State Roundup, March 27, 2019

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$46.6B BUDGET, WITH ED HIKES, PASSES: The Maryland General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to pass a $46.6 billion budget that increases funding for education by more than what Gov. Larry Hogan proposed — but not as much as some school advocates desired, Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood report in the Sun. The Senate voted 47-0 and the House of Delegates voted 123-12 to pass the spending plan after reaching a compromise to provide $255 million in additional money to begin implementing a state commission’s recommendations to improve schools.

  • The budget includes more than $7 billion in education, with $255 million directed to recommendations of the Kirwan Commission. Coupled with the state’s capital budget – which is expected to be passed by lawmakers later this week – the spending plan also directs a half-billion to school construction next year. It also leaves $1.2 billion in the Rainy Day Fund and a $118 million general fund balance, Danielle Gaines reports for Maryland Matters.

HOUSE ADVANCES PLAN TO CAP DRUG PRICES: Maryland delegates are pushing back against high prescription drug costs, but their proposal stops short of setting drug price caps for all Marylanders, Diane Rey reports for MarylandReporter. Instead, the House of Delegates advanced a proposal Tuesday that will limit what the state will pay for the prescription drugs of state and local government workers and institutions.

LOANS FOR FED WORKERS SIGNED INTO LAW: Gov. Larry Hogan signed a bill into law on Tuesday that creates a fund to give loans to federal employees who are forced to work without pay during government shutdowns, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. The bill arose from this winter’s prolonged federal government shutdown, when thousands of Maryland residents were required to work without pay — and were therefore ineligible for unemployment benefits because they weren’t available to look for another job.

ANTON’s LAW STALLS: The family of Anton Black came to Annapolis on Tuesday to raise concern that legislation bearing the 19-year-old’s name has not received a vote in Maryland’s General Assembly — while another police transparency bill they view as much weaker is advancing, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. Black died in police custody on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

NUCLEAR CONUNDRUM: Del. Mark Fisher (R-Calvert), whose Southern Maryland district includes Calvert Cliffs, the state’s only nuclear power plant, introduced legislation to include nuclear as a so-called Tier 1 fuel that could be used as part of the state’s renewable portfolio. When the bill appeared to be going nowhere, he amended it to instead mandate a study on the future of the nuclear industry in Maryland. That bill made out of the House Economic Matters Committee then passed fairly easily on the House floor last week, Josh Kurtz writes for Maryland Matters.

DEL. JALISI CALLS PROBE ‘SMEAR CAMPAIGN:’ Baltimore County Del. Jay Jalisi blasted an ethics investigation that found he fostered a toxic environment in his legislative office as a “nasty smear campaign and a sham investigation.” Pamela Wood and Luke Broadwater of the Sun report that the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics issued a searing report Monday that recommended a public reprimand for the second-term Democratic delegate.

OPINION: LISANTI VS. JALISI: In a column for Seventh State blog, David Lublin opines that the General Assembly rightly and roundly called out Del. Mary Ann Lisanti (D-Harford) for using a horrible racist slur, after Ovetta Wiggins’s reporting at the Post brought it to public attention. Many of her colleagues, party officials, and activists called for Lisanti’s resignation. Bizarrely, however, the General Assembly has appeared far more tolerant of Del. Jay Jalisi’s (D-Baltimore County) repeatedly harmful actions in his public and private life as opposed to Lisanti’s hurtful words, including Jalisi’s daughter’s claim that he slapped her. She sought and won a protective order in 2015.

PITTMAN CALLS FOR INSPECTION OF TRACK’S HOUSING: Amid criticism from Baltimore Del. Nick Mosby, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman is calling for an “immediate inspection” of the housing facilities at Laurel Park racetrack, Lauren Lumpkin of the Annapolis Capital reports.

TEEN SILENTLY STRIKES FOR GREEN: An amendment to include the right to a clean and healthy environment in the Maryland constitution was withdrawn this session, but 15-year-old Kallan Benson is continuing her silent strike to support the change, writes Rachael Pacella for the Annapolis Capital. She has been silently striking outside the State House Tuesday through Friday all session.

ROUGHLY SPEAKING ON UMMS, LAUREL ETC: In this Roughly Speaking: Government Edition, Sun reporter Luke Broadwater and Goucher College pollster Mileah Kromer talk about the evolving scandal rocking the University of Maryland Medical System. Reporter Pamela Wood joins the discussion about the continuing battle to save the Preakness from moving to Laurel. Also joining them are the youngest lawmakers from each General Assembly chamber: Sen. Sarah Elfreth, 30, an Anne Arundel Democrat and Del. Julian Ivey, 23, a Prince George’s County Democrat, who discuss everything from oysters and gun legislation to the biggest lessons they’ve learned from their first session in office.

GERRYMANDERING AT SUPREME COURT: Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday urged the U.S. Supreme Court to act on partisan gerrymandering, calling the matter “one of the most important issues in America today.” The court on Tuesday heard oral arguments in two cases — one centered on Republican gerrymandering in North Carolina, the other challenging Democratic-led gerrymandering in Maryland, Jennifer Barrios of the Post reports.

  • It’s time to “terminate” gerrymandering, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) said on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. Schwarzenegger, famous for his role in the 1984 film “The Terminator,” joined Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) at a rally for fair election maps outside the high court as its justices listened to oral arguments in three partisan gerrymandering cases affecting North Carolina and Maryland, Samantha Hogan reports for the Frederick News-Post.

PUGH PROMISES ‘HOLLY’ PRESSER: The Sun’s Ian Duncan writes that Mayor Catherine Pugh is planning to hold a news conference to address the controversy surrounding the $500,000 Healthy Holly book deal, once she is released from a hospital and healthy enough to appear in public, her spokesman said. Pugh was hospitalized over the weekend with pneumonia. She didn’t appear last week for her weekly news conference.