$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.
- The House of Delegates is expected to vote on a resolution of reprimand Wednesday that will require Jalisi (D-Baltimore County) to complete anger management and civility programs. If Jalisi refuses to attend the programs, he will be stripped of his committee assignments and could face further investigation. The lawmaker was absent from the House legislative session Tuesday morning, Ovetta Wiggins and Arelis Hernandez of the Post are reporting.
- The committee’s investigation, completed last week, included testimony from 17 witnesses and an additional 18 sworn affidavits, Bryan Sears reports for the Daily Record. The committee also attempted to interview other witnesses who declined to cooperate. Jalisi himself was offered an opportunity to testify before the committee on March 23 but declined, according to the report.
- You can read Jalisi’s full statement in the Sun.
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.
- Robert Barnes of the Post writes that a familiar pattern emerged at the Supreme Court Tuesday as it again took up the subject of extreme partisan gerrymandering: Liberal justices saw it as a threat to democracy that requires action while conservatives wondered how courts could ever decide when a political process becomes too political. The outcome could hinge on the justice who has not been a part of the previous considerations: Brett Kavanaugh.
- The Supreme Court’s conservative majority sounded wary Tuesday of allowing federal judges to determine when electoral maps are too partisan, despite strong evidence that the political parties drew districts to guarantee congressional election outcomes, Mark Sherman of the AP reports.
- Steve Lash of the Daily Record picked up on something else, writing that based on questions and comments from justices Tuesday, Maryland’s currently configured westernmost congressional district appears to stand no chance of survival if the Supreme Court holds unconstitutional the intentional redrawing of a district to favor one political party, in this case Democrats.
- CJ Lovelace of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail writes that attorney Michael B. Kimberly argued that GOP voters in the district were “singled out” by Democrats who have admitted the redistricting ahead of the 2012 election was done to help a Democrat win the seat. That left the Republicans “doomed to usual defeat” year after year, he said.
- Robin Bravender writes for Maryland Matters that Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee, said the court was being told that it “must act because nobody else can as a practical matter.” But “is that true?” he asked, questioning whether states could impact the process in other ways.
- Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters writes about some of the “fun stuff” that occurred outside the court. Here’s a photo gallery from the folks at Maryland Matters.
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.