State Roundup, June 17, 2019

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HOGAN STILL REVIEWING PROJECT FUNDS: Gov. Larry Hogan continues to review more than $200 million in funding for projects the legislature amended into the state budget — including funds for school construction, community colleges, testing rape kits and the BSO — as Democratic lawmakers ramp up calls for him to release the money, Luke Broadwater writes in the Sun. But those funds are just one request of nearly 50 items still awaiting the governor’s decision.

  • Hogan is still reviewing funding that lawmakers fenced off for legislative priorities, his office said Friday afternoon in response to calls to #FreetheFunds from Maryland House Democrats. House Appropriations Chair Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) said with the start of the fiscal year looming on July 1, lawmakers usually have some idea what funds the governor plans to release, Danielle Gaines reports for Maryland Matters. “We are getting late. It’s nervous time,” McIntosh said.

E-Z PASS HOLDERS POLLED ON TOLLS: Resource Systems Group, a Vermont-based consulting and analytics firm, is polling a sampling of EZ-Pass transponder holders in Maryland and Virginia, to gauge drivers’ willingness to use toll lanes of the sort that Gov. Larry Hogan (R) wants to build on the two roads. Parts of the Beltway in Virginia already have such lanes, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports. Hogan wants to have private sector firms finance, build and maintain express toll lanes in Maryland.

KELLY, SONS RESIGN FROM UMMS BOARDS: Former state Sen. Frank Kelly resigned Friday from the University of Maryland Medical System Board of Directors — just days after fellow board members had asked him to return — amid continued fallout from the self-dealing scandal that has rocked the hospital network, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. His sons also resigned from their directors’ positions.

WASSERMAN & UMMS: Mark Wasserman’s name has only come up in behind the scenes conversations about the UMMS scandal, even though he has been its senior vice president of external affairs since 1997. Last year, he was paid nearly $510,000 to be the guy for UMMS who could open doors and bend ears. He’s a political insider who was a trusted aide to the late Gov. William Donald Schaefer. Luke Broadwater and Kevin Rector write about this person, who many people trust explicitly as an honest person, but who Gov. Hogan has grown frustrated with for not showing up at a meeting on UMMS. And does not respond to queries from the press.

OPINION: DOES UMMS REALLY GET IT? The editorial board of the Sun asks if UMMS has really gotten the message that it indeed has screwed up and needed to change, writing, the “message the University of Maryland Medical System has been trying to send in recent days is summed up in big type at the start of a news release Wednesday announcing the completion of a consultant’s report on the self-dealing scandal that has rocked the institution this year: ‘System embraces opportunities for both process and culture change outlined in third-party report.’ “

TENSIONS AT UMUC: Danielle Douglas-Gabriel of the Post reports that five years ago, the University of Maryland University College considered shedding its public institution status to become a private school that is more competitive in the online education market. Leaders worried that state rules would hinder partnerships with software firms or other private-sector companies that seemed necessary for the school to gain an edge. The school relented after winning exemptions from the state from procurement policies. But some of the tensions between administrators and faculty that flared five years ago remain.

R. Clayton Mitchell Sr. This portrait hangs next to the speaker’s rostrum in the House of Delegates chamber.

TRIBUTES HONOR THE LATE CLAY MITCHELL: Tributes poured in Friday for Roy Clayton Mitchell Jr., the former speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates who died Thursday of cancer. A proud son and lifelong resident of the Eastern Shore, Mitchell was 83. “His death is a great loss for our state and the Eastern Shore, which he loved with every fiber in his being,” said U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D), who preceded Mitchell as speaker, Maryland Matters reports.

  • First elected to state office in 1971, he served as the 104th Speaker of the House of Delegates from 1987 to 1992, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports. “As an Army veteran and a distinguished member of the legislature, Speaker Mitchell leaves an indelible mark on our state,” Hogan (R) said in a statement. “Speaker Clay Mitchell was a man for whom I had tremendous respect and admiration. He dedicated his life to serving others and will always be remembered as an icon on the Eastern Shore.”

