State Roundup, April 9, 2019

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HOW THE SESSION ENDED: Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter writes that the easy part of this legislature’s four-year term is over. By most standards, this 90 days was fairly smooth, especially when it comes to money matters, which are often the most contentious.

  • The final hour of the 2019 Maryland General Assembly session was marked by the quiet demise of measures calling for a study of ways to reduce a docket of thousands of pending asbestos-exposure lawsuits and to double from 20 to 40 years the statute of limitations on lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse, Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports.
  • The foundation for sweeping changes to Maryland’s educational system is now in place, reports Samantha Hogan for the Frederick News-Post. The vast majority of lawmakers agreed this session to a set of aspirational goals, teacher salary increases and the creation of an independent inspector general to review fraud, waste and abuse in public schools with the passage of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. The bill will enable the General Assembly to adopt new funding formulas and targeted changes to the state’s education system next session.

BILL ROUNDUP: Here’s the Sun’s roundup of how key issues ended up on Sine Die, from education to health care to gun laws.

HONORING SPEAKER BUSCH: The final day of Maryland’s General Assembly session ended Monday just as it began — with tearful words of tribute to House Speaker Michael Busch, a pillar of state government who died after a bout with pneumonia. Shortly before midnight, lawmakers greeted Busch’s family — his wife, Cindy, and two daughters, Erin and Megan — with a standing ovation, and sat them in a place of honor at the rostrum where the state’s longest-serving speaker had guided his half of the state’s legislative branch for 16 years, Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood of the Sun report. The article is topped by a short video of Senate President Mike Miller paying tribute to Busch.

  • Sine Die was the day Sen. Sarah Elfreth cracked. The 30-year-old Annapolis Democrat loved every minute of the previous 89 days of the General Assembly. But Monday was different. It was the final day of session but was the first in decades without longtime House Speaker Mike Busch, who died Sunday. Selene San Felice of the Annapolis Capital writes that Elfreth, who campaigned with Busch and worked closely with him to file legislation, called him her mentor and friend, “the best of us.”
  • On another day, they might have been sparring. But on Monday, they were united in grief, writes Rachel Chason for the Post. Following the unexpected death Sunday of House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Gov. Larry Hogan and Senate President Mike Miller gave emotional tributes to the Anne Arundel County Democrat. All three men have wielded enormous power in Annapolis over the years. And all three have confronted life-threatening illnesses in office.
  • Busch’s death changed another end-of-session ritual, the first bill signing. A spokesman for Gov. Hogan said that the signing originally scheduled for Tuesday morning, hours after the session ends, will be postponed to an as yet undetermined date. Additional bill signings are scheduled for April 16 and 30, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record.
  • The most fitting tribute to the late House Speaker Michael E. Busch on the last day of the General Assembly were the bills debated and the votes cast, opines the Post editorial board. “Mike Busch would have expected us to keep doing the work of the people,” said Del. Eric Luedtke, “and we’re going to keep doing the work of the people.”

PICKING A NEW SPEAKER: Members of the Maryland House of Delegates said they could pick a permanent replacement soon for the late Speaker Michael Busch, but it was unclear Monday when a vote would take place. Busch, the longest-serving speaker in Maryland history, died Sunday at 72 from pneumonia. Pamela Wood and Luke Broadwater report in the Sun.

BUSCH LEGACY IN LEGISLATION: Maryland lawmakers on Monday approved two top priorities of the late House Speaker Michael E. Busch — overturning Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill to create oyster sanctuaries in the Chesapeake Bay and passing an overhaul of the University of Maryland Medical System board — on an unusually somber final day of the annual legislative session, report Rachel Chason, Ovetta Wiggins and Erin Cox in the Post.

UMMS REFORM: On the last day of Maryland’s General Assembly session, lawmakers gave final approval to sweeping legislation that would reform the University of Maryland Medical System’s board of directors amid revelations of single-source contracts for some board members, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. The legislation would bar no-bid contracts for board members, force all members to resign and reapply for their positions (if they want to return), and mandate an audit of contracting practices.

