State Roundup, December 17, 2019

LAWMAKERS, TOWN SEEK BRAKE ON HOGAN ROAD PLAN: Several state lawmakers vowed on Monday to pursue legislation that would constrain, and possibly thwart, Hogan administration plans to widen two Washington, D.C.-area highways, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports. They offered their vows at a standing-room-only rally in Silver Spring, a community where opposition to the state’s plans runs hot.

  • The leaders of a Montgomery County community that could be profoundly impacted by the Hogan administration’s plans to widen the Capital Beltway urged Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) on Monday to oppose the state’s plans to build “express toll lanes” on the well-traveled interstate, Bruce DePuyt reports for Maryland Matters. Franchot, a member of the three-person Board of Public Works, is widely considered a swing vote on Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to widen the Beltway, I-270 and the American Legion Bridge two lanes in each direction.

FED BILLS WOULD EASE EX-CON TRANSITION: Maryland lawmakers in Washington are promoting a flurry of bills they say are critical to ease the return to society of hundreds of thousands of prisoners a year and prevent them from slipping back into crime, Jeff Barker of the Sun reports. They say legislation Congress passed last year, the First Step Act, to help undo years of mass incarceration is just that: a beginning. It gives judges greater latitude to depart from mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug violations and bolsters rehabilitation programs.

GROUP SEEKS STATE VOTER ROLLS: A nonprofit group that works to expose flaws in voter registration systems is suing the Maryland State Board of Elections in federal court to obtain access to a list of the state’s voters. Pamela Wood of the Sun reports that the Indiana-based Public Interest Legal Foundation wrote in a court filing Monday that it was denied access to the records because the group’s requester is not a state resident.

STATE SUES SHUTTERED PAPER MILL: A now-closed paper mill in Western Maryland is accused of polluting the North Branch of the Potomac River by improperly dumping “pulping liquor,” which sparked complaints over the summer, Heather Cobun of the Daily Record reports. Luke Paper Mill, in Allegany County, closed in June. The Maryland Department of the Environment filed suit Monday against Verso Luke LLC, which owned the mill, and its parent company, Verso Corp., for alleged violations of state laws.

  • Following reports of the leaks, an inspection of the site indicated the black liquid seeping into the river from the southern riverbank. Samples were taken and the Maryland Department of the Environment directed Verso to determine the source and take steps to mitigate the discharge and follow up with a report, Greg Larry of the Cumberland Times News reports.

CARROLL TEACHER ELECTED TO MD SCHOOL BOARD: The Maryland State Board of Education’s first official teacher member is an elementary music instructor from Carroll County who considered herself a longshot for the job, Danielle Gaines reports for Maryland Matters. Rachel McCusker was elected to the newly created board seat set aside specifically for a public school classroom teacher in an election that drew more than 8,200 votes from educators around the state.

TILBURG NAMED POT PANEL EXEC DIRECTOR: The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has appointed William Tilburg as its executive director after serving as its acting director for several months, Phil Davis of the Sun reports. In a news release, the commission wrote that Tilburg had been serving as the acting executive director since 2019 and previously served as its director of government affairs and policy.

  • Commission chair Brian Lopez said in a statement that Tilburg “brings a wealth of experience to our Commission as it relates to state regulatory issues and an in-depth knowledge of the Commission and the industry.” Ethan McLeod of the Baltimore Business Journal writes that Lopez also pointed to Tilburg’s existing relationships with state legislators as a plus, as well as his reputation “as one of the most knowledgeable experts among regulators nationally.”

OPINION: SO LONG PETE RAHN: In a column for his Political Maryland blog, Barry Rascovar writes that “Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn’s return to New Mexico can’t come soon enough. He’s stuck in a mid-20th century road-building mode at a time when Maryland sorely needs a visionary, 21st century transportation leader. He leaves behind a budding disaster at the Maryland Department of Transportation.”

7 HOWARD SCHOOLS IN SAT TOP 10: If you have been following the redistricting news in Howard County, it probably comes as no surprise that River Hill High School once again had the highest SAT scores in Greater Baltimore, Maria Sieron of the Baltimore Business Journal reports. In fact, seven of the top 10 schools in the region with the highest SAT scores in the 2018-19 school year are in Howard County.

OPINION: NO CREATIVITY IN HOWARD SCHOOL DISTRICTING: In an op-ed for the Howard County Times, Howell Henry opines on school redistricting in Howard County and the lack of creative thinking. He writes, that one person “wanted to ‘assure’ us that ‘your children will get the same quality education wherever they end up.’ If that is so, then why must some folks’ children be pulled out of one school and moved to another, indicating a school board judgment that the school is inadequate for them? His argument defies logic.”

QA TOWN CONSIDERS ICE DETENTION CENTER: Lillian Reed of the Sun reports that the tiny Eastern Shore town of Sudlersville in Queen Anne’s County mired in recession-era debt has for months been exploring the prospect of welcoming a private immigration detention center. Town officials considered zoning changes to allow for a detention center within town limits. But officials from the town and Immigration Centers of America — the private, Virginia-based operator of such centers — now say those discussions are on hold amid federal funding questions.

SPLC UNIONIZES UNDER NEWS GUILD: Kim Chandler of the AP is reporting that employees of Southern Poverty Law Center civil rights organization have voted to unionize, the SPLC announced Monday. The employees voted to join the Washington-Baltimore News Guild. The vote was 142-45, according to the SPLC union Twitter account.

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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