State Roundup, July 29, 2019

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TRUMP DECLARES VERBAL WAR ON CUMMINGS, BALTIMORE: President Donald Trump called Rep. Elijah Cummings “racist” in a Sunday afternoon tweet as the Republican president continued his attacks against Cummings and Baltimore, Colin Campbell of the Sun reports. In the tweet, Trump wrote that if Cummings “would focus more of his energy on helping the good people of his district, and Baltimore itself, perhaps progress could be made in fixing the mess that he has helped to create over many years of incompetent leadership.”

BALTIMORE & MARYLAND FIRE BACK: President Donald Trump’s Twitter rants against Rep. Elijah Cummings and Baltimore, which continued on Sunday, generated plenty of response from Democrats and Baltimore defenders, including John Waters and former President Obama, Colin Campbell of the Sun reports.

  • Former Baltimore mayor and for Gov. Martin O’Malley told NPR’s All Things Considered that President Trump “deals in that impoverished vocabulary of a scapegoating fascist. It’s always about the other. It’s always about them.” He acknowledged that Baltimore has struggled with violent crime and drug addiction for the last 40 years. But “from 2000 to 2009 — and I might add, with Congressman Cummings’ advocacy and help — Baltimore led the nation in reducing violent crime and led the nation in reducing incidents of drug overdose deaths,” he said.

BOTH PARTIES OWN B’MORE PROBLEMS: Some of the response to Trump’s provocations rang hollow for activists like Lawrence Brown, Fern Shen and Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew report. The Morgan State University professor observed that the urban ills that Trump mocked and condemned are owned by members of both political parties – and caused not just by structural and historical racism, but by the present-day failings of local politicians.

HOGAN CHASTISED FOR RESPONSE: The outrage over President Trump’s attacks on Rep. Elijiah E. Cummings (D-Md.) veered Sunday toward a new target: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and his perceived mild rebuke, Antonio Olivo and Rebecca Tan report in the Post. In a statement delivered by his spokesman, Hogan said: “Baltimore City is truly the very heart of our state, and more attacks between politicians aren’t going to get us anywhere.”

OLSZEWSKI CALLS OUT KUSHNER: Rebecca Tan of the Post reports that Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr. condemned Trump’s comments as “an attack on basic decency,” then added, “It is certainly ironic that the president’s own son-in-law was complicit in contributing to some of the neglect that the president purports to be so concerned about.”

CUMMINGS’ 7th DISTRICT: Wilborn Nobles of the Sun looks into Baltimore’s 7th District, and found this: Cummings’ congressional district received just under $15.7 billion in grants, benefits and other assistance from the federal government in fiscal year 2018, according to Newsweek’s analysis of the federal awards data compiled by USAspending.gov. By comparison, districts like Indiana’s 7th (at $16.5 billion), New Jersey’s 12th (at $17.2 billion) and Pennsylvania’s 4th (at $27.4 billion) all received more money in the same period, according to Newsweek’s website.

OPINION: A SHOT HEARD ‘ROUND THE WORLD: The editorial board for the Sun made national news for its take-no-prisoners editorial blasting President Trump and his criticism of Baltimore. It wrote: … we would tell the most dishonest man to ever occupy the Oval Office, the mocker of war heroes, the gleeful grabber of women’s private parts, the serial bankrupter of businesses, the useful idiot of Vladimir Putin and the guy who insisted there are “good people” among murderous neo-Nazis that he’s still not fooling most Americans into believing he’s even slightly competent in his current post. Or that he possesses a scintilla of integrity. Better to have some vermin living in your neighborhood than to be one.”

  • The editorial was so shocking that the Post wrote about it. Hannah Knowles wrote: The paper of the city that President Trump attacked didn’t mince words. “Better to have a few rats than to be one,” the Baltimore Sun’s editorial declared in its headline. The scathing piece, which drew responses across the world and which the Sun expects will help break records in readership and subscriptions, highlights Baltimore’s strengths and accuses the president of deploying “the most emotional and bigoted of arguments” against a Democratic African American congressman from a majority-black district.

