State Roundup, August 14, 2019

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PSC SIGNALS SUPPORT FOR SOME RATE REFORM: Months after opposing legislation in the General Assembly that would have changed the way utility rate increases are calculated, the Maryland Public Service Commission late last week signaled its support for some of the very same reforms. What’s not clear yet is whether the PSC’s change of heart will ultimately be good for ratepayers, Josh Kurtz writes in Maryland Matters.

MARYLAND AMONG STATE SUING U.S. ON POWER PLANT DECISION: A coalition of 21 Democratic-led states, including Maryland, sued the Trump administration Tuesday over its decision to ease restrictions on coal-fired power plants, with California’s governor saying the president is trying to rescue an outdated industry, Don Thompson and Adam Beam of the AP report.

ANNAPOLIS LOBBYIST SHUFFLE: Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes about recent changes in the Annapolis lobbying sphere, starting with veteran government relations pro William Pitcher joining the firm of the Bellamy Genn Group. Meanwhile, Katie Nash, who has most recently been a partner with the firm Greenwill Consulting Group, will be hanging her own shingle and calling her venture Greater Good Maryland.

DEL. LEWIS PUSHES FOR LAB REGISTRY: Academic research and private labs that test diseases one step below those at the top tier of Fort Detrick’s often operate under the state’s radar. Del. Karen Lewis Young (D-Frederick) has spent several years trying to get a registry of these “biosafety 3 laboratories.” For the past couple of years, she submitted legislation that would require those labs to register with the Maryland Department of Health so that public health officials, emergency management and law enforcement would be able to respond in an emergency, Heather Mongilio of the Frederick News-Post reports.

SEN. HERSHEY’s COMMENTS DRAW PRAISE, SCORN: Jacob Owens of the Cecil Whig writes that Senate Minority Whip Stephen Hershey Jr. comments on racism and gun violence in the wake of massacres in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, have drawn widespread attention in Maryland. “I’m done with the thoughts and prayers. I’m done with the phony outrage from scores of politicians. I’m angry. I’m horrified. I’m devastated. Our American culture is suffering. Let’s call this what it is: A white nationalist committed an act of terrorism,” he wrote.

WHAT’s UP AT MACo: Leaders of Maryland’s counties and officials from state government will descend on Ocean City this week to talk public policy, politics and cybersecurity. The event theme, “Winds of Change,” is focused less on renewable energy and more on social, economic and demographic shifts affecting the state’s 24 major subdivisions. Top of mind will be the security of local government computer systems and digitally stored information in the wake of a crippling attack on Baltimore earlier this year, Bryan Sears writes in the Daily Record.

RIVER FLOWS CAUSE BAY DEAD ZONE: The Bay continued to be on the receiving end of high river flows in July. The flows have been higher than normal for 13 out of the last 15 months, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey. The pollution carried into the Bay during that span has led to worse than normal water quality and last month triggered a large oxygen-starved “dead zone” in the Bay, the Bay Journal’s Karl Blankenship reports in MarylandReporter.

OPINION: FOCUS ON LOCAL CLEAN ENERGY: In a column for Maryland Matters, Charles Hernick, of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions Forum, opines that, “despite lots of good days on the Chesapeake Bay, there remains a disconnect between the largest and most important estuary in the United States and our overall commitment to addressing climate change. We need to refocus on locally produced clean energy.”

STATE FUNDING SOUGHT FOR PENN STATION: The wish list for a redevelopment of Baltimore’s Penn Station and its surrounding areas shows offices and apartments, boutique office space, parks and a second concourse that looks like it could be at an airport, Melody Simmons of the Baltimore Business Journal reports. All that is missing is funding — from private, city and state sources, the development team and an Amtrak official said Tuesday.

ROCKVILLE TO HOLD MAIL-IN ELECTION: Rockville residents will have a voting experience unlike any other this year – and the circumstances of filling out a ballot are all up to them. Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters writes that the city is holding a mail-in election for council and mayor, with the hopes of boosting turnout and allowing residents to make more informed decisions while voting in the comfort of their own homes.

HOWARD SCHOOL DESEGREGATION: A week away from the Howard County Public School System releasing its redistricting plan, three County Council members are calling on the school system to develop a plan to desegregate its schools, Jess Nocera of the Sun reports. Council members Christiana Rigby, Opel Jones and Deb Jung released a joint news release late Tuesday afternoon announcing they are introducing a resolution in September for the school system to develop a plan.

OPINION: PITTMAN PICKS UP DEM TACTICS: In a column for Red Maryland, Brian Griffiths goes after new Arundel County Exec Steuart Pittman, opining that the “wealthy horseman … may be new at politics, but he sure has picked up leftist tactics in a hurry from the Democrats learning tree. A recent controversy has brewed up regarding the Anne Arundel County Executive’s Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. Pittman was responding to alleged protests and actions by certain groups who support the right to bear arms.”

ARUNDEL JUDGE SILKWORTH TO RETIRE: Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Chief Judge Ronald Silkworth will retire at the end of August, opening up another vacant position on the County Circuit Court, writes Chase Cook in the Annapolis Capital. Silkworth will retire Aug. 27, the same day he turns 70 and reaches mandatory retirement age for judges. Vacancies are typically posted online the morning after retirement. The names of applicants will be listed on the Maryland Judiciary website

OPINION: VAN HOLLEN BILL BAD FOR ALL: In a column for the Sun, Brenton Smith opines that there are two serious misconceptions about legislation proposed by U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen to help save Social Security, which would turn the estate tax into a major source of funds for the program. And they make the legislation bad for everyone.

Join Len Lazarick on a trip to China: I’m going to China in October for a long trip to the south, a Long March tour with visits to homelands of several minority peoples. This will be my fifth trip to China since 1993, when I began hosting Chinese journalists in the U.S. This is a long 18-day trip, and does not include Beijing or Shanghai, which could be added. This is probably not for folks who have never been to China, but it will offer an experience of the “real” China. The cost is reasonable for the length, the tour is very small (just a few people, no buses, just cars or vans.) I’m trying to drum up some business, but make no money if you sign up. Here are the full details.

KAMALA HARRIS BLASTS TRUMP ON BALTIMORE ATTACK: Sen. Kamala Harris said in an Associated Press interview published Tuesday that Donald Trump’s attacks on Baltimore and U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings were “disrespectful,” telling the news organization that the Republican “does not understand the significance of the words of the president of the United States.” The Democratic senator from California and 2020 presidential hopeful was asked about her decision to set up her campaign headquarters in Baltimore and the president’s comments on Twitter calling the city a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”

FORMER O’s PITCHER GETS TRUMP BACKING: Former Orioles pitcher Curt Schilling can count on the endorsement of President Donald Trump if he decides to run for Congress in Arizona, Griffin Connolly of CQ-Roll Call reports. The former major league baseball player-turned conservative talk show host is weighing a congressional run in the Copper State, he told the Arizona Republic this week.