COST OF BANNING FOAM CONTAINERS: The solution to the proliferation of single use styrofoam food containers, Maryland lawmakers decided, is to ban the substance. The state is set to become the first in the country to forbid restaurants, coffee shops and grocery stores from using most foam products — cups, plates, bowls and clam-shell containers — effective July 1, 2020, writes Scott Dance for the Sun. Violators would face fines up to $250. But what will the ban end up costing consumers and restaurants?
HOGAN SET TO SIGN ANTI-HATE CRIME, BULLYING BILLS: Among nearly 200 recently passed bills Gov. Larry Hogan is set to sign into law Thursday are measures that will give authorities more leeway in prosecuting perpetrators of hate crimes and online bullying, Scott Dance reports in the Sun. One bill prohibits even making a threat of a hate crime, inspired by a spate of bomb threats made to Baltimore-area Jewish community centers in 2017.
JOCKEYING FOR SPEAKERSHIP: The contest to succeed Michael E. Busch as Maryland House speaker intensified Wednesday, one day after his funeral, with the lead contender warning of a rift in her party if rivals try to win with support from the chamber’s Republican minority, Rachel Chason of the Post reports. Del. Maggie McIntosh said she is shoring up support among Democratic delegates and thinks she can win a majority of votes in the party’s 98-member caucus, which traditionally delivers the speakership.
- Democrats have 98 seats in the 141-member House, Republicans have 42. If Democrats coalesce behind the most popular candidate in their caucus, GOP lawmakers are effectively shut out. Whether that happens emerged as a potentially significant wild card Wednesday, write Bruce DePuyt and Danielle Gaines for Maryland Matters.
$3.2M STATE GRANT COULD HELP BSO: In a few weeks, Gov. Larry Hogan is expected to sign a bill granting an additional $3.2 million to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for the next two years — a potentially crucial step toward resolving a contentious labor dispute and allowing the organization to remain a year-round ensemble, Mary Carole McCauley of the Sun reports.
OP-ED: PSYCHOSIS & POT: Neuroscientist Christine Miller, writing in an op-ed in the Sun, as Maryland legislators appointed to the “Cannabis Workgroup” begin their study of the pros and cons of marijuana legalization, they should pay particular attention to the mental health risks of this drug. Unfortunately, they may not have heard much about the epidemiology of psychosis associated with marijuana use, since relevant U.S. expertise lags behind Western Europe, Canada and a couple of countries in the southern hemisphere.
PURPLE LINE CEO REPLACED: The team of companies designing and building Maryland’s Purple Line has replaced its CEO, hoping a new leader will resolve disputes with the state over construction delays and potential cost overruns in the $5.6 billion public-private partnership, Katherine Shaver reports for the Post.
MdTA CHIEF ABRUPTLY RESIGNS: The head of the Maryland Transportation Authority has abruptly resigned and been replaced, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record. Executive Director Kevin Reigrut resigned effective Monday as the authority’s board was scheduled to meet in an emergency session.
- Luz Lazo of the Post reports that Reigrut, who oversaw the state’s eight toll facilities, has led the 1,700-employee agency since January 2017. Chief Operating Officer John O’Neill is serving as acting executive director.
LOBBYIST GARAGIOLA CAN COMPETE, JUDGE RULES: A leading Annapolis lobbyist has won the first round in a bitter legal battle with his former firm, which had sought to enforce a noncompete agreement after he departed. An Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge ruled that an agreement barring Robert Garagiola from competing against his former employer, Alexander & Cleaver, is not valid and cannot be enforced, writes Bryan Sears in the Daily Record.
SECTY BRINKLEY’s SON MEMORIALIZED: Hundreds gathered and filled the Mount Airy Fire Co. Carnival Grounds activity building to capacity Wednesday in remembrance of Ross Brinkley, the son of David Brinkley, Maryland’s secretary of budget and management, Steve Bohnel reports in the Frederick News Post. David “Ross” Brinkley Jr., 24, died April 7 in Daytona Beach, Fla., after battling drug addiction. Swaths of people lined up in the building’s banquet hall for a celebration of life for him, waiting for their opportunity to express condolences to David Brinkley and other family members.
PREAKNESS TICKET-HOLDERS SEEK NEW SEATS: Pimlico Race Course has been asking for patience from ticket holders calling to exchange Preakness seats they purchased that are among the nearly 7,000 in a section that the Maryland Jockey Club has closed because it is no longer safe, Doug Donovan of the Sun reports. A call to the number listed for exchanging tickets – 877-206-8042 – was greeted by a message warning callers of extended waits.
FUTURE OF ELLICOTT CITY: At least four buildings will be razed under the next phase of flood mitigation plans for historic Ellicott City, as Howard County officials look to balance the town’s old-time charm with the need to improve public safety after two recent devastating floods, reports Amanda Yeager in the Baltimore Business Journal. County Executive Calvin Ball unveiled five possible paths Wednesday, saying he wants to hear community input before making a final decision.
‘HEALTHY HOLLY’ SCANDAL: Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh of Baltimore is on paid leave, as are some of her highest-ranking and closest associates. Overall, their annual salaries add up to at least $622,000, reports the Baltimore Sun.
- Acting Baltimore Mayor Jack Young placed two more aides to Mayor Catherine Pugh on leave Wednesday, according to two sources familiar with the moves, Ian Duncan reports in the Sun. The aides are two of the most senior figures in Pugh’s team: Chief of Staff Bruce Williams and the city’s top lobbyist, Karen Stokes, the sources said.
- Ian Duncan also reports that Baltimore’s inspector general has started a review of contracts approved by the city spending board in the last two years, according to a document obtained Wednesday by The Baltimore Sun. As part of the review, the inspector general’s office also asked the city’s elected leaders to provide by April 15 lists of board and commissions they serve on.
- A Baltimore street artist’s wire sculpture depicting a hog-tied Healthy Holly was installed in front of City Hall early Monday morning and has since been removed, Lillian Reed of the Sun reports.
REP. HARRIS ODD MAN OUT: When Maryland’s delegation to the U.S. Congress gets together, Rep. Andy Harris might feel like an outcast. Harris is the lone Republican member of the 10-person delegation. It’s been that way since 2013. Now, Harris and the makeup of Maryland’s congressional delegation are the subject of renewed interest as the U.S. Supreme Court weighs whether the courts can throw out Democrats’ redistricting map on the grounds that it’s excessively partisan, writes Robin Bravender for Maryland Matters.
REP. TRONE’s CASH CACHE JUST $51,000: Seven of Maryland’s eight members of the House of Representatives had more than $600,000 in their campaign accounts as of March 31 – and three reported more than $1 million on hand. The exception is 6th District Rep. David Trone (D), a multimillionaire with an ability to pour untold millions into his reelection campaign. He reported just $51,000 on hand, Josh Kurtz reports in Maryland Matters.