State Roundup, November 18, 2019

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PRE- OR POST-LABOR DAY SCHOOL START? Central Maryland school districts are split on whether to use their newfound flexibility to begin the academic year before or after Labor Day, with some counties still deciding when they want to welcome students back to class next year, Talia Richman of the Sun reports.

POT PANEL RESTRICTS SOME VAPE PRODUCTS: Vape products regulated by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission can no longer be sold if the product contains vitamin E acetate, a substance recently linked to lung damage. Wilborn Nobles III of the Sun reports that a bulletin released by the commission Friday stated medical cannabis vape cartridges, including disposable vape pens, will require screening for vitamin E acetate before the product can be released to a licensed dispensary for sale to patients.

BRIDGE WIDENING IMPACT: In a perspective column for the Post, Robert McCartney writes that the deal between Maryland and Virginia to build a new, wider American Legion Bridge represents a victory for both regional cooperation and the battle against gridlock, but let’s pause and think before popping the champagne. Although a fix is surely needed at the region’s worst traffic bottleneck, the plan unveiled last week raises two important concerns.

OPINION: WHERE’s BALTIMORE’s? The editorial board for the Sun opines that while the capital region gets to benefit from a huge financial transit deal between Maryland and Virginia, Baltimore gets bupkis. “The Baltimore region isn’t getting anything like this record level of investment in transportation. … Baltimore area business leaders are begging for transit table scraps, bemoaning a 10% drop in MTA capital funding and pleading for the resources to get their workers to jobs,” it opines.

STATE PUSHING HEALTH CARE SIGNUPS: Maryland health officials are urging residents who lack health insurance to take advantage of the open enrollment period now under way — and to purchase coverage for 2020, reports Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters. The enrollment window began on Nov. 1 and closes in a month, on Dec. 15. While the Trump administration has fought to overturn the Obama-era Affordable Care Act in court and slashed funding for outreach efforts almost entirely, the state of Maryland, by contrast, is boosting its spending on communications.

ATTORNEY TO FILL EX-DEL. GAINES’ SEAT: A Prince George’s County attorney who ran unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates in 2018 has been named to fill a seat vacated by a lawmaker who pleaded guilty to stealing campaign funds, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record. Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday that he has appointed Nicole Williams to fill the seat vacated by former Del. Tawanna Gaines, a Democrat.

OPINION: BEFORE KIRWAN, AUDITS: At the halfway point in a column for the Carroll County Times, Bill Kennedy writes about the Kirwan education plan and next steps for local jurisdictions, writing that “before any of the changes called for are made, there should be an audit of each school district to see if their current state and local allocation of funds is being used to their best advantage. Locally, I am relatively sure that Carroll, as well as most of the other systems in the state, would come through such an audit quickly and with flying colors.”

STATE GOP CONVENTION: During this almost two-hour Red Maryland podcast at the state GOP convention in Annapolis this weekend, Brian Griffiths and Greg Kline speak with Sen. Johnny Ray Salling and Dels. Brian Chisholm and Sid Saab about Kirwan. And they interview other state Republican politicians.

DRONE DILEMMA: Howard County’s police department is the latest police agency in Maryland to embrace the potential of drones as the small, buzzing aircraft — often equipped with cameras and sensors — become more affordable and easier to use. But, reports Alison Knezevich in the Sun, the rapid growth of the unmanned technology in law enforcement has also prompted concerns from advocates of privacy and civil liberties, who worry that police will shift to more intrusive uses as they expand their drone programs.

OPINION: PREAKNESS & PERIL: In an opinion piece for Maryland Matters, David Plymyer warns that amid all the rejoicing by “politicians and editorial boards over the prospect of the second jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown staying in the city” … was “nary a mention that horse racing faces not one but two existential threats. Ignoring the threats will be at the taxpayers’ peril.”

STATE AUDIT FINDS PAYMENT INCONSISTENCY AT UM: A former employee of the online college now known as the University of Maryland Global Campus received nearly $300,000 in termination payments that were not consistent with the institution’s policies, according to a report from the Office of Legislative Audits, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports.

MOSBY CITES FLAWED STATE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM: Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby on Saturday cited a flawed American criminal justice system as the single largest civil rights issue facing black residents in Maryland today, saying her office has taken strides toward reducing disparities but still has more to do, Kevin Rector of the Sun reports. “Black people are six times more likely to be arrested and become a part of the criminal justice system [than] whites,” Mosby said at the fall symposium of the University of Baltimore Law Review, which was headlined, “400 Years: Slavery and the Criminal Justice System.”

ROCKEYMOORE CUMMINGS HAS DOUBLE MASTECTOMY: Maya Rockeymoore Cummings is recovering after a successful double mastectomy at Johns Hopkins Hospital on Friday and will be back on the campaign trail soon, her campaign said. The widow of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, who is running for her husband’s 7th Congressional District seat following his death last month, shared during her campaign announcement this week that she would be undergoing the preventive procedure given family history of breast cancer, Kevin Rector reports for the Sun.

COLUMBIA DELEGATE TO SEEK CUMMINGS SEAT: Del. Terri L. Hill, a physician from Columbia, is entering an increasingly crowded race for the congressional seat previously held by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, writes Luke Broadwater for the Sun. Hill, 60, who represents areas of Baltimore and Howard counties in the House of Delegates, is the first elected official from Howard to join the race. She said she will file Tuesday to run.

HISTORY OF COURTHOUSE EAST: Baltimore Mayor Jack Young has proposed naming a building with plenty of stories to tell after the late Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, writes Jacques Kelly for the Sun. The limestone structure at 111 N. Calvert St., known today as Courthouse East, opened to public use in May 1932 after two years of construction. Baltimore Sun news accounts said that the combined main post office and federal courthouse had its own rifle and pistol range for the benefit of armed federal employees. The old firing range had been near the furnace of the previous courthouse. Federal agents had test fired their arms into an old coal bin.

PELOSI ON TRUMP AT TRONE FUND-RAISER: Although she insisted that no decision has been made about whether to impeach President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) lit into the president at a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. David Trone in Gaithersburg on Sunday evening, saying he has “dishonored the oath of office [and] demeaned who we are as a people.” Bruce DePuyt reports in Maryland Matters.

..BEHIND MO CO EARLY VOTING SITE: Rebecca Tan of the Post writes about Daniel Koroma, a Montgomery resident who believes that voting is “sacred.” In anticipation of the 2020 election, Koroma, 44, is pushing for a new early voting site in White Oak, a densely populated area that according to the U.S. Census, is more than 50% black and 22% Latino. His efforts have drawn him into a months-long spat pitting Democratic lawmakers and activists in deep-blue Montgomery against Republican election officials, and giving rise to bitter accusations of voter suppression and political attacks.

OPINION: DIVERSIFY HOWARD: In an op-ed for the Sun, former U.S. education secretaries Arne Duncan and John B. King Jr. opine that if today’s leaders in Howard County fail to act to address growing segregation by class and race, students who currently attend schools and those who come after will miss the opportunity to thrive and succeed in a diverse and inclusive learning community — the very kind of experience that will prepare all students to lead us toward a better future.