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Supreme Court to wait on Maryland gerrymandering case

  • Published in State

COURTESY PHOTOCOURTESY PHOTO  The United States Supreme Court decided Monday to not rule on a case challenging the design of Maryland’s congressional districts – leaving the state's congressional map for the 2018 elections intact.

The unanimous holding by the Supreme Court means that Maryland, along with several other states, will have to wait for the Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue of partisan gerrymandering.

Partisan gerrymandering, the act taken by state legislators to redraw congressional districts to deliberately provide advantage to one political party over another, has become a hot topic in Maryland ever since legislators redrew the state’s congressional districts after the 2010 census.

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Democrats assail Governor Hogan in Sentinel debate

  • Published in Local

From left to right, Elizabeth Embry, Krishanti Vignarajah, Ben Jealous, Richard Madaleno, Alec Ross and Brandon Scott at the Sentinel Newspapers sponsored Democratic candidate debate Monday.  PHOTO BY GEORGE SMITHFrom left to right, Elizabeth Embry, Krishanti Vignarajah, Ben Jealous, Richard Madaleno, Alec Ross and Brandon Scott at the Sentinel Newspapers sponsored Democratic candidate debate Monday.         PHOTO BY GEORGE SMITH  ROCKVILLE — According to State Senator Richard Madaleno, Governor Larry Hogan’s popularity boils down to one thing; “He’s running on my record,” Madaleno said in a Democratic candidate debate sponsored by The Sentinel Newspapers Monday night.

Former NAACP CEO Ben Jealous, Madaleno (D-18), former U.S. State Department official Alec Ross and former Policy Director for First Lady Michelle Obama Krishanti Vignarajah all participated in the debate. Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and Baltimore businessman Jim Shea sent their running mates, prosecutor Elizabeth Embry and Baltimore City Council member Brandon Scott, respectively.

The debate, like most Democratic primary forums, began and ended with attempts at knocking Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) record on jobs, schools and lack of opposition to President Donald J. Trump.

“This thing you read about that ‘Maryland is open for business’ that is total and complete bullshit,” Ross said.

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Annapolis legislators say session productive so far

  • Published in State

Maryland FlagWith votes taking place on the House and Senate floors in the final weeks of the 2018 Maryland legislative session in Annapolis, two members of Montgomery County’s delegation are satisfied with their accomplishments so far.

“I think we managed to do a lot of legislation that directly benefits our constituents, everything from … firearms to the environment to economic development,” said Del. Kirill Reznik (D-District 39) who represents parts of Germantown and Montgomery Village.

Sen. Susan Lee (D-District 16), who represents Bethesda and Potomac, echoed Reznik’s comments saying “I think we got a lot done so far.”

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Advocacy groups make final push as session winds down

  • Published in State

Maryland FlagAs the 2018 Maryland legislative session enters its final days, state advocacy groups are making a final push for the passage of legislation.

“While there are a few bills still alive that we’re still supporting, unfortunately most of the major environmental legislation this year was either voted down or amended down into a non-sensitive form,” said Elaine Lutz, staff attorney for the Maryland office of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, an organization which advocates for the health of the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding waterways.

Lutz said the CBF’s primary focus during this session was strengthening the Forest Conservation Act, which she said designates certain areas in the state as priority forests and calls for them to be preserved, but provides few specific criteria or guidelines towards accomplishing that goal.

“We are seeing the loss of some of our best contiguous forests,” Lutz said. “The legislation we introduced this year would have provided specific, transparent criteria for preserving the forests and reforestation requirements, but after opposition from some of the counties and the development community, the senate amended it into a more task force-oriented bill to find out where the forests are being lost and require certain recommendations to be made.”

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A win for the rule of law

  • Published in News

Federal judge rules lawsuit can proceed against President Trump

gavel2 1 Federal judge Peter J. Messitte ruled Friday that a joint lawsuit filed by Maryland and the District of Columbia against President Donald J. Trump can proceed, refusing the government’s request to drop the case.

