State Roundup, August 21, 2019

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$10 MILLION FOR RURAL INTERNET: The state of Maryland is making available nearly $10 million for efforts to bring reliable and affordable internet service to residents of rural communities, the AP is reporting. Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement Monday that the $9.9 million will be the first installment of a five-year, $100 million initiative expected to benefit 225,000 Maryland residents. He says his administration is working to provide high-speed internet to every county in the state.

CRITICS SAY MDOT HYPOCRITICAL ON ROAD WORK: The state’s decision to backtrack on its commitment to include a bike lane on a new Nice Bridge connecting southern Charles County with King George County, Va., along U.S. 301 due to fiscal constraints comes as MDOT solicits public commitment on a plan to cut tolls around the state.  Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters writes that some leaders are accusing MDOT of hypocrisy. “It’s completely inconsistent,” said House Majority Leader Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Montgomery).

CAUTION ON POT TAX AS CASH COW: States banking on a consistent flow of revenue from the legalization of marijuana should slow their roll, according to a new Pew report. That’s because the industry is too new for budget analysts to produce estimates that legislators can have confidence in. The analysis comes as Maryland and dozens of other states contemplate legalizing pot for adult use, writes Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters. In Maryland, the Kirwan Commission has struggled to find a revenue stream for its ambitious educational reforms, leading many policymakers to speculate that a “pot for tots” play may be in the offing.

STATE FREES B’MORE PARKS MONEY: Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood of the Sun report that Baltimore will get more than $1 million of state money for park projects that Gov. Larry Hogan withheld in error as part of a budget dispute with state lawmakers. The $1.265 million in grants will be spread among seven projects across the city.

OPINION: FIND KIRWAN FUNDS: In urging the legislature to move forward on finding Kirwan education upgrade funding, the editorial board for the Sun opines that Gov. Hogan continues to pursue policies that would make cobbling Kirwan together even more difficult. He said he will again seek legislative approval for a $2 billion school construction plan, which he says would eliminate the entire backlog of local requests for funding. Taken in isolation, it’s a worthy goal.

BAY DEAD ZONE GROWS: The dead zone identified in the Chesapeake Bay alarmingly is growing, according to Patch. Monitoring data gleaned by the Maryland Natural Resources Department reveals an area with little to no oxygen covering two cubic miles as of late July. It’s the worst picture painted so far, with the most concerning areas including the lower Potomac and Patuxent rivers, as well as much of the bay from Baltimore to the mouth of the York River.

OPINION: STEER CLEAR OF DIRTY ENERGY DEAD ENDS: In an op-ed for Maryland Matters, Tim Judson of Nuclear Information and Resource Service disputes an earlier op-ed on Maryland’s path to aiding the war on climate change, writing that the state must consider and adopt real-world solutions and not allow large polluters to continue.

ARUNDEL TO COMPLY WITH DNR BEACH ORDER: Anne Arundel County government will comply with the Department of Natural Resources’ demands regarding 7 acres of private beach front, but County Executive Steuart Pittman’s administration has not decided between a land swap or opening the currently private beach, Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital reports.

CUMMINGS HOSTS CHILDHOOD TRAUMA FORUM: Catherine Rentz of the Sun writes about a forum held by U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings and moderated by Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore’s former health commissioner, and attended by such Maryland officials as U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen and U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes to address childhood trauma and its affects on children and Baltimore City. It was a follow-up to a hearing conducted by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which Cummings chairs.

PAUL RYAN TO MOVE TO MARYLAND: Former House Speaker Paul Ryan is moving his family from his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, to a rental house in a Washington, D.C., suburb less than a year after he retired from Congress saying he wanted to spend more time with his children, the AP is reporting.