State Roundup, September 20, 2019

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SCHOOL SPENDING TASK FORCE CLOSES MEETING: A task force deciding how to pay for billions in recommendations to boost Maryland’s public schools voted Thursday to meet behind closed doors as it continues its work — sparking objection from some members of the workgroup, who argued the body was being too secretive, reports Luke Broadwater in the Sun. The workgroup’s closed session was to determine how much counties and the state will pay for proposals such as implementing full-day prekindergarten and increasing teacher pay.

  • The state workgroup that has been meeting publicly since June to draw up new state education funding formulas is now getting down to analyzing gritty details – in private, reports Danielle Gaines for Maryland Matters.
  • The closed meeting allowed the workgroup to closely examine computer models for about $4 billion annually in funding, reports Bryan Sears in The Daily Record. Members of the panel plugged in different ideas for how costs for the Kirwan education plan will be calculated, phased in and shared between the state and its 24 local governments in the “working session.”
  • Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, also President of the Maryland Association of Counties, indicated his interest in sharing materials from such a work session with staff for constructive input, reports Michael Sanderson in MACO’s blog Conduit Street. He was told that the materials would not be shared for dissemination outside the meeting, but he was free to share “what he gleans” from the discussion.
  • Meanwhile, Gov. Larry Hogan is using “dark” money to stop that costly education plan, reports Erin Cox in the Post. He is asking top supporters to raise at least $2 million for a lobbying and public relations campaign through a new super PAC. The money will aim to build public support for Hogan’s second-term goals, including anti-tax messaging tied to the education plan, redistricting reform and installing toll lanes on interstates 495 and 270.

HEALTH INSURANCE COSTS DROPPING: Health insurance premiums will decrease by an average 10% for consumers in Maryland’s individual market in 2020, the second straight year of decreases in the market, reports Tim Curtis for The Daily Record. The approval of the new rates by the Maryland Insurance Administration closes a quiet rate review process that stood in contrast to past years that included skyrocketing premium requests, a shrinking pool of carriers and the creation of a reinsurance program.

FROSH, MOSBY FIRE BACK ON BMORE CRIME: A day after Gov. Larry Hogan called on the attorney general’s office to prosecute more violent crime cases in an effort to make Baltimore safer, the city’s state’s attorney had harsh words for the governor’s plan, reports Mike Hellgren for WJZ.

  • Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said he’s willing to help tackle Baltimore’s crime problem, but said his office only has an eight-person unit, reports Kim Dacey at WBAL. To take on more investigations, they’re going to need more resources and discussions with the governor’s office.
  • State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby stated she was “completely stunned” to learn about the proposal in the media, reports Kelly Broderick for ABC 2. Mosby says has attempted to meet with the Governor on “several occasions” to discuss how they can work together to address the level of violent crime in the city.
  • Protesting the lack of support from the governor’s mansion, Mosby asked for increased state police collaboration to solve homicide cases in Baltimore and remove guns from the streets; deeper state investigations into criminal enterprises run out of the state’s prisons; increased funding for community-led violence interruption programs; and an overhaul of the state’s Department of Juvenile Services, reports Luke Broadwater in the Sun.

MORE STATE REVENUES: The Maryland Board of Revenue Estimates voted unanimously Thursday to increase the state’s projected revenues for the current fiscal year by just under $130 million, but cautioned that the uptick “is not indicative of long-term economic growth,” reports Elliott Davis for the Capital News Service.

  • While the state saw stronger-than-expected revenue from capital gains and sales taxes, wage growth continues to lag, reports Luke Broadwater in the Sun.

REFORMS DEMANDED FOR TAX BREAKS, STATE LOANS: Democratic lawmakers in the General Assembly are eyeing reforms of business tax credits in light of a recent audit that found the Maryland Department of Commerce lacked in its oversight of economic incentives, reports Holden Wilen in the Baltimore Business Journal.

STUDENTS STRIKE FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: Today, activists will converge on Washington, D.C., and in other cities around the world to pressure policymakers to combat climate change. Maryland Matters has a list of events happening this morning in cities all over Maryland, including a Climate Rally and “die in” in Annapolis.

SCHOOL BUS DRIVER SHORTAGE: The Sun’s Talia Richman reports on a school bus driver shortage around the state, including in Baltimore County where students are squatting in the aisle and sitting on each other’s laps. An Anne Arundel spokesman says it’s been particularly difficult this year because of a new state law requiring more stringent background and reference checks.

HAGERSTOWN COMMUNITY COLLEGE LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES: The top state funding priority for Hagerstown Community College for the next fiscal year includes the last $1.3 million installment for a center to spark innovation, the Center for Business and Entrepreneurial Studies, reports Alexis Fitzpatrick in the Herald-Mail. The project was originally estimated to cost $7 million to $8 million when announced in late 2017 to significantly transform the college’s 25-year-old Technical Innovation Center.

ONGOING PIMLICO DISPUTE GETS HEATED: The Maryland Racing Commission chair is fed up over criticism of its ongoing dispute over the future of the Pimlico Race Course and the Preakness Stakes, reports Holden Wilen in the Baltimore Business Journal.

OPINION: DEMS HIDING COSTS OF KIRWAN: The Maryland Democrats are sandbagging everyone by hiding the true costs of their education proposals, opines Greg Kline for Red Maryland. They’re stifling any real debate about the tax increases required for the Kirwan Commission funding they insist is absolutely necessary, he continues.

PODCAST: CARROLL COMMISSION PRAYERS: In the Sun’s podcast Roughly Speaking, Carroll County Times reporter Mary Grace Keller joins host Pamela Wood to review the bitter conflict over commissioner-led prayers that continues to strike a deeply personal and emotional chord in the community.

CUMMINGS MEDICAL PROCEDURE KEEPS HIM FROM D.C. HEARING: Democratic U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore missed a high-profile hearing Thursday of the House committee he chairs, for a medical procedure that will keep him from working for “a week or so,” reports Jeff Barker in the Sun. The Oversight and Reform Committee hearing continued on a bill that would make the District of Columbia the nation’s 51st state.

LEAGUE OF CONSERVATION VOTERS PICKS NEW DIRECTOR: The former leader of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Kim Coble, has been appointed the new director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, an influential environmental group in Maryland policy, writes Michael Sanderson on the Maryland Association of Counties blog Conduit Street.