State Roundup, September 26, 2019

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SAFE SITES SOUGHT FOR DRUG USERS: As opioids continue to claim hundreds of lives a month in Maryland, treatment advocates, politicians and others are making another push to permit drug use in certain places where it can be monitored and people can get connected to programs that address their addictions, Meredith Cohn of the Sun reports. Backers, including Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and City Council President Brandon Scott, came to a meeting Wednesday to promote so-called safe consumption sites and encourage a groundswell of support for state legislation that would establish such spaces.

HOW MD COMPENSATED EARLIER EXONEREES: Ovetta Wiggins of the Post talks with former Gov. Bob Ehrlich about how he decided to pay the state’s last exoneree $1.4 million for keeping him behind bars although he had not committed the crime for which he was serving. She also looks into how the state has paid previous exonerees.

2 TAPPED TO REPLACE DELS. BROMWELL, LAFFERTY: Wilborn Nobles of the Sun reports that members of the Baltimore County Democratic Party have announced their choices to fill vacancies in Maryland’s General Assembly. Carl Jackson and Cathi Forbes on Wednesday night were recommended by the Baltimore County Democratic State Central Committee for the District 8 and 42A House of Delegates seats, respectively.

OPINION: EDUCATION ISN’T CHEAP: The editorial board for the Sun opines that “filet mignon costs twice as much as top round because people prize its tenderness and flavor. You want a suit tailored to fit you perfectly? Don’t expect to pay Walmart prices.” There’s unquestionably a cost associated with upgrading schools, the board writes. The commission has pegged the number at $3.8 billion over a decade. “You want quality? You usually have to pay for it.”

RESEARCHERS WITNESS DOLPHIN BIRTH IN BAY: A team of researchers studying dolphins in the Potomac River got unexpected fruit from their labors last month when they witnessed a dolphin being born near the river’s confluence with the Chesapeake Bay. Bottlenose dolphins are among the most studied species in the world, but a wild birth has only been documented in scientific literature on one other occasion: in 2013 off the coast of Georgia, the Bay Journal’s Whitney Pipkin writes for MarylandReporter.

FROSH JOINS WILDLIFE PROTECTION LAWSUIT: Maryland’s top attorney has joined a lawsuit that seeks to halt the Trump administration’s rollback of wildlife protections under the Endangered Species Act, Phil Davis of the Sun writes. Attorney General Brian Frosh’s office wrote in a news release that the state is joining a coalition of 18 attorneys general and New York City in challenging the decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to finalize three rules the group says “undermine the key requirements and purpose of the Endangered Species Act.”

EMBATTLED JUDGE RETIRES: Heather Cobun of the Daily Record reports that embattled Baltimore City District Judge Devy Patterson Russell retired Wednesday after being charged in a third disciplinary matter. Russell, who had been on the bench since 2006, had been serving a six-month suspension since July 1 as a sanction for yelling at fellow judges and court staff. The Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities recommended an additional three-month suspension earlier this month and on Wednesday filed a third set of charges accusing Russell of threatening a fellow judge who was a witness in the cases against her.

POTOMAC-AREA DEMS LAUNCH PAC: Democratic and union operatives in Maryland and Virginia have teamed up to create a political action committee to help political candidates on both sides of the Potomac River. The PAC, known as Potomac Rising, held its first fundraiser last week in Gaithersburg. The event was billed as an ERA house party, pegged to the push to get the now-dormant Equal Rights Amendment ratified in Virginia, Josh Kurtz reports in Maryland Matters.

HARRIS DEFENDS TRUMP: U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, the lone Republican in Maryland’s congressional delegation, finally spoke out on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s launch of an impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, saying, “None of the allegations that Speaker Pelosi made yesterday are proven by the transcript of the conversation between President Trump and President Zelenskyy of Ukraine … The transcript of the call is clear, and everyone should read it for themselves. Once again, no collusion.” Josh Kurtz writes the story for Maryland Matters.

THE BIDENS AND UKRAINE: Wondering what really happened with Joe Biden and his son and the Ukraine? Here is an even-handed, balanced account of what went on by PolitiFact, the fact-checking site. Bottom line: The vice president was enforcing U.S. policy and the views of other nations on removing the Ukrainian prosecutor, but his son’s position with a company there created a problematic conflict of interest.

FEWER COMMUTERS DRIVE ALONE: Fewer commuters in the Washington, D.C., area are driving to work alone, although it remains the most common method of commuting, especially in outer areas such as Frederick County, according to a survey conducted by a regional transportation group, Ryan Marshall of the Frederick News-Post reports. Commuters who drive to work by themselves made up 58% of the respondents to the 2019 State of the Commute survey done by the Commuter Connections program of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board.

WA CO GETS NEW ELECTIONS HQ: A former grocery store will become Washington County’s new election headquarters, reports Mike Lewis for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. The county commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved the purchase of a former Shop ‘n Save as the new Washington County Board of Elections facility. The action also called for what a county document terms a “budget adjustment” of $1.4 million, which includes $1.25 million to buy the property and $150,000 “for limited renovations for functionality.”

B’MORE’s REBEL MONUMENTS: Baltimore’s Confederate monuments, removed from their pedestals in the dead of night more than two years ago, remain stashed out of sight in a city-owned lot, awaiting an uncertain future, Colin Campbell of the Sun reports.

500 TO SPEAK AT HOWARD SCHOOL HEARINGS: About 500 people have signed up to speak at hearings on Howard County’s proposed school redistricting plan. Because of the volume of speakers, the hearings have been broken up over three nights, Jess Nocera of the Sun reports.

OPINION: N. VIRGINIA COULD OUTSHINE MO CO: In a column for Bethesda Beat, Adam Pagnucco writes that last week saw an ominous announcement: the formation of a new economic development alliance in Northern Virginia among 10 jurisdictions that are engaging in “unprecedented cooperation” and teaming up to market themselves to employers. If these jurisdictions can truly put aside their own rivalries and form a bona fide joint marketing authority, this will be a big problem for suburban Maryland – and especially Montgomery County.