State Roundup, September 27, 2019

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METRO FUNDING RELEASED: Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday he would release $83.5 million from the state capital budget earmarked for the Washington, D.C., area Metro system, after holding up the allocation for three months, reports Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters.

JUDGE STOPS CANNIBIS LICENSES: The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission delayed issuing more licenses to companies to grow and process medical marijuana on Thursday after a state judge prohibited the granting of the licenses because one company claimed the application process was botched.

  • Lawyers for Remileaf LLC, owned by an African American woman, successfully argued Wednesday in Montgomery County Circuit Court that the applications were unfairly rejected despite successfully being submitted in May and paying $4,000 in fees, reports Bryan Sears for The Daily Record. A temporary restraining order was issued but was not discussed at the cannabis commission meeting.
  • Judge Ronald Rubin wrote that Remileaf had “raised serious and substantial problems regarding the bidding process and its administration by the MMCC, and the seeming irregularity of the procedures employed,” reports Jessica Iannetta in the Baltimore Business Journal.

HUNDREDS PROTEST IN HOCO REDISTRICTING: Thursday night hundreds protested outside the Howard County Board of Education building in Ellicott City, reports Eddie Kadhim for WMAR. On Wednesday, the school board held a meeting about a plan redistricting schools that could move more than 7,000 students to different schools next year.

OPINION: TV REPORTER HOCO REDISTRICTING ETHICS ISSUE: WBAL politics reporter Kate Amara found herself at the center of a story, when it was revealed she had personally weighed in on a hotly contested political battle in Howard County, writes David Zurawik in a column for the Sun. He opines this is a matter of fundamental journalistic ethics, and there is no excuse for someone with Amara’s experience writing in a way that leaves her open to the charge of trying to use her position as a journalist to gain special favor.

SOLAR MANDATE PROPOSED IN MONTGOMERY: Solar panel mandates, a dramatic and hotly debated environmental policy with roots on the West Coast, could be coming to a suburb of the nation’s capital, reports Rebecca Tan in the Post. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich wants to introduce legislation requiring all new single-family houses — and possibly apartments and commercial buildings — to have solar panels on their rooftops starting in 2022.

MD DELEGATION ON IMPEACHMENT: Maryland’s U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both Democrats, have given their support to the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, reports Greg Maki in the (Easton) Star Democrat.

OPIOID LAWSUITS CHANGE TARGET: Somerset County has joined the cavalcade of county and local governments in Maryland that are suing over the opioid crisis, but it is the first Maryland jurisdiction to do so without naming Purdue Pharma, the OxyContin manufacturer that has become the face of the litigation, reports Heather Cobun in the Daily Record. Somerset is just one of many jurisdictions facing the new landscape of opioid litigation after Purdue filed for bankruptcy earlier this month as part of a tentative settlement with half of the state attorneys general and at least 1,000 local governments.

BUS OVERCROWDING INTO AISLES: The father of a Baltimore County student, who captured disturbing video of overcrowding on a Baltimore County School bus, recently expressed confusion over a Maryland state law, reports Mary Bubala for WBFF Fox45. The law states no child may “sit” in the aisles but one person per row “standing” in the aisle is a different issue.

NPS SIGNS OFF ON PIPELINE STUDY AT C&O CANAL: The National Park Service has signed off on a study that says extending a natural gas pipeline under the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park “will have no significant effects on the environment,” reports Mike Lewis in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. But the project is still on hold after a federal court in August upheld a denial of a right-of-way permit under the Western Maryland Rail Trail by the Maryland Board of Public Works.

CRAB IMMIGRANT WORKERS PROGRAM DEBATED: It is a sensitive time politically both for about 400 workers who arrive on Maryland’s Eastern Shore nearly every year, mostly from Mexico, reports Jeff Barker and Thalia Juarez in the Sun. It’s also sensitive for the H-2B visa program, which grants them temporary entrance to the United States. They work tedious shifts, some in the middle of the night, using tiny knives to extract the crabmeat sold in restaurants and grocery stores. The story was published in Spanish.

CASHLESS TOLLING COMING: The Maryland Transportation Authority is making a push to assure all drivers that cross the Hatem Bridge on US Route 40 are ready for cashless tolling, which goes into effect Oct. 16, reports Jane Bellmyer in the Cecil Whig.

FINAL OFFER IN HBCU CASE: Gov. Larry Hogan is making a “final offer” of $200 million to settle a longstanding lawsuit over disparities in Maryland’s higher education system, his administration said Thursday, a figure far less than half of what the advocates for the state’s four historically black universities have demanded, reports Talia Richman for the Sun.

CYBER INSURANCE MISSING: It’s a good thing that hackers haven’t, as far as we know, made another assault on Baltimore’s recently restored computer systems because another month has passed without the city holding cyber insurance, writes Mark Reutter in Baltimore Brew.

CITY POLICE LIABILITY QUESTIONED: Stephen Janis and Taya Graham write for Afro about the city skirting liability in a pending lawsuit on behalf of William James in a Baltimore Gun Trace Task Force case. Generally, the city indemnifies officers who are subject to lawsuits as part of their collective bargaining agreement with the police union. But an exception in the state law governing municipal liability gives the city legal wiggle room, they report.

HOGAN IN AUSTRALIA: On his latest international trip, Gov. Larry Hogan is spending this week in Australia, making stops to promote economic development and specifically ties in the cybersecurity industry, reports Stephan Babcock for technical.ly.

ALTERNATIVE SCHOOL OPENING FOR TROUBLED LIL KIDS: An alternative school is opening for troubled kids in Charles County, but this one is for 5, 6, or 7-year olds, reports Donna St. George in the Post. Despite critics, the school system is pushing ahead and sparking a debate that has touched on racial disparities, children’s well-being, classroom disruptions, legal issues and community trust.

DEM PAC ON BOTH SIDES OF POTOMAC: 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, reports Josh Kurtz in Maryland Matters.

OPINION: COMMUNITY NEEDS SAY IN FUTURE OF SHOPPERS STORES: As an elected representative of these workers and the customers they serve, Del. Dereck Davis is calling on UNFI to ensure that all remaining Shoppers stores in Maryland are sold to companies that will commit to serving neighborhoods where access to affordable, healthy food is critical to fighting hunger, obesity and other chronic health related issues.