Sen. Bobby Zirkin on the Senate Floor. photo

Maryland Government round-up for December 3, 2019


SEN. ZIRKIN TO RESIGN EFFECTIVE JAN. 1: State Sen. Bobby Zirkin, who has led the Maryland Senate’s high-profile justice committee for five years, is resigning from office. Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat who’s sat in the General Assembly since 1999, said Monday that he’s ready to move on from politics, which he said has become too divisive and driven by special interests and social media, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

DEL. CASSILLY TAKES HOGAN JOB OFFER: Another vacancy in the General Assembly: Gov. Larry Hogan Jr. (R) announced Monday that he has appointed Del. Andrew P. Cassilly (R-Harford) as his new senior adviser, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters. Cassilly will succeed Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. — another former state lawmaker — who was recently appointed to the role of chief legislative officer.

BPW TO DELAY VOTE ON HOGAN ROADS PLAN: Faced with persistent requests from state Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) — a crucial vote on the state’s powerful Board of Public Works — and nearly 90 state lawmakers, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) reluctantly agreed to delay a vote on his controversial plan to widen two frequently clogged highways in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports. The BPW is scheduled to consider changes to Hogan’s plan to widen the Capital Beltway (I-495) and I-270 on Wednesday. But it’s expected that members of the panel — Hogan, Franchot, and Treasurer Nancy Kopp (D) — will agree to move the item to the panel’s final meeting of the year, Dec. 18.

STUDY SAYS KIRWAN TO BENEFIT STATE ECONOMY: Following the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission could lead to major increases in tax revenue for Maryland, reduce the cost of social welfare programs and put thousands of mothers to work, according to a report released Tuesday. Holden Wilen of the Baltimore Business Journal reports that Strong Schools Maryland, a statewide nonprofit coalition promoting the Kirwan plan, hired Sage Policy Group Inc. to put together the report ahead of what is expected to be a big fight in Annapolis when the General Assembly begins its annual legislative session.

OPINION: KIRWAN FAILED FINAL EXAM: In a column for his PoliticalMaryland blog, Barry Rascovar opines that as “a math professor, Brit Kirwan should have known better: You must answer all the questions on your Final Exam, not just one out of three. The education-reform commission that Kirwan leads completed the academic portion of the Final Exam, delivering an evidence-based treatise on how to dramatically improve the quality of Maryland public schooling. But the panel skipped the other two questions. Big mistake.”

GIVING NEWS DAY: Everyone knows about #GivingTuesday, which the entire nonprofit world has embraced. But have you heard about #GivingNewsDay? It’s a day — today, in fact — to celebrate nonprofit, independent and fact-based journalism like ours—and to raise the funds to make it all possible. Will you consider making a donation to today, in honor of #GivingNewsDay?

POLICE IN QUANDRY OVER CHANGING POT LAWS: Rapidly changing law on marijuana use and possession in Maryland, from the decriminalization of small amounts to the legalization of medical use, has left some law enforcement officers wondering what the presence or odor of marijuana means for them when they are conducting stops and searches. Heather Cobun of the Daily Record reports that in the two years since medical cannabis was legalized and made available, Maryland’s appellate courts have not addressed its impact on probable cause for police.

VAN HOLLEN, FROSH ON CONSUMER PROTECTION TOUR: Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh visited Westminster on Monday as part of a tour around the state to talk about consumer protection from fraud and identity theft, Catalina Righter of the Carroll County Times reports.

HAGERSTOWN AIRPORT SUES OVER FEDERAL FUNDING: It’s dim inside the terminal building of the airport in Hagerstown. Ticket counters are empty and a coffee bar looks abandoned. The only person there to serve customers is a young woman running a rental car counter, who says she no longer has much to do. In October, the federal government pulled a $2.3 million subsidy that had supported daily flights that connected the small airport a half-mile from the Pennsylvania border to Baltimore and Pittsburgh, Ian Duncan reports for the Post.

OPINION: GONZAGA FAMILY FEUD: Post columnist Petula Dvorak writes about Thanksgiving and family and controversy, which of course leads us to former Gov. Martin O’Malley and the bar smackdown with fellow Gonzaga High graduate and Trump Homeland Security chief Ken Cuccinelli. She writes that “both spent their formative, educational years learning from the same passionate social ethics teachers, taking the same religion classes, going to the same Catholic Mass and the same religious retreats, volunteering at the same inner-city soup kitchen that is part of Gonzaga’s campus just beyond Capitol Hill. Yet …”

HOWARD IMPOSES 5-CENT PLASTIC BAG FEE: The Howard County Council passed legislation, 4-1, Monday night that requires a 5-cent fee on disposable plastic bags. This comes almost 10 months after state Del. Terri Hill, a Democrat, sponsored a bill to permit the County Council and the county executive to impose a fee, and one month after the bill was introduced at a legislative session meeting, Ana Faguy of the Howard County Times reports.

DISTRICT HEIGHTS MAYOR SUSPENDED: District Heights Mayor Eddie L. Martin was suspended Monday following a scandal involving the sale of $50,000 worth of fireworks, according to a letter from the city attorney, Rachel Chason of the Post reports. Martin was convicted last month of misconduct in office, a misdemeanor offense, for using government letterhead to authorize the purchase and transport of fireworks from Wayne’s World Fireworks in Bowling Green, Ind., on behalf of an acquaintance.

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