SECRETARY RAHN RESIGNS: Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn, who proposed a historic highway expansion effort in the Washington suburbs while drawing criticism for a lack of investment in Baltimore’s mass transit systems, said Monday he’s resigning, Pamela Wood and Colin Campbell of the Sun report.
- Rahn said Monday he would resign Jan. 9 to return to New Mexico to be with his wife, Sue, and their two grown children and five grandchildren. She did not move to Maryland when he took the job at the start of the administration of Gov. Larry Hogan in January 2015. “My wife told me, ‘Come home or don’t bother coming home,’ ” Rahn said. Robert McCartney, Erin Cox and Katherine Shaver are reporting the story for the Post.
- Gregory Slater, currently the head of the State Highway Administration, will take over as transportation secretary. Lawmakers and local officials regard the even-keeled Slater to be professional, competent and easy to work with, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports.
- Since taking the position, Rahn has carried out Hogan’s agenda. He focused on expanding the Baltimore Beltway and maintenance and repair projects on bridges and overpasses across the state. Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that Rahn stood alongside Hogan when the governor announced the cancellation of the Red Line in Baltimore and led the controversial revamping of the bus lines in Baltimore meant as a replacement for the long-promised multi-billion east-west light-rail mass transit project.
- Political leaders and transportation advocates of virtually every stripe welcomed the news that State Highway Administrator Gregory Slater has been nominated to serve as head of the Department of Transportation, Bruce DePuyt reports in Maryland Matters.
AUDIT FINDS PROBLEMS IN COLLEGE SAVINGS PLAN: Carley Milligan of the Baltimore Business Journal reports that an audit of Maryland 529, the state agency that oversees college savings plans, uncovered a series of problems including high management turnover, the discovery of an unknown bank account and unopened mail dating back a decade. The report, released Monday by the Office of Legislative Audits for the Maryland General Assembly, covers 2014 to 2018 and looked at fiscal practices in the agency.
- Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters writes that a number of U.S. Postal Service mail bins also discovered in 2015 contained unopened and undelivered mail, including financial transactions. While most of the documents found in the mailroom were outdated marketing materials and annual reports, the documents that related to individual accounts were retained and action was taken at the time, the agency’s written response stated.
BAY REPORT: TOO MUCH FRESH WATER: In 2019, after historic rains the previous year, fresh water poured into the Chesapeake Bay at an unprecedented rate, reports Julia Rentsch for the Salisbury Daily Times. On average, more fresh water than could be contained in an Olympic size swimming pool gushed into the bay every second of the year and the bay will feel it for years to come, according to a new Chesapeake Bay Program report.
COURT: NEW OVERSIGHT LAW GOES TOO FAR: A Maryland law aimed at extending the state’s campaign finance oversight into online political ads goes too far, a federal appeals court ruled. The Online Electioneering Transparency and Accountability Act, passed in 2018, would require newspapers and other media platforms to publish information on their websites about the political ads they display, Jeff Barker of the Sun reports.
- Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports that the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down as violating the freedoms of speech and press a 2018 law that would have required news outlets accepting political advertisements on their websites to include the purchaser’s identity and the amount paid for the ad. It also invalidated a provision that would have required the outlets to keep the information for at least a year so it could be reviewed by the Maryland State Board of Elections upon request.
RX POT EDIBLES RULES EXPECTED NEXT WEEK: The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission could pass final rules for the sale of edibles in the state next week, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters reports. The commission’s policy committee unanimously approved regulations for edibles in Annapolis on Monday. The sale of cannabis edibles in Maryland would be tightly regulated, drawing from pieces of law in some of the other 30 states that allow the sale of edible products.
OPINION: FALSE NARRATIVE ON SNAP BENEFITS: With 80,000 Marylanders potentially losing SNAP food benefits with proposed eligibility changes from the Trump administration, the editorial board of the Sun looks at the myths and the truths of the folks who rely on that benefit. Taking food out of people’s mouths isn’t just cruel and immoral, it’s also highly impractical and ultimately costly to taxpayers. Handing out luxuries like tax cuts to the rich would be one thing, handing out something as vital as food in a way that allows people to keep their dignity should be the absolute last government program ever cut.
HOGAN TAPS EX-PROSECUTOR FOR BENCH: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Monday tapped a former federal prosecutor – who was part of a national opioid manufacturer’s defense team in a legal proceeding with the state of Maryland – to fill a vacancy on the state’s highest court, Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters reports. Hogan announced he was nominating Jonathan Biran, a shareholder in the Baltimore office of the national law firm Baker Donelson, for the vacancy on the Maryland Court of Appeals created when Judge Clayton Greene Jr. retired earlier this year.
OPINION: HOGAN’s SMOKE & MIRRORS: In a column for his Political Maryland blog, Barry Rascovar opines that sometimes government announcements create a false impression — masking a negative with the illusion of something positive. Take Gov. Larry Hogan’s headline-grabbing news that the state was going to immediately seek bidders to redevelop the aging State Center office complex. The notion of seeking bidders to tear down or renovate the outdated state complex is more smoke-and-mirrors than ground-breaking.
MO CO SCHOOLS DISPARITIES: Caitlynn Peetz of Bethesda Beat reports that a Montgomery County study finds that the county school system exacerbates student achievement disparities by concentrating its low-income students in a handful of schools. The report, produced by the county’s Office of Legislative Oversight, says 75% of all black, Latino and English language learners in elementary school, and more than 80% of elementary school students in poverty, are enrolled in the district’s “focus,” or high poverty schools. Meanwhile, more than 66% of all white and Asian elementary students are enrolled in low-poverty schools.