State Roundup, March 25, 2019

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DRUG AFFORDABILITY BOARD: A Maryland House of Delegates committee voted overwhelmingly Friday to advance legislation that would create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board that could set limits on how much state and local governments pay for high-cost medications, Luke Broadwater writes for the Sun. The Health and Government Operations Committee voted 20-3 to support the legislation, which will advance to the full House of Delegates on Monday.

DEVELOPMENT BILL TO BE PULLED: A state senator said he would withdraw an obscure bill that sought to undo a 2013 Maryland Court of Appeals decision blocking development at a Pikesville cemetery. Alison Knezevich and Pamela Wood of the Sun report that residents who years ago went to court to stop a housing proposal at Druid Ridge Cemetery had cried fouled over the legislation, which was introduced late in the General Assembly session by a state senator from Montgomery County.

STATE CIRCLE: Maryland Reporter’s Len Lazarick was on Maryland Public TV’s State Circle program Friday night discussing Annapolis action last week on the end-of-life options bill and the state budget. State Circle is now being live streamed and archived on YouTube. Lazarick appears at minute 20 of the show for Political Roundtable.

UMMS OFFICIALS BLASTED: Top officials of the University of Maryland Medical System came under sharp criticism from state lawmakers Friday, as members of a key committee began considering legislation that would prohibit financial arrangements between the institution and members of its board. With no UMMS board members in attendance, it fell to a trio of top system officials to absorb the expressions of disapproval from state lawmakers, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports.

RED FLAGS AT UMMS: In this first installment of a two-part series for MarylandReporter, contributor Charlie Hayward, a career government auditor, describes the numerous red flags uncovered to date at the University of Maryland Medical System.

PUGH UNDER FIRE: Running for election three years ago, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh promised to be “transparent and accountable.” In another she pledged “honest leadership.” Ian Duncan of the Sun writes that now, in the early stages of her re-election bid, Pugh has come under fire for revelations that while she sat on the board of the University of Maryland Medical System, the organization paid her $500,000 for children’s books she authored, and as a state senator when she got much of the money, she failed to disclose it on her General Assembly ethics forms.

OPINION: WHY BUY HOLLY? In an opinion piece for Baltimore Brew, David Plymyer tries to unpack what created the atmosphere to allow the self-dealing on the board of directors of UMMS. Why did the University of Maryland Medical System purchase a half million dollars worth of these odd self-published books from a member of its board of directors, the former state senator and current Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh?

WHERE’S HOLLY?: Tens of thousands of Mayor Catherine Pugh’s “Healthy Holly” children’s books have not been accounted for by the institution that paid for them or the mayor, even as public pressure builds amid accusations of “self-dealing” at the University of Maryland Medical System, Talia Richman and Liz Bowie of the Sun report.

WHAT OTHER HOSPITALS DO: Several of Maryland’s largest hospitals engage in business transactions with members of their governing boards while avoiding — for the most part — the type of political dealings that ensnared the University of Maryland Medical System in management turmoil this week, Doug Donovan and Meredith Cohn report in the Sun.

BOSSIE PREDICTED MUELLER OUTCOME: David Bossie, deputy campaign manager for Donald Trump in 2016 and now Republican national committeeman for Maryland, made a number of predictions at the Howard County Lincoln Day Dinner last Tuesday. At least one of them turned out to be correct, “What that [Mueller] report is going to show is absolutely nothing. After two years and $40 million, it’s going to show what we already know — no collusion, no coordinating, no cooperation, nothing.

THIS WEEK IN ANNAPOLIS: Joel McCord of WYPR-FM writes that it’s a safe bet that the conflict of interest controversy over UMMS doing business with members of its board of directors will suck up much of the energy in Annapolis as the General Assembly begins its two-week sprint to adjournment at midnight April 8. But much more is happening this week.

SUPREMES TO HEAR GERRYMANDERING CASES: The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on Tuesday in two high-profile partisan gerrymandering cases, one involving Maryland and one involving North Carolina, CJ Lovelace of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports. “This is going to be the biggest thing happening in the country on Tuesday, I would imagine,” said Jerry DeWolf, chairman of the Washington County Republican Central Committee and a plaintiff in the 6th District case.

  • Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat, argues that this is not a case of politicians entrenching themselves in power against the people’s will and that the 2011 plan was created after significant input from voters. Rep. David Trone, a Democrat who represents the contested region, has also defended the contours of his 6th District. Republican Gov. Hogan is backing the GOP voters in the case as is former California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robin Bravender writes in Maryland Matters.

OPINION: 2 GOVs SAY POLITICIANS RIG MAPS: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, write in an op-ed for the Post, opine that the Supreme Court will soon hear arguments over whether politicians can be trusted to draw up their own districts. “Take it from us: They can’t. We are governors from different parties with different views on a number of issues. But on this we agree: Elections should be decided by the voters. Under the current system, politicians devise maps that make some votes count more than others. They rig the system with impunity.”

OPINION: WHO SHOULD REDISTRICT: Post columnist George Will argues that in the gerrymandering cases from Maryland and North Carolina that the Supreme Court will hear this week, the court should leaves these political decisions where the Constitution does: to the state legislatures and to the Congress.

SENATE OKs 3 FOR APPELLATE COURTS: With no dissenting votes, the Senate on Friday confirmed Gov. Larry Hogan’s three nominees for Maryland’s top and intermediate appellate courts, Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports. Easton lawyer Brynja McDivitt Booth will take a seat on the Court of Appeals and Calvert County Circuit Judge E. Gregory Wells and Bethesda attorney Steven B. Gould will join the intermediate Court of Special Appeals.

OPINION: POOR REASON NOT TO RUN: Post columnist Jennifer Rubin opines that for former New Jersey Gov. Chris “Christie to say, as The Post reported, that he sees “no current path for a successful primary challenge” for his friend Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland is, to be blunt, meaningless … In addition to Hogan’s qualifications and personal qualities, Hogan of all people knows that a moral imperative can dwarf mundane political concerns.”

CUMMINGS BRINGS TOGETHER YOUTH: Just a few miles separate African-American neighborhoods of West Baltimore from Jewish enclaves to the north, and Rep. Elijah Cummings has sought for years to unite these teens across his district. On Sunday, he brought his message to one more class of them, telling a conference room of boys and girls they aren’t so different from one another, Tim Prudente of the Sun reports.

OPINION: UNFAIR COLLEGE ADMISSIONS: In a Sun op-ed, Towson University Professor Richard Vatz argues that unfair advantages in college admissions are the rule, not the exception. “There is no excusing the criminal fraudulent behavior in the scandalous college admissions bribery case now in focus nationwide, but let’s not have crocodile tears implying that this is the only salient aspect of unfair competitive advantages in the academy.”