State Roundup, February 26, 2019

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$15 MINIMUM ADVANCES: Maryland lawmakers are advancing a bill that gradually increases the minimum wage to $15 per hour — but does it at a slower rate that advocates had hoped for, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. Under the version of the bill approved Monday night by a key House of Delegates committee on a 17-7 vote, the minimum wage would increase from the current $10.10 per hour starting next year and hitting $15 in 2025.

FRANCHOT FILES COMPLAINT AGAINST KRAMER: A feud over who should enforce state alcohol regulations continued Monday as an aide to Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) said his office lodged an ethics complaint against state Sen. Ben Kramer (D-Montgomery), Steve Thompson of the Post reports.

HARFORD DELEGATE APOLOGIZES FOR SLUR: A white lawmaker from Harford County apologized to the leaders of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland for using a racial slur to describe a legislative district in Prince George’s County — but also told her black colleagues that she did not recall saying it, according to two lawmakers who attended the meeting, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports.

2 BLOWS FOR ABORTION RIGHTS ADVOCATES: Maryland abortion rights advocates have been dealt a double dose of disappointment in the past few days – with the Trump administration plowing ahead with a rule that would slash funding dramatically for Planned Parenthood, and House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel) withdrawing legislation for a ballot initiative to codify abortion rights in the state constitution, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters.

CITY SEEKS MORE STATE FUNDS FOR BSO: The Baltimore City Council passed a resolution Monday urging state legislators to increase funding for the world-renowned but financially strapped Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Kevin Rector of the Sun writes. The resolution called on legislators to restore “pre-recession funding levels” to the BSO so that it can remain a “vital cultural and artistic asset for generations to come.”

LAUREL PARK GETS BULK OF REHAB FUNDS: Over the past five years, the company that owns Maryland’s two largest horse racing tracks has spent almost 90% of its state renovation subsidies to pay for improvements at Laurel Park rather than at Baltimore’s rundown Pimlico Race Course, Doug Donovan reports in the Sun.

OPINION: JHU NEEDS A POLICE FORCE: In an op-ed for Baltimore Brew, former Sun reporter and Baltimore historian Antero Pietila, author of The Ghosts of Johns Hopkins, opines that as Johns Hopkins seeks to get an armed police force for its Broadway hospital and campus, it must deal with a long and difficult history with its surrounding neighbors and still provide a safe environment for its patients, students, and medical and support personnel.

MO CO COUNTRY CLUB FEE REJECTED: A bill that would have imposed a $100,000 fee on four country clubs in Montgomery County is dead, writes Dan Schere for Bethesda Beat. The Montgomery County delegation to the House of Delegates killed the measure Friday and the chairman says the members ultimately couldn’t understand why four clubs were being singled out.

OPINION: HOGAN FACES STORMY WEATHER: In an op-ed for Maryland Matters, political prognosticator Frank DeFilippo asserts that as Gov. Larry Hogan threatens a ballot initiative to enshrine his post-Labor Day school start executive order, he’s facing not only terrible weather that is pushing school deeper into summer, but the winds of a strong Democratic leadership and a forceful education lobby.

OPINION: PAPER INDUSTRY PART OF RENEWABLE FUTURE: In a guest commentary for Maryland Matters, Jim Strong of the United Steel Workers District 8 opines that “As some seek to dismiss the paper industry’s role from participating in Maryland’s renewable energy future, let’s be clear about a number of points … Our companies have long applied sustainable manufacturing practices to protect the environment, create jobs and expand the economy.”

HOGAN PREZ WATCH: The Post’s Jenna Johnson, Robert Costa and Arelis Hernández report that as President Trump’s allies continue to try to discourage Gov. Larry Hogan from mounting a 2020 primary challenge, the president’s former deputy campaign manager David Bossie has started to organize a political salvo: A collection of endorsements for the president’s reelection campaign from prominent Maryland Republicans.

BILLIONAIRE PUSHES CUMMINGS ON IMPEACHMENT: California billionaire Tom Steyer came to Baltimore Monday to push Rep. Elijah Cummings to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. Steyer, who is spending $40 million of his fortune made in finance on efforts to impeach the president, traveled to Baltimore for a town hall event on impeachment at the Assembly Room on Guilford Avenue.

SARBANES’ GOAL WITH HR1: Robin Bravender of Maryland Matters writes that U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes is charging ahead on a dead-end political mission. The Maryland Democrat is the lead sponsor of HR1, the House Democrats’ sweeping and symbolic bill that wraps together their top anti-corruption and voting rights priorities. But getting it signed into law isn’t Sarbanes’ only objective. “Our view has always been that you start where you can,” he says.

BLADENSBURG CROSS: Jessica Gresko of the AP writes about how the 40-foot World War I memorial known as the Bladensburg Cross became an issue that now is before the U.S. Supreme Court.

ARMING CITY SCHOOL OFFICERS: The Baltimore school board is expected to reconsider its stance on arming school police officers during its Tuesday meeting, a little over two weeks after a staff member was shot at Frederick Douglass High School, Talia Richman of the Sun reports.

OPEN MEETINGS REPRIMAND: County Commissioners officially reprimanded the Queen Anne’s County Housing Authority in a letter dated Feb. 12 citing insufficient notice of meetings and inadequate notice of canceled meetings, Kristian Jaime writes in the Bay Times. Commissioners cited the Maryland Open Meetings Act, noting that compliance meant, as a public body, the Housing Authority needed adequate notice of meetings and accurate minutes to be taken for public inspection.