State Roundup, March 13, 2019

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LAWMAKERS BAN FOAM FOOD CONTAINERS: With approval from both chambers, the state legislature moved Tuesday toward making Maryland the first state in the country to ban polystyrene foam food containers and cups. Luke Broadwater of the Sun writes that the House of Delegates voted 97-38 to approve the legislation sponsored by Del. Brooke Lierman, a Baltimore Democrat.

RX POT DISPENSARY BILL CONCERNS OWNERS: Legislation that claims to seek to prevent out-of-state ownership of medical marijuana dispensaries and prevent consolidation could instead accelerate it, several dispensary owners say. Doug Donovan of the Sun reports that a bill poised to win approval in the Maryland Senate this week calls for scrapping the one-dispensary rule, and a loophole allowing for management agreements. The new law would impose a five-dispensary limit on owning or managing cannabis stores.

CUMMINGS TESTIFIES FOR JHU POLICE: U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings came Tuesday to Annapolis to urge the Baltimore delegation to the House of Delegates to approve the creation of an armed Johns Hopkins University police force, a step the panel took over the cries of protesters. Citing Baltimore’s high crime rate, the chairman of the powerful U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said more must be done to combat the onslaught of killings in Baltimore, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. The city has seen more than 300 homicides a year for four consecutive years.

OUTSIDE PROBE SOUGHT IN POLICE KILLINGS: Amid racial unrest spurred by police slayings of unarmed black men in other states, a Baltimore state senator urged her colleagues Tuesday to support legislation requiring that investigations of killings by officers be conducted by outside investigators, Steve Lash reports in the Daily Record. The proposed Law Enforcement Trust and Transparency Act would also require that the investigators’ reports be made public if the officers are not prosecuted.

SMITH RACES TO FINISH AGENDA: In a feature story for MarylandReporter.com, Diane Rey writes about Sen. Will Smith Jr. who  is adopting his late father’s optimistic attitude as he works to finish his ambitious legislative agenda before his March 29 deployment to Afghanistan, 10 days before Maryland’s legislative session ends April 8.

CURBING JAIL CONFINEMENT: With four weeks left in Maryland’s 2019 General Assembly session, legislators could still make reforms to how state prisons and jails use “restrictive housing,” keeping a prisoner in a cell for at least 22 hours a day, Cameron Dodd reports in the Frederick News-Post. The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday heard testimony regarding bills aimed at curbing Maryland correctional facilities’ use of restrictive housing for pregnant women, minors, inmates with mental illness and soon-to-be released inmates.

CHILD CARE TAX CREDITS: Maryland’s state Senate unanimously passed legislation to greatly expand the number of residents who can receive tax credits to help pay for child care, Luke Broadwater of the Sun is reporting. The Senate voted 47-0 in favor of legislation that would provide millions of dollars more in tax credits for child and dependent care costs. A financial analysis found that the bill approved Monday night would cost $17.5 million in fiscal year 2020 and $20 million in fiscal year 2024.

CHILD SUPPORT CALCULATION: A sweeping package of bills being considered by the General Assembly would change how child support payments are determined by Maryland courts, Yvonne Wenger reports for the Sun. The legislation would affect “hundreds of thousands” of people who depend on the child support system when parents split up and must reach agreements on custody, visitation and how to split the costs of the children they share, House Majority Leader Kathleen Dumais said.

ANTI-DOG DISCRIMINATION BILL: Companies would not be allowed to charge higher homeowners or renters insurance premiums for families who own certain breeds of dogs if a bill being considered by the Maryland General Assembly becomes law. The measure would benefit people who own Rottweilers, pit bulls and other animals with reputations — unfounded in the view of many — for being more of a public safety threat than other breeds, Bruce DePuyt reports in Maryland Matters.

STUDENT VISION SCREENINGS: Students in public schools who fail required vision screenings and do not receive recommended services would be provided free eye examinations and eyeglasses by a Maryland Department of Health program, under legislation expected to be heard by a state Senate committee on Wednesday, David Jahng of Capital News Service.

EDUCATING TO BECOME DONORS: Several bills progressing in the Maryland General Assembly would provide support for living organ or tissue donors, and educate high school students about becoming a donor, Charlie Youngman of the Capital News Service reports. Sponsored by Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, D-Baltimore City and County, Senate Bill 954 could require county boards of education to begin teaching students about organ donation in public schools starting in the 2020-2021 school year.

OPINION: DON’T BE LIKE PETE: In an op-ed for Maryland Matters, David Plymyer opines that there is a moral to the story of House Bill 1052, which would transfer responsibility for enforcing state regulations on the alcohol and tobacco industries from the state comptroller to a newly formed Alcohol and Tobacco Commission. The moral is that if you make a political nuisance out of yourself, don’t hand the politicians that you are annoying the ammunition they need to shoot you down. In other words, don’t do what state Comptroller Peter Franchot has done.

ROUGHLY SPEAKING: AIDED SUICIDE: During this Roughly Speaking podcast for the Sun, reporter Luke Broadwater and Goucher College pollster Dr. Mileah Kromer talk about the House of Delegates’ vote to legalize medically assisted suicide, the effort to repeal the Handgun Permit Review Board and how a Sun investigation is changing policy in the state. The show’s guest is Del. Eric Luedtke, a Montgomery County Democrat who gave moving testimony on the so-called “aid-in-dying” bill. Sun reporters Pamela Wood and Catherine Rentz provide insight and analysis.

STATE DISPUTES LOCAL POLICE CONTENTION: A former Eastern Shore police chief says Maryland officials had all “pertinent” internal affairs files when they approved his department’s decision to hire a problem-plagued cop from Delaware now at the center of the Anton Black controversy. But the state disagrees, saying the documents the local police shared with state officials reflected only “minor” personnel matters – and not potentially disqualifying information about the history of the Greensboro police officer, Glynis Kazanjian reports in Maryland Matters.

NIH BUDGET CUTS PROPOSED: President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal 2020, released Monday, would reduce funding for the Bethesda-based National Institutes of Health by about 13% – a cut of about $4.9 billion, Louis Peck reports in Bethesda Beat. Under Trump’s proposal for the budget year that begins Oct. 1, NIH – Montgomery County’s largest employer with nearly 20,300 workers – would receive $34.4 billion, down from $39.3 billion for the current fiscal year.

BA CO CAMPAIGN FINANCE PLAN: Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. faced questions Tuesday from the County Council on his proposal to open the door to the public financing of local campaigns. Alison Knezevich of the Sun reports that Olszewski appeared before the council to testify on a package of legislation he said would increase public trust in county government and reduce the influence of special interests.

DESIGNATING ‘KOREATOWN:’ Supporters of creating a “Koreatown” in Ellicott City, such as Maryland first lady Yumi Hogan, plan to pursue that designation for a five-mile stretch along Route 40 in Howard County, Adam Bednar of the Daily Record reports. Hogan, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, and Dong-gi Kim, counsul general of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, on Tuesday discussed their goal to classify a portion of the area as a Koreatown.