April 19 - April 25, 2018

Election-Year 2018 General Assembly Session Ends with an Eye on November

By Capital News Service staff
Capital News Service 

ANNAPOLIS, MD—Overhauling state tax code in response to sweeping federal tax cuts, bolstering school safety after a shooting at a Southern Maryland high school and stabilizing health insurance markets in the wake of Congressional action were just a few of the myriad policy decisions the Maryland General Assembly addressed in 2018 during the 90-day legislative session. 

Legislators also overturned vetoes and passed a bill left from last year that takes aim at the lack of diversity in the state’s nascent medical marijuana industry.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday signed 114 pieces of legislation, including on school safety and health insurance. The governor also signed legislation related to organ donation; House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, underwent a liver transplant last year.

“This has been our most successful legislative session,” Hogan said. “I believe it was a big win for the people of Maryland.”

Hogan on Monday said his biggest disappointment was legislation removing power from the Board of Public Works on school-construction funding, calling it a “purely political move.”

In an election year, changing faces next year are expected, but federal criminal proceedings and the death of a lawmaker meant notable absences in the Senate before Monday’s midnight close of the session, known as “Sine Die.”

Here is a roundup of the changes and happenings in Annapolis during the 2018 General Assembly session:

BUDGET: Schools, environment, opioids

Hogan touted a record $6.5 billion in funding for K-12 education and included $13.7 million to fight the opioid crisis. The state continued to fund efforts to clean up the Chesapeake by allocating more than $52 million to the The Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays 2010 Trust Fund. The governor’s budget also allocated $11.5 billion for Maryland’s Medicaid program.

TRANSPORTATION: Highways, Amazon and Metro

The state Department of Transportation has several large projects under way, including the new Purple Line light rail and a planned $9 billion public-private highway plan Hogan called the largest transportation project in the “known universe.” The planned widening of I-270, I-295 and I-495 has been closely tied to the state’s multi-billion dollar bid for Amazon’s second headquarters—including up to $5.6 billion in tax incentives, which lawmakers approved (HB0989/SB0877) and about $2 billion in transportation projects. The state also set aside $167 million (HB372/SB277) annually to improve the Metro system, as part of a joint commitment with Virginia and Washington, D.C.

TAXES: Federal and state changes

Tax-relief legislation increases the maximum standard deduction to $2,500 for single taxpayers and $5,000 for those filing jointly (SB318), in tax years 2018 through 2020, according to a state analysis. In January, Comptroller Peter Franchot explained a national tax overhaul, which touts savings for Maryland taxpayers of $2.8 billion on the federal side, would also increase state and local taxes for many Marylanders, according to a state report. Hogan proposed legislation (SB733/HB875) that would encourage standard deductions for federal taxes while allowing taxpayers to itemize state and local taxes. That bill failed.

ENVIRONMENT: Forest conservation, oysters, climate alliance

A bill (SB610) that would have strengthened replanting requirements for developers under the state’s Forest Conservation Act was stripped of its teeth. The amended measure creates a task force to study forests in Maryland. And lawmakers passed a bill (HB572) that will increase tax credits for restaurants to recycle oyster shells.  The Democrat-controlled legislature also passed a bill (HB 3) that will require Hogan to include Maryland in the U.S. Climate Alliance—a coalition of governors committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Republican President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement in June.

OPIOIDS: Funding, overdoses

The Maryland General Assembly targeted “pill mill” docto—physicians who unscrupulously supply opioid prescriptions—by passing a bill (HB 359) requiring the state’s health department to establish a tip line to report suspicious prescribing practices and to examine the prescription and treatment history of those who died from opioid overdoses. 

