State Roundup, September 11, 2017

IS MARYLAND PREPARED? Maryland has done extensive planning, including infrastructure improvements that focus on bolstering natural storm defenses to better absorb tidal surges and rainfall runoff, but there is widespread consensus among state officials and meteorologists that a massive hurricane like Harvey or Irma could overwhelm emergency services, JF Meils reports for Capital News Service.

MARYLAND & THE HURRICANES: After helping scores of victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, a team of Maryland first responders was on its way home this week when members got a call from the Federal Emergency Management Agency just as they crossed into Virginia. Talia Richman of the Sun writes that the agency wanted to know “where they were, if they were available and whether they were willing to deploy to support Hurricane Irma activities,” said Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein.

PURPLE LINE TREE CUTTING: A federal judge has said he will wait until at least Sept. 19 to decide whether to prohibit a Maryland state contractor from cutting down mature trees on the Georgetown Branch Trail until a lawsuit opposing the Purple Line’s construction is resolved, writes Katherine Shaver for the Post.

PURPLE LINE’s UNPLANNED PLANS: The light-rail Purple Line is designed to help commuters leave behind sluggish, unreliable buses and, for the first time, take a train directly between Maryland suburbs without having to ride Metro through the heart of Washington. If all goes according to plan, passengers will step aboard in about five years. But not much on the Purple Line project has gone according to plan, Katherine Shaver of the Post reports.

MR. TOUGH GUY: Gov. Larry Hogan can’t make up his mind, opines political pundit Barry Rascovar in MarylandReporter. Last year he was a gung-ho advocate of “soft-on-criminals” reforms aimed at cutting Maryland’s prison population by 1,000 and putting more resources into helping low-level offenders avoid a life of crime. This time, though, Hogan is sporting his “tough on criminals” campaign button, calling for “truth-in-sentencing” as part of a crime-fighting package he’ll introduce in the next legislative session.

TRANSPARENCY WORKS: At former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s last Board of Public Works meeting, approximately $200 million was cut from the annual budget. To my surprise, writes Del. Marc Korman for Maryland Matters, the list of budget reductions was not made publicly available until after the board had made the cuts. On Sept. 6, the current BPW adopted a proposal to reduce spending in the current fiscal year by $63 million. The proposal had been publicly announced on Aug. 31, with the proposed reductions — then totaling $68 million — spelled out in detail on the BPW’s website. What changed between January of 2015 and September of 2017?

DEMARCO RETURNS: Uber-activist Vincent DeMarco, who recently founded a nonprofit called the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Initiative, and a host of partners will announce this week that they plan to make expansion of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard a major priority for the upcoming General Assembly session and the 2018 state elections, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters.

STATE RENEWS CIGARETTE FIGHT: New efforts are under way that doctors and policymakers hope will help more smokers end their dependence on nicotine, the highly addictive stimulant additive found in cigarettes and other tobacco products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed cutting the amount of nicotine in cigarettesto non-addictive levels. The Maryland Department of Health is handing out more nicotine gum and patches via its Quitline service for smokers who want to stop, Meredith Cohn of the Sun reports.

CARDIN UPBEAT ON HEALTH BILL: Sen. Ben Cardin said he is optimistic about a possible bipartisan health care bill. He made the comments on Friday while speaking with WYPR’s Tom Hall. The senator referenced two meetings earlier this week where both Democrats and Republicans had “informal discussions” about health care. The talks were led by Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.

THUMPING FOR TUBMAN: With the future design of the $20 bill uncertain, a bipartisan pair of lawmakers introduced legislation Friday to require the Treasury Department to replace President Andrew Jackson’s portrait with an image of abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat, and John Katko, a New York Republican, introduced a measure that would require Treasury to replace Jackson’s image with Tubman’s. If approved, Tubman would be the first African-American pictured on the face of U.S. Currency, John Fritze of the Sun reports.

ACTIVIST CHALLENGES DEL. OTTO: After decades on the sidelines, educator and longtime civil rights activist and child welfare advocate Kirkland Hall has decided to tackle the people’s agenda from Annapolis, Deborah Gates reports for the Salisbury Daily Times. The Democrat expects a “tough race” ahead for the 38A seat, held by Republican incumbent Charles Otto in the Maryland House of Delegates. Hall thinks he can better serve Somerset and the southern portion of Worcester counties as a decision-maker.

BUILDING TRADES UNION BACKS MANNO: State Sen. Roger Manno, a Democratic candidate for House of Representatives in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, announced last Tuesday that his congressional campaign was endorsed by a building trades union that represents thousands of skilled craftworkers in the building and construction industry, according to A Miner Detail blog. That seat is held by John Delaney, who is running for president.

O’MALLEY NOT READY TO BACK GOV CANDIDATE: Former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) turned up unannounced at a meet-and-greet event in Baltimore last week for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker (D), who is running for governor in 2018. But later, he made it clear that he was not ready to offer an endorsement just yet. “I think we have some outstanding candidates running for our party’s nomination, and I plan to be supportive of each of them initially,” O’Malley told Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters.

ON POLITICS: Cumberland Times-News reporter Greg Larry talked with Ryan Miner of A Miner Detail Radio podcast to discuss a variety of topics, including former Allegany County Register of Wills Rebecca Drew’s criminal indictment and subsequent resignation; Republican Del. Mike McKay’s political future; Nicole Alt-Myers and Jordan Lysczak will compete in a GOP primary with McKay and more.

WA CO LEGAL FEES: Washington County government has spent more than $64,000 for outside legal services on two internal investigations following an employee’s sexual-harassment complaint against a county commissioner earlier this year, CJ Lovelace of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports.

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