RODRICKS: TRUMP SUPPORTERS BEYOND REACH: Sun columnist Dan Rodricks opens his column on Trump’s Baltimore-Cummings tweets saying: People who support President Donald Trump, no matter what he says or does, are beyond reach with reason and facts. To continue to support this president, you have to either agree with every bit of what he says and does or put yourself in a kind of bubble where you never hear his racism and never see his ignorance and cruelty.

ZURAWIK: TRUMP’s TWITTER ATTACK PURE RACISM: Sun media columnist David Zurawik opines: After three years of denouncing President Trump’s use of media to attack, denigrate and, yes, spew racist hate, there are days when I think I do not have a drop of vitriol left for Trump and what he’s doing to this country. And then comes something like his Twitter attack today on Elijah Cummings and Baltimore, which is the congressman’s home and a part of his district.

NEW HANDGUN BOARD DENIES MORE APPEALS: Of eight cases heard, the new Handgun Permit Review Board, which will only exist for a few more months, upheld Maryland State Police decisions four times. The other four applicants were granted delays —three to drum up more paperwork to prove their need for a permit and one to hire a lawyer, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

GUN GROUP SUES HANDGUN PERMIT BOARD: A gun rights advocacy group is challenging Maryland’s concealed carry gun laws in a lawsuit filed against the state’s Handgun Permit Review Board, Allen Etzler of the Frederick News Post reports. The brief, filed in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals on behalf of Edward Holmes Whalen, argues that the state’s gun laws are unconstitutional and have been superseded by other case precedents.

LAWMAKERS SEEK WAYS TO HELP SMALL BIZ: Holden Wilen of the Baltimore Business Journal reports that a bipartisan group of Maryland state senators are exploring ways to help small businesses thrive after the General Assembly passed a law earlier this year raising the minimum wage to $15. Led by Sen. Katie Fry Hester, the “Small Business Working Group” has been meeting this summer with a goal of suggesting possible bills to propose during the next legislative session in January. Among the things they are considering include possible tax credits or incentives, reducing the cost of health care for small businesses and implementing certain recommendations of a commission set up years ago looking at ways to improve Maryland’s business climate.

LONGER TIME SOUGHT BETWEEN LAWMAKERS BECOMING LOBBYISTS: Maryland should impose a longer “cooling-off period” before state lawmakers can become lobbyists, according to the advocacy group Public Citizen. Pamela Wood of the Sun reports that Public Citizen reviewed policies in the federal government and all 50 states that are designed to limit the “revolving door” of politicians leaving office, only to return to the halls of government to lobby for private interests.

CONTRIBUTORY NEGLIGENCE: Maryland remains one of only four states where contributory negligence is an absolute bar to recovery in a negligence action, an anomaly that does not appear likely to end soon, Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports. Six years ago, Maryland’s top court said the fate of contributory negligence rested with the legislature. Since then, the General Assembly has declined to discuss altering the 172-year-old common law doctrine absolving defendants of liability in personal injury lawsuits if the plaintiffs were at all to blame for the harm that befell them.

ORIGIN OF LEGIONNAIRES’ ILLNESS UNKNOWN: State health officials say they cannot determine if two employees working at the Harbor Tunnel contracted Legionnaires’ disease at the facility despite finding the bacteria in the building’s water system, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. Test results released Friday by the Maryland Department of Health found the bacteria in water samples taken from the Harbor Tunnel Administration building more than two weeks ago.

JURISDICTIONS WRESTLE WITH TRANSLATION SOFTWARE: With Maryland ranked in the top 10 most diverse states in the nation, and immigrants continuing to pour in, the state and many county governments are trying to make their websites more accessible to non-English speakers, with what some advocates describe as mixed success. But most use Google Translate, and some advocates say translation software can be imprecise, confusing and frustrating, Lisa Nevins Locke reports for Maryland Matters. They would like a more human touch.

MD TO STUDY ALTERNATIVES TO HOGAN TOLL PLAN: Maryland transportation officials announced last week that they plan to study an alternative to Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) proposal of adding toll lanes on Interstate 270 and the Beltway. The plan, favored by Montgomery officials, avoids widening the portion of the Beltway between the I-270 interchange in Bethesda and the Interstate 95 interchange in Prince George’s County, Dan Schere of Bethesda Beat reports.

