporting. The policy change came the same day that The Baltimore Sun reported that police departments in the Baltimore area prompted victims to waive their rights to an investigation 223 times in 2017 and 2018.

WILL MERGED JURISDICTIONS WORK? By merging with their surrounding counties, the cities of Nashville, Indianapolis and Louisville were able to grow local economies and save taxpayer dollars by reducing redundancies, according to a new report by the Abell Foundation. Brandon Weigel of Baltimore Fishbowl writes that research began in 2012 to see if a similar approach could work in Baltimore, which remains an independent city surrounded by Baltimore County and, in a few places near the southern border, Anne Arundel County. The authors of the study think it’s worth exploring again.

ARUNDEL BANS POLYSTYRENE FOOD CONTAINERS: Anne Arundel County Council passed legislation banning food service businesses from using polystyrene containers. Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital writes that the council voted along party lines — 4 to 3 — Tuesday night to pass the bill that requires food service businesses to stop using polystyrene containers. Those businesses have a year after the bill becomes law to make the change. Anyone who uses the containers after that year commit a civil offense that starts with a warning and then increasing fines of $50, $100 and $500.