State Roundup, August 22, 2019

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FRANCHOT ‘SERIOUSLY’ CONSIDERS GOV RUN: Comptroller Peter Franchot said Wednesday that he’s “seriously considering” a run for governor in 2022. “I haven’t made my mind up completely,” Franchot said in an interview. The Democrat, who is often at odds with members of his own party, said he intends to make a decision on a gubernatorial bid in 2020, reports Pamela Wood for the Sun.

PILOT DENTAL PROGRAM: Juliana Kim of the Sun reports that Maryland is one of just 15 states that does not cover dental care for adults on Medicaid, the government health insurance program for low-income people. Now the state has launched a pilot program to cover a small number of them — those with limited incomes who also are disabled. About 33,000 are eligible for the Adult Dental Pilot Program. The program offers preventive, diagnostic and restorative services. In practical terms, dentists said, a year’s care might include two oral exams, two cleanings, and up to five cavity fillings or tooth extractions.

PROMISE SCHOLARSHIPS’ ROCKY ROLLOUT: More than 1,200 community college students will receive Promise Scholarships this year that could eliminate their tuition costs, but a state senator is alarmed that a rocky rollout for the program could have jeopardized the attendance of students most in need, reports Danielle Gaines for Maryland Matters. Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s) said the inaugural process to award the much acclaimed “tuition-free” community college program has been bungled – with students receiving notices that they’d qualified – or worse, didn’t – just days before the start of the fall semester.

MARYLANDERS AT MERCY OF PHARMA: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) asked the Committee on Oversight and Reform to look at his district, the 5th, to determine the impact of prescription drug pricing on Medicare beneficiaries and people who lack health insurance. Researchers estimate there are approximately 6,000 Medicare beneficiaries in the district who have been diagnosed with diabetes and 52,000 uninsured persons, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports. They found that the 50 most popular brand-name diabetes medications are available at “significantly lower prices in other countries.”

KIRWAN PANEL MEETS TODAY: A commission charged with finding ways to improve public education in Maryland will meet today amid an intensifying debate over whether taxpayers can afford to put more money into schools. The Kirwan Commission has already recommended a series of improvements that could eventually cost nearly $4 billion per year, once they’re all phased in. They include increasing teacher pay, expanding prekindergarten and offering more community and family services, Pamela Wood reports in the Sun.

JUDGE UPHOLDS MD NIXING OF PIPELINE: A federal judge Wednesday upheld Maryland’s denial of an easement for a proposed natural-gas pipeline west of Hancock, Mike Lewis of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports. “We are pleased that the court has agreed that a private pipeline company cannot force the state to accept a pipeline under the Western Maryland Rail Trail,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said in a written statement. “We will continue to defend Maryland’s right to control its public lands against any other efforts by the natural gas industry to move forward with this project.”

OPINION: PAY FOR ELECTED OFFICIALS? In a column for the Carroll County Times, Dean Minnich ponders the question: To give pay and benefits to small government officials or not? That has been the subject of some debate in recent weeks, both at the county level in Carroll County and the city of Westminster. He writes, “there’s more at issue than just the money. The argument is more complicated than the simple idealistic notion that service to the community should be its own reward. Unless you don’t mind if the only people making all the decisions are wealthy — or well-connected.”

STATE SEN. SALLING RUNS FOR RUPPERSBERGER’s SEAT: A Republican state senator from Baltimore County is aiming to take on longtime U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger. Sen. Johnny Ray Salling, who is in his second term representing the southeastern part of the county, began his campaign for the GOP nomination to challenge Ruppersberger with an event Wednesday.

HOWARD SUPER SURPRISED BY DESEGREGATION PRESS RELEASE: As Howard County Superintendent Michael Martirano met with Council member Opel Jones about school redistricting, a news release from three council members went out, calling for the school system to create a countywide plan to “desegregate” schools, Jess Nocera reports in the Howard County Times. Maritirano called it a surprise. The release said that as the school system embarks on a comprehensive redistricting process, the council members would like to see “new systems that foster necessary change” from the “socioeconomic and racial segregation in the school system.” Martirano is presenting recommendations for redistricting for the 2020-21 academic year Thursday.