State Roundup October 24, 2019

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HOMETOWN FAREWELL: U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings wanted the people of Baltimore to have a chance to bid him farewell, reports Colin Campbell and Pamela Wood for the Sun. Cummings, who had cancer and died last week at age 68, got his wish Wednesday, lying in repose at Morgan State University, where he proudly served on the Board of Regents for 19 years until his death.

  • On Friday, former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton will speak at Cummings’ funeral in Baltimore, reports Jenna Portnoy for the Post. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are also among those scheduled to speak.
  • Mourners streamed into the Morgan State hall to pay respects to their congressman, a Baltimorean who never forgot his city or its people, reports Ovetta Wiggins and Jenna Portnoy for the Post. “He spoke for the forgotten,” one said.
  • Every mourner WYPR spoke to said Cummings’ steady and sincere hand during social turbulence set him apart from other politicians, reports Emily Sullivan.
  • Cummings’s roots ran deep in Morgan State University, a historically black university located in his Baltimore district, reports Samantha Hawkins for the Capital News Service. During his long service on the board, Cummings increased Pell Grant funding and created partnerships with NASA. Just this past May, the Democratic congressman delivered the commencement address.

FROSH SUES KUSHNER PROP MANANGEMENT CO:Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh is suing a property management company owned by the family of presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, alleging that the firm abused tenants by housing them in substandard living conditions, reports Rebecca Tan in the Post.

  • Alleged violations that include failure to address rodent and vermin infestations and mold growth, reports the AP and WBAL. The New Jersey company manages nearly 9,000 rental units across Baltimore city and Baltimore and Prince George’s counties.
  • In doing so, Frosh sued Jared Kushner’s property management company and the companies that own or have owned 17 residential communities managed by his company, reports Tyler Waldman for WBAL Newsradio. Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, stepped down as CEO of Kushner Cos. when he and his wife, Ivanka Trump, became senior advisers to the president, but Kushner still retains a financial interest in and draws money from many of its operations.
  • The suit alleges illegal practices and that the company neglected its properties in Maryland, allowing for mold and rodent infestations to go unaddressed, and demanded thousands in illegitimate fees, reports Megan Cloherty for WTOP.
  • Laurent Morali, president of the Kushner Cos., said last month that the company rejected a settlement offer from the attorney general because it refused to be “extorted,” reports Heather Cobun with The Daily Record. Morali accused Frosh of trying to “score political points” instead of focusing on helping Maryland residents.

MILLER’S HEALTH FUELS POWER CAMPAIGN: Maryland Senate President Mike Miller, who has been battling stage 4 prostate cancer, spoke about his health Wednesday night during an appearance at a memorial for Congressman Elijah Cummings at Morgan State University, reports Robert Lang for WBAL Newsradio. Miller is scheduled to meet behind closed doors Thursday morning with the Senate Democratic caucus to discuss his health and other issues for next year’s legislative session.

  • It remains unclear what Miller (D-Calvert), whose most recent hospitalization ended Tuesday, will say, reports Ovetta Wiggins and Erin Cox. But the planned announcement is fueling speculation about Miller’s future and hastening the delicate behind-the-scenes campaign to replace him.
  • What happens behind closed doors in that two-hour period – or longer, if the caucus meeting drags on – is impossible to predict, writes Josh Kurtz and Danielle Gaines in Maryland Matters.

PELOSI REMEMBERS YOUNG TOMMY: U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other speakers remembered her brother Thomas D’Alesandro III as a progressive politician, who first as City Council president and later as mayor was passionate about civil rights against what was often stiff resistance, reports Jean Marbella for the Sun.

  • A who’s who of politics filled the church pews at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Mount Vernon for D’Alesandro’s funeral, reports David Collins for WBAL. Pelosi she misses him terribly as she shared stories about her brother and growing up in a political dynasty household.
  • Young Tommy elevated African-Americans to positions in his administration and attacked discriminatory housing practices despite criticism from those who weren’t ready for change, reports Jeff Hager for WMAR.

KAVANAUGH ACCUSER LAWYER WILL LEAD GTTF INVESTIGATION: A former federal prosecutor who represented one of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers has been picked to lead an independent review of a corruption-plagued unit of the Baltimore Police Department, reports Michael Kunzelman for the AP.

