BUSCH TO WITHDRAW ABORTION BILL: House Speaker Michael E. Busch plans to withdraw his bill to enshrine a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy into the state constitution because Senate President Mike Miller Jr. appears reluctant to move it forward this session, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports.
- Alexandra M. Hughes, the top aide to Busch, an Anne Arundel County Democrat, said the speaker realizes the legislation cannot pass both chambers of the State House this year, so he plans to reintroduce the measure in 2020, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.
SENATE REFUSES TO CONFIRM HANDGUN BOARD NOMINEES: The Maryland Senate has refused to confirm Gov. Larry Hogan’s appointment of three members to a board that reviews decisions by state police on permits to carry concealed handguns, with several senators citing the board’s rate of granting appeals, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.
- The Senate voted 25-21 to accept a recommendation of the Senate Executive Nominations Committee to reject Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s nomination of Brian Fischer, Carol Loveless and John Michel to the board, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports.
- A number of Democrats said they were voting against the nominees in part because of the board’s tendency to overrule the findings of Maryland State Police in deciding whether to grant concealed carry permits to gun owners, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters writes.
GUN DAY IN ANNAPOLIS: There are several bills before the House of Delegates that would change how long guns are purchased, prohibit possession of 3D-printed guns, increase minimum mandatory sentences for repeat firearm offenders and other legislation, Chase Cook reports in the Annapolis Capital. The House of Delegates Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on those bills starting at 10 a.m. Monday in the House of Delegates office building.
JHU RETURNS TO PUSH FOR COPS PLAN: A day after 12 people were shot in Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University President Ronald Daniels told state lawmakers in Annapolis that the city’s “unrelenting” violence shows the need for his institution to create its own armed police department. Luke Broadwater writes that in marathon hearings Friday in different committees of the General Assembly, opponents of the proposed Hopkins police force argued armed officers at and around the private school’s properties would do more harm than good, exacerbating what they called a “vicious cycle of mass incarceration.”
- The proposed legislation Johns Hopkins developed over the last year would create the most accountable police agency in the state and one of the most accountable university police departments in the country, Daniels said. Tim Curtis writes the story for the Daily Record.
- Here’s Josh Kurtz’s story for Maryland Matters.
JHU OFFERS SWEETENERS: Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew asks: What does a stillborn library in East Baltimore have to do with Johns Hopkins University’s all-out drive to win General Assembly approval of a private police force? Or $10 million of yearly grants and loans to hospitals and universities undertaking projects in “blighted” areas? Or $18 million for youth projects backed by City Council President Jack Young and Mayor Catherine Pugh?
SCHMOKE SUPPORT HOPKINS POLICE: In a Sun op-ed, former mayor and current University of Baltimore President Kurt Schmoke writes: “If we’re serious about improving our city’s public safety, we should allow Johns Hopkins to establish this police department while also directing additional funds to community development and youth engagement programs in the city.”
FRANCHOT ACCUSED OF ‘EXTORTION:’ A struggle over whether to strip alcohol regulation from the Maryland comptroller’s office turned ugly last week as each side accused the other of putting politics over public health and safety, Steve Thompson of the Post reports.
- The lawmaker sponsoring legislation to strip Comptroller Peter Franchot’s office of its regulation and enforcement powers over alcohol, tobacco and motor fuels accused Franchot of using his office to “extort” money from the alcohol industry he regulates, Amanda Yeager of the Baltimore Business Journal reports.
FRANCHOT TO FILE ETHICS COMPLAINT: Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) will file an ethics complaint against a member of the state Senate on Monday, following the lawmaker’s claim that Maryland’s tax collector “extorted” campaign contributions from liquor interests.
LIQUOR BILL LOST AMID ANIMUS: The Senate panel that will decide the fate of a high-profile alcohol regulation bill appeared, at times, to be bystanders to a personality clash between the measure’s sponsor and the state’s tax collector. With Friday’s testimony generating as much heat as light, it was difficult to determine whether the legislation is likely to win the votes it will need to advance, Bruce DePuyt reports in Maryland Matters.