ME TOO: Parent rapists; domestic violence; sexual harassment

Hogan in February signed a bill (HB 1) allowing rape victims to terminate parental rights of their attackers. In keeping with the growing “#MeToo” movement this session, another bill changed the definition of abuse to include revenge porn and “generally relating to domestic violence” (SB121). A bill (HB1342) also passed that makes several changes related to anti-harassment procedures, policies and training within the state’s legislative branch. And Sen. Cheryl Kagan, D-Montgomery, became the first legislator to share her #MeToo moment this session when she said a lobbyist—who has denied the accusation—groped her in an Annapolis pub.

VETO OVERRIDES: Sick leave; ‘ban the box’; school construction and personnel

The legislature overrode four bills this session. Mandated paid sick leave and “ban the box”—removing questions about criminal history on college applications—were vetoed by Hogan in the 11th hour of the 2017 session, and overridden by the Legislature in January. Late in this  session, Delegate Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore, added an amendment to a school funding bill (HB1783) that stripped the Board of Public Works of power to approve school-construction funding—essentially a rebuke of Democrat Comptroller Peter Franchot’s involvement in local school issues. The same day, both chambers overrode legislation (SB639) that alters procedures for suspending or dismissing public school personnel, among other changes.

EDUCATION: Gaming revenues

The General Assembly passed legislation (SB1122) that could amend the Maryland Constitution to require the governor to use commercial gaming revenues to fund public education, beginning in fiscal year 2020. If approved in November, the funding would total $125 million the first year, increasing to more than $500 million by 2023, according to a state analysis.

HEALTH: Insurance, tobacco

Bills to stabilize the insurance market (SB1267/ HB1795) passed, with the governor’s support, to counterbalance recent healthcare decisions at the federal level. The two measures focused on applying for a federal-funds waiver and creating a reinsurance pool based on approval of the waiver.  A bill also passed that prohibits and penalizes distribution of electronic nicotine delivery systems to minors (HB1094). Legislation that allows the holder of an electronic nicotine delivery systems retailer license to make sales through the mail (HB47/SB90) passed.

MEDICAL CANNABIS: More licenses, diversity

After its dramatic failure in the final minutes of Sine Die in 2017, a bill diversifying Maryland’s medical cannabis market passed this year. Despite assurances from the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus that it would be on the governor’s desk in January, it slowly crept to the finish line. The bill offers more funding for the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Cannabis Commission while attempting to draw more women and minorities into the industry. The law funds free or discounted medical cannabis to some patients. On Monday, Hogan said he had yet to read the amended bill and wouldn’t sign it until he does.

PUBLIC SAFETY: Schools, crime, ‘red flag’; police corruption

The Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018 (SB1265) will require all Maryland public schools to have an armed school resource officer by 2019, and establishes a School Safety Subcabinet. State costs for Senate bill 1265 are projected to be $15 million in 2019, according to a fiscal note, while local costs for the officers will total around $98 million. Another measure, part of (HB1783), calls for new security equipment and safe zones for refuge.

The General Assembly compromised on a mix of punishment and rehabilitation measures to address crime in Baltimore City. Tougher laws and sentencing for repeat gun offenders were met with funding for preventative programs. One measure makes it easier for certain felons to erase offenses from their record. Another makes it easier to crack down on gun crimes though wiretapping. Funding comes from two public safety acts – one of which is named after Delegate Talmadge Branch’s grandson, who was killed by a repeat gun offender in September 2017. (Bill numbers: SB1137, SB101, HB113 and HB432.)

And a new “red flag” law would allow individuals who are concerned that a gun owner is dangerous to petition a court or law officer to remove the firearms for a period of time. (HB1302)

Maryland passed a law (SB270) to allow a court, during prosecution for certain sexual offenses, to admit evidence of “sexually assaultive behavior” by the defendant that occured before or after the offense on trial.

On the back of police corruption, the Legislature passed a bill (SB1099) to establish a commission that will investigate the practices of the Baltimore Police Department’s former Gun Trace Task Force, many of whom were indicted on federal charges.

