State Roundup, April 1, 2019

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FINAL WEEK IN ANNAPOLIS: As Maryland’s lawmakers head into the final days of their annual session, they have plenty of items left on their to-do list: reforming the University of Maryland Medical System board, settling how to pay for increased education spending and deciding whether to issue bonds to improve the Laurel Park racetrack. Those issues are expected to be among the most hotly debated before the General Assembly adjourns its 90-day session at midnight April 8.

HOGAN BILL CREATES NEW 6th: Gov. Larry Hogan sent a bill to the Maryland General Assembly that would create new boundaries for the state’s gerrymandered 6th Congressional District, but the Democrats who control the legislature appear unlikely to act on it before adjourning April 8, Jennifer Barrios of the Post reports.

BILL TO REFORM UMMS: A House of Delegates committee voted unanimously Friday to advance sweeping legislation that would reform the University of Maryland Medical System’s board of directors amid accusations of self-dealing that have rocked the hospital network, reports Luke Broadwater of the Sun.

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR SEX ASSAULT SUITS: Dozens of sexual assault survivors filled the seats of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Thursday afternoon as the panel considered a measure to get rid of the statute of limitations for filing civil lawsuits. And after emotional testimony from Del. C.T. Wilson (D-Charles), a survivor of abuse himself, they stood up behind him in silent solidarity, Danielle Gaines reports for Maryland Matters.

VETO OVERRIDES: Since being sworn in in 2015, Gov. Hogan has issued 25 vetoes for policy reasons. Of those, five were sustained, according to records from the Department of Legislative Services. On Thursday and Friday, the General Assembly quickly overrode Hogan on vetoes of three bills the governor said were bad for the state’s economy. The overrides in the House and Senate were swift, never in doubt, and almost strictly along party lines. Some lawmakers and observers say it’s a trend unlikely to end before Hogan’s term ends in 2023, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports.

OPINION: THE COST OF $15 WAGE: Richard Douglas, in an op-ed for MarylandReporter, opines that several possible consequences of the General Assembly’s decision to hike Maryland’s minimum wage to $15 over Gov. Hogan’s veto have been left out of the public debate, at least so far.  He offers thoughts on a few of them, including, there will likely be more contract workers instead of employees.

OPINION: AFFLUENT IGNORE RURAL MD: Walter Olson and Ryan Bourne of the Cato Institute, write in an op-ed in the Post that, “One thing we’ve learned in this year’s debate over a statewide $15 minimum wage, now set to become law after the legislature overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) veto … is that affluent central Maryland doesn’t want to listen to hard-hit rural Maryland.

LONG GUN BACKGROUND CHECKS: A proposal to require background checks on private sales of rifles and shotguns cleared a key hurdle Friday in the Maryland General Assembly, Pamela Wood writes in the Sun. The Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee voted 8-3 to advance a version of the bill to the Senate for consideration.

BOOSTING CASH ASSISTANCE: As Maryland lawmakers work to increase funding for the state’s Temporary Cash Assistance program, a recent study by the U.S. Center for Budget and Policy Priorities revealed that most states, including Maryland, are not using existing TCA funds for their intended purpose, Meghan Thompson reports for Maryland Matters. A bill sponsored by Sen. Guy J. Guzzone (D-Howard) and Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-Prince George’s) would boost funding for the temporary cash assistance program to increase the payment to a greater percentage of the state minimum living level.

TENANTS RIGHTS BILL DIES: A bill in the Maryland General Assembly that would have required landlords to give a reason, or “just cause” for evicting a tenant, has died, Dan Schere of Bethesda Beat reports. The bill, sponsored by Montgomery Democratic Del. Jheanelle Wilkins, was voted down in the House Environment and Transportation Committee, 17- 2, with four members absent.

FUTURE OF B-W PARKWAY: Gov. Larry Hogan’s push to have Maryland take control of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway picked up a prominent new backer on Friday — and some new opposition, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports. Hogan (R) met with the state’s congressional delegation at the State House Friday to discuss transportation, health care, Chesapeake Bay funding and other issues. His proposal to have the U.S. Department of the Interior transfer ownership of the parkway to the state was one of the issues officials discussed, participants said afterward.

STATE GOVT HIRING PRACTICES UNDER HOGAN: After a lengthy debate Friday afternoon, the Maryland Senate passed a bill that would require reporting about the involvement in the governor’s appointments office in state hiring decisions. Senate Bill 751 was introduced by Sen. Clarence Lam (D-Baltimore, Howard), who is co-chair of the Joint Committee on Fair Practices and State Personnel Oversight. For two sessions, he has been raising questions about state employees at Grade 19 or higher who were vetted by the governor’s appointments office before being hired, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters reports.

UTILITY PRICE INCREASES: House Economic Matters Chair Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s) on Thursday gave a spirited, almost caustic defense of his legislation to change the way electric utility companies in Maryland request rate increases. Testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, Davis said his legislation giving utilities more flexibility when calculating rate increase requests was long overdue and nothing to be feared, Josh Kurtz reports in Maryland Matters

BOARDS DON’T MOVE ON SCHOOL START, YET: Maryland school systems have newfound flexibility when it comes to when they can start the academic year, but most local districts don’t plan to take advantage of that right away, Luke Broadwater and Talia Richman reports in the Sun. The Maryland General Assembly voted Friday to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill that will allow public schools to begin classes before Labor Day.

SUIT TO STOP NEW RX POT LICENSES DROPPED: A rapid backlash this week forced a politically connected Baltimore County medical cannabis company on Friday to abandon a lawsuit it filed just four days ago to stop medical marijuana regulators from awarding several new licenses to future competitors, Doug Donovan reports in the Sun.

2 NEW COMMERCE OFFICIALS: Maryland Secretary of Commerce Kelly Schulz has brought on two new officials in key roles to oversee business development and tourism initiatives. Holden Wilen of the Baltimore Business Journal reports that Signe Pringle will be an assistant secretary in the Department of Commerce overseeing business development. Tom Riford will be an assistant secretary overseeing the state’s tourism, film and arts offices, as well as the Department of Commerce’s marketing and communications. Both will start in their new roles on April 3.

FORMER WHIG PUBLISHER DIES: E. Ralph Hostetter, the former publisher and owner of the Cecil Whig and current chairman and publisher of American Farm Publications Inc., died Tuesday of heart disease at his home in North East. He was 97, reports Fred Rasmussen in the Sun.