State Roundup, November 14, 2019

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HBCU SUPPORTERS PROTEST HOGAN SETTLEMENT OFFER: Nearly 300 students, activists and lawmakers rallied at Maryland’s capital Wednesday in support of the state’s historically black universities and to express their displeasure to the state legislature over what they call a low offer to settle a 13-year-old lawsuit, Lilly Price of the Annapolis Capital reports. Gov. Larry Hogan offered $200 million for the schools in September to settle a legal battle between the state and the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education. The coalition is seeking $577 million after a District Court judge ruled in 2017 that the state must remedy the harm caused by duplicating HBCU-specific programs at other institutions.

OPINION: BUTTIGIEG ON HBCU SUPPORT: In an op-ed for the Sun, presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg addresses the HBCU controversy writing that “left without remedy, an injustice does not heal. It compounds. This is the fundamental principle behind a 2006 lawsuit filed by a coalition concerned for the state’s four historically black colleges and universities … It alleges that the state funded largely white institutions at the expense of the HBCUs.”

LEGAL POT LIKELY WON’T BE BROUGHT UP IN 2020 SESSION: A legislative workgroup studying the possibility of legalizing recreational marijuana in Maryland said they won’t recommend the General Assembly pass such a bill in the coming session. Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that lawmakers on the panel that has looked at the issue since the end of the 2019 session said too many questions remain to make the leap this year.

DELEGATE PUSHES DONATION RESTRICTIONS FOR HOWARD: A Maryland lawmaker says he will keep pushing legislation intended to ease development pressure on Howard County by restricting builders’ ability to dole out campaign contributions, reports Adam Bednar for the Daily Record. Del. Warren Miller, a Republican, said he plans to press a bill restricting developers’ ability to furnish campaign contributions to county elected officials while builders seek government approvals on matters such as zoning amendments.

HOGAN TAPS KEIFFER MITCHELL AS TOP LOBBYIST: Gov. Larry Hogan is turning to Baltimore’s Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. to lobby state lawmakers to advance his agenda. Mitchell, who had been a senior adviser to Hogan, will take on the role of chief legislative officer, advocating for the Republican governor’s bills in the Democratic-led General Assembly, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

  • Mitchell, a former politician and part of a storied family of Baltimore civil rights activists, has worked as a Hogan aide since the governor’s 2015 inauguration. He takes over the lobbyist job as the Democrats, who have supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature, weigh a once-in-a-generation overhaul of public schools. Mitchell will replace former Republican state senator Chris Shank, who is leaving the post after three years to take a job in the private sector, Erin Cox of the Post reports.
  • One of the most prominent Democrats working for the Republican governor, Mitchell spent four years in the House of Delegates and eight years on the Baltimore City Council, and ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2007. Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes that when Hogan walked the streets of Baltimore in the immediate aftermath of the riots that followed the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, Mitchell was by his side.

OFF-SHORE WIND TURBINES GROW BY 200 FEET: Developers of two wind farms off Maryland’s Atlantic coast say they will build turbines more than 200 feet taller than those initially proposed, intensifying fears of spoiled views from Ocean City and prompting state regulators to reopen discussion about the projects two years after blessing them. The Maryland Public Service Commission is seeking new input on the potential impact of the windmills, roughly 20 miles from shore but several hundred feet higher than Baltimore’s tallest buildings, Scott Dance of the Sun reports.

STATE SENDS 22,000 SPEED WARNINGS IN ERROR: The state spent more than $20,000 to mail about 22,000 letters to Hatem Bridge drivers in the past 30 days, warning them that they had been caught speeding on the bridge — and that their E-ZPass accounts could be suspended for two months if they received another violation in the next six months. Colin Campbell of the Sun reports that that isn’t true. The notice letters were mailed to drivers in error, and those who have received them can ignore them, said Kelly Melhem, a Maryland Transportation Authority spokeswoman.

FRANCHOT TAKES SAME MESSAGE TO TWO GROUPS: In what can only be seen as a dry run for the 2022 gubernatorial election, state Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) addressed vastly different constituencies this week largely using the same script — much to the chagrin of some Democrats, Glynis Kazanjian reports for Maryland Matters. On Wednesday, Franchot echoed a message he gave business leaders a day before in Howard County, telling Montgomery County Democrats the private sector is the only entity big enough to provide the jobs and wages the state needs — adding that government often gets in its way.

HOWARD’s HIGH SCHOOLS BACK ON REDISTRICTING TABLE: Howard County’s 12 high schools were back on the table at Wednesday’s Board of Education redistricting work session. Jess Nocera of the Howard County Times reports that despite moving on to discussing potential elementary and middle school redistricting moves during Tuesday’s work session, several motions were made Wednesday to potentially affect high schools.

UB TO TRAIN ELECTIONS JUDGES FOR FEB. 4 SPECIAL PRIMARY: Baltimore’s spending board approved a $633,000 plan Wednesday to train thousands of election judges ahead of February’s special primary for the late Rep. Elijah Cummings’ 7th Congressional District seat, Talia Richman of the Sun is reporting. The University of Baltimore Schaefer Center for Public Policy will teach roughly 3,000 people how to staff polling places during the 2020 elections, according to city documents. The contract begins Jan. 1, giving the university just a few weeks to assure judges are ready for the special primary Feb. 4.

CUMMINGS’ PAPERS TO GO TO HOWARD U.: The markers of his career remain in his Capitol Hill office four weeks after his death: dozens of framed photographs and awards on the wall, position papers and letters amassed during 24 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. Elijah Cummings’ widow says that the artifacts are soon to be bestowed to Howard University, his alma mater, Jeff Barker of the Sun reports. They include various documents he authored; photos of himself with anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, pathbreaking boxer Muhammad Ali and civil rights activist Coretta Scott King; office signs bearing his name; and a collection of U.S. postal stamps honoring African American leaders.

CARROLL TO START SCHOOL POST-LABOR DAY: It was a decision that brought feedback from thousands and was visibly difficult for Carroll County Board of Education members, but the board reached consensus on the 2020-21 Carroll County Public Schools calendar Wednesday at its monthly meeting, Catalina Righter of the Carroll County Times reports. The start of school for students will be Sept. 8, 2020, the day after Labor Day.