State Roundup, December 16, 2019

HOGAN CANCELS BPW MEETING: On Sunday, Katherine Shaver of the Post reported that Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has canceled this week’s meeting of the Board of Public Works amid a growing public feud with state Comptroller Peter Franchot, whose vote he needs on the board for his plan to add toll lanes to the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270.

  • On Saturday, she reported that when Hogan’s plan to add toll lanes to the Capital Beltway and I-270 passed a key vote in June, it appeared on its way to becoming one of the largest public-private infrastructure projects ever in the United States. But six months later, its future suddenly appears less certain. Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), considered the swing vote on the state’s three-member Board of Public Works, so far has objected to the latest proposal.
  • Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports that the BPW was also scheduled to vote on $4 million in National Capital Strategic Economic Development Fund grants to help people struggling with housing insecurity, $4.7 million for a new academic building at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, $99.9 million in additional funds for the redevelopment of Cole Field House at the University of Maryland College Park, and an $80 million addition to a contract to expand the Maryland Port Administration’s Cox Creek Expanded Dredged Material Containment Facility.

OPINION: INVEST IN MODERN TRANSIT: In an op-ed for the Post, U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown opines that “our nation’s highway system has been neglected for far too long. That neglect is costing Americans their time, their money and, tragically, their lives. … But it’s not enough to simply rebuild our roads and fix our bridges; we need to reinvest in a modern, interconnected transportation network for future generations. That is why I am concerned about Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) proposal to expand 70 miles of interstate in Maryland by simply adding toll lanes.”

AUDIT: UMMS BOARD TURNED BLIND EYE TO PROBLEMS: An audit commissioned by new members of the University of Maryland Medical System’s board of directors has determined that top system officials never read former Mayor Catherine Pugh’s “Healthy Holly” books for children or checked to see if they were printed before paying her $500,000 in five installments, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

OPINION: KIRWAN STOPS SHORT OF REAL REFORM: In an op-ed for the Sun, Baltimore resident and Hagerstown business owner John T. Williams opines on the Kirwan education reform ideas, writing that, although the Kirwan Commission is to be applauded for many of its goals to improve the quality of education, it stops short of real reform.

PRE-K EXPANSION AMONG HOGAN’s ED PLAN: Gov. Larry Hogan announced his plans Friday for increased funding for public schools for the next two years, almost all of it money that state law requires him to spend on education, the Sun’s Pamela Wood reports. Hogan, a Republican, said in a statement that he plans to spend $130 million over the next two years to fund an expansion of prekindergarten and for “concentration of poverty” grants that would pay for health professionals and community coordinators in schools with high numbers of students from poor families.

  • The proposal, announced via press release, is the second time in a week that Hogan has unveiled education initiatives ahead of the 2020 General Assembly session, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record writes. The coming session is expected to be heavily focused on education issues, including multibillion-dollar plans to fund public education and school construction projects.

HBCU BACKERS EYE LEGISLATURE, NOT COURTS: Thirteen years after filing a lawsuit alleging the state of Maryland had willfully supported predominantly white institutions over historically black colleges, backers of the traditionally black schools sense an opportunity to resolve the case — but they see that opportunity in the state legislature, not the courts, Tim Curtis of the Daily Record reports.

MIXED PROGRESS FOR MD-PA-VA-DC BAY PACT: It was 36 years ago that the leaders of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia signed the first agreement to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. And that was 14 years after the Chesapeake Bay Foundation had launched its clean-up campaign. And the best that can be said after all those years is progress has been mixed, Karen Hosler reports for WYPR-FM..

OPINION: A GUIDE FOR MD LEGISLATORS: The editorial board for the Frederick News-Post opines that news organizations in Maryland have won a significant victory, upholding First Amendment freedoms in a case involving online political advertising. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, and even strengthened, a lower-court decision overturning a state law that would have placed significant burdens on news organizations selling and posting online political advertisements. … the threat from fake news and ads is so new, the medium of the internet is so malleable, and bad actors are so clever in exploiting our freedoms to subvert our democracy. But legislators will need to act carefully, to be effective guardians without trampling fundamental freedoms. We hope this decision will help guide them.

ALLEGANY SEEKS ED BOARD APPOINTMENT CONTROL: The Western Maryland legislative delegation plans to submit a bill that would give the Allegany County Board of Commissioners the authority to fill vacant board of education seats, reports Greg Larry for the Cumberland Times News. Currently, when a seat on the Allegany County Board of Education is vacated for any reason during a member’s term, a replacement is appointed by the governor.

