State Roundup, September 9, 2019

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SPEAKER JONES CHANGES UP ASSIGNMENTS: The Sun is reporting that House Speaker Adrienne Jones has selected Eastern Shore Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes as her second-in-command. Sample-Hughes, the only Democrat and the only person of color from the Shore in the House, will fill the role of speaker pro tem, with the responsibility of leading the chamber during floor sessions when Jones is absent.

DRAMATIC GROWTH FOR YOUNG RX POT INDUSTRY: After a rocky start, Maryland’s medical cannabis industry is expanding. Cultivators across the state are dramatically adding capacity — to meet the needs of patients flooding the market and to potentially service recreational users in the future, reports Erin Cox of the Post. Industry analysts had predicted the market would gross $60 million in sales by its third year. But by the end of its first year, in December, purveyors’ gross sales surpassed $96 million.

OPINION: MD CAN’T IGNORE PENNSYLVANIA: In arguing for Pennsylvania to clean up its act when it comes to Bay pollution, the editorial board for the Sun opines that “since 1985, Maryland has reduced the nitrogen it sends to the Chesapeake Bay by 39%, during which time Pennsylvania only accomplished an 11% reduction, according to the Chesapeake Bay Program’s watershed model. In 2017, Pennsylvania sent more nitrogen flowing into the bay (111 million pounds) than Maryland and Virginia combined (103 million pounds), according to Chesapeake Bay researchers. In that context, an “ignore Pennsylvania” strategy is short-sighted.”

TEACHER SALARY HIKES IN ‘FOUNDATION FORMULA:’ Dramatic boosts proposed for teacher salaries in Maryland may need to be pared back, some members of a workgroup seeking to rewrite the state’s education funding formulas said Thursday. Even so, the 13-member Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Funding Formula Workgroup decided to include the salary increases and other teacher incentives in a possible new “foundation” formula, which would guide the bulk of state spending on public education, Danielle Gaines reports in Maryland Matters.

OPINION: REVERSING PROGRESS ON BAY: Former state planner Richard Eberhart Hall asserts in an op-ed for the Sun that “Maryland has always been a national leader in the planning and implementation of smart growth policies at the state level, especially as it relates to protecting the Chesapeake Bay. But the Hogan administration’s recent release of its state development plan, “A Better Maryland,” makes clear decades of progress have ended — and reversed.”

4th BEST MONTH FOR CASINOS OVERALL: Maryland’s casino industry saw its fourth-best month in August, according to the latest report from Maryland Lottery and Gaming. The state’s six privately owned casinos collectively pulled in $154.3 million in revenue last month, a 5.4% increase compared with August 2018. Four of the six properties saw individual year-over-year gains, but Baltimore’s Horseshoe Casino wasn’t one of them, Amanda Yeager of the Baltimore Business Journal reports.

IS BEN JEALOUS RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR? Ben Jealous may have made a soft entry into the 2022 gubernatorial election Saturday at a Progressive Maryland event in Prince George’s County designed to combat mass incarceration in Maryland. Glynis Kazanjian reports in Maryland Matters that Jealous said after garnering over a million votes in the election, he’s ready to take on any other Democrat in the gubernatorial primary race, including state Comptroller Peter Franchot, who is openly considering a run.

TRUMP TO VISIT ‘RAT INFESTED’ B’MORE: Less than two months after calling Baltimore “a rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live,” President Donald Trump will visit the city Thursday to speak at a U.S. House of Representatives retreat for Republican lawmakers, according to the White House, Sun staff, which remains on a byline strike, is reporting.

LAW PROFS URGE COURT ON MD EMOLUMENTS SUIT: A dozen law professors from outside Maryland are urging the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to revive the state’s lawsuit alleging corruption by President Donald Trump in the handling of his Washington hotel property, Steve Lash reports in the Daily Record. In papers filed Wednesday with the court, the professors seek reversal of a three-judge panel’s unanimous decision that Maryland – and the District of Columbia — have at most a “generalized grievance” that the Trump International Hotel is attracting business away from a Bethesda convention center and other Washington  hotels.

