State Roundup, July 9, 2019

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SEARCHABLE DATABASE: LOBBYISTS EARN; ORGS SPEND: Six lobbyists made over $1 million in the six months since the 2018 election, new reports show. Gerard Evans – who filed activity reports showing work for 59 clients – reporting being paid $2,434,333.32 between Nov. 1, 2018 and April 30, 2019. The figures come from semi-annual reports filed by lobbyists to the Maryland State Ethics Commission, which released aggregate earning and spending reports last week, Danielle Gaines writes for Maryland Matters.

HOGAN DECISION IMPACTS S. MD PROJECTS: Last week’s decision by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to withhold over $245 million in funds for projects designated by the Maryland General Assembly appears likely to affect two ongoing projects in Southern Maryland, Paul Lagasse of the Maryland Independent reports. Funding for the acquisition of rights-of-way along the proposed route of the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit corridor and for agricultural land preservation are among the list of projects for which the governor is withholding funds.

OPINION: THE MURKY SIDE OF STATE BUDGET: The editorial board of the Sun attempts to clear up the confusion over the roadblock Gov. Larry Hogan just threw up over the release of funds approved by the General Assembly, writing that the way the state budget works is complicated, and this dispute is taking place in a particularly murky corner of the separation of powers in which the legislature tried to assert its priorities — things like school construction, additional funding for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and money to test rape kits — and the governor balked.

HOGAN URGES CONGRESS TO OK TRADE PACT: Gov. Larry Hogan is urging the state’s members of Congress to approve a proposed trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement would reset trade rules for the three countries. It would replace the 1990s-era North American Free Trade Agreement, reports Pamela Wood for the Sun.

KOPP ON DIVESTING FROM FOSSIL FUEL FIRMS: On a day that brought another intense rainstorm, with her audience’s cell phones buzzing with emergency warnings about damaging flooding in the region, the head of the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System suggested that the state is inching closer to divesting from fossil fuel companies, Josh Kurtz reports for Maryland Matters. State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D) on Monday emphasized that the state is not rushing headlong into divestment, but she said she and other Maryland fiscal leaders must balance their fiduciary responsibilities with their desire to limit Maryland investments in fossil fuels.

LAWMAKER VOWS BAN OF ‘LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE:’ A Maryland lawmaker who worked with attorneys and politicians across the country to free a Prince George’s County man sentenced as a juvenile to life in prison without parole, vowed Monday to introduce legislation similar to a Colorado law that won Curtis Brooks his freedom a week ago, Glynis Kazanjian of Maryland Matters reports. “In 26 states and D.C. there is a ban on life in prison without the possibility of parole,” Sen. Joanne C. Benson (D-Prince George’s) said at Brooks’ welcome home ceremony in Capitol Heights. “We want to do the same thing for Maryland that we did in Colorado.”

BAKER TAPPED FOR UMMS BOARD: Former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker is joining the board of the troubled University of Maryland Medical System. State Senate President Mike Miller selected Baker, a fellow Democrat, to be his appointee on the board, Pamela Wood of the Sun writes.

EASTON NAMED ARTS DISTRICT: Maryland Secretary of Commerce Kelly M. Schulz recently announced Easton as one of two new Arts and Entertainment Districts in Maryland, Kayla Rivas of the Easton Star Democrat reports. Easton will join 26 existing districts in the state in offering marketing and tax-related incentives to help current and prospective artists, arts organizations, and other creative enterprises, incentives that are aimed at developing and promoting community involvement, tourism, and revitalization.

IN TREND, UM ATHLETES SUE ACCUSER: Three former baseball players from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County are suing a woman who accused them of sexual assault, part of a growing trend of male students facing sexual assault claims taking their female accusers to court, Catherine Rentz reports in the Sun. The defamation, malicious prosecution, abuse of process and invasion of privacy claims were filed recently in response to a civil lawsuit the woman brought against the men in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

OPINION: CONTINUE E-VEHICLE TAX CREDIT: Faster than you can say lithium-ion, the tax credit for those who purchase or lease electric vehicles (or those that run on hydrogen) that state lawmakers passed just months ago was exhausted within the first week of the new fiscal year, the product of a backlog of car buyers and a shortage of funds to underwrite the credit. So that begs a question: If electric cars are so popular that $6 million is gone in a flash, should Maryland keep providing a tax incentive? The answer? Absolutely, and the bigger the better, says the Sun editorial board. And the reason is as simple as this: carbon emissions.

OVERALL CASINO REVENUE DROPS AGAIN: Total revenue from Maryland casinos has dropped again compared to a year ago, the latest report from Maryland Lottery and Gaming shows, Amanda Yeager of the Baltimore Business Journal reports. The state’s six casinos reported $142.9 million in revenue last month, 4% less than the $148.9 million they collected in June 2018. It’s the second month in a row that year-over-year revenue has fallen short. In May, casinos posted a combined revenue of $152.3 million, down 2.7% compared with May 2018.

OPINION: FOR A BIPARTISAN REDISTRICTING PANEL: Tierra Bradford and Joanne Antoine of Common Cause, writing in an op-ed in Maryland Matters, opine that it’s unfortunate that the Supreme Court has refused to act on the damage caused by partisan gerrymandering. Politicians are going to take advantage of this opportunity to rig the system in their favor, harming our democracy. … What Maryland needs is bipartisan support behind creating an independent redistricting commission.

GAY MO CO COUNCILMAN FACES HATE-FILLED PUSHBACK: Rebecca Tan of the Post writes that this year, for the first time, Maryland’s most populous jurisdiction formally recognized June as Pride Month — an effort spearheaded by Evan Glass, the first openly gay member of the Montgomery County Council. At events, Glass, 42, posed with drag queens and marched triumphantly through town centers holding his husband’s hand. Behind the scenes, however, the at-large Democrat was battling a deluge of hate-filled messages.

MO CO ALCOHOL BOARD CHANGES NAME: Charlie Wright of Bethesda Beat reports that Montgomery County’s oft-criticized county department that sells and distributes alcoholic beverages has a new name. As of last Monday, the Department of Liquor Control became the Alcohol Beverage Service. The new name emphasizes customer service and “better defines the department’s work,” according to a county press release.