RAHN URGED TO FREE $56M IN D.C. TRANSIT FUNDS: A group of state lawmakers from the Washington, D.C., suburbs is encouraging Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn to reverse his decision to withhold nearly $56 million in capital funds for the capital region’s rail system, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters writes. The Hogan administration’s decision to withhold the funds — announced in a letter late in the day on July 1, the day they were due — appeared to catch the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the General Assembly by surprise.

IMPALLARIA SUES FORMER CANDIDATE: A former candidate for the House of Delegates said he is standing by campaign fliers featuring a mug shot of Del. Rick Impallaria that are now the key piece of evidence in an ongoing defamation lawsuit, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports. Impallaria, 56, is suing Michael Geppi for defamation. The delegate, who was convicted of driving under the influence two years ago and has numerous traffic violations and previous criminal charges, is alleging the glossy mailer contained “false, defamatory, and maliciously distorted allegations in an effort to disparage, injure, and undermine” Impallaria’s public, personal and professional standing.

NEW SCRIPT AIMED TO AID DISABLED VOTERS: Maryland election judges will have a new script to follow in the 2020 elections – a move aimed at protecting the privacy of disabled voters who use electronic ballot-marking devices – but advocates and lawmakers say the proposed changes don’t go far enough. The Board of Elections passed a policy last month that would encourage every voting precinct to record at least five ballots through the electronic ballot-marking devices, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters.

HOGAN TAKES GAVEL AT GOV ASSOCIATION: Leia Larsen of Maryland Matters writes that Republican Gov. Larry Hogan took over the gavel and became chair of the National Governors Association on Friday. During his yearlong tenure, the governor plans to push for an overhaul of the nation’s aging infrastructure. Hogan will host four regional summits on the pillars of his initiative, which include relieving traffic congestion, integrating smart technology, strengthening the security and resiliency of infrastructure, and leveraging investments from the private sector.

DeFILIPPO: HARRIS A BYPRODUCT OF REDISTRICTING RUN AMOK: In a column for Maryland Matters, Frank DeFilippo opines that President Trump and Rep. Andy Harris are perfect partners. They both claim Maryland’s Eastern Shore as a comfortable habitat – Trump, who carried all nine counties in 2016, and Harris, who represents the political extremity in Congress.

CARROLL CHARTER GOV’T QUESTION ON HOLD: The question of whether Carroll County should switch its format of government from commission to charter has cropped up from time to time over the past several decades. The latest effort to explore the option was put on hold Thursday, when the county commissioners voted to table discussion for 12 months. That means the question will not go to voters on the 2020 election ballot, Mary Grace Keller and Brian Compere of the Carroll County Times reports.

OPINION: SLO-GO APPROACH ON SOLAR DOESN’T WORK: The handwriting is on the wall for Frederick County’s go-slow approach on solar power. Once it seemed like a good idea, but now it is apparent that it is just not going to work, the editorial board for the Frederick News Post opines. The County Council passed a fairly restrictive law in 2017, and we praised it then as a reasonable approach to a complicated issue. The county would encourage solar power businesses to start on a smaller scale. We had high hopes that companies would find a way to comply with the law while protecting agricultural land and the scenic views that are an important part of the tourism business here.

HOWARD DETENTION & ICE: The Howard County Detention Center has taken in more than $14 million in the six years of its contract to house ICE detainees, reports Erin Logan for the Howard County Times. But Howard stipulates its detention center in Jessup only accept those under certain conditions. They detain undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes, validated gang members, deported felons who have illegally made their way back to the United States and people charged with jailable offenses. But Nick Steiner, of the ACLU of Maryland, said ICE detainees at the Howard center are not all dangerous criminals.

ELRICH OK WITH OLNEY TOWER: Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich is no longer objecting to the location of a tower needed to complete the county’s new emergency communication system, Caitlynn Peetz of Bethesda Beat reports. In a letter to County Council members this month, Elrich said the county and the state will collocate, or share, a tower in Olney for the county’s new system, as previously planned.