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Hogan and Leggett pull out the stops to help Metro and entice Amazon to the county

On a stage normally reserved for large orchestras, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed two bills that could have a major impact on Montgomery County.

One bill Hogan signed gave Metro a dedicated source of funding for the first time. The other bill Hogan signed was a tax incentive package to help bring Amazon’s second headquarters to the White Flint area.

Instead of musicians filling the Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda, local and state officials from Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., were on hand to witness the bills get signed into law.

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Advocacy groups make final push as session winds down

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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State song may soon be demoted to historical status

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But rather than replace “the embarrassing, outdated and racist song,” as Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-17) called it, the State Senate opted last week to demote the song to historical status.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

Gun ViolenceWith a renewed push to enact gun control legislation taking this place last weekend in Washington, some state politicians are saying Maryland could serve as model of gun control reform for the nation.

Since the murder of 17 people in Parkland, Florida, students and gun control advocates have staged walkouts and protest marches in hopes of pressuring Congress to enact new gun control laws such as banning assault weapons which Maryland did through its legislation in 2013.

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Maryland legislative update

With less than a month left to go in this year’s legislative session, both chambers of the Maryland legislature are still working their way through several key pieces of legislation as their final deadline draws near.

Here is an update thus far on a select number of a few state bills:

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Maryland crafts legislation targeting presidential tax return

A Maryland bill that would require all future presidential candidates to release their tax returns passsed the Maryland Senate last week, taking aim at President Trump. 

The Presidential Candidate Tax Transparency Act – which passed the state Senate last week 28-17 – would make Maryland the first state to require future presidential candidates to release their tax returns as a condition of appearing on the ballot, so as to let voters evaluate any potential conflicts of interest.

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Kagan says video shows evidence of inappropriate touching

State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (left) and lobbyist Gil Genn.  FILE PHOTOSCheryl Kagan (left) and Gil Genn (right). FILE PHOTOSNewly-released security camera footage of an interaction between State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-17th District) and lobbyist Gil Genn is leading to different explanations from both parties roughly two weeks after Kagan accused Genn of touching her inappropriately.

The footage from a March 1 event at Castlebay Irish Pub in Annapolis shows shows Genn, a former state delegate and Kagan greeting one another with Genn putting his hand on Kagan’s back and whispering something to her before sliding his hand off her back, after which both spend the rest of the video in conversation. The footage does not make it clear how exactly Kagan reacted to Genn’s touch, as both continued talking in the crowded Annapolis bar.

Kagan – who in a March 2 statement accused Genn of touching her inappropriately by placing his hand on her back and then “[sliding] it down” – claimed the video validates her accusations.

“I was really uncomfortable,” Kagan said in a press conference Tuesday. “I wanted the incident to end. I wanted the interaction to end. He kept talking.”

However, Genn’s lawyer said the video exonerates Genn of any inappropriate behavior.

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Gun advocates and control supporters rally in Annapolis

ANNAPOLIS — Even a casual observer who visited the House of Delegates’ offices Tuesday could easy deduce the issue of the day by taking notice of the sartorial sameness displayed in the long lines of activists waiting to testify – gun control.

The corridor outside the House Judiciary Committee’s chamber, was packed full of redshirted advocates, gun lobbyists and other Marylanders seeking to add their voice to the debate, whether it was for or against more gun legislation. While last month’s deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida provided new momentum to a longstanding push for more gun control laws, those in attendance at Tuesday’s public hearing came not to take part in the ongoing national debate on guns, but rather to weigh in gun issues closer to home in Maryland.

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Kagan accuses lobbyist of inappropriate touching

Cheryl Kagan (left) and Gil Genn (right).  COURTESY PHOTOSCheryl Kagan (left) and Gil Genn (right). COURTESY PHOTOS  State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-17) alleges that a lobbyist inappropriately touched her during a legislative event on March 1.

“Last night, former legislator and current Annapolis lobbyist, Gil Genn, put his hand on my back and then slid it down…This was not the first time he had touched me inappropriately,” Kagan said in a March 2 statement she released through her state senate office.

Kagan alleges the incident occurred during Legislative Karaoke Night at Castlebay Irish Pub in Annapolis on March 1. Kagan said she thought it was appropriate to call out Genn by name because it is important to call out men who still do not respect women’s boundaries. She said she would “remain silent no more.”

Genn, a former Montgomery County delegate who represented District 16 and is now a lobbyist, denies Kagan’s claim that he touched her in an inappropriate way. Genn released his own statement on March 5 denying Kagan’s account of the incident.

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Gubernatorial candidates talk issues in Takoma Park

39622882705 9d7f4463a1 kGubernatorial candidates gather in Takoma Park COURTESY PHOTO BY EDWARD M. KIMMEL TAKOMA PARK — Six of the eight Democrats hoping to replace incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan (R) made their case to voters Sunday evening at Piney Branch Elementary School, during a candidate forum hosted by Progressive Neighbors.

The candidates in attendance – former NAACP president Ben Jealous, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, State Senator Rich Madaleno, attorney Jim Shea and former Obama administration officials Alec Ross and Krishanti Vignarajah – took questions from a moderator, Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart, as well as County residents, with subjects ranging from immigration, racial equity, housing and economic development to their ability to defeat incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan (R). Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and perennial candidate Ralph Jaffe did not attend.

While there was little disagreement on policy matters among the candidates, there was an overarching theme for the event, which Madaleno summed up during his opening statement when he declared: “We are trying to bring back smart Democratic governance to the state of Maryland.”

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