State Roundup, July 31, 2019

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MORE FUNDS SOUGHT FOR TUNNEL REBUILDING: With $125 million from the federal government, $147 million from the state of Maryland and $91 million from CSX, rebuilding the CSX-owned Howard Street Tunnel to accommodate taller trains headed for shipping at the Port of Baltimore remains $103 million short, Colin Campbell of the Sun is reporting. Citing “sensitive negotiations,” Gov. Larry Hogan declined to say whether the state might contribute more money, but he promised to “push in all directions,” seeking investments from those who stand to benefit from the project and the thousands of jobs it is expected to create.

METRO ASKS MD TO RELEASE $56M: Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld has asked Maryland to immediately release $56 million that the state has withheld in a funding dispute, saying the transit agency is making “a good faith effort” to address the state’s complaints, Robert McCartney of the Post reports.

STATE RETAINS TRIPLE-A BOND RATING: Maryland’s triple-A bond rating has been reaffirmed by the three major rating agencies. Treasurer Nancy Kopp announced the ratings from Fitch, Moody’s Investor Services and Standard & Poor’s in advance of an Aug. 14 sale of $500 million in tax-free bonds, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record writes.

STALEMATE IN HBCUs, STATE MEDIATION: Another round of court-ordered mediation has again ended without resolution in the 13-year case by a coalition of historically black colleges and universities against the state of Maryland. Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters reports. The most recent deadline – imposed by a panel of three U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals judges in January – passed on Monday.

MANDATED HOLOCAUST CURRICULUM: As the debate continues over whether to mandate Holocaust curriculum in public schools, Rabbi Susan Grossman of Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia, said, “It is a shame Maryland has not joined the numerous states that require a Holocaust curriculum taught in a coordinated and consistent way in our schools.” Jess Nocera of the Sun writes about the continuing push. During this past General Assembly session, several Maryland lawmakers attempted to mandate a Holocaust unit, but the bill failed to gain traction.

BLUE CRABS BENEFIT FROM CLIMATE CHANGE: If the Maryland blue crab could talk, it might say, “Pump the brakes on those climate change reversal efforts.” That’s because resulting warmer winters in the Chesapeake Bay could keep the crustacean out and about longer each year, according to a study by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. Candace Spector writes the story in the Easton Star Democrat.

CARROLL JOINS SUITS AGAINST OPIOID MAKERS: The Carroll County Board of Commissioners has filed suit against the manufacturers of opioid drugs, seeking damages related to the addiction epidemic that has claimed hundreds of lives here over the past decade, Jon Kelvey reports in the Carroll County Times. By doing so, Carroll joins more than two dozen Maryland jurisdictions that have filed suit against drug makers in the past two years, including Wicomico County and the City of Laurel, which filed suits on July 9.

STATE PROBES PARASITE-CAUSED ILLNESSES: An increase in the number of cases of an intestinal illness caused by microscopic parasites in the state this month has prompted an investigation. There have been 67 lab-confirmed cases of cyclosporiasis since Jan. 1, with 37 occurring between July 7 and July 20, according to the Maryland Health Department press release. The increase comes as health departments across the country report a rise in cases, Heather Mongilio of the Frederick News Post reports.

TRUMP CONTINUES TO TRASH B’MORE: President Donald Trump alleged Tuesday that billions of dollars in federal aid to Baltimore has been “wasted” and “stolen,” renewing his days-long criticism of the city and U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, Pamela Wood and Doug Donovan of the Sun report. Trump offered no evidence to back up his claim, and a spokesman for Democratic Mayor Jack Young said the president was incorrect.

  • Michael Kranish and Felicia Sonmez of the Post report that Trump suggested Tuesday that Baltimore is “worse than Honduras” in terms of violent crime, escalating his criticism of the district of House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.). “Baltimore happens to be about the worst case,” Trump said. “If you look at it statistically, it’s like, the number of shootings, the number of crimes, the number of everything — this morning I heard a statistic, Baltimore is worse than Honduras, OK?”

DURING PRES DEBATE, KLOBUCHAR DEFEND B’MORE: After four days of President Donald Trump attacking Baltimore, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar was the only presidential candidate to defend Maryland’s largest city by name during Tuesday night’s Democratic debate on CNN, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. In response to a question from CNN’s Don Lemon about Trump’s “bigotry,” Klobuchar said the Republican’s insults against Baltimore were indefensible.

DELANEY GETS AIR TIME DURING DEBATE: Former U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland got the attention he craved at the Democratic presidential debate Tuesday night. But whether it helps his cause in the 20-plus candidate field remains to be seen. Delaney was the first of the more moderate candidates to go on the attack Tuesday night, hitting U.S. Reps. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for “bad policies like Medicare for all” and other liberal policy prescriptions, Josh Kurtz reports in Maryland Matters.

COUNTY LEADERS SKEPTICAL OF WSSC REBRANDING: The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, the water utility in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, plans to spend nearly $900,000 changing its name and logo. The move isn’t sitting well with local leaders in the two counties, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports.

OVERTIME QUESTIONED FOR CITY TRASH COLLECTORS: Trash collectors in Baltimore have been paid thousands of dollars in unnecessary overtime because they are allowed to end their 10-hour shifts or begin collecting overtime after finishing one route, “regardless of how quickly the route was completed,” according to a report released Tuesday by the Office of the Inspector General, Colin Campbell reports in the Sun.

MO CO MOVING FORWARD ON EMERGENCY TOWERS: A standoff between the Montgomery County Council and county executive came to an end Tuesday as the council formally solidified the locations of 22 towers needed to complete a new emergency communication system, Caitlynn Peetz reports for Bethesda Beat.

NATIONAL PHILHARMONIC: One week after announcing a final fundraising push to save its organization, the National Philharmonic announced late Tuesday night it will return to Strathmore for its 2019-20 concert season, Caitlynn Peetz of Bethesda Beat reports.

TANEYTOWN CANNABIS FACILITY: At its Monday night meeting, the Taneytown planning commission approved continued preliminary work at a medical cannabis facility, Jon Kelvey writes in the Carroll County Times. “We let them start working on their interior renovations with what the county calls a contingent start. That lets them begin framing, rough wiring, but it doesn’t give them the ability to get any work inspected,” James Wieprecht, the city’s director of planning, said.