State Roundup, July 1, 2019

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UM WARNED ON ACCREDITATION: The Middle States Commission on Higher Education announced on Friday that it had placed the University of Maryland, College Park on warning amid a review of the university’s accreditation, the Sun’s Sameer Rao reports. The accreditation agency’s decision, which puts the university’s accreditation at risk, is the latest development in the aftermath of football player Jordan McNair’s death from heatstroke in June 2018.

HUNDREDS OF NEW LAWS TAKE EFFECT TODAY: Among hundreds of laws to take effect today, Monday, July 1, is one that nearly quintuples the number of taxpayers eligible to claim the state’s child care tax credit, which is calculated as a fraction of a similar federal tax break, Scott Dance reports in the Sun. Others include efforts to combat opioid addiction, modernize 911 systems and loosen restrictions on alcohol sales.

RACE REGULATORS IGNORED LAW IN AWARDING FUNDS: Maryland’s horse racing regulators have ignored state law while awarding nearly $22 million in public subsidies for racetrack upgrades to the private company that owns Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park, Doug Donovan of the Sun reports.

OPINION: MD’s DRUG AFFORDABILITY BOARD: In an op-ed for the Sun, Vincent DeMarco of Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative writes that Maryland’s legislature recently enacted legislation that will create a first in the nation Prescription Drug Affordability Board with the authority to regulate what state and local government entities pay for certain drugs the way public utilities like electricity and water are regulated at the state level. The actions we are taking in Maryland are laudable and should send a strong message to Congress and the Trump administration that innovative, bi-partisan policies are possible, and the time to make real progress for people is now.

NAACP BACKING MAGLEV: Local leaders of the NAACP on Friday threw their support behind a proposed high-speed magnetic levitation train through Maryland — saying the project would produce good jobs for residents, Kevin Rector reports in the Sun. The historic advocacy organization for black and minority Americans will provide assistance to The Northeast Maglev, the company behind the proposed project, in the form of community outreach and education, the leaders said — helping explain the benefits of a project that has raised concerns in some minority communities in the region.

FRESH AIR FOR BAY DEAD ZONE? What if the dead zone that plagues the Chesapeake Bay could be eliminated now, not years down the road — and at a fraction of the billions being spent annually on restoring the troubled estuary? The Bay Journal’s Timothy Wheeler writes in MarylandReporter that as fanciful as it sounds, Dan Sheer figures it’s technically doable. Whether it’s the right thing to do is another question. Bay scientists are wary of potential pitfalls, but some still think it’s worth taking a closer look.

TWO WOMEN OF COLOR HOPE TO UNSEAT HOYER: Hoping for a New York-style victory inspired by freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D), two women of color are vying to oust the second-most powerful Democrat in the House of Representatives. With 10 months to go before the Maryland primary elections, Mckayla Wilkes and Briana Urbina recently announced their campaigns against District 5 Rep. Steny H. Hoyer – the House majority leader, Kaanita Iyer reports for Maryland Matters.

OPINION: LEGALIZED BODYSNATCHING: In a column for Maryland Matters, Frank DeFilippo writes about the Supreme Court’s recent punting of the gerrymandering ruling, writing that Gov. Hogan’s intentions to fix the gerrymandering problem may sound honorable “but really are no different from any other governor who wants to either consolidate or expand power for his party. … Whether the insidious deed is Democrat or Republican, redistricting is still legalized bodysnatching.”

COLUMN: WHAT ABOUT SEAWALLS? Sun columnist Dan Rodricks writes that a “third bridge to get more cars and trucks across the Chesapeake Bay, wider highways to move traffic along the Capital Beltway — those might be the ambitions of Maryland’s road-warrior governor, but they are fanciful luxuries compared to what could be the major infrastructure demand facing the state in the decades ahead: Seawalls to protect thousands of homes, businesses and farmlands, from Ocean City to Baltimore, at a cost of more than $27 billion.”

OPINION: CAMPAIGNING WHILE BLACK: Dr. David Myles, in an op-ed for the Sun, writes about what it is like for a black man to campaign door-to-door even in a progressive community like Rockville, where he is running for a seat on the City Council. “Never did I imagine that I would have to possibly put my life at risk to be a public servant,” he writes.

AA STATE’s ATTORNEY GETS $100k STATE GRANT: Without a gun-specific unit or prosecutor, the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office prosecuted 931 cases involving firearms from Jan. 1, 2017 through June 26. Alex Mann of the Annapolis Capital reports that, with approximately $100,000 State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess’ office received from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention, she’s hired a prosecutor for a year to focus solely on gun cases: intervening in the lives of youth caught with guns to prevent them from pulling the trigger and locking up repeat offenders — those that balk at a second chance.

MORE PROTECTED FOREST IN ARUNDEL: Anne Arundel County just got another 174 acres of protected forest, writes Angela Roberts in the Annapolis Capital. Working with two Crownsville landowners, the Scenic Rivers Land Trust set aside the additional acreage — including a 93-acre property in the Severn River watershed and a 81-acre property in the South River watershed — with money from the county’s Forestry and Forested Land Protection Grant Program, according to a press release

MOODY’s CAUTIONS MO CO ON BUDGET MOVE: Five weeks ago, Montgomery County budget makers fielded what for them was a rare warning from a bond rating agency: Major risks lie ahead if balancing the budget means reducing new contributions to the retiree health benefits fund. Arelis Hernandez of the Post reports that for a county that has not seen its triple-A credit rating downgraded in more than 40 years, it was an awkward admonishment. And when the County Council learned about it, several members were not pleased.

ECONOMIST’s ‘CONFLICT’ DRAWS SCRUTINY: Some Baltimore County Council members are questioning whether to continue working with a local economic consulting firm after a resident raised concerns that the company’s chief executive – well-known local economic consultant Anirban Basu — has a conflict of interest, Alison Knezevich of the Sun is reporting. The council is scheduled to vote Monday on a four-year, $25,600 contract with Baltimore-based Sage Policy Group to work with two council committees that focus on the economy and county spending.

BA CO BUDGET, WITH TAX HIKES, IN EFFECT: Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski’s first budget takes effect today and it includes the first tax increases in the county in a generation. However, residents won’t feel some of the tax hikes right away, John Lee of WYPR-FM reports.

PULITZER COLUMNIST HANDCUFFED AT BOWIE HOME: Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columnist Leonard G. Pitts Jr. said he was awakened early Sunday by police who ordered him out of his Bowie, Md., home and handcuffed him while they investigated a report that a crime was being committed in the house. The report, made to Bowie police by telephone, was determined to be false, Martin Weil of the Post reports.

WJZ-TV’s DeMETRICK RETIRES AFTER 40 YEARS: After more than four decades in the news business, most of them spent with WJZ-TV here in Baltimore, Alex DeMetrick has left the building. Literally, writes Ethan McLeod for Baltimore Fishbowl. We tried to reach him Thursday afternoon, but he’d already left for the day, and when we called again this morning on his final day, an assignment desk staffer said he stopped by around 5 a.m. to get his things: “He’s already gone.”