State Roundup, September 5, 2019

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HOGAN SPLIT FROM PACK ON PAYMENTS TO WRONGFULLY CONVICTED: Sun staff who are on a byline strike this week are reporting that Gov. Larry Hogan proposed Wednesday using administrative law judges to revive the state’s practice of awarding payments to wrongly incarcerated individuals  an action the state hasn’t taken in 15 years. Under pressure from lawmakers to act on the cases of five men who collectively spent more than 100 years behind bars, the Republican governor said he believed administrative law judges are better qualified than the Board of Public Works, which he chairs, to determine how much to pay the former inmates.

SUPPORT FOR THIRD BAY SPAN: Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement last week that he will only consider a third Bay Bridge next to the existing spans on Kent Island was welcome news to leaders in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties, but reaction from conservation groups was mixed, reports Dan Menefee in the Chestertown Spy, republished in MarylandReporter.com.

EATERIES’ USE OF CBD RAISES CONCERN: With more Baltimore area restaurants putting CBD into beverages and on the food menu, Deborah Miran, Maryland’s former medical marijuana commissioner, called the sale and ingestion of CBD in food establishments a “nightmare” for all parties involved. “The FDA has not figured out how to enforce this,” she said. “How do you put the horse back in the barn now?”

OPINION: THE PENNSYLVANIA PROBLEM: Tom Pelton of the Environmental Integrity Project opines in a column for the Sun that the Chesapeake Bay cleanup is swamped by a political problem. Pennsylvania contributes by far the most pollution of any state — about twice as much as Maryland — but has done the least to meet its cleanup obligations. This is in part because Pennsylvania voters do not live near the Chesapeake and so are not motivated to spend money or accept regulations they think will mostly benefit folks on yachts far away in Annapolis. In Maryland, bad blood and talk of an interstate lawsuit have been brewing over the issue of Pennsylvania dumping on its downstream neighbor.

KOPP WANTS STATE BUILDING MAINTENANCE PLAN: Treasurer Nancy Kopp is asking state officials to present a “coherent plan” for maintaining state buildings as the result of a near catastrophic incident involving air conditioning pipes at the aging State Center complex in Baltimore. Questions arose Wednesday when the three-member Board of Public Works was asked to approve a $156,000 emergency repair contract at the 28-acre government office complex that houses about 3,000 state workers in Baltimore, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record.

MILITARY CUTS FOR BORDER FENCE IMPACTS MARYLAND: The Pentagon will cut funding from military projects like schools, target ranges and maintenance facilities to pay for the construction of 175 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, diverting a total $3.6 billion to President Donald Trump’s long-promised barrier. Projects in 23 states, 19 countries and three U.S. territories will be stalled or killed by the plan. Maryland Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger condemned the transfer of money. He said in a news release that the list of projects that will now be deferred includes sorely needed road improvements at Fort Meade and two projects at Joint Base Andrews in Prince George’s County. Andrew Taylor and Lolita C. Baldor of the AP report.

CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION SPLIT ON HEALTH CARE: The heated health care debate that’s dividing Democrats at the national level is splitting them up in Maryland, too, writes Allison Stevens for Maryland Matters. Four of the state’s eight members of the U.S. House are co-sponsoring legislation that would replace private health care companies with a government-run Medicare program serving all U.S. residents – not just those 65 and older and some younger people with disabilities. The other three Democrats haven’t signed on.

LATEST DC AREA PROBLEM: AFFORDABLE HOUSING SHORTAGE: Last year the Washington region came together to fix a 40-year-old problem by providing Metro with dedicated funding. Now elected officials and business and nonprofit leaders are preparing a push to overcome another challenge: the critical shortage of affordable housing. It’s going to be a lot more difficult, reports Robert McCartney of the Post. A new report issued Wednesday says the Washington region needs to add a whopping 374,000 housing units by 2030. Officials say that’s about 30% more than expected at present.

PANEL WANTS TO EXTEND JUDGE’s SUSPENSION: The Sun is reporting that Maryland’s judicial discipline panel wants to extend the unpaid suspension of a Baltimore judge after finding that she used her influence to try to hurt the reputation of a colleague she didn’t like.

KUSHNER COS. REJECTS FROSH SETTLEMENT: The apartment company owned by Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to President Donald Trump, said it has rejected a settlement offer from the Maryland Attorney General’s office after two years of negotiating over the New York real estate firm’s rental practices across the state. In a statement Wednesday to The Baltimore Sun, Kushner Companies CEO Laurent Morali said the company has cooperated fully with Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat, after he initiated in 2017 what the New York executive labeled a “politically motivated” investigation.

BA CO AGREES TO AID CITY WITH FED FUNDS: Baltimore County has agreed to handle federal funds so a strike force targeting violent drug gangs in Baltimore can lease office space, which U.S. Attorney for Maryland Robert K. Hur said is a critical part of how these teams operate, Adam Bednar is reporting for the Daily Record.

HORNBERGER RUNNING FOR CECIL EXEC? Ryan Miner of A Miner Detail blog writes that a campaign committee called Friends of Danielle Hornberger was registered on Sept. 4 with the Maryland State Board of Elections for the 2020 election cycle – but no office or jurisdiction was listed on the Statement of Organization document. Hornberger, 38, is part-time congressional community liaison for Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) in Bel Air. Hornberger, wife of Del. Kevin Hornberger, is rumored to be mounting a Republican primary challenge against Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy (R).

CARROLL BOARD ‘MOVING ON’ AFTER PRAYER FIGHT: The Carroll County Board of Commissioners is making it clear to residents who want to continue a fight to allow commissioner-lead prayers before board meetings: “we’re moving on,” Jon Kelvey reports for the Carroll County Times. The board voted unanimously Aug. 29 to settle a lawsuit filed against a previous board alleging sectarian prayers that board held at the start of meetings were unconstitutional, agreeing not to have commissioner-lead prayers at meetings going forward. On Tuesday, one resident went so far as to suggest private citizens would be willing to mortgage their houses to cover the county’s legal fees if only the commissioners would keep fighting.