State Roundup, September 30, 2019

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HUNDREDS OF LAWS GO INTO EFFECT OCT. 1: Hundreds of Maryland laws go into effect Tuesday, spanning subjects from increasing the age to buy cigarettes and vapes to taxing online sales and banning bump stocks for firearms, according to a Capital News Service article in MarylandReporter. The article offers a short summary of more than 70 of the new laws with links.

  • Nearly all teenagers will be barred from buying e-cigarettes or their analog counterparts in Maryland after Tuesday, when hundreds of new laws — including a higher smoking age — take effect, Erin Cox of the Post is reporting. Maryland joins the District and 14 other states that restrict nicotine sales in an effort to curb an alarming surge in teen vaping. Maryland’s law takes effect with more than 800 cases of vaping-related lung diseases reported in 46 states since August. Twelve deaths have been reported.
  • In an effort to prevent young people from getting hooked on tobacco and nicotine, Maryland is raising the age to buy cigarettes, cigars and vaping products to 21, effective Tuesday, Pamela Wood reports for the Sun. “The goal is to make it as difficult as possible for our young people to have access to nicotine products,” said Del. Dereck Davis, a Prince George’s County Democrat who sponsored the law.

CONCEALED CARRY CHANGE: The application process for a Maryland Wear and Carry Permit will switch from a hand-written paper application to the Maryland State Police online licensing portal, Dan Dearth of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports. Beginning Tuesday, people who apply for a Maryland Wear and Carry Permit will be required to complete and submit the application online. The applications will be accepted via computer, tablet or mobile phone, regardless of the operating system.

MINIMUM WAGE HIKE to $11 IN 2020: Maryland will raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour at the beginning of the year, leaving some local businesses trying to figure out how the change will affect them, Ryan Marshall of the Frederick News-Post reports. The Maryland General Assembly approved the increase, which will eventually raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, in its most recent session.

BAY AID EYED BY SENATORS: Maryland’s U.S. senators and colleagues from across the Chesapeake Bay watershed introduced a bill Friday to create a federal grant program for projects focused on restoring the bay’s fish and wildlife habitats, Scott Dance reports in the Sun.

FROSH JOINS SUIT AGAINST ROLLBACK OF ENDANGERED SPECIES: Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh last week joined a coalition of 18 attorneys general and the City of New York in filing a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s rollback of the Endangered Species Act, Josh Kurtz writes in Maryland Matters. The challenge argues that a recent rulemaking by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service undermines the key requirements and purpose of the Endangered Species Act and is unlawful.

OP-ED: SEA CHANGE IN SEA-LEVEL RISES: In an op-ed for the Sun, retired scientist Donald Boesch writes about the findings of the U.S. report on global climate change and how Maryland will be affected by what it predicts. He writes that he was relieved to discover that new forecasts for sea-level rises closely align with the estimates that a panel of scientists that he led for 10 years foresaw – with one important exception. If the world’s greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase through this century, the rise in sea-level in Maryland is projected to be nearly 1 foot higher than the 2 to 4 feet that they had thought was likely by the end of this century.

MORE CONTROVERSIES FOR RX POT PANEL: Maryland’s medical cannabis program finds itself in the center of two brewing controversies that have halted the awarding of licenses and raised new questions about whether minority-owned businesses will get a fair shot at a handful of potentially lucrative licenses, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has been no stranger to controversy and court wrangling almost since its inception and issuing of the state program’s first licenses.

CITY OFFICIALS GRILL RAHN ON TRANSIT FUNDING: Objecting to the Hogan administration’s reduced spending on public transit projects, Baltimore officials and lawmakers grilled Maryland’s secretary of transportation at City Hall Friday, reports Luke Broadwater in the Sun. The Maryland Transit Administration, which runs buses, subway, trains and light rail, is facing a $2 billion shortfall for capital projects over the next decade — and the latest six-year capital budget for the agency is 10% smaller than current spending levels.

TWITTER SUSPENDS DELEGATE’s ACCOUNT: The social media platform Twitter suspended state Del. Robbyn Lewis for tweeting hashtags about using public transit and need to address climate change — then reinstated her account a day later amid an outcry in Baltimore, Luke Broadwater of the Sun is reporting.

