State Roundup, August 16, 2019

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MVA RECALLS 8,000 DRIVER’s LICENSES: The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration has recalled the driver’s licenses of 8,000 residents because they failed to meet requirements to be in compliance with the Real ID Act — a federal law designed to tighten security for state-issued identification, Luz Lazo of the Post reports. That means if any of those drivers are pulled over by police for any reason, the officer could confiscate their driver’s license.

COUNTY LEADERS QUESTION KIRWIN FUNDING: County leaders from around the state are being encouraged to support an education plan billed as transformative but aren’t yet being told what their costs will be or how to pay for them. An hour-long panel discussion at the Maryland Association of Counties annual summer conference at times sounded more like an attempt to buoy enthusiasm for recommendations that once fully implemented will cost a minimum of $4 billion annually. And, Bryan Sears writes for the Daily Record, one county executive said the 10 year phase-in might have to be lengthened significantly in order to make it more palatable for many of the state’s 24 political subdivisions.

OPINION: FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY SHOULD PAY FOR KIRWAN: In a column for Maryland Matters, Jill Ortman-Fouse of the Montgomery Board of Education and Jamie DeMarco of Citizens Climate Lobby write that, just like the tobacco companies paid billions of dollars for public health programs nationwide, today’s fossil fuel industry should begin compensating students for the damage they’ve already caused to their future. How? By investing in major new education improvements and school construction across Maryland.

DEL. DAVIS DRAFTS BILL TO PULL PAPER WASTE FROM ENERGY LIST: Speaking on a panel at the Maryland Association of Counties convention in Ocean City, House Economic Matters Chairman Dereck Davis (D-Prince George’s) said he is drafting legislation to remove the substance known as black liquor from the list of renewable energy sources able to receive state subsidies, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters. Black liquor is a byproduct of paper production, part of the chemical process in which wood is converted into wood pulp and ultimately into paper.

HOGAN, YOUNG TO MEET ON CITY CRIME: Gov. Larry Hogan and Baltimore Mayor Jack Young are set to meet to discuss ways the state can help the city’s leaders fight crime as the number of killings in Baltimore so far this year eclipsed the figure tallied for all of 2014. Hogan, a Republican, told reporters Wednesday that he and Young would meet next week, along with Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, Ian Duncan and Pamela Wood of the Sun report.

WSSC SAYS $900,000 REBRANDING JUSTIFIED: The water utility that serves the Washington, D.C., suburbs was justified in spending $900,000 in ratepayer funds to upgrade its logo and “branding,” the head of the agency told a member of the General Assembly, because the quality of service her employees provides isn’t fully appreciated by the public, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports. In an Aug. 14 letter to Del. Marc Korman (D-Montgomery), Carla A. Reid, of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, said that through “customer analytics,” the utility determined that “the public — our customers — did not truly grasp what we did and had a negative perception of WSSC Water. The need for a brand refresh emerged as a solution to these challenges.”

THIS AND THAT, FROM MACo: Josh Kurtz writes about lobbyists and political leaders seen and heard at this week’s MACo conference at Ocean City.

CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION QUESTIONS ELECTION SECURITY: Six members of Maryland’s congressional delegation are raising questions about election security and operations in the state ahead of 2020, and sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan (R) with a series of questions detailing concerns about the 2018 election, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters reports. “Maryland voters faced significant, preventable barriers to voting on Election Day 2018,” the lawmakers wrote. They cited precincts where there were not enough printed ballots, outdated and broken voting equipment that resulted in delays, and noted that some voters waited in line for hours to vote, some of whom started receiving word of election results before they’d even cast ballots.

LOBBYIST STARTS OWN FIRM: Steve Bohnel of the Frederick News Post writes that a Frederick resident with years of experience lobbying and working in Annapolis is starting her own firm next month. Katie Nash, a partner in Greenwill Consulting Group, will form a new public affairs and advocacy firm, Greater Good Maryland, beginning Sept. 11.

POT ODOR NOT ENOUGH FOR SEARCH, COURT RULES: Jessica Anderson of the Sun reports that Maryland’s highest court, citing Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin,” ruled this week that the smell of marijuana alone is not enough justification for law enforcement to search a person. The 7-0 Maryland Court of Appeals opinion differentiates between the necessary level of probable cause that law enforcement must obtain to search a vehicle and what it needs to search a person.

IMPALLARIA WANTS SUIT RE-INSTATED: A Republican state delegate who saw a defamation lawsuit against four members of his own party dismissed when he failed to appear in court is now asking a judge to reconsider. In a filing in Baltimore County Circuit Court, Del. Rick Impallaria, R-Baltimore and Harford counties, is asking Judge Jan Alexander to reconsider his decision to dismiss the case with prejudice claiming that he was not properly notified of an Aug. 1 motions hearing, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record.

OPINION: OCEAN CITY’s VIEWS: While vacationers to Ocean City certainly enjoy the beach, and swimming, and boating, and fishing, and other outdoor activities, they do not go there for a nature vacation. Ecotourism it ain’t, writes Josh Kurtz in a column for Maryland Matters. But that, essentially, is the argument town officials have been making as they scramble to defeat two proposed offshore wind energy projects that are going through a long and complicated federal approval process.

DENIAL OF COURT AUDIO APPEALED: A reporter and blogger is asking a judge to declare that the Baltimore City Circuit Court administrative judge exceeded his authority when he issued a broad order in April revoking the public’s general right to obtain audio recordings of court proceedings, Heather Cobun of the Daily Record reports. The Maryland Rules allow individuals to request audio recordings of hearings and trials and provide that the custodian of the recordings “shall make a copy” on written request. However, an exception to the rules provides that a request may be denied “as ordered by the court.”

DRUG CLINICS & CRIME: Opioid treatment programs across the city are reviewing security measures since a shooting last month at the Man Alive clinic on Maryland Avenue left two dead and two injured. But officials and observers believe, and records show, clinics have little risk for such violence — little more than other sites of mass or workplace shootings where there are fewer security expectations, such as the Walmart in El Paso, Texas, or the nightlife district in Dayton, Ohio, Meredith Cohn of the Sun reports.

TOWN COUNCIL SUPPORTS B’MORE: The University Park town council unanimously passed a resolution Monday proclaiming the town’s support for the city of Baltimore after President Donald Trump attacked the city in a series of tweets last month, Phil Davis of the Sun reports.