OTHER MATTERS: Other matters of note that passed in the 2018 General Assembly session include:

• Hemp: Legalization of an industrial hemp pilot program passed this session. It’s main uses are for fiber, fuel, food and medicine. (HB698/SB1201)

• Divorce: A court will be able to allow divorce on the grounds of mutual consent if the parties have minor children. Sponsor Bobby Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, said the measure helps to eliminate a drawn-out process of divorce that can take years to conclude.

• Pink hunting gear: A bill (SB341/HB1118) adds bright pink as an approved color for hunting gear in Maryland.

• Richard Collins scholarship: After Bowie State University student Richard Collins III was fatally stabbed in May on the University of Maryland, College Park campus, the state’s General Assembly created a scholarship in his honor for minority students in ROTC programs at historically black colleges or universities (SB1202). Prior to his death, Collins had been commissioned into the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant.

• Gay conversion: Delegate Meagan Simonaire, R-Anne Arundel, who will not run for re-election, opened up about her sexuality when discussing a bill that bans conversion therapy for minors (SB1028). She discussed how her parents—including Sen. Bryan Simonaire, R-Anne Arundel, who argued passionately against the bill—wanted to put her through the therapy when she opened up to them. The legislation passed in both chambers.

NOTABLE FAILURES: Some measures did not advance this session, among them:

• State hiring: Delegate Clarence Lam, D-Howard and Baltimore counties, introduced legislation (HB 1778) that would add a layer of oversight to state hiring practices. The late bill failed to pass the Senate.

• Cyber bullying: After passing unanimously in the Senate, Grace’s Law 2.0, an update to a cyberbullying law designed to reflect modern media, was shelved in a House committee. The ACLU opposed the “overbroad” bill.

• Addiction: A bill (HB 326) with wide-ranging support, which would create supervised drug consumption sites, and another (HB 499) that would authorize parents to involuntarily admit their adult children for addiction treatment, failed to make it through the general assembly this session.

• HBCUs: Legislation to equalize funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities did not progress, but a lawsuit against the state and a settlement offer of $100 million over 10 years from Hogan remain.

• Physical Education: A bill that would require 150 minutes of physical education per week for elementary school students failed for the eighth year.

• Adultery: A bill aiming to repeal the crime of adultery, a misdemeanor with a fine of $10, failed to advance.

LEGISLATURE CHANGES: Senate loses two: Norman; Oaks; lawmakers out Sen. H. Wayne Norman Jr., R-Cecil and Harford, 62, unexpectedly died in his sleep on March 4. His wife, Linda Norman, was sworn into his seat on March 16, for the remainder of the session.

Sen. Nathaniel Oaks, D-Baltimore, resigned on March 29. He wrote that his reasoning was “to eliminate all clouds that have hovered over the 2018 Legislative Session, due to any potential concerns or questionable activities on (his) behalf.” Oaks plead guilty to federal corruption charges on the same day, and awaiting sentencing, scheduled for July 17.

A number of lawmakers have retired or declared their candidacy in another public office, so both chambers of the Legislature will have vacant seats up for grabs in the 2018 election.

BEYOND THE LEGISLATURE: News in Annapolis and the rest of the state since the beginning of 2018, included a fatal school shooting; burgeoning transportation plans; lawsuits by the state’s attorney general; and the governor’s health.

• Great Mills: Jaelynn Willey, 16, died two days after being shot in the head by 17-year-old student Austin Rollins at Great Mills High School on March 20. The shooter, who had been in a relationship with Willey, died on March 20. He had exchanged fire with the school resource officer, Blaine Gaskill, 31, but authorities determined his cause of death to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. A 14-year old student was also injured.

• Board of Public Works: This session, the Board of Public Works and its three members—Franchot, Hogan and Treasurer Nancy Kopp—approved millions in emergency funding to fix mold issues in Carroll County hospitals and preventative maintenance and replacement issues in the state’s Department of Corrections. Kopp approved the sale of $475 million in AAA rated tax exempt bonds, and $50 million in taxable bonds.

