State Roundup, June 5, 2019

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ROADS PROPOSAL GOES TO BPW: Gov. Larry Hogan fought back Tuesday against opponents of his plan to add toll lanes on the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270, pitching the project ahead of a crucial Board of Public Works vote Wednesday. Christine Condon writes in the Sun.

  • The Board of Public Works is expected to be packed as the three-member panel considers a request from the Maryland Department of Transportation to designate the toll lanes plan as a public-private partnership, which would allow MDOT to begin pursuing proposals from teams of companies that would design, build and operate the lanes on the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 — also paying for the construction — in exchange for keeping most of the toll revenue over 50 years, Katherine Shaver reports in the Post.
  • Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports that all eyes and ears will be on Comptroller Franchot, Montgomery County Democrat, a former state legislator from (and current resident of) Takoma Park who is believed to be the swing vote on a key Hogan administration priority, the designation of a massive suburban Washington transportation project as a public-private partnership.

RESEARCHER DISPUTES HOGAN ON POLLUTION REDUCTION: Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration says a project adding toll lanes to Washington-area highways would reduce air pollution, along with congestion. But a researcher whose study was used to support that conclusion said it’s not that simple, Scott Dance of the Sun reports.

OPINION: FRANCHOT CAN PUT BRAKES ON ROAD PLAN: As the Board of Public Works prepares to vote on Gov. Hogan’s road widening plan, the editorial board for the Sun writes an open letter to BPW member Comptroller Peter Franchot, saying, “We’re not asking you to kill it (the plan). We’re asking you to send it back to the Maryland Department of Transportation with the expectation that the concerns of elected officials and community leaders be addressed before any companies are authorized to bid.”

OPINION: MULTI-FACETED APPROACH NEEDED: In an op-ed for Maryland Matters, Del. Kirill Reznik of Montgomery County writes that Gov. Larry Hogan included his “name in a list of signatories of a 10-year-old letter to try and demonstrate support from local elected officials for his private toll road boondoggle. … I stand by my support of reducing traffic congestion through a multi-modal approach.”

FRANCHOT TO FACE ALABAMA TEST: Comptroller Franchot, who last month urged a boycott of Alabama-based businesses over that state’s strict new abortion law, must decide Wednesday how to deal with a $75  million contract that includes $625,000 for a company headquartered in Montgomery, Ala., Ovetta Wiggins reports in the Post. Franchot (D) said last month that Maryland should divest any state taxpayer dollars from being spent in Alabama after lawmakers passed a bill that bans most abortions, even in the case of rape and incest.

HOGAN PROMISES TO FIGHT DEMS FOR MD FUTURE: The fifth annual speech to Maryland Business for Responsive Government was billed as a chance for Gov. Larry Hogan to lay out his “second-term priorities” on fighting crime, improving education and fixing traffic problems. But, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter, the top priority he laid out in his 2,800-word speech to a crowd of more than 600 business leaders at the Live Casino Hotel in Arundel Mills seemed to be fighting Democratic legislators to keep them from blocking his initiatives, raising taxes and turning back to the “failed policies” of the O’Malley years. There is a link to the video of the entire speech.

OVERSIGHT OF CANNABIS ‘EDIBLES:’ Now that state lawmakers have approved medical cannabis “edibles” such as cookies and brownies, state regulators are beginning this month to write the complicated rules for making sure the baked medications deliver consistent doses to patients in child-resistant packaging. But, reports Doug Donovan in the Sun, the edible cannabis law was careful not to classify such treats as “food” for a reason: Doing so would have required redundant oversight from the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission and the Department of Health’s food safety division. Instead, as in 30 other states, edible cannabis products are now a class of their own in Maryland overseen by the commission.

DEL. KIPKE PLAYS MIDWIFE TO DAUGHTER’s BIRTH: House Minority Leader Nic Kipke had a new job Tuesday morning: baby delivery, writes Chase Cook in the Annapolis Capital. In a surprise, Kipke helped his wife Susannah deliver their third baby at home in Pasadena at 2:32 a.m. The baby, who isn’t named yet, is 7 pounds and 19.5 inches.

OPINION: SAVING BALTIMORE CITY: In an op-ed for the Sun, Spencer Levy, a Baltimore City resident and researcher into cities, opines about the type of cities that investors want to sink their money in and writes that Baltimore City, for all of its problems, is worth saving, and adds, “The merger of Baltimore city and county is the type of visionary change we need.”

WA CO RAISES INCOME TAXES: For the first time in 20 years, Washington County residents will see a higher county income-tax rate on their tax forms. By a 3-2 vote Tuesday night, the county commissioners approved raising the income-tax rate from 2.8% to 3.2%, the highest county income-tax rate the state allows, Julie Greene of the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports.