State Roundup, November 6, 2019

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STATE LEADS IN BLACK PRISON POPULATION: More of Maryland’s prison population is black than in any other state in the nation, a new report found. Jessica Anderson of the Sun reports that more than 70% of Maryland’s prison population was black in 2018, compared with 31% of the state population, according to the report. That rate far surpasses the next closest states: Mississippi, South Carolina and Georgia, researchers found.

OPINION: KUDOS TO HOGAN ON PARIS ACCORD STANCE: The editorial board for the Sun opines that Gov. Larry Hogan deserves some kudos this week for standing on the side of science and rejecting the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. President Trump signaled his intent for the United States to leave the accord two years ago, but Monday it became official as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the one-year countdown to formal withdrawal has begun.

PRIVACY FOR DISABLED VOTERS: Maryland lawmakers expressed dismay and optimism Tuesday about efforts to guarantee secret ballot access for disabled voters in the state, Danielle Gaines writes for Maryland Matters. While policies for the 2020 election – which are the subject of a lawsuit by blind voters – are already set, the state’s current elections equipment contract expires in 2021 and could allow for a big change.

OPINION: KIRWAN ASK IS MUCH MORE THAN $4B: In a column for the Maryland Public Policy Institute, Stephen J.K. Walters writes that supporters of the Kirwan Commission’s blueprint for education reform often say that the plan’s $4 billion cost is phased in over 10 years.  That’s partly true:  yes, there is a phase-in period.  If you’re a casual reader, though, you might take away the impression that the $4 billion number (though huge) is the total cost.  Which, spread out over a decade, ain’t so bad, right? But that impression is wildly inaccurate:  The initial Kirwan report asked for a total of $31.9 billion over the next 10 years.

OPINION: ‘SOCIOECONOMIC INTEGRATION’ NONSENSE: Del. Trent Kittleman, R-9A Howard County, the grandmother of six students in Howard County public schools, questions Superintendent Michael Martirano plan to move 7,400 students to relieve overcrowding but also to achieve “socioeconomic integration.” Kittleman says the moves will harm many children.

EX-DELEGATES TEAM TO FIGHT OPIOID ADDICTION: Two former Maryland state lawmakers are teaming up to fight the opioid epidemic. Former Republican Del. Mathew J Mossburg, whose own battle with drug addiction has come to define his post-legislative career, and former House majority leader John A. Hurson (D), a public health expert, are working with the Give America Hope foundation, its wealthy benefactor, Frederick County businessman Charlie Seymour, and several academics and scientists to devise a program that would minimize an addict’s chance of relapse, Josh Kurtz reports for Maryland Matters.

HANDGUN BOARD VIOLATED OPEN MEETINGS LAW: We missed a Sun story on an Open Meeting Law violation. Pamela Wood reported in late October: Maryland’s Handgun Permit Review Board violated the state’s open meetings law by going into a closed session this summer, the state’s Open Meetings Compliance Board found. Delaware resident (and longtime Open Meetings advocate) Craig O’Donnell challenged the handgun board’s closed meeting on July 22, alleging that multiple parts of the state law were not followed.

HBCU FUNDING HELD UP IN CONGRESS: Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Maryland may lose more than $4 million in federal funding if Congress does not reauthorize mandatory spending for those institutions beyond the current academic year, Dan Novak of the Capital News Service reports. Maryland’s HBCUs “face a funding cliff due to congressional inaction,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

FREDERICK OKs LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE: Frederick County Council members approved in a 7-0 vote all but one component of a legislative package proposed by County Executive Jan Gardner (D) and county officials to forward to the state delegation, Steve Bohnel of the Frederick News Post reports. That package included three proposed bills: one to add a local component to include Frederick County in a state renters’ tax credit, one increasing the Board of Education members’ salaries by $4,000 annually and one introduced by Councilman Steve McKay (R) to allow limited special elections to fill vacancies on the Board of Education.

MO CO ED BOARD OKs LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES: When the Maryland General Assembly convenes again in January, Montgomery County’s school board will focus on expanding access to early childhood education, ensuring school budgets are fully funded and eliminating the achievement gap, Caitlynn Peetz of Bethesda Beat reports. Board members listed those items as their top priorities the Montgomery County school board on Tuesday morning when they met with county delegates to discuss priorities for the next legislative session.

STATE NIXES ICC ALTERNATIVE: The Intercounty Connector Alternative — a proposal to avoid widening the Beltway through Montgomery County — has been eliminated from further study by the Maryland Department of Transportation. Kate Masters of Bethesda Beat reports that the news came as an unexpected blow to county officials and community members who gathered Monday evening for a presentation on the upcoming Consolidated Transportation Program, a detailed agenda for statewide transit projects.

MO CO SCHOOLS SEEK CONSIDERATION FOR MUSLIM HOLIDAY: School officials in Montgomery County are calling on the College Board to avoid scheduling Advanced Placement exams on the expected date of a Muslim holy day next school year, saying students should be able to observe the holiday without worrying about missing tests, Donna St. George of the Post reports.

B’MORE TO INSTALL NEW PARKING METERS: Start memorizing your license plate number — or at least snap a photo of it. You’re going to need those digits to pay for street parking in Baltimore. New parking meters are replacing the old, city officials said Tuesday, and will require drivers to enter in their vehicles’ tag numbers during transactions at metered spaces. The change will effectively free those who pay to park from having to return to their cars to leave receipts on their dashboards.

UM REVIEWS CLIMATE GOALS, MILESTONES: The University of Maryland’s administration and finance vice president reviewed the school’s Climate Action Plan with the University Senate at its meeting Tuesday, discussing the milestones the school has met and its goals moving forward, Angela Roberts of the Diamondback reports. Since former university President Dan Mote launched the school’s goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 over a decade ago, this university managed to almost halve its greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 to 2017. Now, it’s aiming for a full 50% emissions cut by 2020.

IN 2020, BA CO SCHOOLS TO START AFTER LABOR DAY: Baltimore County schools will start the 2020-21 school year the day after Labor Day and end June 18, the school board voted Tuesday night, Taylor DeVille of the Sun reports. The decision requires students to start school Sept. 8 and includes a five-day spring break from March 29 to April 2, 2021. If weather disrupts five scheduled school days, students could be in school as late as June 22, 2021.

JUDGE UNSEALS CAPITAL GAZETTE SHOOTER DOCUMENTS: A judge this week unsealed hundreds of pages of documents in the Capital Gazette shooting case, shedding light on the killer’s interactions with local attorneys, his jail companions and even the prosecutor handing his case, John Holland of the Sun reports. Circuit Court Judge Laura Ripken provided no reasons for her decision, just as there are no public orders explaining why the documents were sealed to begin with. Dozens of other filings, orders and motions remain sealed.

HARRIS HOLDS PUBLIC MEETING TONIGHT: U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-District 1, will hold a town hall meeting in Carroll County on Wednesday evening, John Kelvey writes in the Carroll County Times. The event will feature “an extensive question and answer session.”