State Roundup, March 1, 2019

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HOUSE CENSURES LISANTI; SHE REFUSES TO RESIGN: The House of Delegates voted unanimously Thursday night to censure one of its own, Del. Mary Ann Lisanti (D-Harford), who had uttered a racial epithet in front of colleagues and lobbyists in an Annapolis cigar bar last month, Danielle Gaines and Josh Kurtz report for Maryland Matters.

  • After the vote, the Democrat said she would not resign, despite calls for her to do so by House leaders, the governor, the Legislative Black Caucus and constituents.She also said she did not believe she had used an offensive term to describe African-Americans, although she acknowledged earlier in the week that she had done so, Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood report in the Sun.
  • Del. Jay Walker (D-Prince George’s), whose district Lisanti was referring to, was present at the gathering and told The Post he heard the remark and addressed it with Lisanti privately. Other Democratic lawmakers, including some in leadership positions, say lawmakers who heard the remark told them about it as well, the Post’s Ovetta Wiggins and Arelis Hernandez report. The article is topped by a video of Lisanti reading a statement following the censure.
  • Bryan Sears reports that following the censure, Lisanti read a statement to reporters: “It is apparent that someone in attendance heard or thought they overheard an inappropriate word and, in lieu of reporting the incident in accordance with our newly adopted harassment policy, chose to instead contact a member of the media, thus igniting the firestorm that brings us all here tonight.”
  • Rachel Baye of WYPR-FM reports that Lisanti said that resigning would be taking the easy way out, and would leave her constituents without a vote until her seat could be filled after the session ends. Instead she laid out her path forward, reorganizing her office, “and looking to hire an individual that will help me reach out to diverse communities.” She also said she will accept Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks’ invitation to visit the county.

TEMP TAX BREAK FOR A FEW COMPANIES: A temporary corporate tax break to some major Maryland companies has the support of a Senate committee chairwoman and members of her committee. That proposal is just one of many before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee stemming from the legislature’s 2016 Augustine Commission on Maryland’s business climate. The bill would apply to less than five companies, Diane Rey reports for MarylandReporter.

SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION FUNDING: Maryland county leaders, including Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., testified Wednesday in Annapolis in support of a bill that could add $1.8 billion to the state’s school construction funding over the next four years. The plan by Gov. Larry Hogan would use revenue bonds funded by casino gaming revenues to pay for public school construction projects through a program run by the Maryland Stadium Authority, Libby Solomon is reporting in the Towson Times.

STYROFOAM BAN MOVES FORWARD: The Maryland Senate has advanced a bill that would ban the use of the foam products by restaurants and grocery stores to a final vote Monday. The Democratic-controlled chamber acted Thursday after accepting an amendment that would delay implementation of the ban for six months. The amended bill would ban businesses that sell food from using “expanded polystyrene food service products” — sometimes referred to as Styrofoam — starting July 1, 2020, instead of January.

HBCU FUNDING BILL: Amid settlement talks between Gov. Larry Hogan and advocates for Maryland’s four historically black institutions, the House of Delegates is scheduled to hold a hearing Friday on legislation that would require the governor to appropriate more than $16 million in the state budget for each university, starting in 2021, Daniel Oyefusi of the Capital News Service reports.

RALLY FOR PIMLICO: Baltimore leaders are planning to bus residents to Annapolis Friday for a “big rally to keep the Preakness in Baltimore.” The rally comes as lawmakers in the General Assembly are considering two bills central to the future of horse racing in the state — and pivotal to where the second jewel of the sport’s Triple Crown will be run, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

SPENDING ON LAUREL: The fate of Pimlico has been debated for years, but this time Stronach-backed legislation before the General Assembly could move the company closer to victory since Stronach appears to be much further down the path toward its vision than many Baltimore officials realized, Doug Donovan and Jeff Barker report in the Sun. Of $112 million in state grants, subsidized support from the horse industry and its own cash from 2011 to 2018, Stronach directed $89 million — to Laurel, spending just $23 million at Pimlico.

