State Roundup, August 27, 2019

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PET STORES SUE STATE OVER PUPPY MILL LAW: Pet stores including Just Puppies and Charm City Puppies are suing Maryland over a so-called puppy mill law set to go into effect next year, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution, Scott Dance of the Sun reports. The law limits where stores can obtain dogs and cats for sale to three sources: animal welfare organizations, animal control units and licensed breeders.

PENSION RETURN BELOW BENCHMARK: Last month, the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System revealed that the state’s pension investment returned 6.46% for fiscal year ending June 30, 2019. In a story that repeats itself every year, the MSRPS underperformed other state pension funds and failed to beat the passive index of 60% stocks and 40% bonds. The return is over half a percent below the MSRPS’ benchmark of 7.11%, and a percent below the system’s 7.45% actuarially assumed rate of return, Carol Park reports for the Maryland Public Policy Institute.

JOHNSON & JOHNSON RULING MAY BODE WELL IN LOCAL SUITS: Maryland municipalities who are suing companies in the prescription opioid industry for their alleged role in fueling the state’s opioid addiction problem got an encouraging sign Monday as an Oklahoma judge ruled Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries must pay the state $572 million for its role in that state’s addiction problem, Phil Davis of the Sun reports.

DISCORD IN BSO NEGOTIATIONS: After months of acrimony, some of the key players in the dispute between the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra management and musicians came together the other day on the supposedly neutral ground of Annapolis. But even there, with a well-respected former state senator presiding over the proceedings, it was hard for the two sides not to air their dirty laundry – and their grievances – in an uncomfortably public way, Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes in analysis.

OPINION: CLARITY NEEDED ON TOLL LANES: The editorial board for the Sun opines that the Hogan administration’s attitude toward highway, bridge and tunnel tolls has long been bewildering. On the one hand, Gov. Larry Hogan proudly lowered tolls statewide four years ago. On the other, he recently endorsed a plan to create private toll lanes on Interstate 270 and eventually the Capital Beltway that could charge motorists as much as $40 during peak travel times. Are tolls good or bad? Are they too high or too low? What’s their proper role in relieving traffic congestion? The governor seems to be of two minds on the subject.

TWO TO SEEK DEL. LAFFERTY’s SEAT: A longtime community activist in Towson has announced her intention to seek a soon-to-be vacant seat in the House of Delegates. Bryan Sears of the Daily Record writes that Cathi Forbes, a 20-year resident of Baltimore County, is the second Democratic candidate to express an interest in the seat currently held by Democratic Del. Steve Lafferty. Last week, Henry Callegary, an attorney and president of the Baltimore County Young Democrats, announced he would seek an appointment to the seat.

MD, DC SEEK RECONSIDERATION OF TOSSED-OUT TRUMP SUIT: A federal appeals court should reconsider its decision to throw out a lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump of illegally profiting off the presidency through his luxury Washington hotel, officials in Maryland and the District of Columbia argued Monday in a legal filing, the AP is reporting. A lawsuit brought in 2017 by the two jurisdictions alleges that Trump violated the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution by accepting profits through foreign and domestic officials who stay at the Trump International Hotel.

SEN. SALLINGS DENIES CALLING OMAR ‘ILLEGAL:’ A Maryland state senator who just launched a congressional campaign has denied posting a now-deleted tweet that called U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar an “illegal.” Pamela Wood of the Sun writes that Johnny Ray Salling, a Republican from eastern Baltimore County, was responding to a July 23 post from a Florida Republican about a request for an ethics investigation into Omar, a Democrat from Minneapolis.

  • Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that the Council for American Islamic Relations demanded that Salling apologize for the now-deleted tweet, which said,“Get rid of this illegal know (sic)!!!!!” “Regardless of personal views and biases, elected officials have a responsibility to conduct themselves impartially and to demonstrate that they can model tolerance and inclusivity for all of their constituents,” said CAIR Director of Maryland Outreach Zainab Chaudry. “Senator Salling should apologize for his post or resign from public office.”

CANDIDATE FILES TO OUST U.S. REP. SARBANES: Annapolis Democrat John Rea has yet again filed to challenge Rep. John Sarbanes in Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District, Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital reports. Rea is a perennial candidate who has been running for office dating back to 1996. He ran for the 3rd Congressional District seat in 2018. He got 2,300 votes to Sarbanes’ 64,000.

CITY UPBEAT ON STATE CRIME AID: Following a meeting Friday afternoon between Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Baltimore Mayor Jack Young and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, some city public officials say they are encouraged that more state aid will be approved to help reduce crime, John Rydell reports for WBFF-TV.

WHITE HOUSE ATTEMPTED TO KILL CITY RAT-ERADICATION FUNDING: In March, the White House proposed eliminating the Community Development Block Grant, which is the primary funding source for Baltimore’s public housing rat-elimination program among several other housing programs across the city and country, Catherine Rentz reports in the Sun. This was before President Trump tweeted about Baltimore being rat-infested.

CITY REPUBLICANS JUMP INTO MAYOR’s RACE: Baltimore voters haven’t elected a Republican mayor since Theodore McKeldin left office in 1967. But that isn’t stopping GOP hopefuls from jumping into the 2020 mayoral race, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. The Republican primary for Baltimore mayor took firmer shape Monday as political strategist Catalina Byrd held a campaign launch event on North Avenue.