HOGAN, FRANCHOT REACH DEAL ON ROADS PROJECTS: Gov. Larry Hogan has secured key support on a deal that would put a multibillion-dollar project to build toll lanes on the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 back on track, the governor’s office announced Friday. Ian Duncan of the Post reports that the deal would advance an initial phase of the project involving the American Legion Bridge, a western stretch of the Beltway and the lower section of I-270.
- Hogan announced the deal Friday with Comptroller Peter Franchot. They represent two out of three votes on Maryland Board of Public Works, which would need to approve of the plan moving forward.
- Dan Schere of Bethesda Beat writes that Hogan said Friday afternoon that he and Franchot (D) plan to approve the next step of the much-debated proposal to add toll lanes to interstates 270 and 495.
- The Board of Public Works on Wednesday is expected to vote in favor of advancing the Traffic Relief Plan, moving forward an agreement between Maryland and Virginia to build a new American Legion Bridge on I-495, WMAR-TV reports.
- Under the compromise, the state will focus its immediate efforts on the reconstruction and widening of the American Legion Bridge and the widening of I-270 between the Capital Beltway (I-495) and I-370, Bruce DePuyt writes for Maryland Matters.
EDUCATION REFORM HEADS GENERAL ASSEMBLY GOALS: Headed into the start of Maryland’s 441st General Assembly session Wednesday, the legislature’s two new leaders are trying to pull off a historic feat: Pass sweeping reforms aimed at greatly improving the state’s public schools — and do it without a massive tax increase, Pamela Wood and Luke Broadwater report for the Sun.
- Maryland’s new legislative leaders flatly ruled out raising income, property or sales tax rates this year to pay for sweeping education measures. The declarations from new House speaker Adrienne Jones and incoming Senate President Bill Ferguson means policymakers will search elsewhere for hundreds of millions of dollars to launch an effort designed to make Maryland’s public schools the envy of the world, Erin Cox reports for the Post.
- Maryland’s state budget will be inextricably linked this year — and perhaps for years to come — to the latest once-in-a-generation proposal to dramatically boost education funding, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record. The legislature returns to Annapolis for the start of the 2020 session with an expected budget surplus and modestly optimistic projections of $115 million in additional revenues for the coming budget year.
- New leadership, education reform and school construction are among the eight key issues facing the General Assembly as it gets ready to meet for the 2020 session on Wednesday, Pamela Wood and Luke Broadwater write in the Sun.
- House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1, dubbed the Built to Learn Act of 2020, would authorize the Maryland Stadium Authority to issue up to $2.2 billion in revenue bonds for school construction projects over several years. The bonds would be backed by an annual payment of $125 million from the Education Trust Fund, Danielle Gaines reports in Maryland Matters.
- All kinds of wild numbers are floating around about the cost of school reforms recommended by the Kirwan Commission on education and how to pay for them, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter. The new chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, Howard County’s Guy Guzzone, sees a way forward by phasing in the recommendations without tax hikes – at least for the moment.
VETOED BILLS EXPECTED TO RETURN: Gov. Hogan vetoed eight bills last May. Six passed the chambers in 2019 with veto-proof majorities despite extended debates. The other two bills mandating a minimum number of crew members on freight trains and expanding oversight of the governor’s appointments office were voted on in the Senate chamber while a handful of Democrats were absent; those measures could have enough support for an override vote in that chamber this year. All of the vetoes are likely to be taken up in both houses, but the timing of votes is complicated by the number of changing seats in the legislative chambers, Danielle Gaines reports for Maryland Matters.
OPINION: WHAT’s AT STAKE: The editorial board of the Sun opines that As Maryland’s Republican governor and its Democrat-controlled legislature prepare to touch gloves and ring the bell Wednesday on the education battle they’ve been previewing for months, we would caution each side to remember that far more than their political reputations are at stake in the outcome.
JONES TAPS COMMITTEE LEADERS: With Maryland’s 441st General Assembly set to begin on Jan. 8, House Speaker Adrienne Jones has appointed new committee chairs and vice-chairs, WMAR-TV is reporting. The list is included in the article.
- Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters writes that Jones’ announcements reflects a chamber that has seen seven departures since the end of last session. Some of Friday’s changes represent a shift from assignments Jones made in September.
OPINION: IN ANNAPOLIS, PAST IS PRESENT: In a column for Maryland Matters, Frank DeFilippo writes that with the opening of the session on Wednesday, “there’ll be hugs and howdys, talk of toll roads and pre-K, but the mood of the moment will be more of Darwin than Kirwan, a testament to bygone decades, if not centuries. Little is forgotten in the haunted halls of memories, all to savor and enjoy during relaxed but telltale moments. The past is always present.”
PG LAWMAKERS WANT BOWIE DEAL: Many Prince George’s County lawmakers won’t support a Pimlico deal in the General Assembly unless they get what they want for the Bowie Race Track — and based on public testimony at a meeting Saturday, that is some public ownership and keeping the property as open space, Rachael Pacella of the Capital-Gazette reports. Hundreds of people turned out for the meeting, with many saying nothing should be added that will make traffic worse along Racetrack Road.
OPINION: CORRUPTION, NEPOTISM & SMALL STEPS: The editorial board of the Sun opines on a plan by House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones to introduce legislation in the General Assembly session that begins Wednesday to ban family members from serving as campaign treasurers. The proposal is aimed directly at the Tawanna Gaines/Anitra Edmond case. The rationale is this: Family members are more apt to accept and/or cover up wrongdoing by a relative than an employee, volunteer or even friend might choose to do. It’s not a bad idea, but it’s only a small step.
