State Roundup, August 12, 2019

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DELEGATE PUSHES REAL ID BILL: A state delegate is pledging to introduce “emergency legislation” to protect Marylanders whose drivers’ licenses could be seized by police as the state moves to implement federal REAL ID laws, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

HANDGUN BOARD MAY HAVE SKIRTED OPEN MEETINGS LAWS: Pamela Wood of the Sun reports that Maryland’s Handgun Permit Review Board may have violated the state’s open meetings laws — but no one appears to be challenging it. At a July meeting, board members agreed to go into a closed session to hear requests from two handgun owners regarding concealed carry permits. The board hears appeals of Maryland State Police decisions to either deny or restrict concealed carry permits for handgun owners.

STATE COULD FACE TRASH CRISIS: Maryland could soon have nowhere to put its trash, Ian Round of Maryland Matters reports. Two of the state’s incinerators may close in the next several years, following years of pressure from lawmakers and environmental activists. Their closure would amount to the end of incineration in the state — a goal for many environmental groups.

HOGAN RENEWS CALL FOR MANDATORY MINIMUMS: With a Baltimore police officer hospitalized after being shot multiple times, Gov. Larry Hogan renewed his call Friday for longer mandatory minimum sentences against gun offenders. Posting videos on social media sites, Hogan, a Republican, asked the public to call on Democrats in the General Assembly to pass his legislation. It would impose stiffer penalties on a small number of offenders convicted of using a firearm during a crime of violence, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

SHORT HISTORY OF APPOINTED ATTORNEYS PROGRAM: Heather Cobun of the Daily Record writes about the Appointed Attorneys Program, which the General Assembly approved when, in 2013, Maryland’s highest court recognized people’s constitutional right to have an attorney present at their initial court appearance. It’s been a rocky ride for the program and the General Assembly even considered amending the constitution so that it could disband it.

WA CO PONDERS LOSS OF FARMLAND TO SOLAR: In the wake of a state appeals court decision that preempts local zoning law, Washington County officials are discussing how to steer large solar farms away from prime farmland, Julie Greene of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports. One possibility is notifying developers that if they want a tax discount on a solar farm, they better not put the solar panels in certain areas, Planning and Zoning Deputy Director Jill Baker told the Planning Commission.

COURT SIDES WITH STATE ON RUNOFF REGS: In the latest development in an appeals process that has stretched over multiple years, the Maryland Court of Appeals sided against Carroll County’s objections to runoff pollution regulations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, reports Catalina Righter in the Carroll County Times.

OPINION: PROTESTING BWI NOISE: In a column for the Sun, Barbara Deckert, a resident of Elkridge for 35 years, opines about the noise levels at BWI, writing that “We are fighting for a return to pre-NextGen flight procedures, with dispersal of flightpaths and higher altitudes. The airport is not going away, no one will lose their job, everyone will still be able to book a cheap flight to Vegas, and the airlines will make plenty of money. There is simply no need to sacrifice our peace, health and property values.”

OPINION: WILL MARYLANDERS NOW UNITE? In a column for Maryland Matters, Maryland Democratic Party chair Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, opines that “Anyone watching recent events should know by now that (President) Trump’s snobbish, racialized, and dehumanizing language … give those who are susceptible permission to justify their preexisting biases —whether they realize they hold them or not — about the inferiority of the people or places he’s referencing.” She asks if Marylanders will Marylanders “fall for Trump’s trap … or (recognize) that we are all in this together and focusing on what unites us instead of what divides us?”

HUD OVERSIGHT OF BLIGHTED PUBLIC HOUSING LACKING: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has ultimate oversight of nearly 35,000 public housing and federally subsidized rental units in Baltimore City, many of which suffer from the squalor the president decried on social media. HUD has known for years of failing conditions in many of them but hasn’t taken steps to ramp up oversight as it has done in other regions, such as New York City, write Danielle Ohl and Molly Parker in a Sun/ProPublica report.

CUMMINGS: COMPARE DISTRICTS: Christine Zhang of the Sun writes that in U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings’ first major speech since Republican President Donald Trump’s series of tweets disparaging his congressional district, the Baltimore Democrat called on reporters to check out the former South Carolina district of acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Compared with Cummings’ district, Mulvaney’s former district, which is 66% white, has a lower per-capita income and lower college education rate. The poverty and unemployment rates are roughly the same, with both slightly above the national average.

BURGLARY PHOTOS: Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, wife of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, posted photos of the suspected burglar at the couple’s West Baltimore home in hopes of catching the culprit. WBFF-TV publicized the pictures.

JEWS PROTEST ACTIONS AGAINST IMMIGRANTS: Each year during the Jewish holiday of Tishah b’Av, followers of the religion take time to reflect on the atrocities and disasters that have happened to the Jewish people during their history. Phil Davis of the Sun reports that on Sunday afternoon outside the Howard County Detention Center, members of Maryland’s Jewish community joined pro-immigration advocacy groups to signify that the Trump administration’s family separation and detention policies are an atrocity worthy of the same mourning and prayer.

UPDATE ON EX-MAYOR PUGH: Friends of former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh say her health has improved but that she’s continuing to keep a low public profile until the investigations concerning her self-published book deals are complete, reports Luke Broadwater of the Sun. In the weeks before she stepped down as mayor amid scandal in early May, the 69-year-old Pugh had been hospitalized with pneumonia. Friends who have visited and spoken with her recently say her health is much better and that she is thinking about what to do next in life.