State Roundup, February 6, 2020

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HOGAN’S STATE OF STATE FOCUSES ON CRIME, BIPARTISANSHIP: Gov. Larry Hogan implored members of the Maryland General Assembly during his annual State of the State address on Wednesday to pass a series of bills his administration has proposed that are aimed at addressing the violent crime epidemic in Baltimore City, Bryan Renbaum of MarylandReporter reports.

ANALYSIS: STATE OF STATE REALITY CHECK: In an analysis for Maryland Matters, staff write that “for all its good vibrations, Hogan’s speech glossed over many inconvenient truths about the state of political discourse in Maryland and this General Assembly session in particular. Among them: That his legislative agenda for 2020, even with the session less than one-third complete, is largely DOA already. And that Hogan and the Democratic supermajorities in the House and Senate, rather than working hand-in-glove, have instead chosen a somewhat awkward detente, one that involves ignoring each other and avoiding mortal combat most of the time.”

OPINION: A CONGENIAL ADDRESS: The editorial board for the Sun opines that unlike Tuesday’s State of the Union address, during Gov. Hogan’s State of the State there was actual handshaking between the executive and lawmakers (a lot of it). No one tore up anyone else’s speech, and no one stormed out in a huff. In fact, there was a lot of applause on the floor and several standing ovations. Not bad for a Republican governor appearing before a legislature that’s overwhelmingly made up of Democrats. Both sides deserve a clap on the back for the efforts they’ve made to work together over the past five years and for the signals they’re sending that this year will be no different.

WHEN MARYLAND MATTERED IN PRESIDENTIAL RACES: Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter recalls a time when Maryland mattered in presidential races and a reporter from a free weekly newspaper in that relatively new town of Columbia could meet many of the candidates.

BILL WOULD BAR STATE SPENDING ON MAGLEV: Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports that the state would be barred from spending public funds to build or operate a proposed high-speed rail line linking Washington, D.C., and New York if a measure advanced by a Senate committee chairman becomes law. Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s) told the Budget and Taxation Committee on Wednesday that the proposed Magnetic Levitation train would benefit “mostly lobbyists and bankers,” and not the general public.

BILL ON HEALTH EXCHANGE SUBSIDIES: Tim Curtis of the Daily Record writes that supporters of a bill said Wednesday that providing state subsidies to some people who get their health insurance through Maryland’s individual market would make plans for most people more affordable and bring more uninsured people into the market.

VOTER DATA SYSTEM SHUT DOWN DURING SPECIAL PRIMARY: A network designed to transmit Maryland voter data to state officials during elections had to be shut down during the 7th Congressional District primary because it was causing significant delays at polling sites, the Maryland State Board of Elections said Wednesday. Kevin Rector of the Sun reports that state officials were using the network for the first time on an election day during a special primary in the district, which includes parts of Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County.

RACES CONTINUE FOR CUMMINGS’ SEAT: Democratic former U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume and Republican Kimberly Klacik won their respective parties’ nominations in a special primary Tuesday and will face off April 28 to determine who gets to serve the remaining nine months of the late Elijah Cummings’ term in Congress. But some of their opponents are planning to challenge the winners in the normal primary election on the same day for a chance to be their party’s nominee for the following two-year congressional term, beginning in January. The general election for that race is scheduled in November. So who is still running, who is not, and why? Colin Campbell checks in with them for the Sun.

  • The two female candidates who finished second and third say they are not giving up their quest to succeed Cummings. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, his widow, and state Sen. Jill Carter each has nearly three months to convince Democratic voters they deserve a full term in the Baltimore-area seat, Jenna Portnoy of the Post reports.

MFUME ON ‘SURREAL’ POSSIBILITY: After an 11-week sprint to a primary victory, Kweisi Mfume allowed himself to pause momentarily Wednesday and imagine how it would feel to return to Congress after stepping down a generation ago, Jeff Barker of the Sun reports. “It’s going to be surreal the first day I walk back into the congressional office that I walked out of,” said Mfume, 71, who left the House in 1996 to become president of the NAACP. But the Baltimore Democrat quickly added: “I know I’ve got two elections first.”

MOST CASINO TAKES RISE IN JANUARY: Every Maryland casino except one saw strong year-over-year revenue increases in January, building on the modest growth the industry saw in December. Overall, the state’s six casinos brought in $145.5 million in January, a 6.2% increase compared to January 2019, Jessica Iannetta reports in the Baltimore Business Journal. Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore was the only casino in the state to see its revenue fall in January. The casino saw its revenue drop 4.4% from January 2019 to $19.3 million.

OPINION: END GERRYMANDER FOR THE PEOPLE: In a column for Maryland Matters in which he takes U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer to task, Howard Gorrell — who sued Maryland over gerrymandering of congressional districts — encourages Democratic members of the U.S. Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee to give serious consideration to their own federal legislators’ push for the passage of the For the People Act of 2019, sponsored by their Maryland colleague, Rep. John Sarbanes (D). The federal bill includes a provision that provides for states to establish independent, non-partisan redistricting commissions.

MD CONGRESSMEN ON TRUMP ACQUITTAL: What did Maryland congressmen say after the Senate vote was finalized Wednesday afternoon to acquit President Donald Trump? Phil Davis of the Sun kicks off with Sen. Ben Cardin, who voted guilty on both articles of impeachment. He wrote in a statement that the Senate did not conduct a fair trial and “has tainted this final verdict and has upset the balance of power between two constitutionally coequal branches of government.”

TRUMP ACQUITTAL PROTESTED: Dozens of people took to the streets in downtown Baltimore on Wednesday night to protest the Senate’s acquittal of President Donald Trump on two articles of impeachment, Phil Davis is reporting for the Sun. The protesters gathered at McKeldin Square to voice their disapproval of Wednesday’s vote as part of the national “Reject The Cover-Up” demonstrations. Residents stood on the corner of Pratt and Light streets calling out Trump and other Republicans while chanting, “We will remember come November!”

DOD WITHHOLDS FUNDS FROM FORT DETRICK LAB: The Department of Defense is withholding more than $100 million combined from a military laboratory at Fort Detrick and an organization at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Heather Mongilio of the Frederick News Post reports. It is unclear why the Defense Department is withholding the $104 million from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, although Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said it might be related to the research shutdown of USAMRIID’s biosafety level 3 and 4 laboratories over the summer.

MO CO PUSHES BACK ON IMMIGRATION LIMITS: Montgomery County leaders are strongly pushing back on new federal limits that could keep some legal immigrants from entering the United States, Andrew Schotz reports in Bethesda Beat. The County Council and County Executive Marc Elrich joined on Tuesday to denounce a U.S. Supreme Court decision that affirms the Trump administration’s new approach to admitting immigrants to the country.

OPINION: PIMLICO DEAL A TRUE WIN-WIN: In a column for the Baltimore Business Journal, Don Fry of the Greater Baltimore Committee praises the latest plan to save Pimlico, writing that, “We often hear elected officials declare that a legislative proposal or new program is a “win-win” for all the involved parties. Typically, that declaration is an overstatement. However, a thorough analysis of this negotiated agreement reveals that the Stronach Group, the City of Baltimore, the racing industry, and the neighborhoods affected by the changes at Pimlico race track have achieved their desired goals.”