State Roundup, September 4, 2019

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BUSINESS, ENVIRO LEADERS OPPOSE BRIDGE PLAN: Business and environmental leaders don’t always find themselves rowing in the same direction. But in Queen Anne’s County, they are united in opposition to Gov. Larry Hogan’s push for a third Chesapeake Bay crossing, Bruce DePuyt reports in Maryland Matters. Hogan’s stated preference has stoked fears that traffic — already life-altering — will worsen, first-responders will continue to be hampered, pollution will increase, and property values will tumble. The leaders see little, if any, potential upside to an additional crossing between Anne Arundel County and Queen Anne’s.

ELECTIONS OFFICIALS RESPOND TO LAWMAKERS’ CONCERNS: Maryland elections officials responded last week to a concerns from congressional Democrats ahead of the 2020 election, writes Danielle Gaines for Maryland Matters. “The State Board of Elections has no higher priority, working with our local partners, than protecting the integrity of our elections,” Administrator Linda H. Lamone wrote to Maryland’s Democratic U.S. senators and representatives. “We have and will continue to take every appropriate action and utilize all available resources to ensure Marylanders can vote securely.”

OPINION: MORE ROADS DON’T MEAN LESS TRAFFIC: Brian O’Malley of Maryland Transportation Alliance asserts in an op-ed for Maryland Matters that even if we concede that people are driving more and congestion is bad, that doesn’t mean, as AAA Maryland implies, that the solution is to build more roads and widen highways. “No, that won’t work and has never worked.”

OPINION: GOVERNMENTS UNDER CYBER ATTACKS: UMBC researchers Donald F. Norris and Laura Mateczun, in an op-ed for the Sun, opine that “One of the key findings of our research is that local governments are under constant cyberattack. A sizable fraction of them do not even know if they are under attack or whether they have been breached, and most are unprepared (often woefully) for the cybersecurity challenges they face.”

OPINION: HOGAN NOT PRO-EDUCATION: For a politician with a near-80% approval rating, you wouldn’t suspect Gov. Larry Hogan is vehemently opposed to spending extra money on public education — but he is. Indeed, Hogan may be the most anti-education governor in modern Maryland history, opines Barry Rascovar in a biting  column for his PoliticalMaryland blog.

STADIUM AUTHORITY ANTICIPATES NEED FOR STUDIES: Facing a greater-than-anticipated demand for feasibility studies and consulting services, the Maryland Stadium Authority is raising the upper limit of its on-call consulting contract. The stadium authority’s board on Tuesday voted to increase the maximum value of a contract with Crossroads Consulting Services LLC from $650,000 to $816,000. The extra $166,000 will give the board leeway to commission new studies before the term of the contract is up in June 2020, Amanda Yeager of the Baltimore Business Journal reports.

LAWMAKER PRESS DeVOS ON STUDENT LOAN PROGRAM: More than three dozen state lawmakers are demanding answers from U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos about changes to a student loan debt forgiveness program, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record. The letter written by Del. Lesley Lopez, D-Montgomery, calls on DeVos to provide information and guidance on how qualifying students can use the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. The letter comes days after DeVos announced a tightening of rules governing the program.

COURT RULES FOR IMMUNIZATION: Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports that the state’s interest in immunizing an infant in its protective custody against disease trumps a parent’s religious objections to immunization, Maryland’s second-highest court has ruled in upholding a judge’s immunization order for a child placed in emergency shelter care due to his parents’ alleged abuse.

ST. MARY’S SCHOOLS CRACK DOWN ON SMOKING, VAPING: With the start of the new school year this week, St. Mary’s public schools are cracking down on tobacco and e-cigarettes with an adjustment to the code of conduct, Kristen Griffith of the Enterprise reports. “It’ll be basically the opioid of the 2020s,” Superintendent Scott Smith said about e-cigarettes. “It is an absolute epidemic.”

PG COUNCIL CIRCUMVENTS ZONING: Rachel Chason of the Post writes about how the Prince George’s County Council uses “text amendments” to circumvent what lawmakers describe as an outdated and cumbersome zoning process. So that instead of promised bustling office buildings, an area could now hold a massive warehouse. A small airport could be replaced with more than 500 townhouses. A church property could include housing for the elderly.

STINK OVER CHARLES’ SUPER CONTRACT, PROCESS: A split 4-3 vote that granted Charles County Public Schools Superintendent Kimberly Hill a $17K salary increase, along with lifelong health benefits, as part of her amended contract has continued to cause an uproar since the school board last met publicly Aug. 13, Johnathon Clinkscales of the Maryland Independent reports. Social media pages inundated with disapproval from community members claim that all seven board members initially betrayed the public’s trust after meeting privately on June 3 to discuss Hill’s annual evaluation. The Maryland Independent previously reported that board chairwoman Virginia McGraw said this was an “administrative function” that “would not have been considered a public meeting” under the Maryland Open Meetings Act.

TANEYTOWN MAN CHARGED IN RAMMING TOWN HALL: A Taneytown man who repeatedly rammed his pickup truck into City Hall Friday after having his water service cut off, according to officials, has been arrested and charged with multiple offenses, Jon Kelvey of the Carroll County Times reports.

SUN REPORTERS’ BYLINE STRIKE: Just a reminder: The Sun’s journalists are on a byline strike amid ongoing contract negotiations with Tribune Publishing, the Chicago-based media conglomerate that owns the Sun as well as the Capital Gazette, the Carroll County Times and other newspapers throughout the country, Emily Sullivan reports for WYPR-FM. [It has always been MarylandReporter.com policy to name both the reporter and the news source in the State Roundup, when available.]