ADVOCATES FOR SUSPENDED STUDENTS: Started in fall 2017, the Maryland Suspension Representation Project helps students and families obtain volunteer legal representation to halt what they believe are wrongful suspensions or expulsions. Renuka Rege, a staff attorney at the Public Justice Center in Baltimore who helped form MSRP, said students are primarily from public schools. Louis Krauss writes about the program for the Daily Record.

METRO BOARD REVISES ETHICS POLICY: The Metro board on Thursday adopted a revised ethics policy that will make alleged violations and future internal investigations of board members public, Justin George of the Post reports. The move comes after the panel was widely criticized for its handling of the probe into the conduct of former chairman Jack Evans. The new policy removes much of the secrecy that surrounded the Evans investigation and its outcome.

MILLER TRIBUTE: The scene: A winery on a gorgeous rural road in Calvert County Thursday night. A venue for weddings and other joyous occasions. The event: A fundraiser for the College of Southern Maryland Foundation and its ambitions to open a leadership institute for students interested in public service and public policy. But really, writes Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters, the evening was all about state Senate President Mike Miller (D-Calvert) – and his legacy: His unprecedented legislative career and his commitment to higher education.

MD SOCIAL SERVICES CHIEF RESIGNS FOR NEW JOB: Rebecca Jones Gaston is leaving her job as executive director of the Social Services Administration at the Maryland Department of Human Services to take a job in Oregon, according to the AP. Jones Gaston was named Oregon’s new director of child welfare Wednesday by that state’s Department of Human Services, The Statesman Journal reported.

HOGAN SR. & A FATE TIED TO NIXON: Michael S. Rosenwald of the Post recalls the history of Republican U.S. Rep. Lawrence Hogan, the father of Gov. Larry Hogan. He became famous for being the first Republican to turn against President Richard Nixon during the Watergate crisis.

VAN HOLLEN, CARDIN SEEK ROTC DEATH BENEFITS: U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin of Maryland have introduced a bill to extend death benefits to ROTC members who die before they’re able to serve their first active duty assignment for the military, Phil Davis of the Sun reports. The bill is in recognition of 2nd Lt. Richard W. Collins III, who was killed before he could serve his first assignment for the Army. Collins, who was about to graduate from Bowie State University in 2017, was stabbed while visiting the University of Maryland, College Park.

MD GOP FUND-RAISES OFF IMPEACHMENT PROBE: Maryland’s Republican Party is using the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump for a fundraising drive, Pamela Wood reports in the Sun. “Impeach? NO WAY!” reads the subject line of an email fundraising solicitation the party sent out on Friday afternoon.

SEN. BOOKER JOINS GM PICKET: Tim Prudente of the Sun reports that Sen. Cory Booker brought his bid for the presidency to White Marsh Saturday, joining a picket line of auto workers and condemning General Motors for shutting down its local plant after the automaker accepted millions of dollars in government subsidies there. “They took tens and tens of millions of dollars,” the New Jersey Democrat told a small crowd. “For them to shut down just seems to me, on the face of it, unacceptable.”

CARROLL PEDESTRIAN DEATHS DOWN: State transportation officials met with Carroll County representatives Thursday, outlining progress on roadway improvement projects and discussing the need to improve pedestrian safety, even while pedestrian deaths are down, Akira Kyles reports for the Carroll County Times.

PRESSURE ON MO CO BOARD TO REVERSE EARLY VOTE SITE DECISION: Community activists and elected officials are urging the Montgomery County Board of Elections to overturn a recent decision against adding a 12th early voting site. County Executive Marc Elrich joined Council Members Tom Hucker and Will Jawando at a press conference on Friday with a clear demand: The Montgomery County Board of Elections should convene an emergency meeting on Monday to reverse its decision not to add an additional early voting site at the White Oak Community Recreation Center, Kate Masters reports in Bethesda Beat.

ELRICH EYES SOLAR REQUIREMENT: As Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich looks for ways to increase sustainability, he has his sights focused on the sun, reports Kate Masters in Bethesda Beat. A recent proposal would require all new homes to have solar panels on their roofs starting in 2022, said Adam Ortiz, the director of the county’s Department of Environmental Protection.