FIGHT OVER COMPTROLLER’s AUTHORITY: An ongoing dispute over regulating the alcohol industry in Maryland bubbled up Thursday, with the state’s comptroller and lawmakers offering dueling views of a bill that would change how liquor laws are enforced, Pamela Wood and Luke Broadwater of the Sun report.
- Comptroller Peter Franchot restated his claims that the move would prove to be an expensive, taxpayer-funded retaliation against him for supporting the craft beer industry. While sponsors of the bill portrayed Franchot as a narcissist. Their legislation, they said, was focused on real public health concerns and was not giving Franchot a legislative purple nurple for any real or perceived slights, Bryan Sears reports for the Daily Record.
- Tamela Baker of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports that Franchot said the task force headed by Hagerstown attorney Bruce Poole that studied alcohol regulations last fall found no fault with his office’s field inspections or enforcement. Therefore, an effort to take that responsibility from his office was “reckless, costly and unnecessary,” Franchot said. And worse.
- While the measure at the heart of the skirmish seeks to enact a series of recommendations put forward by a commission that studied alcohol sale and use in Maryland, it was the proposal to shift field enforcement of liquor, cigarette and gasoline sales from the Office of the Comptroller to a new, independent commission that ignited the most heated rhetoric during back-to-back, hour-long news conferences, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports.
COUNTY-BY-COUNTY MINIMUM WAGE: As lawmakers consider whether to adopt a $15 minimum wage, some are also asking whether that figure is needed everywhere in Maryland. Washington County Del. Neil Parrott (R) is introducing his own bill to set minimum wage rates county-by-county and was joined by others Thursday, who said that some of the state’s low-income counties simply wouldn’t be able to adjust to the increased wages, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters writes.
HOGAN PREZ WATCH: Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who is flirting with a 2020 White House run, on Thursday accused the Republican National Committee of taking “unprecedented” steps to shield President Trump from primary challengers, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post is reporting.
- Luke Broadwater of the Sun writes that Gov. Hogan is considering a trip to New Hampshire after the end of the General Assembly session in April to speak at an event that bills itself as a “must stop” for presidential hopefuls.The governor has been invited by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics to speak at the Politics & Eggs series at Saint Anselm College.
MILLER ON SETTLING HBCU SUIT: Senate President Mike Miller, speaking Thursday from his seat in the Senate chamber, suggested settling the long-running lawsuit over how the state has treated its historically black colleges and universities by giving Bowie State University money to establish a law school, help fund the purchase of additional land for Morgan State University and reward the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore for a successful physical therapy degree program by creating another sought-after academic curriculum there, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.
- Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the head of the state Democratic Party, also pushed Thursday for a resolution of the case, reports Ovetta Wiggins in the Post. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ordered settlement talks last month. But there has been no sign of movement despite pressure from the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland.
OPINION: DRUG PRICING NEEDS CONTROLS: In an op-ed in MarylandReporter, Sen. Kathy Klausmeier and Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk assert that Marylanders are “struggling to pay for the prescription drugs they need to lead healthy lives or even stay alive. Prices keep going up, while drug companies spend more on marketing and reap enormous profits. That’s why we are sponsoring legislation to create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board that will have the authority to review and set fair and affordable maximum drug costs in the state.”
CONCEALED CARRY: How concealed handgun permits are administered in Maryland could change substantially this year, reports Samantha Hogan in the Frederick News- Post. Who can carry a concealed handgun, how the permit can be paid for and who gets to rule on an appeal if a permit application is denied will all be scrutinized again in the 2019 General Assembly session. The state Senate offered a preview of what the debate may look like on Thursday on what should have been the most bipartisan question: how to pay.
NO FREE RIDES: There will be no free rides on state public transportation services for legislators and staff or employees of the Judiciary. And definitely no study to change on the feasibility of such a benefit after the Senate Thursday voted to strike language snuggled into a bill that would have done just that, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.
JAILED MINORS, PREGNANT WOMEN: The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard testimony Thursday on two bills that would change how incarcerated minors and pregnant women are treated in state prisons and county detention centers, reports Cameron Dodd for the Frederick News-Post.
PRISON SERVICES SEPARATE & UNEQUAL: A Baltimore state senator Thursday invoked what might be the most famous Supreme Court decision in support of what might be the shortest piece of legislation introduced in the General Assembly this session: a one-word change in a one-sentence law that she said would help ensure female convicts receive the same prerelease services as their male counterparts, Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports.
OPINION: RESPECTING PRINCE GEORGE’S: In a commentary for Maryland Matters, Josh Kurtz opines that it’s no surprise that the subtext of the argument in favor of legislation lifting a ban on developers giving money to the Prince George’s County executive or county executive candidates when they have a project pending before the county government, is respect. That’s not exactly how the bill’s sponsor, House Economic Matters Chairman Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s) puts it, but it’s there anyway.
ARUNDEL ‘INFLUENCE’ BILL TO BE AMENDED: Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, who made fighting the influence of developer money a major component of his upset win in November, said the county’s legislative delegation is going to amend a bill designed to prevent real estate interests from contributing money to the Anne Arundel executive if they have development projects pending before the county government, Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes. Arundel officials will seek authorizing legislation from the General Assembly to place the question before the County Council instead.