State Roundup, May 15, 2019

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SEN. KING SUPPORTS HOGAN ROAD PLAN, WITH CAVEAT: A powerful committee chairwoman whose district is at the center of a tug-of-war over transportation policy has strong feelings when it comes to a key plank of the Hogan administration’s plan to widen two crowded interstate highways, writes Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters. Sen. Nancy King, D-Montgomery, chair of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, broadly supports the governor’s push to have a public-private partnership steward the widening of Interstate 270 and the Capital Beltway (I-495). But she insists that local firms be in the driver’s seat.

HOGAN’s BUSINESS INTERESTS GROW: A trust managing Gov. Larry Hogan’s development business continued to make new real estate transactions last year, according to new financial disclosure forms filed by the governor. Hogan now has an ownership interest in 43 limited liability corporations — including four new companies formed since he last filed his forms in 2018, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

4 JURISDICTIONS ISSUE 60% OF SPEED CAMERA FINES: Four Maryland jurisdictions accounted for nearly 60% of all speed camera fines issued to drivers in the state in the last fiscal year, Bryan Sears reports for the Daily Record. Nearly 1.6 million vehicles were cited for exceeding the speed limit in school zones around Maryland at a cost of nearly $64 million in fiscal 2018, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. Montgomery County, Baltimore City, Prince George’s County and Baltimore County combined accounted for the majority of fines issued.

VAPING AND SMALL BUSINESS: In a commentary in MarylandReporter.com , the chairman of the Asian American Retailers Association writes that he is deeply concerned that pending regulations on vaping will not only harm adult Marylanders attempting to quit smoking, but also cause potentially devastating effects on Maryland small businesses.

ON DEL. WANIKA FISHER: Del. Wanika Fisher is part of a recent influx of women politicians, many of whom were catalyzed by the 2016 election of President Trump, writes Roxanne Ready for Maryland Matters. “It is hard for women to break into a political system system ‘invented by a bunch of men,’” Fisher said, in part because it elevates traditionally male traits like speaking loudly and commanding a room.

MD BIZ, ECONOMISTS SPLIT ON TARIFFS ON CHINA: Some Maryland business owners are welcoming stringent U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports, but economists warn they also will mean rising prices on a variety of consumer goods, Lillian Reed and Lorraine Mirabella report in the Sun. President Donald Trump recently instructed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to raise existing tariffs — or taxes on goods entering the country’s borders — for about $200 billion worth of Chinese imports from 10% to 25%.

MD GOP STANDS WITH BOSSIE: Luke Broadwater of the Sun writes about how local Republicans are standing behind Montgomery resident, state party’s national committeeman and fund-raiser David Bossie even though President Donald Trump has supported an investigation into Bossie’s organization after it allegedly only spend 3% of what it collected to support conservative candidates.

OPINION: WILL CITY CLAIM PIMLICO TOO? Walter Olsen writes in a column republished by the Cato Institute from the Wall Street Journal that Maryland and especially its biggest city, Baltimore, have long been aggressive in using powers of condemnation to assemble land for subsidized megaprojects. As Stephen J.K. Walters and Louis Miserendino showed in a 2008 paper, the giant projects have regularly flopped, been enmeshed in political cronyism or both. But that’s only the start of the state’s smash-’n’-grab approach to the use of eminent-domain power.

UM ECONOMIST TAPPED FOR CBO: U.S. Senate and House budget leaders have chosen Phillip L. Swagel, a University of Maryland economist and former Treasury official in the George W. Bush administration, as the next director of the Congressional Budget Office, according to several sources with knowledge of the discussions. Paul Krawzak of CQ-Roll Call writes the story.

HOW HOWARD WOULD FUND ELLICOTT CITY WORK: Now that Howard County Executive Calvin Ball has decided on a plan to help mitigate future flood damage to Ellicott City, how is the county going to pay for it? The answer lies in the capital budget and public-private partnerships, writes Erin Logan for the Howard County Times. Over the next few years, the county plans to pay for most projects through revenue streams and bonds allocated through future capital budgets.

WESTMINSTER TO BAN PLASTIC BAGS: Catalina Righter of the Carroll County Times reports that the Common Council of the city of Westminster voted Monday to restrict the distribution of single-use plastic bags, as well as to formally pass the budget for financial year 2020. It will make Westminster the third municipality in Maryland to impose a bag ban, after Chestertown and Takoma Park. Three states have passed similar bans.

COUNTY HIRES FIRM TO PROBE DEATH: Officials from a Caroline County town have hired an independent firm to investigate the role Ridgely Police Chief Gary Manos played in the deadly pursuit of Anton Black after Maryland State Police denied a request to review the matter. It’s the latest development in the fallout from the teenager’s death last fall on the Eastern Shore, writes Glynis Kazanjian for Maryland Matters.

JOURNO SUES COURT FOR RECORDING: A freelance journalist has sued the administrative judge of Baltimore City Circuit Court after being denied a copy of an audio recording of a hearing, reports Jean Marbella for the Sun. Justine Barron said in her complaint that she went to the courthouse April 24 to pick up a copy of the recording she had previously requested. She was told the policy had changed and copies of audio recordings made of court proceedings would no longer be provided to those not involved in the case, the complaint said.