UNDOCUMENTED CONTROVERSY IN MO CO: Montgomery County’s top elected official, Marc Elrich, stood before a bank of TV cameras this summer to praise the county’s diversity and promise the most limited of cooperation with federal immigration agents. Since then, national attention has fallen on Montgomery in large part because over the five-week stretch since the county executive’s pronouncement, seven undocumented immigrants living in the county were arrested on sex assault charges, Dan Morse reports in the Post.

FOR MY BIRTHDAY: FILL MY CAMPAIGN COFFER: Most adult birthday party invitations typically instruct guests to dispense with the formality of gifts, writes the Sun staff. But getting into Tuesday’s birthday bash for Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. requires the one gift every politician is always asking for: campaign cash.

HOWARD DESEGREGATION PLAN STIRS IRE: In Howard County, people pride themselves on making everyone feel welcome. Now, those convictions are being tested by a proposal that seeks to redistribute some 7,400 of the school system’s 58,000 children to different schools — in part to address socioeconomic segregation that leaves children from poor families concentrated in certain schools. The proposal is a rare attempt by a school district in Maryland or the nation to confront the re-segregation of schools that has taken place over the past several decades, Sun staff reports.

NEGRO MOUNTAIN SIGNS REMOVED: Some folks believe Negro Mountain was named to elevate a hero called Nemesis. Others say the peak could be related to lynchings. While the origin of its name is debatable, signs for the elevation are missing, Teresa McMinn writes in the Cumberland Times-News. Lora Rakowski, acting director of Maryland SHA’s office of communications, on Friday said the department’s crews removed four signs this spring — two from Interstate 68 and two from U.S. Alternate Route 40. “We continue to work with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and the local community to better understand the interests of all stakeholders,” she said via email.

‘CODE RED’ HEAT CRISIS IN BALTIMORE: Fern Shen of Baltimore Brew writes that over the summer, a platoon of student journalists descended on East Baltimore to explore the impact of the planet’s climate crisis on the people who live in the city’s hottest neighborhood. “Code Red: Baltimore’s Climate Divide” is a unique journalistic collaboration of the University of Maryland’s new Howard Center for Investigative Journalism and Capital News Service, along with other partners, including National Public Radio, Wide Angle Youth Media in Baltimore and WMAR television.

HEALTH CARE CRISIS IN B’MORE: Peter Jamison of the Post reports on the lack of health care in Baltimore and how residents are coping, writing that “nearly a decade after passage of the Affordable Care Act — which promised to overhaul that system with a dramatic expansion of coverage — Americans with and without insurance were lining up before dawn to obtain care they otherwise couldn’t afford.”

B’MORE GETS HOMELESS YOUTH GRANT: Baltimore won $3.7 million from the federal housing department to spend on helping homeless people under the age of 24, officials said Friday. Sun staff is reporting that U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen and other political leaders announced at a youth center in East Baltimore that the city had been selected to receive the grant.

AFTER 21 YEARS, BOWIE MAYOR TO RETIRE: Mayor G. Frederick Robinson has led Bowie for the past two decades, as the Maryland city has rapidly grown and diversified. Now, a wealthy business owner, a well-connected Annapolis lobbyist and a veteran of the city council are the leading candidates vying to replace Robinson as the next mayor of Prince George’s largest city, Rachel Chason of the Post reports.

OPINION: CARROLL COMMISSIONERS DID RIGHT: In a column for the Carroll County Times, Bill Kennedy writes that, regarding the settlement of the suit against Carroll County on commissioner-led prayers, what those who are castigating the current board are not understanding, or possibly ignoring, is that the court decision does not prevent anyone from praying before, during — as long as it doesn’t disrupt the proceedings — or after any meeting of the Board of Commissioners.