TWO DELEGATES TAPPED TO FILL SEN. NATHAN-PULLIAM’s SEAT: Gov. Larry Hogan will have two choices — Del. Keith Haynes of Baltimore and Del. Charles Sydnor of Catonsville — for filling a seat in the state Senate left vacant by a resignation. Baltimore City’s Democratic Central Committee picked Haynes on Sunday afternoon to be its nominee to finish the term of Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, who resigned earlier this month because of health reasons. Hours later, Baltimore County’s Democratic Central Committee selected Sydnor as its pick to fill the seat, Pamela Wood of the Sun is reporting.

FERGUSON ADDRESSES ‘BALTIMORE ISSUE’ IN MO CO: It was simultaneously a homecoming and an introduction for presumed next state Senate President Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore City, as Ferguson addressed a large gathering of Montgomery County leaders Friday morning to discuss the upcoming General Assembly session, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters. Speaking to the annual legislative breakfast of the group Committee for Montgomery, Ferguson moved quickly to dispel any concerns about the gravitational forces pulling legislative leadership toward the Baltimore region, with Ferguson’s looming ascension and the recent rise of House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, D-Baltimore County.

FEDERAL LAW STRAPS RX POT BUSINESSES: Erika Riley of the Frederick News-Post reports that with more than 150 investors contributing a total of $27 million to his company, Phil Goldberg still couldn’t get a loan from a bank. It’s not because the banks didn’t want to provide a loan. It’s because they couldn’t. Goldberg is chief executive officer of Green Leaf Medical, a grower of medical marijuana that is distributed by dispensaries. The company has three locations, including a 45,000-square-foot site in Frederick.

OPINION: EARLY VOTING SUPPRESSES VOTES: In a column for Red Maryland, Mark Uncapher writes that Montgomery County’s political grievance machine has been generating much sound and fury over its Board of Elections decision not to locate a 12th Early Voting center in White Oak. But lost in the shrill claims about “voter suppression” remains a nagging question, might Early Voting be having the exact opposite result in its supposed impact of increasing turnout? An academic review of the evidence on turnout in early voting jurisdictions concludes that more voting days reduces, not increases turnout.

DIXON ANNOUNCES FOR MAYOR: Dozens of people packed into the Southwest Recreation Center in Baltimore Saturday as former Mayor Sheila Dixon formally launched her campaign to become mayor again. Like the rec center’s Arthur “Squeaky” Kirk, supporter after supporter could point to a time Dixon came through for them or their mother or their grandmother, Talia Richman of the Sun reports.

YEAR OF FIRSTS IN MO CO: For the Montgomery County Council, 2019 was a year of “firsts.” First openly gay council member. First time four of the nine members are people of color. The two youngest members ever, both millennials. And a flurry of lawmaker selfies: at inaugurations, on Ride-On buses to Rockville and on the dais, writes Rebecca Tan for the Post.

IN FREDERICK, RECYCLING HAS HIGH DEMAND, LITTLE RETURN: Given current costs of recycling, Frederick County officials will have to determine if the county needs to change the way it recycles, or if it needs to charge property owners more to help with those costs. Rebecca Culler, the county’s recycling program manager, said demand for the curbside recycling program is growing: About 150 households are added weekly. One of the issues, however, is that in the past year, commodity prices of several recyclables dropped considerably. And the overall cost of recycling this year has been more than $6 million, Culler said.

BUTTIGIEG FUNDRAISES IN BALTIMORE: Inside the North Baltimore home that hosted a private fundraiser for Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend mayor was answering earnest questions like: How would he help Baltimore if he became president of the United States? How would he get U. S. soldiers out of Afghanistan? Or bring down the national deficit? … Meanwhile outside, protesters were chanting “Wall Street Pete, go home!” And on Twitter … the event was being mocked mercilessly as reflective of a candidate out of touch with black voters, write Ed Gunts and Fern Shen for Baltimore Brew.

About The Author

Cynthia Prairie

Contributing Editor Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor since 1979, when she began working at The Raleigh Times. Since then, she has worked for The Baltimore News American, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Prince George’s Journal and Baltimore County newspapers in the Patuxent Publishing chain, including overseeing The Jeffersonian when it was a two-day a week business publication. Cynthia has won numerous state awards, including the Maryland State Bar Association’s Gavel Award. Besides compiling and editing the daily State Roundup, she runs her own online news outlet, The Chester Telegraph. If you have additional questions or comments contact Cynthia at: cynthiaprairie@gmail.com

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