State Roundup, November 26, 2019

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THE D.C. BELTWAY: TRAFFICKING IN TRAFFIC: In a cover story for Bethesda Magazine, Louis Peck looks at serious traffic problems in the suburban D.C. area, what are the causes and what, if anything, can be done about. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich disagrees with Gov. Larry Hogan, who says adding lanes will help.

LITIGATION COULD KILL BELTWAY PLAN: From the day in 2017 that Gov. Larry Hogan announced plans to widen the Capital Beltway (I-495), local political leaders, planners and area residents have struggled to figure out where the state will find the land necessary to make good on the governor’s pledge to add four additional lanes, Bruce DePuyt writes for Maryland Matters. While both sides have said they intend to continue their dialogue and hope to reach common ground on Hogan’s plan, observers see the very real potential that the two sides will end up battling in court.

PUGH STILL HAS $1M CAMPAIGN CHEST: It’s the million-dollar question nobody seems to want to answer: What will happen to the campaign committee funds of Catherine Pugh, who pleaded guilty last week to four counts of tax evasion, fraud and conspiracy? Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew reports that those funds, tucked away in a checking account at Harbor Bank of Maryland, were $968,790 as of Jan.16, 2019, the last public reporting date of the ex-mayor’s campaign committee.

CLIMATE CHANGE IMPERILS SUPERFUND SITES: Scott Dance of the Sun reports that a new federal study says that sea level rise, flash flooding and other climate change-related threats pose a risk of spreading contamination from four EPA-designated Superfund sites in the Baltimore region. They include former dump sites and industrial operations that are being or were cleaned up under the Environmental Protection Agency program formally known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. Created in 1980, the law allows EPA to clean up contaminated sites and, in some cases, force parties responsible for pollution to perform the cleanups or pay the government for its work.

OPINION: FED RULES HARM HUNGRY MARYLANDERS: In a column for the Sun, anti-hunger activist J.D. Robinson writes that over the last year, the Trump administration has proposed several harmful changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as the Food Supplement Program in Maryland. It serves as the first line of defense against hunger for approximately 610,000 Marylanders. Most recipients live in households with children, seniors and people with disabilities. Most SNAP recipients who can work are working; they are simply not earning enough to make ends meet.

UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT SUES STATE POLICE AGENCY: An undocumented immigrant from Maryland is suing a state police agency whose officers turned him over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after fining him for improper removal of a tree, Rebecca Tan of the Post is reporting.

2 SITES GET $3M IN STATE REVITALIZATION GRANTS: A $140 million proposal to revitalize Baltimore’s Penn Station has received a boost from state government in the form of tax credits. Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that the station, along with a building in Middle River where World War II bombers were once built, will each receive $3 million in Maryland Historic Revitalization Tax Credits. The combined total represents two-thirds of the credits awarded in an announcement Monday.

CATONSVILLE = MUSIC CITY, MD: Maryland named Catonsville Baltimore County’s first Arts & Entertainment District on Monday, granting the area tax incentives aimed at boosting arts related businesses, Adam Bednar of the Daily Record reports. Home to a collection of music stores and nearby performance venues, Catonsville has sought to brand itself as “Music City, Maryland.”  The Maryland Department of Commerce said the district covers the suburban town’s major retail area along Frederick Road to the Lurman Woodland Theater.

HOSPITALS UNDERGOING FACELIFTS: Hospitals across Maryland are getting major facelifts. Some of the state’s largest care facilities are plotting costly renovations for the purpose of updating aging infrastructure. Others are adding entirely new wings and towers. And a handful of the state’s full-service hospitals are preparing to downsize, and to focus more exclusively on emergency, outpatient and primary and specialty care services moving forward. Morgan Eichesehr of the Baltimore Business Journal outlines what is happening.

TIS THE SEASON: Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters compiles a list of upcoming political fundraisers, including U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (former Clinton Cabinet member and current U.S. Rep.Donna Shalala is a featured guest) to a slew of State House politicians, including House Speaker Adrienne Jones.

ROCKEYMOORE CUMMINGS RELIEVED AFTER MASTECOMIES: After undergoing a double mastectomy last week, congressional candidate Maya Rockeymoore Cummings said she isn’t feeling much pain. Instead, she said, she’s feeling relief, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.“I felt like I had two ticking time-bombs strapped to my chest,” Rockeymoore Cummings said in an interview Monday. “To be able to address something that I had such a huge concern about, it feels liberating, frankly. Making a move to address it has given me great relief.”

HO CO SCHOOL CLOSE FOR FEB. 4 PRIMARY: Howard County schools and system offices will close Feb. 4 to allow for voters to cast ballots in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District special primary election, Jess Nocera reports for the Howard County Times. Democratic U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, who represented the congressional district, died Oct. 17, creating a vacancy. Cummings had cancer at the time of his death.

OPINION: FOX IN THE HEN HOUSE: In a column for Bethesda Beat Adam Pagnucco opines on Montgomery County’s new racial justice law and how it will be tried under a tax incentive plan to relocate Fox News from D.C. to Bethesda. Last year, the company paid $10 million to settle claims of racial discrimination, gender bias and retaliation by its employees. The incentive to attract Fox Television LLC totals $500,000 from the county government and an additional $1 million from the state. For social justice advocates, there are few more dangerous enemies of social justice than Fox, Pagnucco writes.

BA CO CONSIDERS GUN SHOP RULES: Baltimore County Council will consider legislation that would require stronger security measures at gun shops to protect firearms from potential burglaries, Wilborn Nobles reports in the Sun. Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr.’s SAFE Act, for Secure All Firearms Effectively, would create a new license for firearm stores and temporary gun shows in the county. Gun shops and shows would have to meet standards set by the Baltimore County Police Department to receive the license. The bill will be introduced at the Dec. 16 council meeting.

MELANIA TRUMP ADDRESSING OPIOID CRISIS: First lady Melania Trump is scheduled to address a Baltimore forum of middle and high school students Tuesday about the dangers of opioids, Jeff Barker of the Sun writes. The White House said the first lady is to appear at the B’More Youth Summit on Opioid Awareness.

OPINION: THE FUTURE OF NEWS: Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan writes about the dire state of the local newspaper industry, writing that, “Given the tumult in the realm of government and politics, the dire state of the local newspaper industry may seem minor. But it’s of crucial importance to the future of the nation. Local watchdog journalism matters: Just check the front page of the Baltimore Sun, which on Thursday carried a huge headline about the former mayor’s indictment; the Sun — even in its diminished state — broke the story in March that set those wheels in motion.” Tribune, the Sun’s parent company, recently was taken over by a hedge fund known for cutting newspaper staff.