State Roundup, January 23, 2020

GLENN PLEADS GUILTY: Former Del. Cheryl Glenn, who championed the creation of the state’s medical marijuana industry, pleaded guilty Wednesday to taking nearly $34,000 in bribes — including some to push legislation that would benefit cannabis companies, Rachel Chason of the Post reports.

CANNABIS PANEL CHIEF ADDRESSES ISSUES: Cannabis Commission Executive Director William Tilburg, during the briefing before the House Health and Government Operations Committee, addressed the series of problems that the commission has faced in the past few months — notably licensure application delays and Glenn’s charges, writes Hannah Gaskill for Maryland Matters.

REFERENDUMS SOUGHT FOR LEGAL SPORTS BETTING: Amanda Yeager of the Baltimore Business Journal reports that sports betting is back on the table this legislative session with multiple proposals aiming to let voters decide whether the wagers should be allowed in Maryland. At least two Senate bills and two bills in the House of Delegates would take the question to the ballot this fall for a voter referendum.

BIPARTISAN BUSINESS PUSH: Bipartisan support for Maryland’s business community was on full display Wednesday in Annapolis at a conference hosted by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce where lawmakers and members of the Hogan administration touted plans to make the state more business-friendly, reports Bryan Renbaum for MarylandReporter. Republican state Sen. Chris West will introduce legislation creating a workgroup consisting of public and private entities to study changes in Maryland’s economy.  Democratic Sen. Brian Feldman said he will introduce legislation that would create a commission to study the state’s tax code.

FERGUSON TOUTS DIGITAL AD TAX: Senate President Bill Ferguson defended a controversial proposal to implement a digital advertising tax while again advocating that Maryland needs to do a comprehensive overhaul of its tax code. The issue of tax reform came up repeatedly during a day-long event hosted in Annapolis by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, Holden Wilen of the Baltimore Business Journal reports.

LUEDTKE PONDERS BOARD OF ED TAXING: During a House Ways and Means briefing on Jan. 20, Del. Eric Luedtke asked, and mused, about the potential to grant local boards of education independent taxing authority, Michael Sanderson writes for Conduit Street. Luedtke is the House Majority leader, Ways and Means Taxation Subcommittee chair, former member of the Kirwan Commission and former teacher.

SPECIAL ELECTIONS TO FILL GA VACANCIES: A group of bipartisan lawmakers are pushing to take power from the hands of a few and put it into those of many by adopting special elections for legislative vacancies — but the measure also targets the way about 20% of their colleagues initially joined the General Assembly, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters reports.

DISABLED ADULTS PROTECTION BILL: Legislation that would make it a crime for caregivers — including family members — to intentionally cause severe emotional distress to the physically or mentally disabled adults under their charge was praised Wednesday as a critical amendment to the current prohibition on caregivers causing serious physical harm to this population, Steve Lash reports in the Daily Record.

NEW TRANSIT CAUCUS SETS PRIORITIES: The newly formed “Transit Caucus” unveiled its priorities Wednesday, including legislation for a study to bring Maryland Area Regional Commuter trains to Washington County, Tamela Baker reports in the Hagerstown Herald Mail. The caucus, comprised of members of both the Maryland House of Delegates and the Senate, listed the study among six legislative goals designed to reemphasize mass transit in the state’s budget.

IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT: Two letters from the state Office of the Attorney General sent to Sen. Ron Young (D-Frederick) and Del. Karen Lewis Young (D-Frederick) indicate that Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins (R), acting as a state employee, is allowed to enter into an immigration enforcement agreement, but the county isn’t obligated to fund it. Steve Bohnel of the Frederick News Post reports. Lewis Young and Young sent an initial letter with questions to the state attorney general in November about the 287(g) program, which Jenkins and the sheriff’s office use.

RUTHERFORD ON ECONOMIC MISSION TO MIDDLE EAST: Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford is leading an economic development trip to the Middle East on Friday. Pamela Wood writes in the Sun. Rutherford will lead a delegation of state employees and Maryland-based businesses to a health conference in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and to a cybertechnology conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, his office announced Wednesday.

OPINION: DRIVING FINES, SUSPENSIONS & SPIRALING DEBT: The editorial board for the Sun points out a serious flaw in the practice of fining drivers for violations. There is a population of low-income residents who can’t afford the penalties. And they face a worse punishment — they can have their driver’s licenses suspended by a judge. Not only do these drivers end up buried in debt, but they lose their licenses, which makes it harder for them to get to jobs they need to pay their debts. Many end up driving on a suspended license, hoping they don’t get caught. Drivers who do get caught can be arrested and jailed.

MD JOINS EFFORT TO STOP FOOD STAMP CHANGE: Talia Richman of the Sun reports that as many as 15,000 people in Baltimore could see their food stamp benefits slashed under a new Trump administration rule that tightens eligibility requirements. Maryland recently joined more than a dozen states in suing to block the USDA from moving forward with the cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. City officials say that if the rule goes into effect in the spring, it would have a devastating impact on Baltimore’s economy and the health of its residents.

FRANCHOT KICKS OFF GOV CAMPAIGN: In his first major speech as a candidate for governor, Comptroller Peter Franchot advocated a series of reforms he said would make the state more attractive to businesses, more fiscally responsible and more moderate politically, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports.

7th CONGRESSIONAL HOPEFULS: THE REPUBLICANS: Three Republicans are running in the race to fill the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings’ 7th District seat. Who are they and why are they running in a district that has never elected a Republican? Alison Knezevich of the Sun attempts to answer those questions.

7th DISTRICT CONGRESSIONAL VOTER GUIDE: In a special election, voters in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County will vote to replace the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings for the 7th Congressional District seat. Here are their responses to policy questions in The Baltimore Sun’s voter guide ahead of the Feb. 4 primary.

UM LAW SETS CUMMINGS SCHOLARSHIP: The University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law has established a scholarship to honor the late U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who graduated from the school in 1976. Louis Krauss reports for the Daily Record. The Cummings Scholarship has an initial endowment of $50,000, which was made available by the Maryland Carey Law Board of Visitors and will be awarded to one student at a time, according to Shara Boonshaft, senior director of philanthropy at the school.

UM ENDS CHINA-APPROVED PROGRAM: The University of Maryland, College Park has ended a Chinese-government approved education program after Congress passed legislation that the university said could jeopardize future federal funding if the program were to continue, Phil Davis of the Sun reports.

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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