  • It will be an independent investigation of the Gun Trace Task Force, the rogue unit in the department that robbed citizens, falsified reports and planted evidence, reports Brandon Weigel on Baltimore Fishbowl.

VAPING TASK FORCE, BILLS DRAFTED: Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot announced Wednesday that he’s creating a task force to examine the public health and safety implications of electronic smoking devices, reports Lowell Melser for WBAL. Franchot cited a growing number of reports about serious illnesses, lung disease and deaths related to vaping.

  • Maryland officials are considering adopting restrictions on e-cigarettes as the number of vaping-related lung illness cases continue to rise, reports Pamela Wood for the Sun. Del. Dereck Davis is drafting a bill that would ban flavored vaping products that are favored by young people.

FREDERICK LOOKING AT CONFERENCE CENTER DEAL WITHOUT STATE FUNDS: After years of trying to secure millions of state dollars for a hotel and conference center in downtown Frederick, local officials said this week they’re still looking to complete the project, but have moved on from waiting for the state, reports Steve Bohnel and Colin McGuire for the Frederick News-Post. A previous plan had called for $5 million in annual state funding that was never approved by the state Board of Public Works.

LOBBYIST FIRM SUING FORMER CLIENTS: Alexander & Cleaver, a well-known Annapolis lobbying firm, is suing more than a half-dozen clients who bolted and hired lobbyists that had defected from the venerable lobbying practice and that firm claims they didn’t pay all their bills, reports Bryan Sears for The Daily Record. Topping the list of former clients being sued is the Maryland Association for Justice, a trial lawyers association whose members are no strangers to tort litigation.

STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION MAKES CHANGES IN ALLEGANY: Allegany County School Board member Wayne Foote has been removed from his post by the state Board of Education, reports Teresa McMinn for the Cumberland Times-News. It also declined to approve the appointment of Jeff Blank for superintendent.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING NUMBER MISTAKE ON HOTEL SIGNS: Thousands of signs designed to alert victims of human trafficking to a phone number and text line where they can seek help were purchased and printed using the wrong text number due an error in the city legislation approved this year requiring them to be posted in every Baltimore hotel room, reports Kevin Rector for the Sun.

BALTIMORE WATER SYSTEM AUDIT: Baltimore Mayor Jack Young ordered an audit of the city’s water billing system on Wednesday, reports Kelly Broderick for WMAR.

CLIMATE CHANGE LAWSUIT COMES BACK TO STATE: Baltimore’s lawsuit alleging fossil fuel companies concealed dangers and misinformed the public about climate change will be remanded from federal court to state court after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to halt the transfer, reports Heather Cobun for The Daily Record.

HOWARD BEHIND ON HEALTH CARE COSTS: The Howard County School System’s looming health care deficit is now $39.2 million and there’s no plan in place to stop it from rising further, reports Jess Nocera in the Howard County Times. For seven years, the school system pulled money from the health fund to pay for major expenses, including salary increases and a countywide prekindergarten program.

CHARLES DEMS DEBATE HOYER SEAT: Members of the Western Charles Democratic Club grilled two candidates for House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer’s seat last week on why each of them believed it was time for the 20-term incumbent to step aside for the next generation of party leaders in Congress, reports Paul Legasse for the St. Mary’s Enterprise.

HOLOCAUST LAW IMPLEMENTED: Maryland schools will now be required to give enhanced instruction about the Holocaust, reports Danielle Gaines for Maryland Matters. The Maryland State Department of Education intends to adopt a number of changes to expand and enhance required lessons about the Holocaust after a legislative effort to require the changes.

MENTAL HEALTH: Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford wanted to hear about mental health care in a visit to Washington County, and a Westminster woman told him a lot, reports Dave McMillion for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

MITCHELL HONORED: Comptroller Peter Franchot has announced the launch of a new award paying tribute to a former House Speaker who passed away in June, reports the staff of The Garrett County Republican. The R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. Award for Distinguished Public Service will recognize past or present elected officials at all levels of government who exemplify the true spirit of public service, demonstrating strong leadership, humility and compassion for the communities they serve.