State Roundup, May 13, 2019

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SPLIT SUPPORT OVER HOGAN ROAD PLANS: A clear majority of Washington-area residents favor adding express toll lanes to Interstate 270 and Maryland’s part of the Capital Beltway, a centerpiece of Gov. Larry Hogan’s traffic relief plans, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll. However, Katherine Shaver and Emily Guskin of the Post report, support is uneven in the Maryland suburbs, and most residents regionwide say they are concerned about tolls being too expensive, the lanes failing to reduce traffic and nearby homes being destroyed by wider highways.

ELRICH ASKS COMMISSION TO NOT CEDE LAND FOR ROAD PLAN: Dan Schere of Bethesda Beat reports that Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich is asking the region’s planning commission not to cede any land to the state for Gov. Larry Hogan’s plans to add toll lanes to the Capital Beltway. “Many of our parks, trees and streams are in an increasingly fragile state. We should take all necessary steps to protect these resources as part of our efforts to maintain clean water and air and to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change,” Elrich wrote in a letter to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

OPINION: FIXING CONGESTION A TWO-WAY STREET: The editorial board for the Post opines that it is folly to consider projected growth in the Washington region’s population — more than 1 million new jobs and people by 2045 — and conclude that the existing, badly congested road network will be adequate. Improving and expanding mass transit options will be essential. But so will improving and expanding major highways.

HEALTH, ED BILLS TO BE SIGNED: Gov. Larry Hogan and legislative leaders will sign dozens of bills into law on Monday, including measures to ease health care enrollment and raise the legal age to buy tobacco products in the state. Monday’s list of bill signings is dominated by health and education-related measures, but the governor will also sign into law several measures to change criminal law and reform government, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters writes.

  • Starting in October, you’ll need to be 21 to buy tobacco and nicotine products in Maryland, under a bill that Gov. Larry Hogan plans to sign into law on Monday, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. The law is intended to cut down on the access that teenagers have to cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other tobacco and nicotine products. It contains a key exception: People age 18 to 20 with a military identification can still buy tobacco and nicotine products.

PELVIC EXAM CONSENT BILL: Bills introduced in roughly a dozen states this year would require that women undergoing gynecological surgeries give explicit approval to a pelvic exam beforehand. The Maryland legislature unanimously sent legislation to Gov. Larry Hogan, who is expected to sign it, Jennifer McDermott and Carla K. Johnson report for the Associated Press.

MD TO JOIN DRUG PRICE FIXING SUIT: Steve LeBlanc and Martin Crutsinger of the Associated Press report that Attorney General Brian Frosh announced Sunday Maryland will join more than 40 other states that are alleging the nation’s largest generic drug manufacturers conspired to artificially inflate and manipulate prices for more than 100 generic drugs, including treatments for diabetes, cancer, arthritis and other medical conditions.

OPINION: RELEASE MONEY FOR FREDERICK PROJECT: In urging Gov. Larry Hogan to release the money appropriated for a downtown Frederick hotel and conference center, the editorial board for the Frederick News Post opines that Frederick’s Republican delegation to the Maryland General Assembly got an earful of criticism from an unusual source — the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce. Generally speaking, Republicans and chambers of commerce go hand-in-glove on public policy.

INDIVIDUAL INSURANCE MARKET STABILIZING: Carriers in Maryland’s individual health market have requested average rate decreases for the second straight year, signaling that after several years of steep rate increases a reinsurance program has stabilized the market, Tim Curtis of the Daily Record reports.

MVA PUSHES REAL ID DEADLINE COMPLIANCE: Imagine it’s sometime in June and you’re rushing to the airport to catch a flight for your vacation. In the rearview mirror, you see a police car flashing its lights to pull you over, Jean Marbella writes in the Sun. You might get a speeding ticket — and worse, if you are one of some 66,300 Maryland drivers whose license needs to be updated to comply with federal REAL ID laws by June, but you missed the deadline. The officer will confiscate your license, which of course you need to board the plane.

STATE REPUBLICANS SUPPORT BOSSIE: A Maryland Matters analysis of the financial activities of David Bossie’s Presidential Coalition found that a substantial portion of its overall direct political spending went to Bossie’s home state of Maryland, where prominent Republicans are standing behind him, reports Danielle Gaines. Bossie, the head of the controversial conservative group Citizens United and a Republican National committeeman from Maryland, is under scrutiny for collecting $18 million over the last two years, but directing only a small portion, about 3%, to direct political activity, using most the rest of the money to solicit more funds.

OPINION: WAY TO GO KKT: The editorial board for the Sun gives a shoutout to former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend for her stand against her brother’s anti-vaccination campaign, opining that Townsend is remembered for several things: her two terms as lieutenant governor under Parris Glendening, her subsequent failed gubernatorial bid and, in more recent years, her advocacy for retirement savings plans. But this week, she graduated from Free State political footnote to courageous truth-teller on the national stage by challenging her own brother and his Alternative Fact of the Week-worthy approach to vaccines.

SMALL COLLEGES ADAPT LIBERAL ARTS PROGRAMS: Responding to a growing national debate over the relevance of a traditional liberal arts education, Goucher and other small, private liberal arts colleges in Maryland are adapting quickly. They have adjusted course offerings, lowered their tuition, added graduate classes that lead to employment and developed other strategies to attract students, Liz Bowie of the Sun reports.

ACTING UMMS CEO PROMISES SWIFT ACCOUNTABILITY: John Ashworth, the acting CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System, said Friday that he is prepared to act “swiftly and properly” upon completion of an internal review to hold staff accountable for any problems with contracts the system had with a third of its board members, Kevin Rector of the Sun reports.

MARYLAND LAWMAKERS CRITICIZE TRUMP JULY 4 PLAN: President Trump’s plan to tweak Washington, D.C.’s traditional July 4 celebration on the National Mall isn’t playing well with political leaders in neighboring Maryland, Bruce DePuty writes in Maryland Matters. “Most presidents have celebrated the Fourth of July without trying to corrupt it with propaganda and monarchical pageantry, but that’s obviously not his style,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) in an interview.

BALL TO UNVEIL ELLICOTT CITY PLAN: Howard County Executive Calvin Ball is slated to reveal Monday his plan to protect Ellicott City’s flood-prone Main Street, Adam Bednar reports in the Daily Record. Options available to Ball involve razing as many as six buildings in historic Ellicott City. The cost of implementing the proposals could be as high as $175 million. The decision comes after Ball vowed in April to make a selection following a transparent process with robust community input.

MAYOR YOUNG’s NEW, OLD TEAM: Baltimore Mayor Jack Young on Friday announced his executive leadership team for his new administration — selecting five top lieutenants with decades of experience in government, including several who held posts under former Mayor Catherine Pugh, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

CARROLL TO EXPLORE OTHER FORMS OF GOV’T: Commissioner, home rule or charter? The Carroll County Board of Commissioners represent the first form of county government in Maryland, but on June 11, they will be briefed on all the options, Jon Kelvey reports in the Carroll County Times. Carroll County’s commissioner system of government has five commissioners making budget and other decisions, but they unable to pass legislation on their own, instead relying on Carroll’s delegation in the General Assembly to get laws passed. Charter government for the county is being pushed by Commissioner Eric Bouchat.