OPINION: HIGH DRUG PRICES: In a column for his Political Maryland blog, Barry Rascovar writes that the most perplexing aspect of high-priced prescription drugs is finding the true culprit. Is the really bad guy the developer of these miracle drugs? The manufacturer? Is it the federal government’s agonizingly slow approval process? Is it the lack of competition from far less expensive overseas drugs and biologically similar potions?
IN ANNAPOLIS THIS WEEK: Maryland’s General Assembly steamed past the halfway point in its 90-day session last week and things are starting to get serious in Annapolis. This week, one committee takes up Maryland’s own version of the Affordable Care Act. Joel McCord of WYPR-FM gives a quick rundown of what is on the schedule for Annapolis through March 1.
PROTECTING OYSTER PROJECTS: The mud is yet to settle in Maryland’s “oyster wars.” Rachael Pacella of the Annapolis Capital reports that Maryland lawmakers are considering a proposal by House Speaker Mike Busch to protect through state law five large oyster restoration projects that are complete, under way or planned in Chesapeake Bay tributaries and place a moratorium on harvesting from them.
ELECTRIC SCHOOL BUSES: Hearing widespread support for electric buses, the Maryland Department of the Environment and other state agencies announced this month an expanded pool of money for electric infrastructure in its settlement with Volkswagen, Samantha Hogan reports in the Frederick News-Post.
MD MOVES TO BAN STYROFOAM: Maryland is one step closer to becoming the first state to ban foam food and drink containers. A bill that would ban the use of the products by restaurants and grocery stores won approval of a state Senate committee Thursday night, sending the measure to the full Senate for consideration beginning Monday, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.
SENATE OKs ‘X’ SEX ON LICENSES: Maryland’s senators approved a bill Friday that would add a gender designation of “X” on driver’s licenses and state identification cards, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. The 32-14 vote came without any debate, (it occurred last week) and the measure moved to the House of Delegates for consideration.
BYPASSING ELECTORAL COLLEGE: Luke Broadwater of the Sun writes about state Sen. Bill Ferguson’s bill that he hopes speeds up the move to a national popular vote if other states also adopt the idea. More than a decade ago, Maryland agreed to enter a compact to bypass the Electoral College in favor of the national popular vote for electing a president — if enough other states went along with the proposal. But the effort to kill the Electoral College stalled.
REPEAL OF ADULTERY AS CRIME: A bill to repeal the crime of adultery passed the Maryland House of Delegates for the second straight year and will head to the Senate committee where it stalled in 2018, Heather Cobun of the Daily Record reports.
BA CO IMPACT FEES: Legislation that would let the Baltimore County Council impose fees on developers to help pay for schools, sewers and other public needs is moving forward in the General Assembly. Similar legislation to allow “impact fees” in Baltimore County didn’t make it far last year — even though such fees are common elsewhere in Maryland, Alison Knezevich reports for the Sun.
STRAINED DISCUSSIONS ON PIMLICO: Jeff Barker and Doug Donovan of the Sun write that 10 weeks after a study recommended that the city, state and Pimlico Race Course owner negotiate over the track’s future, the dialogue has become strained and Baltimore’s elected officials and business leaders say they must battle to prevent the Preakness Stakes from ditching its home as the NFL’s Colts did in 1984.
MO CO COUNTRY CLUB BILL FAILS: A Montgomery County bill to impose fees on tax-capped country club properties puttered to a halt Friday after it was narrowly voted down by the county’s delegates. The measure, from Del. David Moon (D), has been introduced before. But this time the measure picked up extra support from newly elected delegation members. Nevertheless, the 2019 iteration of Moon’s bill failed in an 11-13 vote on Friday morning, reports Danielle Gaines in Maryland Matters.
KUSHNER COS. BUYS MORE APTS: The real estate firm run by the family of White House adviser Jared Kushner has purchased about 6,000 apartments in Maryland and Virginia for $1.1 billion, according to an article published Friday by The Wall Street Journal. Lillian Reed and Doug Donovan of the Sun write that in Maryland, Kushner Cos. already own nearly 9,000 rental units, most of them in Baltimore County. In 2017, a Sun investigation found Kushner Cos. to be the most aggressive in Maryland in using a controversial debt-collection tactic.