State Roundup, March 4, 2019

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PIMLICO CONTROVERSY: The group that owns Pimlico Race Course took out a full-page ad in Friday’s issue of The Baltimore Sun to “set the record straight” after the company came under fire from city officials its disinvestment in the historic horse racing track, Sarah Meehan of the Sun reports. In the ad, titled “We are building a future for thoroughbred racing in Maryland,” the Stronach Group doubled down on its plan to build one “super track” at Laurel Park, its second race track in the state. The Canadian group aims to tear down Pimlico, redevelop the site in Park Heights and relocate the Preakness Stakes to Laurel.

OPINION: BSO CAN BE SAVED: In an editorial for the Baltimore Business Journal, Joanne Sullivan opines that while it may be too late for Baltimore City to save the Preakness, “there’s … battle that Baltimore can win — keeping its world-renowned symphony orchestra strong for generations to come.”

MINIMUM WAGE BILL HEADS TO SENATE: The Maryland House of Delegates approved Friday a bill that would gradually increase the state’s minimum wage from $10.10 per hour to $15 by 2025. The 96-44 vote fell largely along party lines, with Democrats supporting the measure and mostly Republicans opposing it, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

HARFORD DEMS SEEK LISANTI RESIGNATION: The Harford County Democratic Central Committee is calling for Del. Mary Ann Lisanti’s resignation after the official confirmed and apologized for making a racial slur, writes David Anderson for the Sun. During a special meeting on Saturday, the group voted to adopt central committee chair Denise Perry’s statement from earlier in the week which recommended that Lisanti resign.

TAXING AIRBNBs: A bill before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee would require short-term rental sites – such as Airbnb — to collect the 6% Maryland sales and use tax at the time of booking and remit the fees to the state, reports Diane Rey for MarylandReporter SB533, sponsored by Sen. Guy Guzzone, D-Howard and Sen. Cory McCray, D-Baltimore City, was part of a crowded agenda of 24 bills that were heard on Wednesday.

END OF LIFE BILL: After failing three times in recent years, a bill that would allow terminally ill Maryland residents to obtain prescription drugs to end their own lives is moving forward in the state’s General Assembly, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

OPINION: BETTER OPTION TO PAINFUL DEATH: In an op-ed for the Annapolis Capital, Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk writes that she “will never forget helplessly watching my grandmother suffer miserably at the end of her life because there was nothing then that medicine or I could do to enable her to die peacefully. That tragic experience is one of the reasons I am supporting bipartisan legislation to ensure terminally ill Marylanders don’t suffer needlessly at life’s end.”

REDISTRICTING PANEL PROPOSES PLAN: A nonpartisan commission charged with redrawing Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, which a court ruled was unconstitutional, has proposed new boundaries for the sprawling district. The Governor’s Emergency Commission on Sixth Congressional District Gerrymandering on Friday decided on a map that would unite all of Frederick County within the 6th district, while neatly bisecting Montgomery County between Gaithersburg and Germantown, Jennifer Barrios of the Post reports.

2 MEMBERS RESIGN: Two members of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s redistricting commission resigned after The Baltimore Sun asked questions about whether their participation in the body redrawing Maryland’s congressional districts violated state rules, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

OPINION: PROGRESS ON GUN VIOLENCE: In a moving op-ed for the Annapolis Capital, Maria Hiaassen, widow of slain journalist Rob Hiaassen, opines that despite gun violence, on the state level there is steady progress. “New York just became the 14th state to enact an extreme risk law and is the first to empower teachers and principals with the ability to petition a court to remove guns from those proven likely to harm themselves or others. … Maryland’s new extreme risk law had temporarily removed guns from 148 people deemed a risk, doing so with an accessible, fair system.”

STATE DROPS BALL ON EX-CON OD PROGRAM: Fatal drug overdoses had been climbing for years when Maryland health officials decided to target a particularly vulnerable group: Those leaving prison or jail. The state sought federal permission to skip the usual paperwork to get them temporary Medicaid cards. But more than two years later, the state hasn’t used the authority, Meredith Cohn of the Sun reports.

STATE TO DISTRIBUTE FENTANYL TEST KITS: State health officials plan to distribute thousands of kits by the end of the month that will allow drug users to test drugs for fentanyl, the synthetic opioid officials say drove the increase in fatal overdoses the past few years, Phil Davis of the Annapolis Capital reports.

ATHLETE UNION BILL AMENDED: Del. Brooke Lierman on Friday moved to amend her legislation that would have authorized Maryland college athletes to unionize in favor of creating a commission to study how best to ensure fair treatment of student athletes, an acknowledgment her legislation pushing unionization is unlikely to pass this year, writes Luke Broadwater in the Sun.

JURY TRIAL THRESHOLD: Attorneys for plaintiffs and civil defendants battled before a Senate committee Thursday over a proposed constitutional amendment to raise the amount in controversy that entitles litigants to a jury trial. The measure would raise the threshold from more than $15,000 to more than $30,000, Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports.

SNAP AT RESTAURANTS: Proposed legislation would allow people to use their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits — known as the Food Supplement Program in Maryland — to purchase meals at restaurants, Charlie Youngman of Capital News Service reports. Sponsored by Sen. Clarence Lam, Senate Bill 752 would allow elderly, disabled and homeless people to use their Electronic Benefits Transfer cards to purchase food at participating restaurants, Lam said.

CONCERNS OVER ARCHDIOCESE ABUSE PROBE: Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) should be doing much more to publicize his investigation of the Baltimore Archdiocese, a leading advocate for clergy sex abuse victims said on Sunday. And, Bruce DePuyt reports in Maryland Matters, a legislator who has questioned the way Frosh has tackled the investigation has raised new concerns about the resources the state has marshaled to locate victims and prosecute both the priests who committed the abuse and the bishops who covered it up.

MO CO TENANTS RIGHTS BILL: The Montgomery County House delegation OK’d a housing security bill on Friday morning, marking a legislative milestone for tenant rights, advocates said. The delegation threw its support – by a vote of 17-6 – behind a measure from Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D) that would require landlords to give a reason for refusing to renew a tenant’s lease, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters is reporting.

OPINION: GOP WEAK ON MESSAGING, STRONG ON CARING: In an op-ed for the Sun, Maryland political consultant Chevy Weiss asserts that the GOP hasn’t lost its genuine concern for women and children, minorities, the environment, the poor or anyone else. But its failure is in properly branding and messaging them.

RX POT APPLICATIONS DELAYED: Citing hundreds of questions from the public, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission on Thursday night said it’s postponing the launch of separate applications for four new weed-growing and 10 processing licenses, reports Ethan McLeod for Baltimore Fishbowl.

HOGAN APPLAUDS TRANSMISSION LINE RULING: Randall Chase of the AP reports that the governors of Delaware and Maryland are praising a federal panel’s ruling in a dispute over planned cost allocations for a $278 million regional electric transmission line. The Federal Regulatory Commission refused Thursday to grant a rehearing in the case sought by New Jersey officials and other parties.

VAN HOLLEN PUSHES LEGISLATION: U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen is about to spend the middle part of his first six-year term promoting a number of sweeping legislative proposals that he acknowledges have no chance of being enacted with Republicans in control of the White House and the Senate, Louis Peck reports in Bethesda Beat. Why? He says, “We need some very specific proposals to organize around as we head into the 2020 election.”