State Roundup December 6, 2019

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Gov. Larry Hogan announces school funding and accountability proposals Thursday. Governor's Office photo

HOGAN UNVEILS EDUCATION PLAN: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan unveiled two proposals Thursday that he says will improve public schools in the state by constructing new school buildings and providing opportunities for creativity in turning around low-rated schools, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun.

STATE SAYS HOWARD TUNNEL FULLY FUNDED: After months of negotiations, the state of Maryland and CSX Transportation have come up with the more than $100 million in additional funding needed to move forward with the expansion of the Howard Street Tunnel, reports Colin Campbell with the Sun. The expansion is a long-sought project expected to remove a freight bottleneck and significantly boost the Port of Baltimore’s booming shipping container traffic.

  • Multiple sources said Thursday that White had made commitments to Gov. Larry Hogan to expand and improve the Howard Street tunnel, reports Bryan Sears in The Daily Record. Those same sources said Rahn’s announcement and letter to U.S. Transportation Sec. Elaine Chao about the tunnel may have played a part in the timing of White’s decision to retire.

PUGH INVESTIGATION CALLS, ETHICS BILL CONTINUE AFTER PLEA: There are calls for a new investigation connected to former Mayor Catherine Pugh’s dealings with a company that has contracts with the city, reports Vanessa Herring for WBAL TV. City Council President Brandon Scott said one company’s CEO was closely tied to Pugh, and he wants to find out whether there were any questionable deals made involving city contracts and Grant Capital Management.

  • The Baltimore City Council approved new financial disclosure rules Thursday, sending the legislation to Mayor Jack Young’s desk for a signature, Talia Richman reports for the Sun. The bill, according to its sponsor Councilman Ryan Dorsey, “closes the loophole” in city law that allowed former Mayor Catherine Pugh to sell her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s books revealing that her customers included companies with business before the city.

COMMENTARY: CATHERINE IS MY FRIEND: Black Classic Press founder Paul Coates writes for AFRO that Catherine Pugh is his friend, and he says it has been sad to watch as she punishes herself. The optics of Pugh, a Black women held up as the culprit while others, all white males, who by their own admissions made millions off their “deals,” is not missed, he writes.

CORRECTIONS REFORM: Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s indictments of 25 members of the Baltimore Central Regional Tactical Unit have been met, by state leaders and advocates, with approval of the uprooting of the alleged corruption, outrage over its existence in the first place — and questions over how to prevent misconduct in the state’s sprawling corrections system, rather than prosecute it after the fact, report Kevin Rector and Jessica Anderson for the Sun.

O’MALLEY HAS A LAUGH AT TRUMP’S EXPENSE: Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley poked fun at a viral video involving a number of leaders laughing about President Donald Trump, posting a photo with himself and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Twitter on Thursday morning with the caption “We laugh at him a lot too.”

CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS WANT TRANSPORTATION DETAILS: Members of Maryland’s congressional delegation pressed top Hogan administration officials on Thursday to share more information about plans to widen the American Legion Bridge, Interstate 270 and the Capital Beltway, reports Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters.

SERIES ON CANNABIS: While the pharmaceutical industry spends billions on national advertising, Maryland’s medical cannabis industry tends to market more intimately, relying on intriguing product names, text message and social media advertising — and good old-fashioned deals, reports Tim Curtis in The Daily Record’s series “Medical Cannabis: A report card.”

HEMP CAUSES HURDLES FOR MARIJUANA PROSECUTIONS: With the change in law that exempts hemp from the legal definition of marijuana, the Maryland Office of the Attorney General has advised prosecutors to use more sophisticated lab tests, reports Heather Cobun for The Daily Record. But some defense lawyers say such hurdles should deter prosecutors from even bringing marijuana cases — not serve as a reason for jurisdictions to buy expensive testing equipment or to pay close to $200 to send a sample out of state for testing.

PIRG SCORES GENERAL ASSEMBLY: Two-thirds of the Maryland General Assembly – all Democrats – received a perfect score on a new report card from the Maryland Public Interest Research Group, reports Danielle Gaines for Maryland Matters. The liberal advocacy group’s report card reflects votes during the 2019 Maryland General Assembly session on bills addressing public health, the environment, voting and transportation.

YOUNG WON’T ENFORCE GAG ORDER BILL: Baltimore’s City Council passed the so-called “gag order” bill in October, but now Mayor Jack Young is refusing to enforce it, reports Fern Shen in Baltimore Brew. The bill ends the policy of requiring police misconduct victims to sign non-disparagement agreements.

ROCKEYMOORE CUMMINGS AN OUTSIDER AGAIN: In running to succeed her late husband in Congress, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings again finds herself an outsider, famous name and frequent national television appearances not withstanding, reports Ovetta Wiggins for the Post. Rockeymoore Cummings was an unexpected choice for state party chair — a policy consultant and wife of a high-profile congressman, but she wooed rank-and-file party members who liked her deliberate outreach and liberal bona fides.

MOCO CONSIDERS CAMERAS FOR DRIVERS ON CELL PHONES: A bill aims to reduce distracted driving by allowing roadside cameras in Montgomery County to issue tickets for violations, reports Kate Masters for Bethesda Beat. The new technology, recently unrolled in Australia, would use artificial intelligence to scan photos of drivers for illegal cellphone use. If drivers are caught on their phones, a police technician would review the photos to determine whether the driver violated state law.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS AT GOVERNOR MANSION: Gov. Larry Hogan and first lady Yumi Hogan are ringing in the holidays Saturday with an annual holiday open house at the governor’s mansion, and the weather is expected to cooperate this year, reports Lilly Price for the Capital Gazette. The public is invited to tour the historic house, peruse the ornate holiday decorations and snap a photo with the governor and first lady.

BALTIMORE COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD OPEN MEETINGS COMPLAINT: A Baltimore County parent intends to file a complaint with Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board, alleging that the Board of Education of Baltimore County violated Maryland’s Open Meetings Act when it went into a closed session Tuesday, reports Cody Boteler for Baltimore Sun Media.

HOWARD REDISTRICTING EXEMPTIONS BEGIN: When the Howard County Board of Education voted last month to move about 5,400 students to new schools, they voted to exempt some student groups. Now, exempted students and their families need to decide on an option by Dec. 13, according to the school system, reports Joss Nocera for The Columbia Flier.

CASINO REVENUE BUMP: Maryland’s casino industry saw a slight bump in revenue in November, after a nearly 9% drop in October, reports Jessica Iannetta for the Baltimore Business Journal.

UMD AND UNDER ARMOUR RELATIONSHIP EXAMINED: University of Maryland and Under Armour are on year six of a 10-year sponsorship deal, valued at $33 million, writes José Umaña in an article for the Prince George’s Sentinel about whether the resignation of CEO Kevin Plank will change that.

MARYLAND HAS HOSPITAL PRICE POLICIES: While the Trump administration pushes for a rule to require hospitals to disclose the prices of their procedures, Maryland and some other states already have some initiatives to let patients compare prices across hospitals, reports Tim Curtis for The Daily Record.