State Roundup, April 4, 2019

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ED FUNDING PLAN NEARS ADOPTION: Maryland is on the verge of adopting an educational plan designed to transform the state’s public schools, a strategy that requires a down payment of hundreds of millions of additional dollars over the next two years, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post writes.

LAWMAKERS OK FOAM CONTAINER BAN: The Maryland General Assembly gave final approval Wednesday to a bill that would make Maryland the first state in the country to ban polystyrene foam food containers and cups. The House of Delegates voted 100-37 to approve the legislation sponsored by Del. Brooke Lierman, a Baltimore Democrat.

MOVE TO SLOW ROADWAY WIDENING: Environmental activists and other opponents of Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to widen two major roadways are mounting an 11th-hour push to get the General Assembly to force additional review of the projects, reports Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters.

SENATE PANEL VOTES DOWN SEX ABUSE SUIT BILL: Erin Cox of the Post writes that a Senate panel on Wednesday voted down a bill that would have let childhood sex abuse victims of any age sue institutions that harbored their attackers. The legislation, proposed amid a global clergy sex abuse scandal, had passed the House of Delegates overwhelmingly last month. But the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee declined to advance it, with one Democrat joining the committee’s four Republicans in voting it down.

REPAIRING PIMLICO: Baltimore officials trying to retain the Preakness Stakes and save Pimlico Race Course floated a half-billion-dollar plan to the track’s owner to pay for improvements there while also funding renovations at two of its other Maryland tracks, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

TOBACCO-BUYING AGE RAISED TO 21: Spurred by a sharp rise in teen use of e-cigarettes, the Maryland legislature voted Wednesday to raise the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has not said whether he will sign the bill, which exempts members of the military, Erin Cox of the Post reports.

BAN ON CITY SEIZING HOMES: The General Assembly gave final approval Wednesday to legislation that would ban the city of Baltimore from placing liens against homes, churches and other properties over unpaid water bills, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

MARYLAND ON VERGE OF LEAVING TITLE X PROGRAM: In a countermeasure to a proposed Trump administration rule, Maryland would become the first state to stop participating in a federal family planning program known as Title X, under a bill that received final approval Wednesday in the Maryland General Assembly. The rule proposed by President Donald Trump would prohibit family planning clinics funded by the program from making abortion referrals. The Maryland Senate voted 28-16 for the measure, sending the bill to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, the AP is reporting.

TAX CREDITS FOR CHILD CARE: The General Assembly on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed legislation to greatly expand the number of residents who can receive tax credits to help pay for child care, Luke Broadwater of the Sun writes.

PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICE CURBS: New legislation guaranteeing limited out-of-pocket prescription expenses for retired state employees has been approved by the Maryland General Assembly, Tamela Baker writes in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. The Senate and the House of Delegates each approved a final version on Wednesday. The final votes were to approve a compromise reached by representatives from both chambers.

REPUBLICANS TRY TO DELAY HANDGUN BOARD BILL: Lawmakers were in a rush to get bills out of committee and over the hump to the floor for a vote on Wednesday, but Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee tried a different tactic to slow-walk a bill they oppose, Samantha Hogan of the Frederick News-Post reports. Republican members of the committee used a series of procedural “holds” to delay a vote on a bill that would eliminate the state’s Handgun Permit Review Board and keep it from advancing to the full House of Delegates, where Democrats have a firm majority.

UMMS REFORM: Maryland lawmakers advanced bills Wednesday to overhaul the University of Maryland Medical System’s board, which is at the center of a political firestorm after the revelation that its members benefited from lucrative contracts with the system they oversaw, Rachel Chason of the Post reports.

THE MANY ‘HOLLY’ MYSTERIES: Kevin Rector and Talia Richman of the Sun write that recent revelations that Mayor Catherine Pugh was paid nearly $800,000 for her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s books — including by a health system she helped oversee and a large health provider that does business with the city — have raised many serious questions. Among them: Where did all the money go?

  • Columbia businessman J.P. Grant said Wednesday his company cut a check for $100,000 to then-Baltimore mayoral nominee Catherine Pugh’s Healthy Holly LLC in October 2016, Ian Duncan reports in the Sun. He said he received a copy of one book but no documentation of how his money would be used. The revelation brings to $800,000 the public accounting of how much money Pugh’s book company received from local entities since 2011.

HOWARD SCHOOLS KEEP POST-LABOR DAY OPENING FOR NOW: Howard County schools are following in the footsteps of many Maryland school systems in delaying the use of newfound flexibility to have local control over when they start the academic year. Instead of altering the first day of school for this coming September, the school system is maintaining its Sept. 3 start date for the 77-school district, Jess Nocera of the Howard County Times reports.

JUDGE DENIES LEOPOLD CONVICTION REQUEST: A judge has denied former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold’s request to vacate his criminal conviction, Chase Cook reports in the Annapolis Capital. Retired Circuit Court Judge Diane O. Leasure denied Leopold’s request Monday, stating the former county executive’s claims of ineffective counsel were not valid.

BAY GOVERNORS ASK CONGRESS FOR FUNDS: The governors of Delaware, Pennsylvania and Virginia and the mayor of Washington, D.C., joined Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan in asking congressional leaders to increase the federal budget for the Chesapeake Bay’s cleanup Tuesday, writes Scott Dance for the Sun. In a letter released Wednesday, they called on House and Senate committee leaders to spend $90 million on the federal Chesapeake Bay Program, 2% more than the initiative’s current budget.