State Roundup, September 19, 2019

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HOGAN SEEKS WAY TO PAY WRONGLY CONVICTED: Gov. Larry Hogan has launched a process to pay what could be millions of dollars to five wrongly convicted men who collectively spent 120 years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post is reporting. The men have sought compensation over the past 19 months from the state Board of Public Works, which is authorized to issue such payments but has not done so since 2004.

  • Hogan made the announcement two weeks after nearly four dozen lawmakers sent a letter to the governor and the Board of Public Works asking the panel to resolve the petitions. Hogan provided few details of what the proposed memorandum of understanding with the Office of Administrative Hearings would entail but said he hoped it would set an objective standard for compensation in similar cases, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports.

TOUTING COMPETITION, HOGAN PUSHES NO-BID CONTRACT: Efforts to generate more competitiveness in state contracting are paying off, yielding better deals for state agencies and saving taxpayer dollars in the process, Gov. Larry Hogan said on Wednesday. But within minutes of making his proclamation, at the monthly meeting of the contract-approving Board of Public Works, Hogan found himself defending a staff request to extend a state employee health plan with the current vendor, industry giant KaiserPermanente, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports.

OPINION: MILLIONS POORLY SPENT: The editorial board for the Sun questions the wisdom of the state spending millions of dollars for temporary air conditioning for Baltimore County schools when Baltimore City schools are affected more harshly by a lack of proper heating systems. It asks: “why is Annapolis so happily throwing money at temporary air conditioners? … It’s been a top priority for Comptroller Peter Franchot in response to strong lobbying by certain county parents, chiefly from Dulaney (High School). Gov. Larry Hogan has backed him up, anxious as he is to have the comptroller’s support on the Board of Public Works.”

STATE TO HELP FARMERS SEE LONG VIEW ON CLIMATE CHANGE: John Lee of WYPR-FM reports that two years ago, the legislature passed the Maryland Healthy Soils Program to teach farmers how to sequester carbon, but without approving additional money for that effort. The state agriculture department this fall is preparing a strategic plan that Hans Schmidt of the Ag Department said will include climate change. Many farmers say they are busy dealing with climate change on a day-to-day basis.

STATE VOWS TO FIGHT TRUMP CALIF. ORDER: The Sun’s Scott Dance reports that Maryland’s top elected officials are pledging to fight Trump administration moves to weaken vehicle emissions standards. President Donald Trump said Wednesday his administration was revoking California’s right to set emissions rules more strict than the federal government’s. California’s rules are also the law in 13 other states, including Maryland.

FEWER COMMUTERS DRIVE SOLO: It may be hard to notice, given how clogged the Washington, D.C., region’s roads are, but fewer commuters are driving to work by themselves, reports Bruce DePuyt in Maryland Matters. While it remains the leading mode of choice for area workers, the region has seen a 12% decline since 2007, according to an analysis conducted for the National Capital Region’s Transportation Planning Board.

ACLU WITHDRAWS OPEN MEETING COMPLAINT: The ACLU of Maryland has withdrawn its complaint to the state’s Open Meetings Compliance Board related to whether Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins should hold public meetings under his office’s agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement concerning the 287(g) program. Nick Steiner, staff attorney with the ACLU, confirmed in a prepared statement that his organization had withdrawn the complaint, because Rep. David Trone had submitted a letter asking the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General to examine similar issues.

HOGAN PUSHES FROSH TO PURSUE CITY CRIME: Arguing that Baltimore prosecutors are too quick to drop cases, Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday that he was directing Attorney General Brian Frosh to step in and prosecute more crimes in the city, Luke Broadwater reports in the Sun.

PG STATE’S ATTORNEY TO DROP CASH BAIL: State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy of Prince George’s County announced that her office would no longer request cash bail as part of her first State of Justice Symposium on Sept. 10. The new protocol, which will go into effect Oct. 1, would not completely end bail in the county, Braveboy said. She hoped the change would serve as an example that there are alternatives to the bail system,Lyna Bentahar reports for the Prince George’s Sentinel.

CONSULTANT PLEADS GUILTY TO WIRE FRAUD: About two years after raiding a political fundraising office on Main Street, federal officials say an Annapolis political consultant has pleaded guilty in connection with a scheme to solicit millions of dollars in contributions through scam political action committees that defrauded people across the country, the AP is reporting.

CITY PANEL OK’s POLICE ACADEMY MOVE TO UB: Over objections from West Baltimore lawmakers, the city’s spending panel approved a $7.5 million plan Wednesday to relocate the city’s police academy to the University of Baltimore campus, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. Some Democratic legislators — including Sen. Antonio Hayes and city councilman Leon Pinkett — as well as the Baltimore branch of the NAACP have pushed for the academy to move to Coppin State University, a historically black college.

FBI SEIZED PUGH EMAILS, COMPUTER RECORDS: The FBI seized former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s emails and other computer records — along with those of one of her longtime aides — as part of its investigation into her financial dealings, Ian Duncan reports for the Sun.

WA CO SEES INFLUX OF METH CASES: Washington County Sheriff Doug Mullendore said authorities have seen an influx of methamphetamine cases in the county over the past year. Nearby counties in West Virginia also are seeing methamphetamine cases as that particular drug makes its way north from southern West Virginia, Julie Greene reports for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail Media.

HO CO PLAN TO HIKE BUILDER FEES DRAWS SHARP OPPOSITION: A proposal that would raise a fee builders pay toward Howard County school system’s renovation, maintenance and construction costs has drawn tense opposition from developers, affordable housing advocates and businesses, all of whom described the bill as regressive, reports Erin Logan in the Howard County Times. The measure, which is poised to pass the County Council, would hike the one-time fee assessed on new homes from $1.32 per square foot to $6.80 per square foot, a 415% increase.