State Roundup, April 16, 2019

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The casket of House Speaker Michael Busch lies under the State House dome as mourners gather. Governor's Office photo

SAYING FAREWELL TO SPEAKER BUSCH: The roar of motorcycles replaced the solemn sounds of a lone bagpiper as a hearse carrying the casket of the Michael E. Busch stopped on State Circle in Annapolis, just yards from the longtime Maryland House speaker’s reserved parking spot, reports Ovetta Wiggins for the Post.

LOWER REFUNDS FOR SOME: For some taxpayers in Democratic states like Maryland with high state personal income taxes, the federal tax changes in 2018 have produced lower refunds on their state and federal tax returns, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.  This is because the federal law placed a $10,000 ceiling on itemized deductions for personal taxes, and raised the standard deduction to $24,000 on a joint return, making that more beneficial for most.

EDUCATOR/LEGISLATORS IMPACT POLICY: The Kirwan Commission recommendations for school reform present a wide-ranging, big picture view for fixing the state education problems. It may be due to the fact that quite a number of the state’s lawmakers are or have been educators, writes Lisa Nevans Locke for Maryland Matters.

POLITICS SEEN AS PIMLICO SHUTS SEATING: Baltimore’s acting mayor and several other elected officials said Monday that they view the Maryland Jockey Club’s closure of nearly 7,000 seats at Pimlico Race Course as retribution for losing a legislative fight with the city about how to spend state subsidies on horse racing tracks, Doug Donovan of the Sun reports.

CAPITAL GAZETTE HONORED BY PULITZER BOARD: The Pulitzer Prize Board awarded a special citation Monday to the staff of the Capital Gazette for their work in covering the June attack on their Annapolis offices that killed five employees. The Capital’s citation was given “for demonstrating unflagging commitment to covering the news and serving their community at a time of unspeakable grief,” Lillian Reed writes in the Annapolis Capital. The award comes with a $100,000 bequest by the Pulitzer Board — the largest amount ever awarded — to be used to further the newspaper’s journalistic mission. The Capital Gazette staff was also a Pulitzer finalist in the editorial writing category.

CUMMINGS ON ILLNESS, DIVERSITY: U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings reflected Monday night on his illness and the importance of having relationships with diverse people. His remarks came at the final installation of “Courageous Conversations,” an interfaith, four-week event that brought together Howard County residents to discuss religion, race and racism, Erin Logan of the Howard County Times reports.

CHINA CUT OUT OF METRO LEGISLATION: Congress would approve 10 more years of critical federal funding for Metro, but only if the transit agency agreed to not buy its next generation of rail cars from China, legislation being proposed by the region’s senators stipulates, Robert McCartney of the Post reports. The move reflects a growing backlash in Washington against China’s state-owned rail company, whose growing domination of the U.S. market has raised concerns that it could ravage American manufacturers and provide platforms for cyber-espionage.

OLSZEWSKI PROPOSES FIRST INCOME TAX HIKE IN 30 YEARS: Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. is seeking the county’s first income tax increase in nearly 30 years — plus new fees on development and additional charges on residents’ monthly cellphone and cable bills, Alison Kneevich reports for the Sun.