CARROLL POLS CONCERNED WITH KIRWAN: On the cusp of the 2020 General Assembly, politicians representing Carroll County offered their hopes and concerns for the year ahead in Annapolis at a legislative kickoff breakfast meeting Friday in Westminster. The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, more commonly known as the Kirwan Commission, quickly emerged as the morning’s hot topic, Mary Grace Keller reports in the Carroll County Times.
WA CO BIZ LEADERS URGE CONTACT WITH ANNAPOLIS: With legislative sessions gearing up in Maryland and West Virginia, business leaders are letting their lawmakers know about their priorities. The Maryland General Assembly is scheduled to start Wednesday and adjourn April 6 in Annapolis, Mike Lewis of the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports. Citing the limited time frame, Paul Frey, president and CEO of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, said it’s critical for people to “stay tuned to what’s happening in Annapolis.” .
DC REGION BRACES FOR SESSIONS: What harvest can the Washington region hope to reap from the Virginia and Maryland General Assembly sessions starting Wednesday? In Maryland, where school funding will dominate the legislative agenda, the region’s Democratic legislators will be wrestling with Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and, to some extent, other parts of the state. Robert McCartney of the Post reports that the Maryland suburbs hope to get more funding by approving the plan put forward by the Kirwan Commission, which would increase spending on K-12 schools by $4 billion a year by 2030.
TOWSON LAWMAKERS OUTLINE PRIORITIES: Cody Boteler of the Sun interviews new Del. Cathi Forbes and her state Senate counterpart Chris West and Del. Michele Guyton about what they can expect and hope to bring to the General Assembly session that starts Wednesday.
AFSCME SAYS MEMBERS DENIED RAISES: The largest union for state government employees says Gov. Larry Hogan has declined to give its members a 1% raise that other state workers are getting as the new year begins. Leaders of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees contend all state employees — nonunion or represented by any union — are due the cost-of-living increase, Pamela Wood reports in the Sun.
WITHHOLDING TAX REFUNDS: Anyone with a warrant out for their arrest in Anne Arundel County could have their tax refund withheld under a proposal by Sen. Ed Reilly, Olivia Sanchez reports in the Capital-Gazette. When Maryland lawmakers return to Annapolis Wednesday for the 2020 General Assembly session, it will be the second time the Crofton Republican tries to convince them to pass his plan, and it’s likely not completely foreign to residents either — it used to be law in Anne Arundel County.
FREDERICK SKEWS SLIGHTLY BLUE: The number of registered voters in Frederick County now skews ever-so-slightly blue, after more than two decades of Republicans leading the way. There are now 16 more Democrats registered countywide than Republicans, according to a recent analysis by the Frederick County Board of Elections. There are 67,751 Democrats, 67,735 Republicans and 43,923 voters who are either unaffiliated or with other political parties in the county, Steve Bohnel of the Frederick News Post reports.
OPINION: DEMS TURN TO HATE SPEECH: In a column for Red Maryland, Brian Griffiths writes that lost in the empty space between Christmas and New Year’s, Democrats in Frederick County engaged in the Democrats favorite past time: hate speech. In a Facebook post, they are blatantly saying that Democrats and those who vote for them are the only people who are “Patriotic Americans” while Republicans and Republican candidates are Nazis.
HAIR DISCRIMINATION: Baltimore City is expected to ban discrimination based on hairstyles and the General Assembly is expected to take up a bill to ban such discrimination, which mostly affects black women. California, New Jersey and New York have passed laws similar to the one being considered in Baltimore. In Montgomery County, lawmakers passed legislation last month that prohibits discrimination against natural hairstyles, Talia Richman writes for the Sun.
70% OF DOCUMENTS IN JOURNALISTS’ KILLINGS KEPT SECRET: Almost 70% of the 1,465 court documents filed in the most notorious murder case in Anne Arundel County history – the Capital-Gazette killings – were being kept from the public at the end of 2019, according to a review by The Capital of data from the Maryland Judiciary. Alex Mann of the Capital Gazette reports that the documents were closed without any court order or public notice. Prosecutors and defense attorneys made the decision on their own.
TOWNS TO FIGHT MAGLEV: Luz Lazo of the Post reports that the city of Greenbelt made its view clear two years ago when it officially said “no” to the proposal for a high-speed train that would connect the nation’s capital and Baltimore in 15 minutes. It joined several other small jurisdictions in Prince George’s County in opposing the maglev project.
EX-POT PANEL DIRECTOR JOINS GROWER: Joy Strand has been appointed Green Leaf Medical’s new executive vice president. Green Leaf Medical is a grower of medical marijuana that is then distributed at dispensaries, Erika Riley of the Frederick News Post reports. During Strand’s previous tenure as the executive director of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, the number of qualifying medical cannabis patients more than tripled, as did the number of businesses licensed to grow, process and dispense medical cannabis in the state.
WA CO JOBLESS RATE STEADY: For the fourth month in a row, Washington County’s unemployment rate held below 4%, Mike Lewis reports for the Hagerstown Herald Mail. Hagerstown, meanwhile, reported its lowest unemployment rate in more than a decade. The Maryland Department of Labor released the newest unemployment figures on Friday. The report shows that the county’s jobless rate was 3.2% in November, the lowest on the state’s online database, which dates to 2005.
PROSECUTOR WON’T SEEK JAIL FOR EX-POLICE CHIEF: Maryland’s new state prosecutor, Charlton T. Howard III, is not seeking jail time for a former Eastern Shore police chief charged with falsifying a hiring application for an expelled Dover, Del., police officer, the ex-chief’s attorney said. Glynis Kazanjian of Maryland Matters reports that the officer, Thomas Webster IV, was the first to respond to a call involving Anton Black, an African American teen who died in police custody September 2018.