State Roundup, January 3, 2020

STATE, UNION REACH AGREEMENT FOR RAISE: Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday that he’s reached an agreement with the state’s largest employee union that will give state workers a 2% cost-of-living increase with a possibility of a $500 bonus next year, reports Pamela Wood with the Sun. The agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees comes after both sides were locked in a disagreement over negotiations for more than a year.

CARDIN SLAMS TRUMP ON IRANIAN GENERAL STRIKE: U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin is slamming President Trump after he ordered the strike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, a terrorist and key leader in Iran responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans, reports Rob Petree for WGMD Radio. Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a co-author of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, called it a “provocative act.”

CORRUPTION SCANDAL SPARKS PROPOSED CHANGE: A measure banning a family member from serving as a legislative candidate’s campaign treasurer will be introduced in Maryland, reports Brian Witte of the AP. The state’s House speaker announcement came after a former lawmaker and her daughter pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud for improper use of campaign funds last year.

  • Yet, friends and former colleagues of disgraced former Del. Tawanna Gaines are speaking out on her behalf, with one saying she was the “least likely” member of the House of Delegates to be caught up in a corruption scandal, reports Bryan Sears for The Daily Record. Supporters of Gaines, including House Speaker Adrienne Jones, defended Gaines’ character and expressed shock at her charges and guilty plea in more than a dozen letters submitted to U.S. District Court Judge Theodore Change.

GAINES SENTENCING TODAY: Last October, Tawanna Gaines was a powerful member of the Maryland House of Delegates. On Friday, she’ll be sentenced on federal charges of misusing campaign donations, reports Rick Massimo for WTOP.

A VIOLENT START TO 2020: Police carried bags of evidence from a home in northeast Baltimore Thursday where a 37-year-old woman was stabbed to death in the city’s first homicide of 2020, reports WJZ’s Mike Hellgren about a violent start to the year that had city mayoral candidates talking.

RECORD MURDER RATE IN BALTIMORE COUNTY: The number of murders in Baltimore County nearly doubled in 2019 when compared to the year before, reports John Lee for WYPR.

The 50 homicides surpassed the previous high of 43 set in 1992, according to FBI data tracking violent crime since 1985. The 2019 homicides are also an 85% increase over the prior year, when 27 people were killed in the county, according to police data. Wilborn Nobles III reports in the Sun.

REFUGEES WELCOME IN MD: Gov. Larry Hogan has issued his written consent to allow Maryland to continue accepting refugees into the state, reports Rebecca Tan for the Post. The Republican governor joins more than 30 governors who have done so in response to a Trump administration executive order allowing state and local leaders to block refu­gee admissions for the first time.

SPORTS BETTING REFERENDUM POSSIBLE: The Maryland General Assembly will consider whether call a referendum to legalize sports betting, writes Kevin Kinnally in Conduit Street, the blog for the Maryland Association of Counties. The Maryland Department of Legislative Services last year estimated that legalized sports wagering in Maryland could generate annual revenues of $35.6 million.

NO DELAY ON MANURE SPREADING: Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder declared Monday that he saw no need to delay a state regulation that restricts the use of animal manure to fertilize farm fields, reports Tim Wheeler for the Bay Journal. His announcement comes despite a study warning there are likely to be problems dealing with the excess manure that is expected to result.

PRIVATE SCHOOL VOUCHER CASE CLOSELY WATCHED: A lawsuit over whether Bethel Christian Academy in Howard County should be getting school vouchers marks another battle in the long-running debate over whether — and how — taxpayer money should flow to private schools, and what authority the government has to regulate them, reports Moriah Balingit for the Post. At issue is language in the student handbook about gender and marriage that the voucher board said violated the program’s nondiscrimination policy.

FORMER TOP MARIJUANA REGULATOR JOINS GREEN LEAF: The former top regulator of Maryland’s medical marijuana industry has joined a Frederick-based cannabis company as an executive vice president, reports Pamela Wood for the Sun. Joy Strand, who resigned as executive director of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission this fall, now works for Green Leaf Medical.

UNION GRIEVANCE FILED FOR HOWARD SPECIAL ED COMPLAINTS: The Howard County Education Association alerted its members Thursday that the union had filed a class action grievance “to sound the alarm about the staffing crisis” within the school system, reports Jess Nocera for Baltimore Sun Media. Most of the affected members are special educators with “extreme and emergent” daily demands.

