State Roundup, July 11, 2019

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SPENDING ON LOBBYING: The Maryland State Education Association spent the most money on lobbying in the state capital during the latest filing period, as the state’s largest union pushed for major new spending on state schools, according to reports filed with the State Ethics Commission, Brian Witte reports for the AP. The reports covered Nov. 1 through April 30, which includes the state’s annual 90-day legislative session, a high-stakes one for the organization. The session started on Jan. 9 and ended April 8.

  • In its push to gain authorization for an armed police force, Johns Hopkins spent more than half a million dollars on lobbying lawmakers in Annapolis this past legislative session, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. The $581,000 Hopkins paid out during its lobbying effort marked a 58% increase from the 2018 session, when the university and hospital paid lobbyists $367,000, according to disclosure forms Hopkins filed with the State Ethics Commission that were released this month.

LAWMAKERS CONCERNED ON FBI, ICE USE OF FACE ID TECHNOLOGY: Two state lawmakers say they have concerns about the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials mining state driver’s license data to create a facial recognition database, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record. Officials in Maryland have been circumspect about discussing whether either agency has been accessing the data and photos of more than 5 million Maryland residents who have driver’s licenses and state identification cards issued by the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. But a series of stories in The Washington Post raises questions about the reach of the FBI and ICE as well as privacy concerns in an age of ever-expanding technology and data collection.

OPINION: THE KOPP PERPLEX: In an analysis for Maryland Matters, Josh Kurtz looks at the job Nancy Kopp is doing as state treasurer and her role on the Board of Public Works. He asks: In this era of pugilistic politics, with Board of Public Works meetings live-streamed, and Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot so obviously putting on a show, is quiet, wonky Treasurer Nancy Kopp the right person for the job?

COURT DISMISSES FROSH EMOLUMENTS SUIT: A federal court on Wednesday delivered the second strike against critics of President Donald Trump who have filed three separate lawsuits accusing the Republican executive of violating the Constitution by profiting from foreign government business at his Washington hotel, Doug Donovan reports in the Sun. A similar lawsuit filed against Trump in New York by a government ethics watchdog group was dismissed in December 2017, and a third legal action by nearly 200 Democratic congressmen is pending in Washington.

DEMS WORRY ABOUT END OF ACA: Democrats in Congress are warning that a looming court decision could upend the Affordable Care Act and leave millions of Americans without health insurance. Health care experts told lawmakers on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, chaired by Elijah Cummings of Maryland, that if that ruling stands, it could wipe out programs created by the 2010 health care law and shake the entire health care system. The appeals court is expected to rule in the coming months, Allison Winter of Maryland Matters reports.

RECORD RAINS AND THE BAY: The downpours that soaked 2018 have spilled into this year, with three of the first five months reporting higher-than-normal freshwater flows into the Chesapeake. That will likely mean worse-than-normal oxygen conditions in the Bay, writes the Bay Journal’s Karl Blankenship in Maryland Reporter.. Scientists are predicting the fourth largest summertime dead zone in the last two decades. Still, the often record-setting rains that commenced a year ago have not been a total washout for the estuary.

MOSBY TESTIFIES ON BALTIMORE, HARM FROM DRUG POLICIES: Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby told a U.S. House panel Wednesday that the city exemplifies the nation’s failed drug policies, and called on the government to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, Jeff Barker reports for the Sun. “The reason I’m here today is because there is no better illumination of this country’s failed war on drugs than the city of Baltimore, Maryland,” Mosby told a House Judiciary subcommittee.

ATTY GEN SUES RESIDENTIAL FACILITY: A residential and educational facility for disabled students operated under “Dickensian” conditions, failing to provide children with required medication or appropriate supervision and attempting to cover up assaults, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Maryland Attorney General’s office, Talia Richman of the Sun reports. Dozens of Maryland children with cognitive disabilities and mental illnesses were sent to AdvoServ Inc. facilities for treatment and education after the state determined their needs couldn’t be met at home or in their local schools.

STATE OFFICIAL DISCUSS FUTURE OF LUKE MILL: The future of the Luke paper mill was a topic Wednesday during a meeting at Frostburg State University hosted by Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, reports Greg Larry for the Cumberland Times-News. Rutherford, and several other high-level state officials, visited Western Maryland to discuss the impact of opportunity zones on the state’s economy.

KUSHNER COS. GETS $800M TO BUY MD, VA APTS: In a Bloomberg article published in late May, David Kocieniewski and Caleb Melby reported that Kushner Cos., the real estate firm owned by the family of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, has received about $800 million in federally backed debt to buy apartments in Maryland and Virginia — the company’s biggest purchase in a decade. The loan was issued by Berkadia, a lender co-owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and Jefferies Financial Group Inc., in a deal that’s backed by government-owned Freddie Mac, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be named discussing the private transaction.

3 APPOINTED TO BA CO JUDGESHIPS: Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday appointed three judges to the district court in Baltimore County, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. The governor selected lawyers Guido Porcarelli, Bruce Friedman, and Michael Siri after interviewing nominees sent to him by the county’s judicial nominating commission.

NAVIGATING TALBOT TRANSGENDER POLICIES: In this 9-minute video interview with the Talbot Spy, Lynn Brennan talks about what it is like trying to navigate county policy for her transgender son, who transitioned just a few years ago when he was between the seventh and eighth grade at Talbot County Public Schools.

CITY POLICE UNIT WASTED MONEY ON BOAT REMOVAL: Members of the Baltimore Police Department’s Marine Unit were determined to remove a 32-foot boat impaled on pilings in the Inner Harbor. After spending $30,142, the Office of the Inspector General determined that it was an immense waste of time and money, because the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has a program to remove abandoned boats from waterways at no cost to local jurisdictions. And police knew about it, Brandon Weigel of Baltimore Fishbowl reports.

U.S. MAYORS OK BALTIMORE NO-RANSOM RESOLUTION: The U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously adopted a resolution proposed by Baltimore calling on members to refuse to pay ransoms to hackers if their cities fall victim to cyberattacks, Ian Duncan of the Sun reports. The measure was approved at the organization’s annual meeting in Hawaii last week.

PG BRIEFED ON CENSUS PUSH: In early July, the Prince George’s County Council received a briefing from members of the Census 2020 Complete County Committee on strategies and outreach efforts to ensure that all county residents are accounted for in the upcoming 2020 Census, Jessica Ricks reports in the Prince George’s Sentinel. “It is painfully clear with each passing day that it is imperative that we have an all hands on deck, energized approach to getting a complete count in Prince George’s County,” said Census 2020 Complete Count chair Elizabeth Hewlett.

MO CO COUNCIL FRUSTRATED OVER COMMUNICATION GAP: Members of the Montgomery County Council expressed frustration with County Budget Director Rich Madaleno and Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine Tuesday afternoon about the monthlong gap in communication over a May 22 report from a Wall Street credit rating agency. Dan Schere of Bethesda Beat writes that the report warned county officials that the deferment of nearly $90 million to the county’s health benefits trust fund account was “credit negative.”