State Roundup, July 22, 2019

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T-MOBILE ACCUSED OF OVERCHARGING: A Maryland senator leading a charge to upgrade the state’s 911 system said T-Mobile has been systematically overcharging families and companies. For nearly two decades, Maryland law has required phone companies collect a $1 monthly fee per phone bill to help pay for emergency call systems. But Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan said T-Mobile has instead been charging the fee per line, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

CUMMINGS CONTINUES TO CALL TRUMP A RACIST: Pamela Wood of the Sun reports that U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings continued his criticism of President Donald Trump on Sunday, calling the president racist during “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos. The host asked Cummings whether he thinks Trump is a racist, and Cummings responded: “Yes, no doubt about it.”

MORE JURISDICTIONS ALSO FILE OPIOID SUITS: The city of Laurel and Wicomico County filed suits on July 9. Calvert County did it a couple of weeks before. In the past two years, more than two dozen cities and counties in Maryland, as well as the state, sued opioid makers, distributors and others, Meredith Cohn of the Sun is reporting. They join Baltimore City and the area’s counties and more than 2,000 other governments in filing suit in state and federal courts around the country that allege the pharmaceutical companies had a role in the addiction and overdose crisis that has overwhelmed public resources.

OPINION: RELIGIOUS HOSTILITY, IT IS NOT: The editorial board for the Sun opines that when an attorney for Bethel Christian Academy uses the phrase “religious hostility” to describe the state of Maryland’s decision to deny its participation in a private school voucher program, she is echoing the language of the Supreme Court’s last major case pitting gay rights against religious liberty: the Masterpiece Cakeshop case from Colorado. That’s no surprise, given that the school is being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, which also represented the baker in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. But it’s a false comparison, says the Sun.

DOZENS FREED FROM MD PRISONS: Dozens of prisoners convicted of crimes in Maryland were among thousands of men and women released Friday from federal detention nationwide as a result of prison reform legislation passed by Congress last year, Kevin Rector of the Sun is reporting. The Department of Justice said that more than 3,100 federal prison inmates were being released across the country as a result of the First Step Act’s increase of credits for good conduct behind bars.

CRITICS: HOGAN CLIMATE CHANGE PLAN INADEQUATE: Gov. Larry Hogan has committed to reducing output of greenhouse gases dramatically, but a plan outlining how to accomplish that is late and, critics say, inadequate, Scott Dance is reporting in the Sun. The plan — required under state law by the end of 2018 — has yet to be released. But rough details the administration has put forth suggest its approach to combating climate change will rely on unproven technologies such as capturing carbon emissions and storing them underground.

‘SUNNY DAY’ FLOODING PROBLEM GROWS: A new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report shows that rising seas are inducing a particular type of increased flooding around the country. The phenomenon, known as high-tide or “sunny day” flooding because of the absence of rainfall as a trigger, struck a median of five days last year at nearly 100 coastal locations, tying the record set in 2015. The “median” is the level at which there are as many occurrences below the value as above it, the Bay Journal’s Jeremy Cox reports in MarylandReporter.

ICE PROTESTED AT ARTSCAPE: More than 100 activists joined a protest of ICE and federal immigration policies that separated families and children at the United States’ southern border during Artscape and against its sponsors Johns Hopkins University and PNC Bank for their involvement with ICE. Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. It was organized by the advocacy group Jews United for Justice. Many said they weren’t scared off by temperatures well into the 90s that caused health officials to warn people to be cautious in the heat.

ELRICH STOPS MO CO POLICE/ICE COLLABORATION: Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich is planning to announce an executive order today that will ensure no county official asks people about their immigration status. Elrich’s office said Friday that he will sign an executive order that stops any collaboration between federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and the Montgomery County Police Department, Dan Schere of Bethesda Beat reports.

HOPKINS HOSPITAL PROTESTED FOR SUING POOR PATIENTS: Joined by members of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, national union leaders staged a noisy — and musical — rally Saturday calling on Johns Hopkins Hospital to stop suing low-income patients to collect debt. Jeff Barker of the Sun writes that a crowd of a few hundred chanted “Shame!” and some people waved signs reading “Hey Hopkins. Stop Suing Patients & Families.”

FRANCHOT CONSIDERING RUN FOR GOVERNOR: Political blogger Ryan Miner in his A Miner Detail blog writes that a crowd of nearly 100 showed up to support Comptroller Peter Franchot and encourage him to take the next step in his career in public service. “We’re definitely taking a look at the next step,” Franchot said during his brief remarks before the gathered coalition of progressives, moderate Democrats, conservative Republicans and independents, pointing to a 2022 gubernatorial bid.

MD GUARD’s ALL-WOMEN LEADERSHIP TEAM: In this 4-minute video, the Today Show’s Sheinelle Jones talks with Maj. Gen. Linda Singh, Command Sgt. Maj. Perlisa Wilson, Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead and Brig. Gen. April Vogel, who make up the top command of Maryland’s National Guard. They discuss becoming trailblazers as the first all-female team to lead a state National Guard.

BALTIMORE COUNTY CUTS BSO FUNDING: Despite the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s financial straits, Baltimore County is reducing the amount of money it usually gives to the orchestra. Last year, the county gave the BSO $680,000. This fiscal year it’s being reduced to $600,000. Also, the county is keeping around $90,000 of that to help pay for the expenses of its July 3 concert at Oregon Ridge. That leaves a little more than $500,000 for the BSO’s general fund, which is closer to a $170,000 cut, John Lee reports for WYPR-FM.

HOWARD SEEKS HEALTHY PRODUCTS FOR VENDING MACHINES: Four years after the Howard County Council passed legislation to create nutrition standards for the products sold in county vending machines, Howard is seeking bids from private companies to abide by the law, Erin Logan of the Howard County Times reports. In spring 2015, then-Councilman Calvin Ball introduced a bill that would require Howard County vending machines to have at least 75% healthy snacks and drinks.

TALBOT COUNCILMAN ‘WELCOMES’ OPEN MEETING DECISION: Talbot County Councilman Pete Lesher said he welcomed the decision of the recent Open Meetings Compliance Board as providing guidance to the council and helping ensure more open and transparent public deliberations. On July 9, the Talbot County Council announced the decision that emails and texts between members over a two-day period constituted a meeting that should have been open to the public, John Griep of KPVI reports.

McMILLEN IN EPSTEIN-MAR-A-LAGO VIDEO: So why was former Maryland Rep. Tom McMillen in that Jeffrey Epstein Mar-a-Lago video? Erin Cox of the Post reports that in November 1992, when NBC filmed the party at Mar-a-Lago for a feature on Trump’s bachelor lifestyle, McMillen was a Maryland congressman who had just lost his bid for a fourth term, a victim of unfavorable redistricting. Trump was a big and early contributor to McMillen’s political pursuits, which the Democrat launched after an 11-year National Basketball Association career.

REP. OCASIO-CORTEZ IN SILVER SPRING: Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters, writing about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speech on Thursday night in Silver Spring, reports that she hit back at President Trump, proclaiming that she and other newly elected female lawmakers have no intention of stepping back from policy debates — or returning to the land of their ancestors.

INSIDE KAMALA HARRIS’ CAMPAIGN HQ: Its playfully decorated, cavernous national headquarters in downtown Baltimore is mostly out of public view, but the Kamala Harris presidential campaign says it picked the city for a reason, Jeff Barker of the Sun reports. In Baltimore, the Democratic U.S. senator and her campaign chairwoman and sister, Maya Harris, found a city that feels like the Oakland, California, area, where they are from.