OYSTER SANCTUARY VETO OVERRIDDEN: The Maryland Senate on Monday voted to reject Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of an oyster sanctuary bill that was a priority of the late House Speaker Michael Busch, voting in honor of the longtime state leader, Scott Dance and Luke Broadwater of the Sun report. The vote assured the General Assembly’s override of the Republican governor, putting into law permanent protection of five oyster sanctuaries around the Chesapeake Bay. The House voted to override Hogan on Friday.

LONG GUN BACKGROUND CHECKS: A bill regulating long guns was passed early on Sine Die and, as it awaits the governor’s signature, opponents flew their message to Gov. Larry Hogan in the skies, Brandi Bottalico writes in the Sun. A sign trailed a plane circling downtown Annapolis that read “# WE WILL NOT COMPLY ! HOW ABOUT YOU LARRY ?” The Senate approved a bill requiring background checks for private sales of rifles and shotguns.

HIGHWAY WIDENING: Environmentalists and a group of Montgomery and Prince George’s homeowners were dealt a defeat when a bill to force greater scrutiny of the Hogan administration’s highway-widening plans died on the last day of the session, reports Bruce DePuyt in Maryland Matters. The measure, HB 1091, required in-depth environmental and financial reviews of Gov. Larry Hogan’s plans to widen the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 by two lanes in each direction.

RENEWABLES GOAL PASSES: Maryland lawmakers approved a dramatic investment in renewable energy in the final hours of the 2019 General Assembly session, passing a measure mandating that half the state’s electricity supply come from renewable sources by 2030, Scott Dance of the Sun writes.

RACETRACK AID FAILS: Pamela Wood and Luke Broadwater of the Sun report that an effort to help Maryland’s thoroughbred racetracks — including Northwest Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course — fizzled on the final day of the General Assembly session on Monday. Lawmakers sent a bill back to a committee, a procedural move that marked the defeat of the measure.

ARUNDEL-CENTRIC BILLS: Despite the somber tone of this year’s Sine Die, lawmakers had to make decisions on leftover legislation, writes Chase Cook in the Annapolis Capital. For Anne Arundel County this meant a decision on Laurel Park alcohol licenses, changes to hate crime legislation, water ski hours on Maynadier Creek and a bill to create new mental health unit pilot programs in three schools.

CITY DELEGATION CALLS FOR PUGH TO RESIGN: The Baltimore City Council called Monday for Mayor Catherine E. Pugh to step down over her children’s book scandal, and state lawmakers from Baltimore quickly followed suit, Dana Hedgpeth of the Post reports. Pugh released a statement that  “She fully intends to resume the duties of her office and continuing her work on behalf of the people and the City of Baltimore.”

‘HEALTHY HOLLY’ PRICES FLUCTUATED: The market for Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s “Healthy Holly” books has fluctuated rapidly over the past eight years — from $5-per-book when she was a state senator in 2011 to $9-per-copy after she was sworn in at City Hall in 2016. The price listed on Pugh’s Healthy Holly books is $9 each, but the deals she struck with various organizations were all typically below the cover price of her children’s series, Doug Donovan and Christine Chang report for the Sun.

REDMER CONFIRMED TO THIRD TERM: Al Redmer Jr. was confirmed Monday by the Maryland Senate for another term as the state’s insurance commissioner, an independent state agency that regulates the state’s $28.5 billion insurance industry, Meredith Cohn writes in the Sun.

A PHOTO A DAY: Sun reporter Pamela Wood pushed herself to take an interesting photo each day she was covering Annapolis. Here’s what she shot. Most are architectural images.

UM ALUM RUNNING FOR PRES: University of Maryland alumnus Eric Swalwell, a four-term San Francisco Bay Area congressman who has grown into a cable TV fixture as a slashing and unremitting critic of President Donald Trump, formally announced Monday his long-shot bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination, Mark Barabak of the Los Angeles Times reports.