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.”
- Rosenstein also said it was clear to him, shortly after becoming deputy attorney general, that FBI investigators had amassed a critical mass of information and leads about Russian efforts to disrupt the U.S. presidential campaign. That, combined with the nation’s need to know with confidence what actually had happened, convinced him of the need to appoint a special counsel – and of the importance of protecting any investigation, Hope Keller and Thomas Baden Jr. write in the Daily Record.
- Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters reports that Rosenstein said, “I think we made the right calls on the things that mattered.” He said he was confident in the decision to appoint a special counsel to probe Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. “It was a very important investigation. If it was not done correctly, there would always be lingering doubts about the scope of Russian efforts and about the extent of American involvement,” said Rosenstein.
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.
- He also has signed a measure to require patients to provide explicit consent before health care practitioners and medical students can conduct a pelvic, prostate or rectal exam while the patient is under anesthesia, Jennifer McDermott and Carla K. Johnson of the Associated Press report.
- Maryland taxpayers could find it easier to enroll in health insurance plans under a bill signed into law by Hogan on Monday, writes Bryan Sears in the Daily Record. The bill was one of over 180 signed by Hogan in a ceremony that included bills expanding penalties for crimes in which pregnant women and their unborn children are injured.
- One national health care advocacy group is touting the law enabling Marylanders to request enrollment in one of the state’s health care programs when they file their state tax returns – as a model for the rest of the nation, Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters reports. “We’re going to try to take it around the country,” said Frederick Isasi, of the national consumer health advocacy group Families USA. “We think it’s one of the quickest, fastest ways to increase enrollment and keep health insurance costs in check.”
- Hogan also signed “Laura and Reid’s” law Monday, WBAL-TV reports. Howard County teacher Laura Wallen was pregnant with a baby boy that she planned to name Reid when investigators said her boyfriend killed her in 2017. The new law toughens sentences for violent crimes against pregnant women. Wallen’s parents were at the bill signing Monday.
- Hogan has signed a bill allowing Anne Arundel County government to limit developer contributions during elections, and now it will be up to the county executive and County Council to draft those changes, Chase Cook reports in the Annapolis Capital.
- Here’s a photo gallery of yesterday’s bill signings by Joshua McKerrow of the Annapolis Capital.
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.
- The option announced by officials Monday would leave a maximum of 3 feet of water on lower Main Street if the July 2016 storm were to happen again, Erin Logan of the Howard County Times reports. Less than a foot of water would be left on lower Main Street if the May 2018 storm were to occur again.
- Ball acknowledged on Monday that the flood-reduction plan he has chosen for Ellicott City was one of the priciest of the five options available to him. But after two devastating floods in a two-year period — and a fear that more damage to the historic downtown area was inevitable — he said he had little appetite for any approach that didn’t make the community safer, Bruce DePuyt reports for Maryland Matters.
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.