State Roundup, November 25, 2019

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HOGAN PAROLLING YOUNG OFFENDERS: For the first time in 24 years, individuals sentenced to life in a correctional facility for crimes they committed before turning 18 are being paroled by a Maryland governor. Hannah Gaskell of the Capital News Service reports that the action by Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, hasn’t been exercised since the administration of William Donald Schaefer, Maryland’s governor from 1987 to 1995. It comes after courts have weighed in on juvenile sentencing and state lawmakers have attempted to remove the governor from the process in recent years.

STATE OKs VAPE PRODUCTS FOR SALE: Pamela Wood reports for the Sun that Maryland regulators are allowing medical cannabis dispensaries to resume selling vaping products, after testing products for vitamin E acetate, which may be linked to vaping-related lung injuries. “We’re pleased to announce that no vitamin E acetate was found in any of the medical cannabis vape products available at our licensed dispensaries,” Will Tilburg, acting director of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, said in a statement Friday.

BALLOON LAUNCH BAN BILL PROPOSED: Letting a balloon float away in Maryland would draw in a fine of $250, under a bill sponsored by Sen. Clarence Lam, D-Howard and Baltimore counties, legislation that is similar to a Queen Anne’s County law, Teresa Johnson of the Annapolis Capital reports. Lam said he hopes that this bill does two things: reduces the amount of waste that ends up in the environment, and raises awareness of the need to properly dispose of balloons.

MO CO ROAD PLANNERS PUSH FOR STATE DATA: Montgomery County’s top planners are so frustrated with the State Highway Administration — and what they claim is a persistent refusal to provide key data related to a controversial highway widening proposal — that they may file a Public Information Act request to get what they’re looking for, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports.

BACK & FORTH OVER KIRWAN: At a meeting on Friday, legislators and Brit Kirwan who support his commission’s education plan, had harsh words for Gov. Larry Hogan on funding. The governor’s office swiped back later that day, writes Danielle Gaines for Maryland Matters.

MAYOR ASKS AGENCIES TO CUT BUDGET FOR KIRWAN: Baltimore Mayor Jack Young is asking city agencies to plan to reduce their budgets 5% by 2022 in anticipation of an expensive state plan to improve local schools, according to a memo distributed to staff, Talia Richman of the Sun reports.

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OPINION: KIRWAN FUNDING: In a column for Red Maryland, Brian Griffiths opines that the Kirwan Commission adopted their final recommendations and will now send them to the General Assembly. The commission adopted the recommendations as presented, recommending spending that will be nearly $4 billion a year in new K-12 public education spending. None of this is a surprise: Democrats rigged the commission from the get-go to get the result they wanted, Griffiths says. The only three commission members who voted against the recommendations were, unsurprisingly, the three members who were not Democrats.

PUGH’s CORRUPTION: When the scandal involving then-Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s self-published children’s books broke last spring, she was adamant she had done nothing wrong, writes Luke Broadwater of the Sun. Any issues concerning her little-known side business selling the clumsily edited “Healthy Holly” series could be explained by sloppiness, not corruption, she argued. Thursday’s hearing in U.S. District Court in Baltimore made clear Pugh’s business failings were no honest mistakes.

FINANCIER BEHIND PUGH: J.P. Grant, founder of Grant Capital Management, has previously shown a willingness to go the extra mile to help out a big account, writes Adam Bednar for the Daily Record. The recently unsealed indictment of former Mayor Catherine Pugh, who pleaded guilty on Thursday to four counts involving conspiracy and tax evasion, portrays Grant’s willingness to help elected officials extended to participating in Pugh’s scheme to use her “Healthy Holly” books to fund her 2016 mayoral campaign.

OPINION: PUGH & CORRUPTION IN ANNAPOLIS: Last week’s indictment and the resulting admission of wrongdoing by former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has certainly renewed concerns about public corruption in the city. But that context is somewhat misleading. Ms. Pugh is not the second mayor to leave in disgrace so much as she’s the fourth member of the Senate Finance Committee to do so since 1998, writes the Sun editorial board.

OPINION: BALTIMORE A CITY ADRIFT: In a column for Maryland Matters, Frank DeFilippo opines that Baltimore is a city adrift. City Hall is in disarray with a primary election a few months away and challenges from within about who’ll take over to set the tone and the tactic for Baltimore’s attempted turn-around and restoration to its former grandeur. There’s lots of yammering about leadership, but the pickings are pretty slim.

THE PROSECUTORS: Baltimore’s police commissioner. The cops from a rogue squad. Even the mayor herself. All of them convicted or put away this year by assistant U.S. attorneys in Baltimore. To outsiders, these big cases may seem to end 2019 as a banner year for federal prosecutors in the District of Maryland. But this district famously brought down Vice President Spiro Agnew in 1973, and former federal prosecutors say public corruption cases are, quite simply, what the office does, Tim Prudente of the Sun reports.

OPINION: WOMEN IN THE BOARDROOM: The editorial board for the Sun opines that Maryland corporations and large non-profits beware: The Executive Alliance will soon be knocking on your door. The group, which dubs itself a catalyst for women leaders in Maryland, will soon begin a campaign to try to sway companies and large nonprofits to increase gender diversity on its board. Despite its position as one of the more prosperous and highly educated states in the country, Maryland has failed at making sure women are adequately represented in the rooms where important decisions are made.

GOP GROUPS GIVE BACK IN B’MORE: Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland writes that two Republican groups donated their time and talents in Baltimore on Saturday. The Maryland Young Republicans volunteered with Tears of a Mother’s Cry at their Thanksgiving event held at the Baltimore War Memorial. Tears of a Mother’s Cry is an organization that helps the families of murder victims in Baltimore. Additionally, the Maryland Republican Women Leaders teamed up with the Frederick Douglass Foundation to serve meals at the Ruth M Kirk Recreation Center in West Baltimore.

HOWARD PARENT FILES OPEN MEETING COMPLAINT: Taylor DeVille of the Howard County Times reports that the parent of a Howard County public school student filed a formal complaint Friday that the Howard County Board of Education violated the Maryland Open Meetings Act during its controversial vote on school redistricting Thursday night. After one of the 55 motions made during the board’s meeting failed, school board members moved to enter into a closed discussion, and returned to vote again on the failed motion in open session. One board member reversed her vote to support the motion, and it passed. The parent wrote in her complaint that school board members “had a large number of work sessions to deliberate on these matters.”

OPINION: CARROLL HAS MUCH TO BE THANKFUL FOR: In an op-ed for the Carroll County Times, Christopher Tomlinson opines that “Thanksgiving Day is near, and Republicans in Carroll County have many reasons to give thanks. … We are thankful for our Republican governor, Larry Hogan, who just announced last week that Maryland added 10,700 jobs in October, contributing to the largest three-month gain since 2010. … for an all-Republican Board of County Commissioners, who after practicing fiscal conservatism over many years, recently learned that the county government had received a AAA credit rating, the highest given, for the second year in a row. …”