State Roundup, May 30, 2019

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160 RX POT APPLICANTS IN CALL FOR DIVERSITY: Maryland’s attempt to promote diverse ownership in its medical cannabis industry has attracted more than 160 applications from firms seeking to score one of the state’s 14 new licenses, Doug Donovan writes in the Sun. More than a year after state lawmakers and Gov. Larry Hogan passed a law to boost participation by minority- and women-owned businesses, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission announced that competition will be fierce for four cannabis growing licenses and 10 for processing the plant into medical products

FROSH FILES NEW PHARMA CHARGES: Attorney General Brian Frosh filed new charges this week against several pharmaceutical companies for their alleged role in the opioid epidemic, building on similar charges filed earlier this month against the companies’ owners and board members. Frosh announced the new charges Wednesday against OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma, the generic opioid manufacturer Rhodes Pharmaceuticals and related entities, Lillian Reed of the Sun reports.

STATE CENTER DEVELOPER SEEKS GOV’T DOCS: Attorneys for a developer battling Maryland in court over the canceled $1.5 billion State Center redevelopment called the state’s assertion of executive privilege for hundreds of documents excessive and overly broad, Adam Bednar of the Daily Record reports. Michael Edney, a partner at Norton Rose Fulbright, lead counsel for developer State Center LLC, wants the state and the Maryland Stadium Authority to turn over documents involving the project, including emails. They’re seeking the archive as part of the discovery process to prepare a defense against a lawsuit filed by Maryland.

OPINION: HOGAN WRONG ON HANDGUN PERMIT BOARD: The editorial board of the Sun, in contending that Gob. Larry Hogan was wrong to veto legislation to abolish the Handgun Permit Review Board, writes that the board had become so biased that it upheld Maryland State Police decisions less than 15% of the time. “If that’s not bias, then Mr. Hogan must have the most inept Maryland State Police in history. The leadership of any agency that is reversed or amended 85% of the time ought to be dismissed. That’s a miserable record. And it wasn’t the case for most of the years the handgun board has been in existence.”

LICENSE-FREE FISHING: The Maryland Department of Natural Resources invites anglers to experience the state’s myriad waterways during license-free fishing days on June 1, June 8 and July 4, the Garrett County Republican reports. These annual events allow everyone the chance to test their fishing skills or reinvigorate their love of fishing without needing a license, trout stamp or registration.

OPINION: PERFORMANCE COUNTS: Roger Berliner, lead counsel for the Coalition for Performance Incentive Mechanisms before the Maryland Public Service Commission, in a column for Maryland Matters, opines on the way in which utilities make their money, writing that they earn money by spending money. Not surprisingly, this leads utilities to spend a lot of money. Every other industry in America is rewarded – or not — by how well they meet the needs of their customers.

LAWMAKERS SEEK STRONACH PROBE: The leaders of Baltimore’s General Assembly delegation are calling on the Maryland Racing Commission to investigate the Stronach Group’s management of Pimlico Race Course, including lopsided spending of state subsidies for renovations that favored Stronach’s Laurel Park racetrack, reports Doug Donovan of the Sun. Del. Cheryl D. Glenn and Sen. Antonio L. Hayes urged the commission, as the state’s regulatory body for horse racing, in a May 23 letter to hire an independent accounting firm to aggressively audit Stronach’s operations.

GOOD NEWS FOR PAPER MILL WORKERS: Jeffrey Alderton of the Cumberland Times News reports that Tuesday’s visit by Maryland’s Cabinet secretaries was Gov. Larry Hogan’s latest show of support for nearly 700 Luke mill workers who will lose their jobs when the paper making factory closes at the end of next month. But more than a show of support, officials announced the mill workers will qualify for unemployment benefits from the first day the mill is shutdown — even though they will receive severance pay wages.

PG COUNCIL OKs BUDGET: The Prince George’s County Council on Wednesday approved the first budget proposed by new County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D), distinguished by big raises for public school employees and a relatively quiet deliberation process. The $4.34 billion budget does not include an increase in the property tax rate, although some homeowners could pay more because of rising property values, Rachel Chason of the Post reports.

COST OF RANSOMWARE ATTACK: Baltimore’s budget office estimates a ransomware attack on city computers will cost at least $18.2 million — a combination of lost or delayed revenue and direct costs to restore systems, Ian Duncan of the Sun is reporting. The cost estimates were disclosed Wednesday at a City Council budget hearing as regular email service was restored for at least some Baltimore employees, the first public indication that the city’s technological recovery is showing signs of success.

STATE LAWMAKERS TAKE ROLL IN CITY COUNCIL RACES: Fern Shen of Baltimore Brew writes that state legislators are playing a prominent roll in Baltimore City Council races, including state Sen. Mary Washington and Del. Maggie McIntosh, both of whom are endorsing candidates running to fill retiring Mary Pat Clarke’s seat.

DONORS SEEKS RETURN OF PUGH MONEY: The leaders of the Korean Society of Baltimore said Wednesday they are seeking the return of more than $60,000 in contributions their members made to former Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh’s re-election campaign, Luke Broadwater of the Sun is reporting. Paul Kwong-Yong Lee, president of the organization, wrote a letter to Pugh’s campaign chairman, Steve Sibel, “asking for our donations back.” Also signing the letter was Duk-Choon Kim, the society’s chairman.

DEEP CREEK LAKE ACCESS UPGRADES: The Garrett County Republican writes that U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen have announced $787,520 in federal funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission for the Glendale Access Road project in Garrett County. These funds will be used for intersection and roadway improvements on Glendale Road and will ultimately improve access to the Deep Creek Lake area — supporting local tourism and job creation.

HARRIS ON BI-PARTISANSHIP IN HOUSE: U.S. Rep. Andy Harris joined community members in Easton on Friday, May 24, and discussed recent bipartisan victories he believes are overshadowed by big-ticket reform gridlock on Capitol Hill. Harris, state Sen. Addie Eckardt and Del. Chris Adams participated in a community forum hosted by the Talbot County Republican Central Committee. The big issues, he said, are difficult to find bi-partisan agreement on. But for second-level issues, Harris said Republicans and Democrats work well together, especially in the Appropriations Committee, on which he serves, Dustin Holt of the Easton Star Democrat writes.

JUDGE JONES, TRAILBLAZING WOMAN, DIES AT 93: Judge Shirley B. Jones’ life was a series of legal firsts, writes Fred Rasmussen in her obituary for the Sun. A trailblazer, she was the first woman to be named a federal judge in Maryland history. Earlier, she was the first female judge elected to the old Supreme Bench of Baltimore City and the state’s first female assistant attorney general. Judge Jones died May 16 at her Edenwald retirement community home in Towson, where she was a longtime resident. She was 93.