State Roundup, May 14, 2019

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Former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaks to the annual meeting of the Greater Baltimore Committee Monday night. GBC photo

ROSENSTEIN SPEAKS IN BALTIMORE: Rod Rosenstein, in his first day of public appearances since ending a stormy tenure as U.S. deputy attorney general, defended his role in President Donald Trump’s abrupt firing of former FBI director James Comey, whom he called a “partisan pundit.” Rosenstein’s speech Monday night at the Greater Baltimore Committee’s annual meeting came after Comey — a sharp critic of Trump’s — recently criticized Rosenstein in a New York Times op-ed for giving a speech quoting the president on the importance of the rule of law. Trump, Comey wrote, “eats your soul in small bites.”

HOGAN PRESSURED ON DRUG PRICE LAW, RENEWABLES: Gov. Larry Hogan is facing pressure to sign bills that would create a state board to monitor drug prices and to increase the state’s requirements for using renewable energy, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun. Hogan, a Republican, has already signed 552 bills and resolutions that were passed by state lawmakers, and has about two more weeks to decide the fate of more than 300 more pieces of legislation.

NEW LAWS: EDIBLE RX POT, SMOKING AGE, EASIER INSURANCE: Maryland will raise the smoking age to 21, legalize edible medical-marijuana products and increase child-care tax credits under bills signed into law Monday by Gov. Larry Hogan, Erin Cox reports in the Post.

OPINION: MAKING ACA WORK: The editorial board for the Sun opines that for the second year in a row, Marylanders who rely on the Obamacare exchange to buy health insurance have a chance to pay lower rates. The initial rate requests from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and Kaiser Permanente aren’t quite as dramatic as last year’s across-the-board reductions. But it’s a reflection of good policy choices and an ongoing commitment by both the Democratic General Assembly and Republican governor to make the ACA work. With the Trump administration’s continued hostility toward the ACA, the job here is far from done. Gov. Larry Hogan has signed a bill that could help.

OPINION: KICKING A HORNET’s NEST IN MO CO: In a column for his Political Maryland blog, Barry Rascovar makes some good points about the road that Gov. Hogan and Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn are walking down to push their road widening plan on Montgomery County, including that two of the three Board of Public Works members who must approve the plan are from Montgomery and that, with 700 people showing up at a meeting on the plan, they may have kicked open a hornet’s nest.

MVA REAL ID WARNING CAUSES CONFUSION: The warning from Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration of a June deadline to provide documents — or risk having a driver’s license recalled and confiscated — came as a shock to many drivers. What angered some was MVA’s suggestion that drivers were warned repeatedly about the deadline, but had done nothing about it, Neal Augenstein of WTOP-AM reports.

WA CO 2nd IN OPIOID-RELATED DEATHS: Washington County had the state’s second highest increase in opioid-related deaths from 2017 to 2018, Dan Dearth reports for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. Vicki Sterling, director of the Washington County Health Department’s Behavioral Health division, said the explanation is simple. “It’s the fentanyl,” she said. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It was developed to treat pain in cancer patients.

BALL PICKS $113M+ ELLICOTT CITY PLAN: Howard County Executive Calvin Ball (D) has selected a five-year flood mitigation plan for Ellicott City that includes building a tunnel and tearing down four buildings in the historic district, Rachel Chason of the Post reports. The plan, which officials estimate will cost $113 million to $140 million, is intended to reduce the risk of flooding after two “1,000-year floods” sent water roaring down Ellicott City’s main street.

EX-UMMS BOARD MEMBER RESIGNS FROM REGENTS: Robert L. Pevenstein, one of a handful of University of Maryland Medical System board members to resign amid a self-dealing scandal there, has resigned from the University System of Maryland Board of Regents as well, the university system confirmed Monday. No reason was given. Pevenstein did not respond to requests for comment Monday, Kevin Rector of the Sun reports.

HOUSING AID IMPERILED: U.S. citizens who live with undocumented immigrant family members could lose federal housing assistance under a proposed rule from the Trump administration. Civil rights advocates and several Maryland Democrats warn that the rule proposed Friday by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson would further the Trump administration’s agenda of curtailing immigrants’ rights and shrinking access to federal assistance, writes Camille Erickson for Maryland Matters.