State Roundup, October 31, 2019

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THE EXONEREES: The day Clarence Shipley found out he would receive millions of dollars was not a time for celebration. After spending his entire 20s, 30s and much of his 40s in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Shipley was awarded $2.1 million Wednesday. But he and his wife, Meka, were in no mood to cheer. From his home in Towson, Shipley thought of all the years he lost behind bars, Luke Broadwater writes in the Sun.

KELLEY ALERTS TO MORE EXONEREES: Veteran state Sen. Delores Kelley said the five cases represent “only a minuscule percentage of the persons who’ve been exonerated in Maryland. There are at least 31 of them on the National Register of exonerated people,” writes Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters. Even that number is dwarfed by the potential number of falsely convicted individuals whose cases were handled by the Baltimore City Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force. Several members of that now-disbanded unit have pleaded guilty to federal charges they planted evidence and stole from victims.

HOGAN SNUBS KIRWAN INVITE: Gov. Larry Hogan won’t accept an invitation to address a state commission proposing far-reaching education reforms, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters reports. Brit Kirwan sent a letter to Hogan late last week inviting the governor to address the full commission “to find common ground” on the policy recommendations and a new education funding formula to pay for them. Hogan declined to meet with the group Wednesday through a letter from Budget Secretary David R. Brinkley, the governor’s appointee to the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education.

OPINION: KIRWAN’s TEACHER CASH-GRAB: In an op-ed in MarylandReporter, Sean Kennedy of the Maryland Public Policy Institute opines that the “Kirwan Commission’s real aim is hiking teacher pay by $3 billion a year, and it is why the state teachers’ unions are so strongly backing it – more teacher pay. Kirwan aims at ‘making teacher salaries more competitive with other professions.’ ”

STATE WORKERS OUTLINE CRITICAL STAFF SHORTAGES: The shortage of 2,000 state employees in critical places like prisons and psychiatric hospitals is leading to unmanageable workloads and dangerous working conditions, members of the state’s largest employee union told lawmakers on Tuesday, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters reports.

FREDERICK LOOKS TO WIDEN MD 194: A plan to widen Md. 194 through Walkersville deserves attention and money from the state in order to go forward, Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner told state transportation officials at a meeting Wednesday night. Ryan Marshall of the Frederick News-Post reports that the project has been among the county’s top transportation priorities for several years, and Gardner said planning for it needs to start now if it’s going to be built within 10 years.

RAHN SEEKS AID FROM PA FOR RT. 219 UPGRADE: Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn is seeking cooperation from Pennsylvania officials in securing federal grant funds for upgrades to U.S. Route 219. Rahn sent a letter dated Oct. 15 to Leslie S. Richards, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, requesting a joint application for the federal dollars, Greg Larry of the Cumberland Times -News reports.

WA CO REHIRES BEREANO AS LOBBYIST: By a split vote Tuesday, Washington County Commissioners agreed to rehire their own lobbyist to represent them at the Maryland General Assembly. Mike Lewis of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports that the commissioners will again retain the services of Bruce Bereano. The agreement is for the upcoming session of the General Assembly, which starts Jan. 8, and for the remainder of 2020.

EX-DEL. GAINES’s TREASURER CHARGED: The AP is reporting that the campaign treasurer of former Del. Tawanna Gaines has been charged with misusing campaign funds, the same charge to which the legislator recently pleaded guilty. Federal prosecutors filed a wire fraud charge against Anitra Edmond on Monday, less than two weeks after Gaines pleaded guilty to a related charge that she used campaign funds for her personal benefit.

DEL. MOON CHASES CAR THIEF WITH BROOM: When Del. David Moon heard someone start the engine to his car at 2 a.m. Wednesday, he immediately suspected the thief or thieves who’ve been breaking into vehicles in his Takoma Park neighborhood to steal spare change, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports. “And lo and behold it was thieves… and I saw them taking off with my car.” On the video captured by his doorbell camera, Moon can be seen running after the vehicle with a broom.

FLU CONCERNS RISE: Maryland’s hospital emergency rooms have seen more than 3,000 sneezing, coughing, miserable people with flu-like symptoms so far this flu season. But not all of the 3,154 cases seen in Maryland were actually influenza, Heather Mongilio of the Frederick News-Post reports. According to the Maryland Department of Health’s weekly flu report, 111 cases responded positive to rapid flu tests. Only four of the 32 cases sent to state labs tested positive.

CAPITAL GAZETTE KILLER’s TRIAL ON MENTAL HEALTH POSTPONED: The trial for the Capital Gazette killer was postponed at his attorneys’ request Wednesday afternoon, the same day they were to begin selecting a jury tasked with deciding whether the man was criminally responsible and will serve his time in prison or a mental institution, reports Alex Mann for the Annapolis Capital. Defense attorneys representing the man convicted of murdering Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters argued they did not have enough time to review information disclosed Tuesday night by prosecutors about the psychiatric experts they hired to rebut the gunman’s claim that he is insane.

CHANGES PROPOSED TO MO CO RACIAL EQUITY BILL: Concerns over the county’s proposed racial equity bill have led to proposed changes from residents and advocacy groups at two public hearings on Tuesday, Kate Masters of Bethesda Beat reports. The sweeping bill would establish a countywide racial equity and social justice program, requiring the county to establish an executive Office of Racial Equity and a separate Racial Equity and Social Justice Advisory Committee with nine voting members.

B’MORE OPENS PUBLIC LOBBYISTS REGISTRY: Baltimore has set up a public online portal where lobbyists can register and file disclosure forms to the city Ethics Board twice a year, instead of annually, as a result of a recent law to tighten lobbying restrictions, officials announced Wednesday. Colin Campbell of the Sun reports that Mayor Jack Young and Councilman Zeke Cohen, Democrats who sponsored the Transparency in Lobbying Act, announced the portal’s debut. The legislation took effect 90 days after being signed by the mayor in December 2018, and the city technology office has been working on the portal since May.

KAMALA HARRIS CUTS B’MORE STAFF: Talia Richman of the Sun reports that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris will cut staff in her campaign’s Baltimore headquarters as part of an all-in Iowa push leading up to the first caucus in that state. In a memo Wednesday to staff, Harris’ campaign manager said the team would “reduce the size of our headquarters staff,” but did not provide specifics on how many people will be laid off.