15 VIEWPOINTS ON IMPEACHED PRESIDENT: About 11 months out from a general election that will likely include a presidential incumbent who has been impeached, The (Annapolis) Capital took the pulse of residents in a state that often goes for Democrats and a county that is a mix of blue and red, report Brooks DuBose, Lilly Price and Olivia Sanchez on an article that gives the viewpoints of 15 residents.

BALTIMORE GAG ORDERS: Outside City Hall, people told their stories of being victimized by police, of loved ones shot or beaten, of the bad bargain whereby they received a monetary settlement that came with a legal promise that they never speak about what happened, reports Fern Shen for Baltimore Brew. The speak-out organized by activists called on the city to enforce a new law ending its use of these non-disparagement agreements, often called “gag orders.”

  • And speaking to more than 40 advocates and victims of police brutality, Deputy City Solicitor Dana P. Moore said that Baltimore’s Law Department would not enforce any previous non disparagement agreements and that the city will abide by a new City Council ordinance prohibiting any new gag orders, reports Louis Krauss for The Daily Record. This marks a shift from recent comments by the city solicitor.

TEACHER IN CHARGE: It’s difficult to pinpoint when Sen. Bill Ferguson’s frustration with inequality in schools became the driving force of his professional life, reports Erin Cox in a profile of the rising Senate president poised to take over for Mike Miller, a titan ended his 33-year reign amid a battle with cancer. She delves into Ferguson’s early career as a teacher for Teach for America at Southwestern High School.

YARD WASTE COULD BE CONSIDERED LITTER: If an Eastern Shore delegate’s bill passes the General Assembly this year, dumping yard waste outside of designated locations or curbside pickup would be outlawed in Maryland, reports Hannah Himes for The Frederick News-Post.

OPINION: READY FOR SESSION: Sen. Justin Ready writes in the Carroll County Times about the upcoming General Assembly session, including that education decision-makers need to look at what successful local jurisdictions are doing rather than “trying to spend more on failed policies of the past.”

OPIOID DEATHS IN ANNE ARUNDEL, WASHINGTON DOWN: The numbers are in for the total opioid deaths in Anne Arundel County for 2019 and they are down from the previous year from 164 to 138, reports Kelly Brodericks for WMAR2News. County Police attribute that to safe stations, free narcan training and educating the public.

GARRETT BIZ LEADERS WANT HEALTH PLAN CHANGES, DEEP CREEK FUNDS: The top five legislative priorities for the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce have been announced, reports Renée Shreve for the Garrett County Republican. They include: participation in association health plans, opposing unnecessary workplace regulation, appropriation for Deep Creek Lake dredging, and more funding to the State Lakes Protection and Restoration Fund.

HARRIS TOWN HALL: U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican, answered questions and listened to his constituents’ comments at a Town Hall at the American Legion in Cambridge, reports Mike Detmer for the Dorchester Star. Among those top concerns, second amendment rights, school discipline, and sanctuary county laws.

LOCAL GOVERNMENTS MEET ON BAY CLEANUP: Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley and Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman will kick off the second day of a meeting of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, reports Rachael Pacella for the Capital Gazette. They will be talking about local governments’ role in a clean-up effort coordinated across a 64,000 square-mile watershed.

MDTA APPOINTMENT: Gov. Larry Hogan appointed attorney and Certified Public Accountant Cynthia Penny-Ardinger as the newest member of the Maryland Transportation Authority Board, reports Tiffany Watson for WBFF Fox45. Penny-Ardinger is a Howard County resident.

GRANT FUNDS BIKE PATH CONNECTION: MedStar Harbor Hospital announced Thursday that it has received a $500,000 grant to go toward connecting bicycle and pedestrian paths from Anne Arundel County into Baltimore city, reports Phil Davis for the Sun. The $500,000 Maryland Anchor SEED funding grant “will provide 30 percent of the engineering design” to develop and connect a 3-mile bicycle and pedestrian path spanning from the BWI Trail in Anne Arundel County to the Gwynns Falls Trail in Baltimore.

HALF STAFF HONORS FIREFIGHTER: Gov. Larry Hogan has ordered that the state and U.S. flags should fly at half staff in honor of a long time North East Fire Company member who died Sunday in what is considered a line of duty death, reports Jane Bellmyer for the Cecil Whig.

About The Author

Meg Tully

Contributing Editor Meg Tully has been covering Maryland politics for more than five years. She has worked for The Frederick News-Post, where she reported during the General Assembly session in Annapolis. She has also worked for The (Hanover) Evening Sun and interned at Baltimore Magazine. Meg has won awards from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association for her state and county writing, and a Keystone Press Award for feature writing from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. She is a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. If you have additional questions or comments contact Meg at:

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