State Roundup, February 21, 2019

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UM REGENTS BACK OVERHAUL: Arguing state higher education officials placed athletics over academics last year following the death of football player Jordan McNair, some lawmakers in Annapolis are now pushing legislation to overhaul the university system’s Board of Regents, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

PROTECTING THE AG’s BUDGET: The bill is titled the Protection of Marylanders’ Rights Act of 2019, but it might also be dubbed the Attorney General’s Budget Protection Act, since it seeks to keep the governor from underfunding the AG’s budget. The legislation is part of the long-running skirmishes between Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Democrat Attorney General Brian Frosh over what cases the AG should pursue. The story is in MarylandReporter.com.

MORE GREEN SCHOOLS: Learning how earthworms improve the soil. Writing letters to elected officials about cleaning up trash. Testing water quality. Planting native trees. Labeling storm drains. These are a few of the ways students in Maryland’s designated “green schools” are learning about – and affecting – the environment. Diane Rey of MarylandReporter reports that currently, 27% of the state’s schools carry the green school certification. A bill before the General Assembly would seek to increase that number to 50%

ARMING SCHOOL OFFICERS: State Del. Cheryl Glenn reintroduced legislation Wednesday that would authorize Baltimore school police officers to carry guns inside schools — a move she says is necessary after a recent shooting at Frederick Douglass High School, writes Luke Broadwater for the Sun.

BANNING FAMILIAL DNA DATABASE USE: In the Sun, Natalie Jones of Capital News Service reports that after police used a new technique to arrest a man suspected of being the Golden State Killer, a Maryland legislator proposed a law that would prohibit use of a familial DNA database for the purpose of crime-solving

THIRD GENDER ON DRIVER’S LICENSES: A bill is moving forward in the Maryland General Assembly that would give state residents a third option for gender on a driver’s license or identification card: “unspecified.” The measure is meant to be inclusive to people who consider themselves “binary,” or not identifying as either male or female, Pamela Wood of the Sun is reporting.

OPINION: NO TO A 3RD BAY BRIDGE: Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks writes that the last thing Maryland and the environment need is a third Bay Bridge and all the traffic that will accompany it.

DECRIMINALIZING SUICIDE ATTEMPT: A suicide attempt is evidence of a mental health problem that needs treatment, not a common-law crime that merits punishment, a state senator said Wednesday in urging his colleagues to support his bill to stop treating people who try to kill themselves as criminals, Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports. “We have to affirmatively put in our law that attempted suicide is not a crime,” Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher, D-Montgomery, told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

OPEN PROBES INTO OFFICER-INVOLVED DEATHS: A trio of freshmen lawmakers from Montgomery County are pushing for more independent and transparent investigations surrounding police officer-involved deaths following two high-profile cases in 2018 that left victims’ families and communities demanding answers, Glynis Kazanjian writes for Maryland Matters.

OPINION: OVERHAUL ALCOHOL OVERSIGHT: In an op-ed for Maryland Matters, Raimee Eck of the Maryland Public Health Association opines that creating a healthy and balanced marketplace for alcohol requires appropriate controls and oversight. The current regulatory system in Maryland, with an elected official regulating the alcohol industry, is at odds with best practices, and the regulatory structure across most other states.

BANNING RX POT IN JAILS: Washington County lawmakers are trying again this year to prohibit possession of medical cannabis at local jails in Maryland, citing issues with federal law and distribution of the drug. Del. William Wivell, R-Washington, appeared before the House Health and Government Operations Committee on Wednesday to present his bill to prohibit the substance at local correctional facilities, Tamela Baker of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports.

STATE PROBE INTO SCANDAL MAY BE EXTENDED: The timeline for a state commission’s investigation into the Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force scandal would be extended another year under a bill put forth by key legislators, writes Justin Fenton for the Sun. The panel, called the Commission to Restore Trust in Policing, is supposed to submit a final report by the end of this year, but bills filed in the Senate and House of Delegates would push the deadline for the final report until Dec. 31, 2020.

OPINION: HOGAN NEEDS TO LEAD ON SCHOOL FUNDING: The editorial board for the Sun looks at the county school budget requests throughout the region and the response from county governments, concluding that “local governments’ capacity to support education is tapped out under current fiscal realities. The state is not in much better shape. … The legislature has a crucial role to play here. So do county executives and advocacy groups like the teachers union. But Governor Hogan needs to take the lead.”

OPINION: JUSTICE FOR JUVENILES: In an op-ed for the Sun, Jessica Feierman of the Juvenile Law Center and its staff attorney, Nadia Mozaffar opine that Maryland is poised to play a critical leadership role in the fight for smart and fair youth justice by considering House Bill 694 and Senate Bill 823 to eliminate juvenile justice system fines and fees.

JHU PROPOSAL SPLITS COMMUNITY: Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew writes about how the Johns Hopkins University proposal, before the state legislature, to have an armed campus police force has split its campus and surrounding community.

HOGAN PREZ WATCH: Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who is weighing a 2020 presidential bid, told “CBS This Morning” that President Trump made “some real mistakes” in declaring a national emergency over border security. “We’ve exaggerated what’s going on at the border — but we do have issues down there,” he said, adding that he agreed with the decision by Maryland’s Democratic attorney general, Brian E. Frosh, to join more than a dozen other states in filing a lawsuit challenging Trump’s executive order, Ovetta Wiggins writes in the Post.

  • Hogan also expressed concern about Trump’s chances of winning the general election. “The chances of him losing a general election are pretty good,” Hogan said. “I’m not saying he couldn’t win, but he’s pretty weak in the general election.” Facing a crowded field of progressive Democrats vying for their party’s nomination, the governor said, Republicans might be worried enough to consider an alternative if the president’s numbers drop further, writes Colin Campbell in the Sun.

STRONACH TOUTS LAUREL PARK IMPROVEMENTS: The chief operating officer of the Stronach Group said Wednesday that it wants to invest $80 million to make Laurel Park a world-class facility and $40 million to do the same at the Bowie Training Center — the latest move suggesting Preakness may move to Laurel Park, Rachael Pacella of the Annapolis Capital reports.

SPLC ADDS TO HATE GROUP LIST: The number of hate groups in Maryland and across the country grew in 2018 to its highest level on record, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported Wednesday. The legal advocacy group counted 21 in Maryland, up from 19 the year before, Catherine Rentz of the Sun reports. Although six groups in Maryland were delisted, eight were added. These included four black nationalist groups, the Proud Boys (a self-described “western chauvinist” group launched by Vice media co-founder Gavin McInnes) and a mix of Ku Klux Klan, neo-nazi and white nationalist.