State Roundup, December 18, 2019

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MARYLANDERS RALLY FOR TRUMP IMPEACHMENT: Across the Baltimore metro region, hundreds of citizens took to the streets Tuesday to support the impeachment of President Donald Trump on the eve of the House of Representatives’ vote on the articles of impeachment, Phil Davis of the Sun reports.

300 RALLY AGAINST ROADS PLAN: Many residents with homes along I-495 are concerned that adding toll lanes to the highway, as the state has proposed, will disrupt neighborhoods and ruin what resident Michelle Stone described as a “suburban feel” in many Montgomery County communities. The Stones were among roughly 300 people rallying Monday night against Gov. Larry Hogan’s highway widening plan, which would add toll lanes along I-270 and the Capital Beltway, Kate Masters reports in Bethesda Beat.

ROAD CORRIDOR HOMEOWNERS TOLD OF SURVEY WORK: More than 3,700 Maryland homeowners in the Interstate 495 and I-270 corridors have received official letters from the State Highway Administration in recent weeks, informing them that surveyors may need access to their property, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports. The communications, which began in October, are a preliminary part of the Hogan administration’s plans to expand the two highways. About 80% have been sent to homes near the Beltway, and about 20% have been sent to homes near I-270.

FRANCHOT ON HIS OPPOSITION TO PLAN: In this 16-minute interview, Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) joined Ryan Miner of A Miner Detail Podcast on Monday to discuss his objections and concerns about Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) public-private partnership transportation plan. Franchot says he initially supported the plan, in its first iterations.

OPINION: FRANCHOT’s QUESTIONS NEED ANSWERS: The massive public roads project has faced as little public scrutiny — and as many objections from local elected officials and residents — as this one, opines the editorial board for the Sun. Yet it was moving forward toward the bidding stage at disconcerting speed, at least it was until Comptroller Peter Franchot intervened and declined to endorse the plan now pending before the Board of Public Works. Franchot is firmly in the right. Why the rush to do this wrong?

LAWMAKERS ATTACK 2021 DEFICIT: Despite an expected surplus this budget year, Maryland lawmakers will work during the 2020 legislative session to close an anticipated budget deficit for 2021 — and that’s before figuring in additional spending for proposed education reforms, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters reports. The Spending Affordability Committee, a bipartisan panel of legislative leaders, voted unanimously Tuesday on several recommendations to address and eliminate the predicted deficit for the 2021 fiscal year.

HOGAN OUTLINES PRIORITIES: Gov. Larry Hogan continued his rollout of 2020 priorities Tuesday, offering more details of a previously announced clean energy plan, including a push to add nuclear energy to the ways the state can achieve goals for getting electricity from renewable sources, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

SUPREMES ASK STATE TO RESPOND TO CARROLL WATER CASE: The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet indicated whether it will take up a case brought by Carroll County’s government, but it has made a request that the State of Maryland respond to the county’s request, Mary Grace Keller of the Carroll County Times reports. Carroll County and the Maryland Department of the Environment disagree on how much land county government should be responsible for in respect to statewide efforts to limit the pollutants that rainwater washes into the Chesapeake Bay. County commissioners in October chose to take its case to the nation’s highest court.

BILL WOULD BAN PRIVATE ICE JAILS: A Maryland lawmaker is working on a bill that would ban privately run immigrant detention facilities and phase out the state’s role in immigration detention by October 2021 — a measure intended to counter federal plans to open such a facility near Baltimore, Lillian Reed of the Sun reports. Del. Vaughn Stewart confirmed Tuesday that he hopes to introduce the bill when the General Assembly’s legislative session begins in January.

PANEL QUESTIONS USE OF POLYGRAPH IN HIRING: A legislative committee that oversees state personnel policy is questioning the efficacy of polygraph exams in state hiring, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record. Sen. Clarence Lam, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Fair Practices and State Personnel Oversight, said there is mounting evidence to suggest such tests may not be effective. Additionally, the tests could be open to bias that could prevent some from obtaining jobs.

ACA ENROLLMENT UP 1%: A total of 158,600 Marylanders enrolled in private health coverage for 2020 through the state’s Affordable Care Act marketplace, rising 1% over last year, Morgan Eichensehr reports for the Baltimore Business Journal. The 2020 total is the largest enrollment the state-based exchange, Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, has seen in four years. It is up from 156,963 last year, and from 162,652 in 2016.

MAPPING FOREST LOSS IN MARYLAND: Researchers are building a map of nearly every tree across Maryland to learn whether state forests need better protection — but leaders of some counties aren’t waiting for the results to act. Scott Dance of the Sun reports that lawmakers in Anne Arundel and Howard counties have in recent weeks adopted significant changes to forest conservation rules, requiring developers to replant more of the trees they cut down. Advocates already are pushing for similar actions in other parts of Maryland, after two years of debate produced no resolution over similar policies at the state level.

FEDERAL BILL INCLUDES 16% SPENDING HIKE FOR BAY EFFORTS: A $1.4 trillion spending plan federal lawmakers advanced Tuesday includes a 16% budget increase for Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts, according to Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, who helped negotiate the appropriations bill, Scott Dance of the Sun reports. House and Senate leaders agreed to spend $85 million on the Chesapeake Bay Program, an office of the Environmental Protection Agency, in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

B’MORE COURTHOUSE RENAMED FOR CUMMINGS: The Baltimore City Council voted Monday to rename a Baltimore courthouse after the the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, Talia Richman of the Sun reports. Mayor Jack Young, who asked the council to push the legislation forward, intends to sign the bill and formally unveil the new name for Courthouse East as soon as possible.

FREDERICK BANS BALLOON RELEASES: Despite opposition from the sheriff and leadership, the Frederick County Council approved 5-2 legislation Tuesday night aimed at preventing intentional balloon releases, reports the Frederick News-Post’s Steve Bohnel. The bill was modeled after a similar bill approved by the Queen Anne’s County Board of Commissioners earlier this year.

UNCONVENTIONAL HOLIDAY GREETINGS: Montgomery County Council members Andrew Friedson and Sidney Katz wished their constituents happy holidays with an unconventional spoof on “Home Alone,” writes Kate Masters for Bethesda Beat. Scroll down the story to view the video.