State Roundup, May 24, 2019

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HOGAN: METRO CHAIR SHOULD QUIT BOARD: Jack Evans said Thursday that he will not seek re-election as Metro board chair when his term ends June 30, as the panel’s ethics committee said it had closed its investigation of him but would not disclose the results to the public, Robert McCartney of the Post is reporting. However, Gov. Larry Hogan suggested that Evans should step down from the board altogether, tweeting, “… Evans did the right thing to step down as @wmata chairman, but he is so ethically compromised that he should resign from the board altogether.”

MD, VA SENATORS SEEK MORE METRO FUNDS: Senators from Virginia and Maryland are pushing new legislation to ensure that the Washington, D.C.-area Metro system gets up to $200 million each year from the federal government — with some strings attached, writes Robin Bravender in Maryland Matters. Virginia Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine joined Maryland Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen at a news conference Thursday to announce their measure aimed at extending federal funding over the next decade for the Washington region’s transit system.

ADVOCATES DECRY MTA MOBILITYLINK PROBLEMS: Disability advocates asked Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday to create an emergency response plan to fix problems with the MTA MobilityLink. Riders have been left stranded and on-time pickups have plummeted amid a contract change for the Maryland Transit Administration’s transportation service for people with disabilities, Yvonne Wenger of the Sun reports.

MTA UNVEILS DATABASE TO TRACK BUS ON-TIME RATES: Colin Campbell of the Sun reports that the Maryland Transit Administration unveiled a searchable online database Thursday that provides bus passengers and the rest of the public with the ability to view and track on-time rates of each of the agency’s bus routes, a transparency step long sought by advocates critical of the agency’s reporting.

57,000 FENTANYL TEST KITS DISTRIBUTED: The Maryland Department of Health has distributed more than 57,000 kits throughout the state to 27 grantees to allow drug users to test either cocaine or heroin for the presence of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid magnitudes more potent than heroin, Phil Davis writes in the Sun.

ACTING UMMS HEAD VOWS MAJOR CHANGES: The acting chief executive of the University of Maryland Medical System went to Annapolis on Thursday and pledged to make “significant changes” to senior staff after a self-dealing scandal rocked the hospital network, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. Between meetings with Gov. Larry Hogan and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, CEO John W. Ashworth III said the hospital network needs to undergo a “cultural shift” away from an environment in which board members won contracts for their private companies.

SPEAKER JONES WANTS CIVIL WAR PLAQUE REMOVED: House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones wants a plaque removed from the State House that pays tribute to both Union and Confederate soldiers who served and died in the Civil War, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. “The message projected by this plaque does not seek to correctly document history but instead sympathizes with Confederate motivations and memorializes Confederate soldiers,” Jones wrote in a letter Thursday to members of the State House Trust, which oversees alterations to the historic capital building and its grounds.

  • Erin Cox of the Post reports that the plaque was installed more than half-century ago by the 1964 Maryland Civil War Centennial Commission, during the height of the civil rights movement. It reads in part: “In commemorating the centennial of that great struggle between the citizens of the temporarily divided nation in the 1860s the Maryland Civil War Centennial Commission … seeks to pay tribute to those who fought and died. As well as to the citizens who, during the Civil War, tried to do their duty as they saw it.”

MNUCHIN VS TUBMAN: In his PowerPost column for the Washington Post, James Hohman writes about the controversy surrounding Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s decision to hold off on putting Underground Railroad hero Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill in favor of keeping President Andrew Jackson, slaveholder who orchestrated the Trail of Tears mass India removal from their native lands.

MOCK DISASTER TESTS ELECTION SYSTEM: Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters attends a mock disaster in which lives were not imperiled but democracy was. Kurtz writes he “came away with the distinct impression that our election system is a lot more fragile than we thought.” More than 100 state and local elections officials from Maryland gathered in Ocean City to practice and play-act what to do if something goes haywire with the election process. “Today it’s going to be the worst election ever,” Tracey Hartman, director of special projects at the state elections board, explains. “Everything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

BA CO RAISES INCOME TAX FOR 1st TIME IN 30 YEARS: A divided Baltimore County Council on Thursday approved a series of bills sought by County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. to raise millions in new revenue, including the county’s first income tax increase in nearly 30 years and a new tax on residents’ cellphone service, Alison Knezevich of the Sun reports.

CARROLL MOVES TO FIND $1M FOR SCHOOLS: Carroll County’s Board of County Commissioners at a final budget work session on Thursday moved to accept an option to find $1 million requested by the Carroll County Public Schools, asking for it to supplement a shortfall they anticipate in their budget, Catalina Righter reports for the Carroll County Times. The commissioners moved to accept the option that was intended to find the funding the school system requested while encouraging them toward longer-term budget planning.

DELANEY OFFERS CLIMATE CHANGE PLAN: Democratic presidential candidate John Delaney is the latest 2020 contender to come out with a climate change plan, and he’s proposing a fee on carbon emissions that he says aims reduce them by 90% by midcentury. That idea is part of the former Maryland congressman’s $4 trillion plan, which is similar to one he offered while in Congress and drew some Republican support, Juana Summers of the AP reports.