State Roundup, June 20, 2019

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DETENTION CENTER DEMOLITION OK’d: The Maryland Board of Public Works on Wednesday approved a $27.5 million contract for demolishing the shuttered Baltimore City Detention Center to make room for a proposed mental health and substance abuse treatment center for inmates, Doug Donovan of the Sun reports.

BPW OKs DELAYED ALABAMA CONTRACT: The BPW voted unanimously to renew a foster-care-placement contract with an Alabama-based company, despite earlier calls by Comptroller Peter Franchot to boycott the state over its strict new abortion law, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports. Franchot said he voted in favor of the $625,000 contract with Seraaj Family Homes of Montgomery, Ala., because he did not want to affect the services provided to the foster care children the company places.

BPW OKs STATE CENTER LAWYERS’ FEES: The BPW also voted to pay more than $360,000 in fees to outside attorneys representing the state in an ongoing court dispute over the canceled redevelopment of State Center in Baltimore. Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that the 2-to-1 vote to approve payment sidesteps attempts by the General Assembly to prevent Hogan from paying the attorneys. The money comes from a small fund managed by the board that became the subject of attempts by lawmakers to tighten how the 50-year old contingency fund is used.

BPW DENIES LEGAL FEES TO JUDGE: The Board of Public Works on Wednesday denied a district judge’s request to have the state pay for $86,433 in legal fees she racked up fighting a dismissed complaint filed against her four years ago over how she handled a domestic violence case, Doug Donovan reports for the Sun. The decision highlighted problems critics have had with the state’s process for holding judges accountable through the Commission on Judicial Disabilities — including commission members who raised specific failings related to the case against Judge Mary C. Reese of Howard County. Reese asked the state to cover her legal expenses because the Court of Appeals last year dismissed the commission’s 2017 findings that she violated the Code of Judicial Conduct.

3 TO RETURN TO UMMS BOARD: Three University of Maryland Medical System board members who took leaves of absence during an internal review of their companies’ contracts with the system have accepted the board’s invitation to return, Kevin Rector of the Sun reports.

METRO CHAIR ADMITS ETHICS VIOLATIONS: Robert McCartney of the Post is reporting that Metro board chairman Jack Evans acknowledged Wednesday night that he violated the board’s ethics code by failing to disclose a conflict of interest and agreed not to seek reelection as chairman to help settle an investigation into his conduct.

HOGAN BLASTS ELRICH OVER OUTAGES: As outages continue to cripple the Montgomery emergency communication system, Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday condemned delays in a “critical” system upgrade. Caitlynn Peetz reports in Bethesda Beat. Over the past month, the current 11-tower system has experienced several “major disruptions,” at times knocking out more than three-quarters of the radio channels first responders use to communicate.

YOUNG WANTS 50/50 SPLIT ON STRONACH RACE TRACK FUNDS: Baltimore Mayor Jack Young said Wednesday that funding approved by the Maryland General Assembly for improving race tracks in the state should be split “50/50” between Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. His comments come after a Baltimore Sun report that the Maryland Jockey Club is seeking $4.4 million in state subsidies to cover half the cost of updates made to the Laurel racetrack last fall, Carley Milligan of the Baltimore Business Journal reports.

JUDGE BLOCKS TRUMP RULE ON ABORTION REFERRALS: A federal judge temporarily blocked Trump administration rules aimed at steering money away from organizations in Baltimore that provide abortion referrals, Meredith Cohn of the Sun reports. The rules issued in March apply to so-called Title X family planning funding, and city officials who brought the lawsuit against the administration say they could cost Baltimore $1.4 million and have real health consequences for women.

REP. BROWN LOSES BID TO BLOCK TOLL PLAN: U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown has lost a bid in a House committee to block Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to widen portions of the Capital Beltway and I-270, writes Jeff Barker in the Sun. The Hogan administration pitched the public-private partnership as a way to alleviate traffic congestion without relying on taxpayer dollars. Private contractors would recoup their investment through tolls charged on drivers who use the new lanes.

OPINION: GOVERNMENT FORM DOESN’T MATTER: In a commentary for the Carroll County Times, Dean Minnich gives a history lesson of the commission form of government that some Maryland counties, including Carroll, still use. He writes, “It doesn’t make any difference which form we have if more residents don’t get an education, stay informed and vote in every election they can, from state central committee members to orphan’s court to state delegates and senators — and not just the commissioners or council or county executives.”

OPINION: CONCENTRATION CAMPS & OUR SOUTHERN BORDER: In an op-ed for Maryland Matters, Del. Kirill Reznick, who is Jewish and lost family during to Nazi atrocities, defends New York U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez statements that what the United States is doing on our southern border is tantamount to German concentration camps. “German camps did not start out this way. Jews were first concentrated into ghettos, branded with yellow stars, and otherwise separated from the rest of the population,” writes Reznick.

REPARATIONS DEBATE: The debate over reparations for descendants of slaves catapulted Wednesday from the campaign trail to Congress with an impassioned plea from actor Danny Glover, Baltimore native and author Ta-Nehisi Coates and others for lawmakers to address compensation for America’s blighted heritage of racism and Jim Crow laws, Errin Haines Whack of the AP is reporting.

REMEMBERING CLAY MITCHELL: Kent County attorney and former publisher Steve Meehan remembers Speaker Clay Mitchell as a generous news source in this nostalgia piece for the Chestertown Spy. The viewing for the former speaker who died June 13 will be from 1 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Fellows Family Funeral Home, 370 Cypress Avenue in Millington, Maryland. Funeral services will be held on Friday, beginning at the Fellows Family Funeral Home at 11 a.m. with internment subsequently at the Shrewsbury Church in Kennedyville,