State Roundup, March 15, 2019

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HOUSE OKs $46.7B SPENDING PLAN: Maryland’s House of Delegates on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a $46.7 billion spending plan that boosts funding for the state’s public schools while cutting some of Gov. Larry Hogan’s favored proposals, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. The budget passed 124-14 with little debate, but it drew the ire of top Republicans.

UMMS BOARD REFORMS: General Assembly leaders expressed outrage Thursday and called for reforms and an audit of the University of Maryland Medical System after learning members of the system’s board — including Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh — have business deals with the hospital network that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each, Doug Donovan and Luke Broadwater are reporting in the Sun.

HOGAN PUSHES FOR CRAB VISAS: Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday pressed Trump administration officials to grant more work visas to immigrants, arguing seasonal laborers are a pillar of the Chesapeake Bay’s seafood industry, reports the Post’s Erin Cox. Hogan, a moderate Republican weighing a 2020 primary challenge to President Trump, wrote to Cabinet secretaries that continuing to cap the seasonal visas that have been used by hundreds of migrant crab pickers for decades “could permanently damage Maryland’s seafood industry.”

SENATE PASSES $15 MINIMUM WAGE: The Maryland Senate approved a bill Thursday night that would gradually increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, putting the measure one step closer to a possible showdown with Gov. Larry Hogan, Pamela Wood of the Sun writes.

  • The Senate voted 32 to 15 along party lines to phase in the higher wage by 2025 for companies with at least 15 employees. Smaller businesses would have until 2028.The House of Delegates also overwhelmingly passed the legislation, although differences between the bills must be addressed by a joint committee, writes Ovetta Wiggins in the Post.

NO SPORTS BETTING LEGISLATION THIS YEAR: Senate President Mike Miller said Thursday that the General Assembly will not consider legislation this year to legalize sports gambling, meaning that the earliest the state could implement a system to authorize and tax betting on athletic contests is likely 2021, reports Ovetta Wiggins for the Post.

RENEWABLE TARGET BILL MOVES FORWARD: A bill that would require more of Maryland’s energy to come from renewable sources is moving forward in the state Senate, after a failed attempt to defeat the bill in the House of Delegates, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun. The Senate Finance Committee approved the Clean Energy Jobs Act on Thursday on an 8-3 vote. Some senators expressed reservations about the possibility of the bill causing electricity bills to increase.

CONSUMER GROUPS EYE UTILITY-BACKED MEASURE: Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes about a bill that is heavily backed by the utility industry, including Exelon, BG&E, Pepco, Delmarva Power and Washington Gas, and its well-heeled lobbyists that went unnoticed until recently. Now, the AARP and consumer advocates are taking notice and are pushing back.

JHU POLICING WOULD BE CONFINED: The Sun’s Jean Marbella writes that Derik Leonard welcomed the prospect of a Johns Hopkins University police department, saying it could improve safety for customers and staff of the restaurant he manages about a half-mile south of the renowned Hopkins hospital. But state legislation to create the new force, which the Maryland Senate passed Thursday and is pending in a House committee, has been amended so that university officers couldn’t patrol beyond a tight perimeter surrounding the school’s three campuses — unless the adjacent neighborhoods and the City Council grant their approval.

HOUSE PASSES PESTICIDE BAN: Rural delegates fought a losing battle on the House floor Thursday against banning a pesticide that has been linked to autism, ADHD and childhood cancers, Diane Rey of MarylandReporter reports. Lawmakers from the state’s rural areas said banning the commonly-used pesticide would be a blow to farmers who rely on it to grow their crops and put them at a competitive disadvantage.

CYBERBULLYING BILL: The House of Delegates passed legislation Thursday to expand Maryland’s law against the cyberbullying of youngsters, Steve Lash reports in the Daily Record.

OPINION: REPLACING MILLER: In a column for Maryland Matters, Josh Kurtz writes about the seismic shift in Annapolis that occurred when Senate President Mike Miller, the longest serving state Senate president in the country, announced that he had cancer. For the first time, his colleagues were thinking in terms of succession planning.

FOR-PROFIT COLLEGE REGS: Tim Curtis of the Daily Record writes that legislation regulating for-profit colleges in Maryland has passed both chambers of the General Assembly, but with amendments that supporters say gut the heart of one of the bills. One bill would require schools to make disclosures about student outcomes, and the other would define what is a for-profit college and what is a nonprofit college.

ADDRESSING TRANSPARENCY IN FREDERICK ED BOARD: In a Political Notes column for the Frederick News-Post, Steve Bohnel writes that earlier this year, Sen. Michael Hough introduced what he believes is a “common sense” piece of legislation to address a lack of transparency in the appointment process for county Board of Education vacancies. Last week, that bill passed in the Senate 46-0. The Frederick County school board member who was involved in a recent local example of that process, however, doesn’t think change at the state level is necessarily needed.

HOGAN TO GET FILM INDUSTRY AWARD: Gov. Larry Hogan will be awarded the Mendez Award at the Maryland International Film Festival in Hagerstown this month, Tamela Baker of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail writes.“The Mendez Award is awarded to someone who has succeeded in the Television and Film Industry; or has supported film and television, and has given back to the community,” Executive Director Tracie Hovey said in a statement.

OPINION: CELEBRATING HARRY HUGHES: The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital praises the late Gov. Harry Hughes, opining that “it’s hard to imagine just how revolutionary Harry Hughes’ election as governor seemed in 1978. Maryland was reeling from corruption scandals that cost Spiro Agnew the vice presidency and Marvin Mandel the governor’s office. Somehow, this former transportation secretary from Caroline County managed to upset the Democratic favorite in a crowded primary and then go on to crush the Republican in November.”