State Roundup, June 19, 2019

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HOGAN TAPS CYBER SECURITY CHIEF: Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order Tuesday designed to strengthen the state’s defenses against cyber attacks, appointing a single official with responsibility for computer security at all state agencies, Ian Duncan of the Sun reports. The order creates the post of Maryland Chief Information Security Officer, who will lead a security management office in the state’s IT department and chair a council that will coordinate cyber-security efforts among state agencies.

HOGAN AGAIN SEEKS METRO CHAIR RESIGNATION: Gov. Larry Hogan has called for the chair of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to immediately resign and for further transparency in the investigation that found he violated multiple ethics codes, Phil Davis writes in the Sun. In a statement released Tuesday, the Republican governor repeated his call for chair Jack Evans to resign and asked the committee tasked with investigating his alleged ethics violations to release all the information surrounding its findings.

ANALYSIS: HIGH STAKES MESS AT METRO: In an analysis for the Post, Robert McCartney writes that Metro’s ethics investigation of board chairman Jack Evans has grown so surreal that D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser was demanding Tuesday to see the full legal report on the probe, which board members say does not exist, and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan was talking about a “coverup.” That’s the kind of problem that arises when an oversight body — in this case, the Metro board’s ethics committee — meets in secret with no written record of its proceedings, and its members can’t agree on what they decided.

U.S. REP. BROWN TRIES TO STOP HOGAN TOLL PLAN: Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) is taking aim at Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to add toll lanes to the Capital Beltway and I-270 by trying to prevent federal approval of the environmental studies needed before the lanes can be built, reports Katherine Shaver in the Post. Brown’s amendments to spending bills also would prevent the National Park Service from transferring ownership of the BW Parkway to the state. Hogan also wants to add toll lanes to the B-W Parkway, which he says the Park Service hasn’t properly maintained.

MIRCROPLASTICS GROWING BAY DANGER: The Chesapeake Bay Program, a state-federal partnership that leads the Bay restoration effort, has identified microplastics as a contaminant of mounting concern. Scientists now know that single-celled organisms in the aquatic environment can easily mistake the smallest particles of plastics for food. Those bits then travel up the food chain, eaten by larger and larger fish that are eventually eaten by humans, Whitney Pipkin of the Bay Journal reports in MarylandReporter.com.

FROSH SEEKS PIPELINE LAWSUIT DISMISSAL: Attorney General Brian Frosh has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a company that wants to build a natural gas pipeline in Washington County that the state’s top officials have rejected, Doug Donovan of the Sun is reporting. Columbia Gas Transmission filed the lawsuit last month in U.S. District Court in Baltimore seeking a preliminary injunction to give the company immediate access to property to drill a pipeline under the Western Maryland Rail Trail. It also seeks the “award of just compensation and damages.”

OPPORTUNITY ZONE COULD BENEFIT WEALTHY PLANK, GOLDMAN SACHS: ProPublica’s Jeff Ernsthausen and Justin Elliott report that under Interstate 395 into downtown Baltimore lies what might be the most valuable parking lot in America. The little sliver of land will allow Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank, one of Maryland’s richest men, and the New York investment bank Goldman Sachs to claim what could amount to millions in tax breaks for Port Covington, their nearby development project. They have President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul law to thank. The new law has a provision to grant lucrative tax breaks to encourage new investment in poor areas around the country, called “opportunity zones,” carefully selected by each state’s governor.

JOCKEY CLUB SEEKS $4.4M FOR LAUREL PARK: The Maryland Jockey Club is asking racing regulators to approve $4.4 million in state subsidies entirely for renovations that the company made to its Laurel Park racetrack, even though crumbling conditions at Pimlico Race Course forced the closure of nearly 7,000 unstable seats for the Preakness Stakes, Doug Donovan of the Sun reports.

OPINION: TRUSTING STRONACH: The editorial board for the Sun opines on the Stronach Group, owner of the Jockey Club, writing that, to “put it mildly, we have not been fans … the owners of the Maryland Jockey Club … (They) have brought nothing but constant threats to the future of the Preakness in Baltimore and a seemingly intentional campaign of disinvestment in Pimlico while building up their other Maryland thoroughbred track in Laurel.” But could new talks between Mayor Jack Young and Stronach strengthen Pimlico and the surrounding community? And does the editorial board trust Stronach?

STATE TESTS DIGITAL LICENSE PLATES: Maryland is testing out the license plates of the future, though they won’t be available to the general public just yet, reports Ethan McLeod for Baltimore Fishbowl. The Motor Vehicle Administration announced today that 20 vehicles from its fleet, plus two Maryland Transportation Authority vehicles, will be equipped for the next two years with license plates featuring electronic displays. The devices use the same display technology as Amazon’s Kindle e-readers.

EX-AIDE TO DEL. JALISI SEEKS BACK PAY: A former aide to Del. Jay Jalisi, disciplined by the legislature this year for bullying his staff, has filed a claim against the Baltimore County Democrat seeking back wages and damages. According to the suit, Brian Agandi was never paid the $20 a hour he was promised because Jalisi hired him despite being barred from hiring aides until he completed anger management classes, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.

MARYLAND REPS SIGN ON TO REPARATIONS BILL: The U.S. House is slated to hold a hearing today on legislation that would establish a commission to consider reparations for the descendants of slaves. Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D) is among the bill’s 57 co-sponsors. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has signed on as a co-sponsor of the Senate version, Robin Bravender of Maryland Matters writes. The bill isn’t expected to be signed into law anytime soon, but it’s elevating the national discussion about reparations for slavery.

ELRICH BLASTED OVER EMERGENCY RADIO DISRUPTION: Several Montgomery County Council members sharply criticized County Executive Marc Elrich on Tuesday for what they described as his lack of urgency in fixing the county’s aging public safety radio system, which had a 14-hour outage last month, Rachel Chason of the Post reports.

FICKER RETURNS WITH MO CO TAX CAP PUSH: Unbowed by his latest political defeat — a distant third-place finish in the race for Montgomery County executive last fall — political provocateur Robin Ficker is gearing up for another campaign. Ficker, whose regular attempts to change county politics and policy through ballot initiatives, has begun collecting signatures for a ballot measure that would cap Montgomery’s property tax rate, Kaanita Iyer of Maryland Matters reports.

PG EXEC ALSOBROOKS, SIX MONTHS IN: Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters writes that, from her corner office at the Wayne K. Curry Building, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) is taking stock of her first six months in office. Asked about her accomplishments, she launches into a discussion about the relationships she has attempted to build with other elected officials and the public, and the importance in setting the right “tone.” She repeatedly uses a word that the hard-charging Curry – executive from 1994 to 2002 — would not have uttered had he served 108 years, and not just eight – “humility.”

STELLAR TURNOUT FOR TERRI HILL: Del. Terri Hill, D-Howard-Baltimore,  turned 60 last month and a large crowd of her Columbia constituents turned out for a birthday fundraiser Monday night for the chair of the Howard County delegation. House Speaker Adrienne Jones was the keynote speaker praising Hill but U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen also delivered kind words as did U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes and Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk, vice chair of the health committee on which Hill, a plastic surgeon, serves. Other delegates also attended the event MCed by County Executive Calvin Ball, among them Dels. Eric Ebersole, Jessica Feldmark, Shelly Hettleman, Karen Lewis Young, Jen Terrasa, and Mary Ann Lisanti. MarylandReporter.com.