UM REGENTS OVERHAUL: A bill revamping the practices of the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents cleared the state House of Delegates on Thursday. The bill was prompted by the 2018 death of Terrapins football player Jordan McNair, who collapsed at a summer football practice, Pamela Wood of the Sun writes.

NAME CHANGE FOR TOP COURT? “Justice” might finally come to Maryland. A proposed state constitutional amendment now before the General Assembly would change the name of Maryland’s top judicial tribunal from the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court of Maryland and the title of its jurists from judge to justice, with the chief judge becoming the chief justice, Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports.

OPINION: TRUTH & LONG GUNS: In an op-ed for the Annapolis Capital, Andrea Chamblee, the widow of Capital Gazette staff member John McNamara, opines that the hearing Wednesday in Annapolis on the bill that would close the gun show loophole in Maryland and document other points of sale (generally between strangers), state Sen. Bob Cassilly feigned that “only” “one or five” people get killed every year with long guns.The mass shooting survivor beside me impulsively raised her hand and her voice. “Five. They were five.” Maryland is one of 49 states that have seen alarming increases in deaths by long guns, including suicides, in the last 10 years.

BILL EYES SAFETY FOR MOTORCYCLISTS: Colin Campbell of the Sun reports that Maryland motorcyclists would be allowed to ride between lanes of highway traffic and between vehicles stopped at traffic lights under a bill scheduled for a first hearing in the House of Delegates on Thursday. The measures, known as “lane-splitting” and “filtering,” would make motorcyclists safer and decrease carbon emissions and congestion, according to the bill’s sponsor, Del. Kathy Szeliga, a motorcyclist.

EXPANDING OPPORTUNITY ZONES: Sen. George Edwards, R-Washington-Allegany-Garrett, made a pitch this week to extend state economic development incentives to federally designated “Opportunity Zones.” These incentives include tax credit and financing programs available for priority funding areas and sustainable communities. There currently are priority funding areas throughout Washington County, primarily in the Hagerstown area, Tamela Baker of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports.

$3.2M SOUGHT FOR BSO: Del. Maggie McIntosh has filed a bill Thursday that would direct an additional $3.2 million in state money to the cash-strapped Baltimore Symphony Orchestra over the next two years and create a special working group to look for ways to improve the institution’s finances in the future, Kevin Rector of the Sun writes.

OPINION: WIND ECONOMY: In an op-ed for Maryland Matters, Matt Drew, a Salisbury resident whose business helps build a U.S. based offshore wind supply chain, asserts that while manufacturing jobs are leaving the state, Maryland’s two current projects will create more than 7,000 new, largely blue-collar jobs all across Maryland, from welders and machinists to engineers and electrical workers. But Maryland could fall behind in the this new economy, he warns.

END TAX SALE FOR WATER BILLS: The Sun’s Pamela Wood reports that the House of Delegates approved a bill Thursday that would put an end to a practice in Baltimore of putting homes up for tax sales due to unpaid water bills. “It stops the archaic and predatory practice of taking people’s property over a water bill. There’s no other utility in the state that has the ability of doing that and I don’t think that Baltimore city should engage in that process,” said Del. Nick Mosby, a Baltimore Democrat who sponsored the bill.

NIH FUNDING UP 14%: Louis Peck of Bethesda Beat writes that funding for the Bethesda-based National Institutes of Health is up by 14% during the two years that President Donald Trump has been in the White House — but it’s despite and not because of the president, according to Sen. Chris Van Hollen.

LATE PREZ BUSH’s DOG AT WALTER REED: Former President George H.W. Bush’s service dog has taken a new post in Bethesda, working with patients and veterans at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Sully, a 2 1/2-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever, spent about six months with the former president, who died Nov. 30 at age 94, Caitlynn Peetz reports in Bethesda Beat.