Franchot also called attention to the transportation administration’s cost of property needed to construct the Purple Line. Franchot was criticised this session for using his seat on the board as a “platform for political theatre,” especially as it related to heating and cooling issues in local schools.

• Hogan’s cancer: Hogan posted a selfie on Twitter captioned “Larry - 2 Cancer - 0” in February after he announced that he had minor surgery to treat a common form of skin cancer.

He remains in remission after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015.


 

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Baysox to Host Annual Bark in the Park Day on April 22
Fans Will Have Opportunity to Meet WBAL-TV’s Jason Newton & WBAL-TV’s “Puppy with a Purpose”, Camden

By PRESS OFFICER
Baysox

 BOWIE, MD—Don’t forget to Bring your pup to the ballpark for the Baysox 18th annual Bark In The Park Day, presented by BARK! Pawsitive Pet Food, on Sunday, April 22 @ 1:35 PM when the team hosts the Akron RubberDucks.

Enjoy interactive dog related exhibits throughout the stadium and everyone will be encouraged to Bark for the Baysox during the game. All dogs are admitted free and must be on a leash and be up to date with tags/vaccinations to be allowed into the stadium.

The Baysox will also be bringing out a special guest on Sunday, April 22 with WBAL-TV’s “Puppy with a Purpose”, Camden and WBAL-TV’s “11 News Today” morning anchor Jason Newton. Fans will have the chance to meet both guests during the game.

Camden is WBAL-TV’s “Puppy with a Purpose” and future service dog from America’s VetDogs. Once she completes her training, she will be a service dog for a veteran or a first responder. Camden is part of the NBC Today Show’s “Puppy Squad”, with brothers being trained for service in New York, Boston, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. All the dogs will be future guide or service dogs for the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs. You can follow along with Camden’s updates on Instagram @wbaltvpuppy, and the rest of her brothers by following the hashtag #TODAYpuppysquad, and by watching The TODAY Show on WBAL-TV.

Jason Newton is an anchor on WBAL-TV’s “11 News Today”, on from 4:30AM–7:00 AM weekdays, and the host of the public affairs show “11 TV Hill” on Sundays at 11:30 AM. Jason is originally from Baltimore (a proud alumni of Baltimore City College), and an alumni of the University of Maryland. Jason worked in Salisbury, Maryland and Milwaukee, Wisconsin before returning home and joining WBAL-TV in 2013.

Fans that come out and join us for Bark in the Park Day will get the chance to watch a Baysox team that is home to four of the Top 10 prospects in the Baltimore Orioles system according to MLB.com.

The Bowie Baysox 2018 season is presented by Money One Federal Credit Union. Baysox single game tickets are available online, visit the website to purchase tickets at  baysox.com, or via phone by calling 301-464-4865 or in person at the stadium ticket office. The Baysox ticket office is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on non-game days, until the top of the 7th inning on non-fireworks game days and at the end of the fireworks show on fireworks game days.

To keep up with Baysox news, visit baysox.com and be sure to follow the Baysox on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or register for the all new Baysox Text Insider Club for free by texting the keyword BAYSOX to 50700.

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Maryland School-Extension Bill in Governor’s Hands

By PRESS OFFICER
Public News service

BALTIMORE, MD—Spring Break is considered a necessity for many students and teachers, but Maryland schools have been forced to cut into that “unwind time” to make up for lost days earlier in the academic year.

A bill passed by the Maryland General Assembly would change that. Senate Bill 7029 allows schools to add the missed days onto the end of a school year, keeping vacation breaks intact. But for now, schools in places like Prince George’s County will have three fewer Spring Break days this month.

John White, public information officer with the school district, said rough winter weather is to blame.

“Our community wanted to protect Spring Break, but we had six snow days this year, so we didn’t have enough days in the calendar to use,” White said. “So, we had to start taking away from Spring Break.”

