State Roundup, September 6, 2019

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FIRST PURPLE LINE TRACK LAID: The first section of track for Maryland’s $5.6 billion Purple Line is being installed, reports the AP. The 16.2-mile light rail line will run between New Carrollton in Prince George’s County and Bethesda in Montgomery County in the suburbs of the nation’s capital.

HOGAN DOWNPLAYS PA BAY SPAT, ENVIROS UPSET: Gov. Larry Hogan sought to downplay any animus between his state and Pennsylvania over Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts – a week after blistering the Keystone State in a letter to federal and commonwealth officials, reports Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters.

  • But he won’t pay Pennsylvania’s share, reports the Baltimore Sun staff. A week after Pennsylvania officials said the commonwealth would “gladly accept” money from Maryland to improve Bay cleanup efforts, Hogan said that’s not on the table.
  • William C. Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, threatened legal action if the EPA doesn’t hold Pennsylvania accountable under the Clean Water Act, reports Tim Curtis for The Daily Record. Baker was dismayed regional officials were not prodding Pennsylvania to improve its plans to reduce agricultural and other runoff into the Susquehanna River, one of the primary culprits of bay pollution.

PENSION SYSTEM RESPONDS TO CRITIQUE: In response to criticism that was linked to in the Aug. 27 State Roundup, the chief investment officer for the State Retirement System wrote to MarylandReporter.com that the post by the Maryland Public Policy Institute is “incomplete and misleading, including only data that supports its agenda of undermining the public’s trust in the retirement security of public plan participants and beneficiaries. While the MPPI article highlights the one- and five-year returns as falling short of the Systems 7.45% earnings target, it neglects to include the more important longer term performance: the average return, net of all manager fees, over the last ten years has been 8.61!”

AFSCME SUED FOR $7 MILLION IN PAST FEES: A group of Maryland state employees has filed a federal lawsuit against their labor union to recoup union fees the U.S. Supreme Court found to be illegal in a ruling last year, reports the Sun staff who are on a byline strike this week. The lawsuit against AFSCME Council 3 seeks to recoup up to $7 million in “agency” or “fair share” fees charged to the plaintiffs and nearly 10,000 other state employees.

RURAL BROADBAND DISCUSSION: Maryland’s two senators, Rep. David Trone and federal officials met Thursday to discuss how essential high-speed internet is to Western Maryland and how hard it is to extend that service to some rural regions, reports Colleen McGrath in the Herald-Mail.

EDUCATION FORMULA FUNDING DEBATED: The Kirwan education reform committee’s formula funding workgroup’s latest meeting included a preliminary adoption of a new “foundation” funding amount per student, but fell short of advancing any of the remaining central issues of cross-jurisdictional effects and the state/local cost split, writes Michael Sanderson in Conduit Street, the blog for the Maryland Association of Counties.

OPIOID EPIDEMIC CONTINUES: The Carroll County Health Department issued an overdose alert Wednesday afternoon, warning the community that multiple overdoses have been reported in the previous 24 hours, reports Jon Kelvey for the Carroll County Times.

CARROLL PRAYER PROTEST: Carroll County citizens holding handmade signs spread out along Center Street in Westminster on Thursday morning before the Board of Commissioners meeting to protest the end of prayers at public meetings. About 15 people protested the board’s recent decision to settle a lawsuit that will end commissioner-led prayers in public board meetings, reports Mary Grace Keller for the Carroll County Times.

HOGAN ON LACK OF AC IN BALT SCHOOLS: Gov. Larry Hogan is frustrated over the lack of air conditioning in city schools, reports Leah Crawley for Fox 45. His statement comes the second day of school after soaring temperatures prompted school officials to send students and staff in buildings without AC home two hours early.

JEALOUS WON’T RUN FOR MAYOR: Ben Jealous, the former NAACP president and Democratic nominee for Maryland governor, said Thursday he’s ruled out a run for mayor of Baltimore, reports the Sun staff who are on byline strike this week. Jealous, 46, a Fells Point resident who easily won the city during the 2018 governor’s race, said he struggled with the decision for months, but eventually decided against running.

MDOT USING BIG DATA TO SEE TRAFFIC PATTERNS: The Maryland Department of Transportation is hiring a data analytics firm to look at traffic patterns at the Baltimore Beltway-Interstate 70 interchange near Woodlawn, referred to as “the three bridges” because of its stacked flyover ramps, reports Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters. Del. Kumar P. Barve chairman of the House Environment and Transportation Committee, said the legislature will hold a hearing on the consultant’s StreetLight system next year.

JUDGE DENIES BALT CO DEVELOPMENT FOR SEWER IMPACT: In a decision considered unprecedented in Baltimore County, a large-scale development has been disapproved on the grounds that it would negatively impact the county’s overburdened sewage system, reports Mark Reutter for Baltimore Brew. An administrative Law Judge disapproved construction of apartment and retail complex Bluestem Village proposed along Falls Road.

DELEGATE VACANCIES: Baltimore County Democrats are inviting candidates to apply to fill two vacancies in the House of Delegates, reports Sun staff. Del. Eric Bromwell, who represents District 8 in the northeastern part of the county, and Del. Stephen Lafferty, who represents District 42A in Towson, are resigning from the legislature to take jobs in County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr.’s administration.

ARTS CENTER NAMED AFTER LATE SPEAKER BUSCH: Leaders of Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts will rename the cultural arts center for Michael Busch, honoring the long advocacy for arts and education by the late Maryland speaker of the House, reports Brooks DuBose for the Capital Gazette.