State Roundup, August 26, 2019

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4 GOVS TO MEET ON TRANSPORTATION ISSUES: The governors of Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island and New Hampshire are planning to meet to discuss transportation issues, the Sun is reporting. Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is hosting the National Governors Association infrastructure summit in Boston on Monday and Tuesday.

D.C. AREA COMMUTE IS 3rd WORST IN NATION: Commuters in the Washington, D.C., area continue to endure some of the most grueling commutes in the nation, according to a study released on Thursday, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s 2019 “Urban Mobility Report” found that commuters in the capital region spend 102 hours a year, on average, in bumper-to-bumper traffic. That’s the third worst in the nation, behind Los Angeles and San Francisco.

OPINION: KIRWAN & TAXES: Former state school Superintendent David Hornbeck, in a column for the Sun, writes that Gov. Larry Hogan has staked out an anti-public education position by declaring the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission “half-baked” and asserting “there will be no major tax increase so long as I am governor.” It’s time to set the record straight. His assertion about the commission’s plan being half-baked is factually wrong, and his stance on taxes is based on the wrong question.

OPINION: KIRWAN & THE ECONOMY: In a column for Maryland Matters, Frank DeFilippo explains the history of funding education in Maryland with various types of programs – such as slots and now maybe pot revenue. But he cautions that whatever way one goes, the economy could catch everyone by surprise.

FRANCHOT’s RUN FOR GOVERNOR: Comptroller Peter Franchot fished in his pocket for a medallion. Not the flimsy kind that one of his predecessors used to hand out, but a weighty, embossed thing with a golden rim, the state flag and a campaign authority line. Erin Cox of the Post reports that the 71-year-old Democrat carries at least two medallions with him at all times. They used to be reserved for veterans and first responders he encountered while crisscrossing Maryland as the state’s chief tax collector. Now, with Franchot’s whisper campaign to be the state’s next governor blossoming into chatter, he hands them out liberally.

STATE TO EXPAND APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM: This fall, the state will expand Apprenticeship Maryland, its youth apprentice program, from three counties to 12 counties plus Baltimore City, where school systems will let students earn high school credit for their apprenticeships, Lisa Nevans Locke writes for Maryland Matters. The Registered Apprentice program for adults operates statewide. Maryland’s two apprenticeship programs are offering more than 10,000 teens and adults opportunities in 21st century fields like information technology, health care, cybersecurity, biotechnology and hospitality along with more traditional areas.

OPINION: STATE PROTECTS REPRODUCTIVE SERVICES: Karen Nelson, of Planned Parenthood Maryland, opines in an op-ed in the Sun that “We live in confusing and scary times as the future of reproductive health becomes murky and unclear. We are witnessing a coordinated and aggressive political agenda to restrict birth control, ban abortion and overturn Roe v. Wade. … If there is a bright spot in this complex and terrifying political landscape it is that here in Maryland we are not only way out ahead of the curve in terms of protecting women’s health, our state-wide reproductive health care system is a model for the nation. … However, as good as we are today we can always be better.”

MSEA POLL: TEACHERS PAY: A new poll highlights the financial struggles that teachers in Maryland are facing, including paying for their own school supplies and working second jobs. The poll, conducted by the Maryland State Education Association, found 94% report they spend their own money on school supplies, 50% work a second job to make ends meet and 44% say they’re running up personal debt, Lesly Salazar and Brad Bell of WJLA-TV report.

BSO, MANAGEMENT STILL SPLIT: Musicians and management of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra are being encouraged to take a leap of faith and enter into a temporary agreement that will return orchestral music to Baltimore while resolving contractual and financial concerns, reports Bryan Sears in the Daily Record. That encouragement comes as a work group established by the legislature met Friday for the first time to look for ways to make the orchestra more financially stable. But trust may be hard to come by initially, as issues between the orchestra’s management and musicians bubbled to the surface during the two-hour meeting.

BLAST DESTROYS COLUMBIA BUILDING: A large portion of Columbia’s L-shaped Lakeside office building that was destroyed on Sunday morning by an apparent gas leak is occupied by a Social Security field office, Luz Lazo of the Post reports. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) thanked first responders and offered the assistance of the Maryland Joint Operations Center and the state fire marshal in the investigation.

  • A Social Security Administration employee trying to catch up on some work on the weekend reported smelling natural gas about two hours before the explosion, according to the owner of the building. When firefighters arrived, they noticed a gas leak from underground, where the gas line connects to the building — and the parking lot pavement swelling from the pressure buildup, John-John Williams, Nick DiMarco and Colin Campbell report in the Sun.

FED FUNDING FOR GARRETT OPIOID CRISIS: The Garrett County Republican is reporting that U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and Rep. David Trone announced that nearly $1.17 million in federal funding has been awarded to “fight” the opioid and addiction epidemic in Garrett County.

CITY SEEKS STATE CRIME FIGHTING AID: Baltimore’s mayor and police commissioner met for more than an hour Friday with Gov. Larry Hogan, seeking more state support for fighting crime in the city amid a surging rate of gun violence, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

NEW LEADERSHIP FOR STRUGGLING CASINO: Baltimore’s Horseshoe Casino has a new top executive as the attraction fights to regain market share amid months of year-over-year revenue declines, Amanda Yeager of the Baltimore Business Journal reports. Randall Conroy, a longtime manager for Harrah’s and Caesars Entertainment-branded casinos, will be Horseshoe’s new senior vice president and general manager. He takes the place of Erin Chamberlin, who had been head of the casino since late 2015.

CARROLL COMMISSIONERS ASSESS MACo TRIP: Mary Grace Keller of the Carroll County Times reports that Carroll County Commissioners joined county government officials from across the state at the Maryland Association of Counties Summer Conference last week and got the chance to sit down with Gov. Larry Hogan and other top officials face-to-face in Ocean City. They gave an assessment of what they had learned on Thursday.

CITY ETHICS WEBSITE BACK UP: When a hacker shut down Baltimore City Hall’s computers in May, one city website that few concerned themselves with is the ethics board’s online database of disclosure forms that government and elected officials must submit each year. The mandatory reports require officials to be transparent about any property, earnings or gifts. Doug Donovan of the Sun reports that as of Friday the Board of Ethics’s electronic filing website was back up and running, more than three months after the May 7 ransomware attack.

PARK NAME CHANGE TO STAY: City officials say they will take no further action at an East Baltimore park that was officially renamed for Henrietta Lacks last month, erasing any reference to a former congressman to whom the site had been dedicated nearly 68 years ago, William Zorzi of Maryland Matters reports. Some of the late Democratic icon’s family members, who did not know of the name change until told by a reporter after the fact, had hoped a plaque could be erected on the site detailing its history and significance – and including their forebear’s name, Ambrose J. Kennedy.

CITY, PG, MO CO OFFICIALS TAKE TO COURT: What starts out as a playful back and forth on social media turned into dignitaries from the Baltimore region facing off against representatives from Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in the first hotly contested but ultimately charitable basketball game Sunday. Phil Davis of the Sun writes that the Baltimore-area team won, 39-33, meaning the visiting team — composed of city council and state legislators from Prince George’s and Montgomery counties — will donate to a youth-related cause.