State Roundup, May 16, 2019

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HOGAN ALLOWS SCHOOL FUNDING BILL TO BECOME LAW: Despite having “significant reservations” about a bill that will send hundreds of millions of dollars in extra funding to Maryland public school classrooms, Gov. Larry Hogan will allow it to become law without his signature, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun. The bill, dubbed the “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future,” will direct $850 million in extra state spending to public schools over the next two years. The money will start flowing to the schools in July 2020.

TRANSIT ADVOCATES CRY FOUL OVER PROJECT SCORING: After Gov. Larry Hogan killed Baltimore’s proposed $2.9 billion Red Line light rail project in 2015, Democratic lawmakers in the General Assembly passed legislation mandating the Maryland Department of Transportation create a metric-based scoring system to rank capital projects. Luke Broadwater of the Sun writes that MDOT produced a scoring system that ranks Hogan’s favored project — road-widening plan in the D.C. suburbs — as the top project in the state, giving it a perfect score of 500. The Red Line project came in dead last with a score of 1.45. Transit advocates are crying foul.

WILL HOGAN SIGN CLEAN ENERGY JOBS ACT? According to the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, one in five Americans live in states or cities that have committed to 100% clean energy usage. Is Maryland ready to join that company? With these developments as a backdrop, the spotlight returns to Gov. Larry Hogan, and whether he will sign the Clean Energy Jobs Act, legislation that would establish a 50% renewable portfolio standard for electric utilities by 2030, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters.

OPIOID CRISIS HITS WESTERN MARYLAND: The opioid epidemic is hitting communities in Appalachia harder than those in other parts of the country, according to a new report by the National Association of Counties. Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters writes that there are 420 counties in the Appalachian region, which stretches from New York to Mississippi — including three in Western Maryland. According to the new research, those counties had opioid overdose death rates lower than other parts of the U.S. as recently as 2001. But in the years since, they have skyrocketed.

STATE ASKS REFORMS FOR UMMS AFFILIATES: State officials outraged in recent weeks by self-dealing contracts between the University of Maryland Medical System and its board members are calling on the health network’s affiliate hospitals to reform their board practices, as well, after a Baltimore Sun investigation revealed similar business ties, Doug Donovan and Kevin Rector of the Sun report.

MISCONCEPTIONS ON ANTIBIOTICS: In response to a Sun op-ed on the use of antibiotics in agriculture cited in Maryland Reporter’s May 8 State Roundup, the Maryland Farm Bureau says “evidence shows that the true cause of antimicrobial resistance is human overuse and misuse. Furthermore, farmers have already taken serious steps to improve antibiotic stewardship.

MARYLAND LACKS AFFORDABLE RENTAL HOUSING: Maryland faces a crisis in affordable rental housing – especially for low income residents. A recent study on rental housing by the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that Maryland faces a shortage of 118,810 affordable and accessible rental units for extremely low income households. But Maryland is not unique, Meghan Thompson reports for Maryland Matters.

STRONACH FOUNDER OPEN TO ALL OPTIONS: The founder of the company that owns Pimlico Race Course says he is saddened by the breakdown in talks over the track’s future and that all options — including a complete rebuild — should remain in play, reports Jeff Barker in the Sun. “It is very unfortunate,” said Frank Stronach, the Canadian businessman whose daughter Belinda now serves as chairman and president of The Stronach Group.

SPEED CAMERA REVENUE: Nearly 1.6 million motorists in Maryland were captured by a speed camera in fiscal 2018, according to an analysis by AAA. That brought in nearly $64 million in ticket revenue, writes Dana Hedgpeth in the Post. The motorist group also ranked which municipalities and counties took in the most money. Montgomery County topped the list, with $15.9 million, AAA said in a statement.

CARET’s FUTURE AS UM CHANCELLOR SHAKY: The University System of Maryland Board of Regents appears poised to end its relationship with Chancellor Robert L. Caret after his employment agreement expires next year, Tim Curtis and Bryan Sears report in the Daily Record.

INTERIM COPPIN U. PRESIDENT: As a search committee looks for a permanent president for Coppin State University, state university system officials have appointed former Bowie State University President Mickey L. Burnim as the West Baltimore school’s interim leader, Ethan McLeod writes for Baltimore Fishbowl.

ARUNDEL SHARPENS ENVIRONMENTAL TEETH: County Executive Steuart Pittman announced two policies Wednesday morning to give sharper teeth to existing environmental rules in Anne Arundel County, Rachael Pacella of the Annapolis Capital reports. “In order to clean up the bay, we have to address development,” Pittman said. “We have to think about what land we’re paving over and where we’re allowing nature to do its work and absorb water.”

HIGH MARKS FOR NEW CBO CHIEF: University of Maryland professor Phillip L. Swagel, an economist with extensive service in the George W. Bush administration who has been appointed the new director of the Congressional Budget Office, has received high praise from both sides of the aisle, reports Paul Krawzak of CQ-Roll Call.