A spokeswoman for Gov. Larry Hogan said the governor is supportive of the legislation and will sign it into law. The change most likely wouldn’t take effect until next school year.

The Maryland State Board of Education had a meeting last week in which members of the public voiced their opinions on the potential change. White said the community feedback has been powerful.

“Well, parents and students have been very vocal,” he said. “They value Spring Break, they wanted us to protect Spring Break in our school calendar.”

In 2016, the governor signed an executive order requiring that Maryland’s school year start after Labor Day and end no later than June 15. This new bill would keep the same start date, but change the ending date depending on how many school days need to be made up.

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MDTA Police Honor Top Cops
Prince George’s County Resident Named Officer of the Year

By PRESS OFFICER
MDTA

Baltimore, MD—On April 4, 2018, Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) Police Chief Col. Woodrow W. Jones honored sworn and civilian members of the MDTA Police who distinguished themselves during 2017.

“Our officers positively impact the lives of the citizens of Maryland each and every day. Their outstanding work can be seen when they remove dangerous drugs and firearms from our communities, when they interdict an impaired driver and when they save the life of someone in need,” said Colonel Jones.

Among those honored was our very own, Prince George’s County resident Officer William Harris, Officer Harris has been a member of the MDTA Police since May 2014, who was named MDTA Police Officer of the Year. He earned his honor after being selected as Detachment Officer of the Month for the Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge 9 out of 12 months during 2017. Officer Harris conducted 3,058 traffic stops, making 24 arrests. In addition, he participated in the Toys for Tots campaign and Shop with A Cop and continues to explore ways to improve the community. Officer Harris was recognized for taking the initiative to make the public roadways around the Nice Bridge a much safer environment through his pro-active enforcement.

In addition to naming the 2017 Officer of the Year, the MDTA Police presented officers and civilians with more than 100 awards, including Awards of Excellence, Lifesaving Awards, Law Enforcement Supervisor of the Year, Motor Carrier Inspector of the Year, Dispatcher of the Year and Chief’s Commendations, among other.

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New Diabetes Fitness and Education Classes to Help People Manage Complex Disease

By PRESS OFFICER
Doctors Community Hospital 

Lanham, MD—The Joslin Diabetes Education Center at Doctors Community Hospital now offers diabetes fitness and education classes. Covered by most insurance plans, these weekly classes include a one-hour diabetes self-management education session and one-hour physical exercise session.  This combination has been shown to lower blood glucose levels and contribute to healthier outcomes for people living with diabetes.

These diabetes and fitness education classes are held every Tuesday morning at the Joslin Diabetes Center Education Affiliate at Doctors Community Hospital.  Classes are taught by an experienced certified diabetes educator, a registered dietitian and certified fitness trainers. Participants will learn about:

• Role of physical activity in controlling glucose levels

• How different activities affect blood glucose

• Exercise safety precautions for people who have diabetes

Diabetes continues to be a major healthcare concern throughout the area.  Statistics indicate that African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately affected by diabetes at 12.7 percent and 12.1 percent respectively.  In its 2017 Community Health Needs Assessment, the Prince George’s County Health Department estimated that 9.2 percent of county residents had diabetes.  Additionally, diabetes was reported as the fourth leading cause of death in Prince George’s County. If not managed, this complex condition can lead to an increased risk for blindness, kidney failure, non-traumatic amputations, cardiovascular disease and stroke and even death.

Exercise has been shown as an effective tool to combat diabetes.  According to American Diabetes Association guidelines, diabetes self-management training can help improve glucose levels.  In fact, it reported that physical activity can lower blood glucose levels up to 24 hours or more after workout.  Other benefits of physical activity and exercise include:

• Increased insulin sensitivity

• Reduced cardiovascular risk

• Improved muscle strength

• Reduced A1C levels

• Increased weight loss

• Improved well-being

 

For more information or to register to, call the Joslin Diabetes Education Center at Doctors Community Hospital at 301-552-8661.

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