State Roundup, August 20, 2019

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DEMS TO PUSH FOR KIRWAN FUNDS: Luke Broadwater, Wilborn P. Nobles III and Liz Bowie of the Sun report that Democrats vowed Monday to move forward with finding funding for an overhaul to make Maryland schools “world class,” rejecting Gov. Larry Hogan’s remarks to county officials that raised the specter of massive tax increases to pay for the plan’s goals. Hogan warned those attending the Maryland Association of Counties conference Saturday in Ocean City that the plans of the so-called Kirwan commission for the state’s public schools will be too expensive. He called them “well-meaning,” but “half-baked” and “fiscally irresponsible.”

TAXING RECREATIONAL POT: Lawmakers are being advised to change their thinking on how they would tax and regulate recreational marijuana if they ultimately decide Maryland should join the few states that have legalized possession and use of the drug by adults, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports. The advice comes on the heels of newly released research that suggests tax revenue would be highly volatile and susceptible to pressure from existing medical markets and even the black market.

BROMWELL, LAFFERTY TO LEAVE STATE HOUSE: Two members of the General Assembly are leaving for newly created jobs in the administration of Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., Pamela Wood and Alison Knezevich report in the Sun. Olszewski on Monday named Del. Eric Bromwell to serve as the county’s first opioid strategy coordinator and Del. Stephen Lafferty as its chief sustainability officer, a position that will focus on climate change, green energy and development. Both were Democratic colleagues of Olszewski’s during his days in the General Assembly.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONCERNED ON METRO: Dozens of members of the Maryland General Assembly say they share Maryland’s secretary of transportation’s concerns about Metro transparency and want him to update them on his efforts working with the agency, Kathleen Stubbs reports in the Montgomery Sentinel. Forty-one Maryland state senators and delegates signed a letter to state Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn in response to his announcement to Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld that the state was withholding $55.6 million.

STATE ORDERS PRIVATE BEACH PUBLIC: After three decades of allowing a community association private water access on public land at Beverly Beach, Anne Arundel County must either open the 7 acres to the public or find the same amount of land elsewhere to open to the public, Rachael Pacella of the Capital Gazette reports. Anne Arundel County has been in violation of state and federal grant requirements for three decades, and now must remedy the situation at Beverly Beach, the Department of Natural Resources wrote in a letter Aug. 1.

OPIOIDS IN WASHINGTON COUNTY: From 2006 to 2012, enough opioids were distributed in Washington County to provide, on average, more than 54 doses per person each year, reports Julie Greene for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. That’s one of the statistics revealed through the discovery process after Hagerstown and Washington County filed lawsuits last year against pharmaceutical companies in reaction to the opioid epidemic.

HOYER DOLES OUT CAMPAIGN CASH: Rep. Steny H. Hoyer has been doling out cash to help keep U.S. House Democrats facing tough 2020 races around for the next Congress, channeling hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign cash to the 44 “Frontline” members the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has identified as vulnerable incumbents in 2020. Robin Bravender of Maryland Matters reports that he’s also donated to other members of the Democratic freshman class and to candidates hoping to oust sitting Republicans in 2020.

CARSON’s TARNISHED IMAGE: Dr. Ben Carson’s story of climbing out of poverty to become a world-renowned surgeon was once ubiquitous in Baltimore, where Carson made his name. In some schools his memoir was required reading, Juliet Linderman of the AP reports. Carson now heads up HUD in the Trump administration. “The Trump virus is weakening Ben Carson’s image,” said Bishop Frank Reid, who met Carson at Yale, where both received their bachelor’s degrees. Carson is still respected, Reid said. “But he is no longer the hero he once was.”

B’MORE COUNCIL TOUGHENS ETHICS RULES: The Baltimore City Council unanimously passed Monday new, tighter ethics regulations in the aftermath of the self-dealing scandal and resignation of former Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh, Luke Broadwater and Ian Duncan report in the Sun.

PETA SMACKS KUSHNER IN ‘RAT’ BILLBOARD: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals appears to have weighed in on President Donald Trump’s recent critique of Baltimore as “a rat and rodent infested mess” with a new billboard in the city Monday, Colin Campbell of the Sun writes. In the billboard, a cartoon Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, who owns several rodent-infested apartment buildings in Baltimore, is portrayed as a “rich pest,” sitting on a pile of cash, while a forlorn-looking cartoon rat holding a piece of cheese is just “a poor guy trying to survive.”