State Roundup, March 11, 2019

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FUNDS FOR KIRWAN INITIATIVES: A powerful General Assembly committee voted Friday to revise Gov. Larry Hogan’s more than $46 billion budget proposal to provide millions more in funding for Maryland’s public schools, while cutting some of the Republican governor’s prized initiatives, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. Led by Baltimore Democrat Maggie McIntosh, the House Appropriations Committee approved a spending plan that provides about $320 million more for operating Maryland’s public schools.

HOGAN COUNTERS ON MINIMUM WAGE: Gov. Larry Hogan proposed Friday raising the state’s minimum wage to $12.10 an hour instead of a $15 wage backed by state Democratic leaders. In a letter to Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch, the Republican governor proposed phasing in a $2 raise to the wage by 2022, Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood of the Sun report.

FORMER HANDGUN PANELIST EJECTED: A former member of the state’s Handgun Permit Review Board was ejected Friday from a General Assembly hearing in Annapolis after she refused to end her testimony when her time was up, with an officer yanking her from a chair, Pamela Wood reports in the Sun. Shari Judah was testifying before two committees on a bill that would abolish the board, which hears appeals of Maryland State Police decisions on people’s requests for permits to carry handguns.

PROGRESS FOR CRAFT BREWERS: Maryland’s craft brewing industry is moving closer to changes that brewers have sought for three years. The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee voted unanimously Friday afternoon to make changes to a 25-year-old law that craft brewers complained kept them locked into agreements with distributors even if those contracts were detrimental to their business, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record writes.

OP-ED: STRIPPING COMPTROLLER’s OFFICE UNNECESSARY: In an op-ed for the Annapolis Capital, Comptroller Peter Franchot defends his office against the attempts by Democrats in the General Assembly to strip his office of certain regulatory powers, writing that “for decades, the Office of the … Field Enforcement Division has been enforcing and regulating the state’s alcohol, motor fuel and tobacco industries. More than 60 women and men work in the division, many of which are sworn law enforcement officers. … if their legislation is successful, the division would be transferred to a new, inexperienced commission comprised of political appointees.”

MVA ADDS STAFF, HOURS: The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration has added hours, staff and appointments at its offices to cope with the increased volume of drivers who must present four or more different documents to obtain a Real ID drivers license that complies with federal law, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter. The new requirements have ballooned the number of drivers licenses renewals from 10,000 a month to 100,000 per month, according to MVA officials.

STATE MAY HIRE TOLL DEBT COLLECTORS: Out-of-state drivers who ignore Maryland’s video tolls could soon be hearing from debt collectors, Jennifer Barrios of the Post reports. A bill that passed the House of Delegates on Friday and is on its way to the state Senate would effectively allow the Maryland Transportation Authority to use a private debt collection firm to collect unpaid tolls from non-Maryland drivers.

OPINION: RESTAURANT ASSOC. POLL CALLED ‘FAKE:’ In an op-ed for MarylandReporter, Larry Stafford of Progressive Maryland counters recent polling by the Restaurant Association of Maryland that most Marylander would not support an increase in the minimum wage if it would increase costs and cause job loss. “When you ask a fake question, you get a fake answer. The poll is presented as if it were unbiased and scientific, rather than informed by misleading questions designed by lobbyists to deliver the results they want,” Stafford writes.

OPINION: ATTACK ON RESTAURANT GROUP ‘BASELESS:’ In an op-ed for MarylandReporter, Melvin Thompson of the Restaurant Association of Maryland responds to the op-ed by Larry Stafford of Progressive Maryland, writes that Stafford’s “attack is baseless, unwarranted and shows he has little understanding of business economics. The reason the restaurant industry is so concerned about this issue, and was a big part of opposition at the public hearings, is because mandates that increase the cost of labor affect our industry disproportionately.”

THIS WEEK IN ANNAPOLIS: Joel McCord of WYPR-FM explains what’s happening this week in the state legislature, writing that “lawmakers are working to beat the deadline known as cross-over day—March 18 this year–when bills must cross from one house to the other to be guaranteed full consideration.”

DEL. SAAB APOLOGIZES FOR EMAIL: Del. Sid Saab has apologized for emailing out a survey that his District 33 constituents claimed was tilted toward only one option for the Crownsville Hospital Center. The survey shows seven options for the Crownsville Hospital grounds, but only one of those options — Chesapeake Park — seems viable, writes Chase Cook in the Annapolis Capital. Saab sent the survey Monday after receiving it from the Chesapeake Sports and Entertainment Group, which has proposed the park project on hospital grounds.

CURBING LEAD POISONING: With hundreds of children still poisoned by lead each year in Baltimore, city lawmakers are pushing for a series of bills in Annapolis to get tougher on landlords, sue lead paint companies, conduct better state investigations and fix lead-contaminated school drinking fountains, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. On Friday, Baltimore’s House delegation voted to endorse two proposals to try to curb lead poisoning.

BILL WOULD RETURN CITY POLICE CONTROL: Baltimore’s House delegation unanimously voted Friday to endorse a bill that would give the city full control over its police department — a change City Council members have sought for years, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Del. Talmadge Branch of East Baltimore, has said he sees no reason why the city should be the only jurisdiction in Maryland with a police department that is technically a state agency.

SENATE PANEL OKs JHU POLICE: A bill that would allow the Johns Hopkins University to establish a private police force in Baltimore cleared another hurdle Friday in the Maryland General Assembly. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted 9-1 to advance the bill to the full Senate for consideration, Pamela Wood and Luke Broadwater of the Sun write.

HONORING SENATE PREZ MILLER: Ovetta Wiggins of the Post writes that more than 250 people, including former President Bill Clinton, Gov. Larry Hogan, U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen and U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, turned out to honor Miller, who is battling Stage 4 prostate cancer that has metastasized to his spine and pelvic area.

ACLU URGES SUPREMES TO STRIKE 6th DISTRICT: The ACLU of Maryland pressed the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to strike down the state’s westernmost congressional district as unconstitutionally drawn by Maryland’s Democratic leadership to freeze out Republican voters and ensure the election of a Democrat as U.S. Representative, Steve Lash reports in the Daily Record..

HOGAN INAUGURAL COSTS: The AP’s Brian Witte reports that Gov. Larry Hogan’s inaugural committee raised more than $1.6 million for his inaugural festivities in January. For the first time, Maryland law required an inaugural committee to file a financial disclosure statement with the state elections board.

  • Overall, the Hogan-Rutherford Inaugural Committee raised – and spent – $1,664,712.21, the documents show, including 223 contributions of $1,000 or more. Hogan’s inaugural committee was not bound by normal state campaign finance rules limiting contributions to $6,000 per individual or entity. But with a few exceptions, most of the donations were listed in individuals’ names, rather than the names of the entities they represent, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters.

HOGAN PREZ WATCH: A onetime spokesman for former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) is joining Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration as director of communications, bringing a deep knowledge of national GOP politics into the State House as the governor weighs a 2020 presidential bid, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports. Michael Ricci will join the Hogan administration next week, replacing Amelia Chasse Alcivar, who has taken a senior communications position with the Republican Governors Association..

SUNSHINE ON COSTLY POLICE REPORTS: Sunshine Week is upon us and Andrew Schotz of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail writes about a Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association project that tracked the cost of police reports throughout the state. “While many governments across Maryland charge 25 or 50 cents a page for copies of public documents, police departments’ fees are several times as much. Police commonly require $5 or $10 for copies of accident or incident reports, even for a single page.” Baltimore County charges $15 and the city of Salisbury charges $20. The flat fee in Sykesville is $25 regardless of the number of page. It is the steepest among more than three dozen departments.