State Roundup, March 6, 2019

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SENATE OKs FOAM CONTAINER BAN: Maryland’s senators approved a bill on Tuesday that would ban polystyrene foam food containers and cups starting next year, reports Pamela Wood for the Sun. If the bill eventually becomes law, Maryland would be the first state to enact a ban on the products. Some local governments in Maryland — most recently Anne Arundel County — have banned them.

BUDGET SHOWDOWN: The bean counters will be working overtime in Annapolis this week as lawmakers stare down a series of serious budget considerations – first and foremost the state’s 2020 budget, writes Danielle Gaines in Maryland Matters. The House Appropriations Committee is likely to vote on a spending plan on Friday, just one day after the Board of Revenue Estimates is expected to substantially write down anticipated state revenues by as much as $350 million.

FRANCHOT IN TOUGH FIGHT WITH FELLOW DEMS: The highest vote-getter ever in a Maryland election, Comptroller Peter Franchot may be the most popular and successful Democrat in statewide politics. But after repeatedly bashing fellow top Democrats for years with criticism they view as bombastic and unfair, he is a man with increasingly few allies in Annapolis. And he is at risk of losing his regulatory roles, Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood report for the Sun.

LISANTI’s FUTURE: Harford County Del. Mary Ann Lisanti said Tuesday she will return to the floor of the Maryland House of Delegates to do her job after putting “some physical distance” between herself and her colleagues after she used a racial slur and they voted to censure her. The Democrat vowed in a phone interview to appear Wednesday on the House floor, where she missed more than a dozen votes Friday, Monday and Tuesday, Ericka Butler reports in the Sun.

KIRWAN ISSUES DIRE MESSAGE: Former University System of Maryland Chancellor Brit Kirwan faced a phalanx of news cameras Tuesday and delivered a dire message: More than 60% of Maryland’s graduating high school seniors can’t read at a 10th-grade level or pass an Algebra I test, Luke Broadwater and Liz Bowie of the Sun report.

KIRWAN FUNDING: Democratic leaders in the General Assembly Tuesday put down a $1 billion marker on an education funding plan. The bill, introduced Monday in both the House and Senate, comes as lawmakers still have yet to identify a way to pay for the nearly $4 billion proposal commonly known as the Kirwan Commission recommendations. Supporters, however, are vowing to make it happen even as the state is preparing to lower revenue expectations by $350 million over two years, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports.

BILLS TARGET DRUG PRICING: Today in Annapolis, committees in the state Senate and House of Delegates will hold hearings on bills that would require drug companies to provide more information about their products and create a commission to review prices and set ceilings on what insurers, pharmacies and hospitals can be made to pay, Arelis Hernandez writes in the Post.

REDUCED SUPPORT FOR MINIMUM WAGE HIKE: The same poll last week that found 60% of Maryland voters support making the minimum wage $15 — with 43% strongly supporting — also found that support for the move passed by the House of Delegates Friday dropped sharply when voters were told it would raise prices and cost jobs. Len Lazarick reports in MarylandReporter.com.

HIGHER FINES FOR UNEQUAL PAY: An employer who violates the state’s Equal Pay for Equal Work law would have to pay a 10% penalty to the state if a bill heard by the House Economic Matters Committee Tuesday passes, writes Diane Rey in MarylandReporter.com.

ANALYZING GOV’T PERFORMANCE: A core group of policy wonks could soon have full-time jobs analyzing the performance of state government offices. The Senate Rules Committee voted Tuesday to advance Senate Bill 640 to the chamber floor. The bill would create the Office of Performance Evaluation and Government Accountability within the Department of Legislative Services, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters writes.

RAISING RENEWABLE ENERGY USE: Maryland legislators have high hopes for passing a bill to increase the state’s renewable energy standards to 50% by 2030 and setting a plan in action to raise the standard to 100% by 2040, along with aiming to increase jobs in the renewable energy sector, Natalie Jones of Capital News Service reports.

CURBING ROLE IN FEDERAL IMMIGRATION LAWS: Advocates are pushing for statewide legislation that would limit the role Maryland authorities have in enforcing federal immigration laws, citing a danger to public safety and a violation of constitutional rights, Thalia Juarez reports in the Sun.

OPINION: STATUE OF LIMITATIONS BILL MAY FALTER: The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital opines that legislation “extending the statute of limitations for child sex abuse in Maryland faces an unlikely future in the General Assembly. Yet the bellwether for this idea is neither the testimony last week before a legislative committee nor the shameful abuse of former Key School students by instructors dating back 20 to 40 years — and covered up by the school until last year. It is the clergy sex abuse scandals that continue to rock worldwide Catholicism. … This bill may falter this year. We predict that will not be the end of it.”

CERTIFICATE OF NEED PROCESS: Maryland legislators will hear Wednesday the first proposals to come out of the Maryland Health Care Commission’s certificate of need modernization work group last year, Tim Curtis of the Daily Record reports. Proposals that will help streamline the certificate of need process and help align the state health plan with the Total Cost of Care Model will be heard in the House Health and Government Operations Committee.

FREDERICK PROJECT FUNDS SHRINK: The pot of state money available to fund local projects won’t be large enough to meet all of Frederick County’s requests this year, the county delegation acknowledged on Monday. Samantha Hogan of the Frederick News-Post writes that the six delegates representing Frederick County gathered early in the week to rank their funding priorities from among projects submitted by local nonprofits, historical societies and municipal governments. Overall, there is an estimated $90 million worth of local project requests statewide and only $15 million of funding.

WHITE, NON-RESIDENTS DONATE TO CITY ELECTIONS: Baltimore’s elections are disproportionately influenced by campaign donors who are white, wealthy and not city residents, a new study has found. The Sun’s Luke Broadwater writes that, in an analysis called “Big Money in Charm City,” conducted by the public policy organization Demos, researchers found that elections for mayor and Baltimore City Council are funded disproportionately by people who do not reflect the city’s voting population.

RX POT IN CARROLL: A proposed change in the first draft of Carroll County’s comprehensive rezoning allows medical cannabis dispensaries in commercial areas. Yet the possibility that recreational use of cannabis could be legalized in the future brought out concerns from county leaders, Jennifer Turiano of the Carroll County Times reports.