State Roundup, October 14, 2019

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STORMS, HEAT IMPACT MARYLAND ENVIRONMENT: Tropical Storm Melissa, slowly rotating off the Atlantic Coast, has pushed water up the Chesapeake Bay, resulting in coastal flooding. Shorelines and roadways were flooded in waterfront communities throughout Maryland, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

  • Heat waves, wildfires and intense downpours occurring more frequently as climate changes will limit the populations of ranges of birds including the Baltimore oriole, Scott Dance of the Sun reports on a new Audubon Society study. Birds at risk of disappearing in large numbers from Maryland include the whip-poor-will, American woodcock, red-headed woodpecker and scarlet tanager. They are expected to lose significant portions of their habitat, and it’s unclear if many birds will be able to find new homes, said David Curson, interim executive director of Audubon Maryland-DC.

NAVAL ACADEMY MAY HAVE TO MOVE: Recent climate change models and new evidence of accelerated warming may have fatal consequences for the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Scientists predict that rising sea levels and intense storms will inundate the land it has occupied since 1845, the Annapolis Capital reports. Lacking action now, climate change could force the Navy to relocate the Academy by 2100, according to a review of existing scientific and government reports by retired Navy Cmdr. Pat Patterson in the October edition of Proceedings, an Annapolis based magazine published by the U.S. Naval Institute.

POLL: CLIMATE CHANGE CAUSE DEPENDS ON PARTY AFFILIATION: What is driving climate change? According to a recent Goucher poll, your answer to that question has a lot to do with whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, John Lee of WYPR-FM reports. A recent poll by the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College found that 76%t of Maryland Democrats believe climate change is caused mostly by human activity, compared to 44% of Republicans. Center director Mileah Kromer said a big reason for that is that for Republicans, the people who are talking about climate change, from former Vice President Al Gore to New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are a big political turnoff.

KIRWAN FUND PANEL PLAN EXPECTED: A funding workgroup is expected to make final recommendations this week for a new plan to fund education reform efforts in the state. The workgroup meets Tuesday in Annapolis – and the agenda for the panel’s final meeting is expected to contain important items from how to increase equity in the proposed funding formula to the rate at which proposed reforms will be funding over the course of the next decade. Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters offers a look at some of what the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Funding Formula Workgroup has left to do.

QUEEN’S ANNE LEADERS CONTINUE PUSH ON BRIDGE TRAFFIC: Members of the Queen Anne’s County Commission, fed up with massive traffic backups caused by re-decking work on the Bay Bridge, are demanding that the Maryland Transportation Authority provide relief to county residents and bridge-bound motorists who’ve seen travel times swell in the project’s first weeks, reports Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters.

STATE RAMPS SCHOOL SAFETY PLANS: Maryland’s public school systems are continuing to ramp up student safety plans — from bus cameras to active shooter drills, Capital News Service’s Teresa Johnson reports. Plans include continuing to install security cameras in the hallways and entryways of schools — including at the elementary level — and putting the most up-to-date school safety training into action.

REPORT: SCHOOLS COULD DO MORE TO STOP LUNCH SHAMING: Some Maryland school districts could do more to avoid shaming children whose families struggle to pay for school lunches, according to a report from Maryland Hunger Solutions. Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters writes that last school year, Maryland schools served about 240,000 breakfasts and 405,000 lunches to students a day – but not all districts have written policies to prevent school meal debt while protecting children from humiliation and embarrassment, according to the report.

TWO NOMINEES FOR STATE PROSECUTOR: A Baltimore homicide prosecutor and an assistant attorney general have been nominated to become the next state prosecutor, who investigates political corruption, reports Pamela Wood for the Sun. A committee charged with reviewing applications has sent two names to Gov. Larry Hogan to consider for the vacancy: Michael Dunty, an assistant state’s attorney in Baltimore, and Charleton T. Howard III, an assistant attorney general for the state.

  • The State Prosecutor Selection and Disabilities Commission began its work in August to replace Emmet Davitt, who retired as state prosecutor on July 31 after more than eight years in the position. The commission had 70 days from Hogan’s notification of a vacancy, which came Aug. 13, to submit a report with recommendations. Heather Cobun of the Daily Record reports that Hogan has 30 days to appoint a nominee or reject both candidates.

OPINION: ON VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS: In an op-ed for the Sun, Howard County resident James Sarazin writes about watching firefighters attack a growing brush fire: What struck me most about that day was the word “volunteer” written on virtually every piece of emergency equipment that I could see: tankers, fire trucks and ambulances. No one was getting paid to fight the fire that day. … The men and women who were out there fighting the fire were, for the most part, in their mid-20s to early 30s. They were there because they chose to be, not because they had to be.

DEL.GAINES’ CHARGE SHOCKS PG RESIDENTS: Rachel Chason of the Post reports that Berwyn Heights resident Ron Luftman says he was not surprised when he heard the federal government was charging another Prince George’s County politician with a crime. But he was unnerved to learn the elected official was Tawanna P. Gaines, his longtime state representative. “She was supposed to be one of us,” Luftman said. “She had a reputation for helping the little guy. But I guess no politician helps the little guy.”

HOGAN CONTINUES DRUMBEAT ON TRUMP: Gov. Larry Hogan is the latest Republican elected official to say he supports an impeachment inquiry of President Trump, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports. “I think we do need an inquiry because we have to get to the bottom of it,” Hogan told Margaret Hoover of PBS’s “Firing Line,” in an interview that was taped Thursday night and aired in full on Friday. “I don’t see any other way to get to the facts.”

DESPITE ILLNESS, CUMMINGS WORKING: U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings’ absence hasn’t stopped him from participating in impeachment proceedings. He has been in regular contact with Pelosi and other lawmakers, and his friends and colleagues expect him to remain a central player in the political drama playing out on Capitol Hill, Robin Bravender of Maryland Matters reports.

MO CO TO SUE VAPE PEN FIRMS: Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and Council President Nancy Navarro today will announce a lawsuit against manufacturers of electronic cigarettes, more commonly known as vape pens, reports Kate Masters for Bethesda Beat. It’s the latest move in a countywide campaign to curb the spread of vaping, a trend that’s reportedly resulted in hundreds of cases of lung injury across the country.

MO CO COUNCILMAN HOPES TO ADDRESS AFFORDABLE HOUSING: Maryland’s largest jurisdiction has an affordable housing shortage — and according to one local official, a segment of the population has not been contributing its fair share to address it. Rebecca Tan of the Post reports that Montgomery County Council member Evan Glass (D-At Large) will introduce legislation Tuesday that aims to charge an impact fee on all newly rebuilt single-family homes — also known as “teardowns.”

FORT DETRICK’s ROLE IN NEW VACCINE: The Food and Drug Administration recently approved a new vaccine for smallpox that has its roots in Fort Detrick. The JYNNEOS vaccine, produced by pharmaceutical company Bavarian Nordic, was approved by the FDA in September. It is a live, non-replicating vaccine that will be used to prevent smallpox and monkeypox, according to a release from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Heather Mongilio of the Frederick News Post reports.

CITY GROUP WANTS STATE FINES AGAIN DPW: The state Department of the Environment should impose a civil penalty of $10,000-a-day against Baltimore’s Department of Public Works for failing to respond to a ruptured water pipe that killed nearly 2,000 fish in a Leakin Park stream, a citizens’ group said on Friday. Mark Reutter of the Baltimore Brew reports the story.