NAACP CHAPTERS SEEK ETHICS PROBE: The two Baltimore County chapters of the NAACP have asked state legislative ethics officials to investigate Del. Robin Grammer’s recent Facebook post that the groups called “racist and inflammatory” for what they said was a reference to lynching black public school administrators, Doug Donovan of the Sun writes.

GEORGIA ABORTION LAW COULD AID MARYLAND FILM BUSINESS: Georgia’s new abortion restrictions could result in a flurry of film and television business coming to Maryland, a top state economic development official suggested Thursday, Josh Kurtz writes in Maryland Matters. Tom Riford, assistant secretary at the Maryland Department of Commerce, told a meeting of the state Economic Development Commission in Baltimore that the state is getting extra attention from the film industry since Georgia enacted strict abortion restrictions a few weeks ago. The Peach State has become a hub of TV and film production in recent decades, but Hollywood studios are threatening to pull their business given the current political climate there.

BSO MUSICIANS FACE LOCKOUT: Phil Davis of the Sun reports that Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians will be locked out of the band’s facilities at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall starting today as management continues to negotiate salaries. The orchestra’s board of directors approved the move Sunday evening, the group wrote in a news release, saying the board could not reach an agreement with Local 40-543, the union that represents the orchestra’s musicians.

BSO SHOW TO GO ON IN BA CO: The show will go on at Oregon Ridge Park in July. BSO musicians have struck a deal with Baltimore County government to hold the popular Independence Day concert despite the BSO’s previous cancellation of the event, Alison Knezevich, Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood report in the Sun.

STUDY: AFRICAN AMERICANS MOST IMPACTED BY WATER BILLS: A new study on race and water affordability, which focuses part of its findings in Baltimore, suggests African Americans are disproportionately negatively affected by rising water bills and concludes by urging city leaders to pass new legislation to address the issue, Brittany Brown of the Sun writes.

BEING REAL ID COMPLIANT: Come fall 2020, every U.S. air traveler will be required to present a Real ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification such as a U.S. passport, to board a domestic flight. Luz Lazo of the Post answers questions that you might have to make sure you are compliant. The federal government has found Maryland, Virginia and the District compliant. But, just because your state is compliant, it doesn’t mean your license is, he writes.

HOYER, BROWN DISCUSS ACA IMPROVEMENT: The Affordable Care Act has improved the lives of millions of Americans, but access to health coverage remains uneven, two members of Maryland’s congressional delegation and a panel of local health care professionals said Friday. Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports that the experts said race, income, geography and community conditions are all persistent factors in determining who has access to care — and by extension, lead healthier lives. The conclusions came during a roundtable discussion convened by Reps. Steny Hoyer and Anthony Brown in Largo.

ANNAPOLIS STRUGGLES WITH STREAMING: Angela Roberts of the Annapolis Capital writes about the financial struggles that city is having in streaming important and controversial board meetings – such as the Planning Commission – that the public would benefit from viewing live. A few months ago, Anne Arundel County Council began streaming its work sessions — in addition to its already streamed regular council meetings. The Maryland House of Delegates also announced in January that it will live stream its floor sessions on the state General Assembly’s website. The Senate will follow suit in 2021.

CITY TO CONSIDER PLASTIC BAG BAN: Years after then Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake vetoed legislation banning stores from handing out plastics bags in Baltimore City, Councilman Bill Henry is giving it another go, reports Ethan McLeod for Baltimore Fishbowl. A proposal announced by Henry’s office in a media advisory Thursday would ban stores from handing out plastic bags at the register, while also setting a 5-cent fee on other kinds of bags. It would also fine retailers $250 for the first offense and more for subsequent violations.

CITY, COUNTY CRACK CRABS TOGETHER: Baltimore Mayor Jack Young and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski recently got together over a table of steamed crabs to look for ways the city and county can work together. The two leaders are expected to make announcements soon on issues ranging from public safety to transportation, John Lee reports for WYPR-FM.

FORMER DEL. HAMMEN DIES: Donald G. Hammen, who represented Southeast Baltimore in the City Council and who later served in the Maryland House of Delegates, died of kidney failure May 18 at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. The Perry Hall resident was 79.