Last June, D.C. and Maryland, announced they were suing Trump for violating the Emoluments Clause in the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits elected officials from receiving any present, title or emolument from a foreign head of state. Maryland and D.C.’s lawsuit against Trump alleges he has received emoluments through his various businesses, which Maryland and D.C. claim have become a hotspot for foreign dignitaries looking to curry favor with the president by patronizing his businesses.

“Today’s decision is a win for the rule of law, and soundly rejects the Trump administration’s argument that nobody can challenge the President’s illegal conduct,” said Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.

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State song may soon be demoted to historical status

  • Published in State

Maryland Flag“Maryland, My Maryland,” the Civil War battle hymn that refers to “Northern scum” soon may no longer be the state song.

But rather than replace “the embarrassing, outdated and racist song,” as Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-17) called it, the State Senate opted last week to demote the song to historical status.

“It will be designated as historical. We are putting it aside,” said Kagan, who stressed that her preference for the new designation is “historical, not historic. ‘Historical’ means that’s what we used to believe.”

The lyrics, which are from a poem written in the early days of the Civil War by James Ryder Randall, “are offensive and outdated,” she said, explaining why she has been trying to repeal and replace the song since 2016.

Before the song is officially downgraded, the House of Delegates must agree. An official vote in the House has not yet been scheduled.

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Fare Game

  • Published in Local

Delegate Korman suggests less of a need for fare increases if budget proposals are met

Maryland Flag Metro LogoThe Maryland General Assembly likely will fully fund Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s request for the operating budget, reducing the risk of untimely fare increases or service cuts, a local delegate said.

“I haven’t heard any pushback for the operating [budget],” said the delegate, Del. Marc Korman (D-16), who represents Montgomery County, on Tuesday.

Korman said Friday’s news that Gov. Larry Hogan said he supported the idea of a dedicated funding source added to his confidence. Wiedefeld in his 2017 plan requested all three jurisdictions find means to supply money on which Metro can sell debt each year. Wiedefeld left the decision of where to find the dedicated funding up to the jurisdictions.

“We spent a lot of time on it; on Friday, he [Hogan] agreed,” Korman said.

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Gubernatorial candidates Madaleno, Ross pick running mates

  • Published in State

Maryland FlagTwo of the Democrats who are vying for the chance to unseat Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in this year’s general election announced Lieutenant Governor picks this week in hopes of balancing ties to Montgomery County with the rest of the state in order to present an appealing choice to voters across Maryland.

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Maryland considers dedicated Metro funding

  • Published in Local

Maryland Flag Metro LogoANNAPOLIS — A delegation for business people and elected officials made their way to the state capital Tuesday to make their case that Metro, the region’s struggling mass transit system, needs a reliable supply of state dollars.

On Tuesday, the Maryland House of Delegates Appropriations Committee held a public hearing for a bill that would give the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority $125 million in dedicated funding. WMATA has requested this type of funding for some time from the three jurisdictions of D.C., Maryland and Virginia, as it is one of the few mass transit systems in America without a source of dedicated funding or a consistent permanent supply of public money.

Council member Roger Berliner (D-1), who served on the Council of Governments, a regional body of elected officials from D.C., Maryland and Virginia that work on regional issues, said no issue has united people more than the need for a dedicated funding source for Metro.

“I’ve had the privilege of serving on the board of the Council of Governments for many years and last year as chair,” Berliner said. “In all of those years, no issue has united our entire region, Republicans and Democrats, urban and suburban, more than the need to finally provide dedicated funding for Metro.”

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Controversial state song may finally change

  • Published in State

Flag of MarylandMaryland’s controversial state song – “Maryland, My Maryland” – could soon go the way of eight-track tapes and cassettes if a number of state legislators get their way.

The Civil War-era battle hymn, which makes reference to “Northern scum,” takes its lyrics from a poem written in the early days of the conflict by James Ryder Randall, and with verses like “Thou wilt not cower in the dust, Maryland! Thy beaming sword shall never rust,” gained popularity with Confederate troops before being adopted as the official state song.

One proposal for changing the song is SB0790, sponsored by State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D) of District 17. Kagan has been pushing to change the state song since 2016, and introduced her bill to “repeal and replace” the current song, which she called “embarrassing and dated and racist,” last week.

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