State Roundup, April 8, 2019

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SPEAKER MICHAEL BUSCH DIES: Michael E. Busch, a gregarious former coach and high school teacher who became the longest-serving House of Delegates speaker in Maryland history, died Sunday April 7, 2019 after a short bout with pneumonia. He was 72, Jeff Barker and Luke Broadwater of the Sun report.

SINE DIE WITHOUT SPEAKER BUSCH: Pamela Wood of the Sun reports that for this year’s Sine Die, Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne Jones, a Democratic delegate from Baltimore County, will guide lawmakers through the process of passing bills and finishing their work for the year. She’s been a member of the House since 1997 and speaker pro tem since 2003. She has stepped into the role of substituting for the ailing Busch in recent weeks, shepherding bills through the legislative process from the rostrum. Busch last led the House chamber March 25.

BREAKING: CITY COUNCIL ASKS PUGH TO RESIGN: The entire Baltimore City Council has called for Mayor Catherine Pugh’s resignation, Jenny Fulginiti of WBAL-TV is reporting. Councilman Eric Costello tweeted out a memo calling for Pugh to resign immediately. The memo stated, “The entire membership of the Baltimore City Council believes that it is not in the best interest of the City of Baltimore, for you to continue to serve as Mayor. We urge you to tender your resignation, effective immediately.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE: The General Assembly convenes Monday for a final marathon of lawmaking, with some of Gov. Larry Hogan’s top priorities still untouched and compromise needed to pass scores of bills that range from legalizing edible medical marijuana products to controlling the cost of some prescription drugs. The Senate is expected to complete the fourth veto override of the 2019 term, reversing Hogan’s (R) veto last week of a bill to create five permanent oyster sanctuaries. The House of Delegates overrode the governor just hours after he issued the veto, Ovetta Wiggins and Erin Cox report in the Post.
  • Pamela Wood of the Sun reports that they’ve already passed legislation to increase the minimum wage, raise the age to buy tobacco to 21 and allow the private Johns Hopkins University to have a police force. And delegates and senators in Annapolis have defeated bills that would have cut taxes, enabled terminally ill patients to end their lives with a prescription from a doctor, and allowed Baltimore school police officers to carry guns inside schools.
  • Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital details some Arundel County bills that still need movement, including House Bill 4, which was introduced before the session started, and has been sitting in Senate Judicial Proceedings since it crossed over March 1. The bill prohibits the placement of symbols or inscriptions on a person’s property without permission and intent of intimidation. The bill specifically mentions nooses and swastikas.
  • While hundreds of bills will zoom across the desks of the presiding officers of the House and Senate on Monday as the legislature wraps up its 90-day session, much of the serious work of tying up loose ends will be happening off the floors, in hurried huddles of six senators and six delegates – plus any number of observers – negotiating last-day conference committee reports. Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters explains five of those bills.

HOUSE OVERRIDES VETO ON BUSCH OYSTER BILL: The House of Delegates voted Friday to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill that would permanently bar oyster harvesting in five waterways targeted for restoration of the distressed species, Luke Broadwater reports in the Sun. The delegates voted 96-43 to support House Speaker Michael Busch’s legislation, which environmental groups say is needed to prevent the dwindling oyster population from dying out. The bill blocks harvesting in five of 51 of the state’s oyster sanctuaries. The bill has been sent to the Senate.

FINAL OK FOR MORE SCHOOL FUNDING: Maryland lawmakers on Friday gave their final approval to a two-year plan to increase state funding to public schools, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. The Senate signed off on tweaks the House of Delegates made to the plan, called the “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.” That sent the measure to Gov. Larry Hogan for consideration.

OPINION: YES TO FUNDING, YES TO ACCOUNTABILITY: The editorial board for the Frederick News-Post recounts Maryland’s recent history in school funding and, while supporting the Kirwan recommendations, also supports Gov. Hogan’s call for transparency and accountability.

BILL RESURRECTED TO AID CHILD SEX ABUSE LAWSUITS: An effort to give survivors of child sexual abuse more time to file lawsuits that failed in the Maryland Senate has been resurrected by the House of Delegates, Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood report in the Sun. Democratic Del. C.T. Wilson’s bill to remove a statute of limitations for lawsuits rising from child sexual abuse had sailed through the House, but died in a deadlocked Senate committee.

RAPE KIT TESTING PASSES: The Maryland General Assembly on Friday passed legislation requiring testing of most rape kits and adding transparency to the process. The House of Delegates gave unanimous final approval to a bill that aims to address a backlog of thousands of untested rape kits around the state, Scott Dance of the Sun reports.

ADDICTION SCREENING IN JAILS: Maryland lawmakers approved legislation Saturday that would require every county jail and Baltimore’s state-run detention facility to provide addiction screening, counseling and treatment with three federally approved medications, Doug Donovan of the Sun reports.

BALTIMORE DELEGATES OBJECT TO STRONACH BONDS: Baltimore’s members of the House of Delegates objected Saturday to a plan that would allow The Stronach Group to use state bonds to pay for upgrades at horse racing facilities in Laurel and Bowie, provided the company made progress on redeveloping Pimlico Race Course, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

RENEWABLE ENERGY GOALS: Maryland House of Delegates committee on Friday revived a proposal to mandate that half the state’s energy come from renewable sources, Scott Dance reports in the Sun. At the same time, the House Economic Matters Committee removed a Senate-approved provision in the legislation that targeted a Baltimore trash incinerator.

CONTROL OVER CITY POLICE: The Maryland Senate will not vote to give Baltimore full control over its police department this year after several city senators expressed reservations about the bill, describing it as flawed, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. Baltimore Sens. Bill Ferguson, Cory McCray and Antonio Hayes are instead endorsing a work group to study the effects of a proposal to make the Baltimore Police Department a city agency — instead of a state agency.

‘HEALTHY HOLLY’ PROBE WIDENS: Maryland’s insurance administration announced Friday that it is conducting a review of insurers that gave money The independent state agency that regulates to Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh’s “Healthy Holly” children’s book company, Rachel Chason of the Post reports.

PUGH SOLICITED BOOK DEAL, UMMS OFFICIAL SAYS: Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh solicited a lucrative no-bid arrangement to sell copies of her self-published children’s books to the University of Maryland Medical System in “direct conversations” with the hospital network’s CEO, a top system official testified Saturday in Annapolis, Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood of the Sun report.

UMMS FREE FROM TRANSPARENCY LAWS: Scott Dance of the Sun reports that although the members of the University of Maryland Medical System’s board are appointed by the governor and the institution receives millions of dollars in taxpayer funds each year, state law allows the health system to largely operate in secrecy, its board meetings kept private and its business documents withheld from the public.

JIM SMITH RESIGNS PUGH OFFICE: Jim Smith, a top aide to Mayor Catherine Pugh, has resigned from his $182,000 job at City Hall. Smith, a former judge and Baltimore County executive, offered his resignation to acting Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young on Friday and Young accepted it, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

MARYLAND JUDGE BLOCKS CENSUS QUESTION: A third federal judge has blocked the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, ruling Friday that it poses a “substantial risk” of undercounting Hispanics and non-citizens, Michael Kunzelman of the AP reports.