State Roundup: Subpoena For Mcgrath; Counting Ballots By Hand; Sen. Hough Fears Town Bankruptcy From Brutality Lawsuits

LAWMAKERS SUBPOENA McGRATH: Hoping to delve more deeply into a lucrative and controversial severance package approved by a quasi-governmental agency, Maryland lawmakers on Wednesday took the rare step of authorizing a subpoena for Gov. Hogan.’s former chief of staff, Roy McGrath, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports.

  • This was the first time in its 14-year history that a special review panel of Maryland lawmakers unanimously voted to issue a subpoena to force a former aide to Gov. Larry Hogan to testify, Megan Cloherty of WTOP-FM reports.
  • A 2006 subpoena targeted Hogan, who at the time was appointments secretary to Gov. Bob Ehrlich. The future Republican governor was forced to answer questions before the panel about what was thought to be an effort by the Ehrlich administration to target Democrats for termination from state jobs, Ovetta Wiggins reports in the Post.
  • The lawmakers also voted to subpoena Matthew Sherring, a longtime McGrath associate who was the director of operations at the environmental service. He left that position last month, reports Pamela Wood for the Sun.

WEB BALLOTS MUST BE HAND COPIED TO BE COUNTED: The rush to vote from home this year left Maryland election judges with a burden that plagues no other state in the country: ballots delivered online cannot be read by the state’s scanning machines, reports Erin Cox of the Post. To be counted, each of those ballots must instead be hand-copied by election judges onto a cardstock ballot. The number thus far is 108,000.

HOUGH: LAWSUITS AGAINST POLICE COULD BANKRUPT TOWNS: Bryan Renbaum of Maryland Reporter writes that Sen. Mike Hough (R-Carroll and Frederick) told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Wednesday that Democratic-sponsored legislation that increases the amount of money local governments are forced to pay in police brutality lawsuits will bankrupt many of the state’s small towns.

EX-HARFORD EXEC HAS DEMENTIA, SEEKS MORE FUNDING FOR RESEARCH: Former Harford County Executive David Craig announced in the Sun that he has dementia, writing, “A form of it has taken both of my parents and my brother. In many ways, it took them twice — first their spirit, and then their physical presence. Over the past year, my family and I have come to the realization that a form of this affliction has now turned its gaze to me.”

  • James Whitlow of the Aegis reports that Craig — who had also served as Havre de Grace mayor, state legislator and state planning secretary — and his family are now calling on greater investment in medical research about the disease.
  • In a column for his Duckpin blog, Brian Griffiths writes of Craig: “He was also a solid conservative at a time when Maryland didn’t have a lot of those left in elected office. While he was never going to be conservative enough for ‘truuuuee conservatives,’ he focused on good government, balanced budgets, and low taxes, while still being solidly pro-life.”

ADVOCATES SAY ABORTION RIGHTS SAFE IN MARYLAND: As advocates fret over the future of access to abortion in the U.S. following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, they believe abortion rights are well-protected in Maryland — despite a lack of success for recent efforts to include them in the state’s constitution, Pamela Wood reports for the Sun. “We’re solid as a state when it comes to abortion access,” said Diana Philip, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland.

LAWMAKERS HEAR TESTIMONY AS UTILITY CUTOFFS LOOM: With the end of the state’s moratorium on utility service cutoffs looming, Maryland lawmakers on Wednesday heard from regulators, energy assistance agencies, consumer advocates and the utilities themselves on what they’re planning to do to aid struggling ratepayers, Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes.

PURPLE LINE DELAYED; MDOT SEEKS MANAGEMENT FIX: Maryland transportation officials said Tuesday they will take over day-to-day management of building the Purple Line, at least temporarily, as soon as construction crews pack up and depart, a process that could come as early as next week, writes Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters.

HOGAN ASKED TO STOP MDOT BUDGET CUTS: The Central Maryland Transportation Alliance is calling on Gov. Larry Hogan to cancel MDOT MTA proposed budget cuts, saying “we should not be balancing the state transportation budget on the backs of brown and black essential workers.” Earlier this month, MTA announced it would cut its fiscal year 2021 operating budget by $43 million, Ray Strickland reports for WMAR-TV.

***Emerging Energy Storage Solutions & Grid Modernization This FREE Webinar on September 24th will examine energy storage in Maryland, beyond the pilot project proposals currently under consideration by the PSC. Find out which storage technologies are applicable- and at what scale- to provide value to the grid and facilitate resilience. Presenters will examine Vehicle to Grid capability and share examples of deployment in time-of-use environments, including Maryland based microgrid projects.***

COURTS GET CREATIVE TO RESTART ON OCT. 5: Maryland’s circuit courts will be ready to resume jury trials Oct. 5 in a socially distanced world by taking creative steps, such as converting firehouses to jury rooms, conducting jury selection via Zoom and having jurors sit and deliberate in courtroom spectator galleries, Steve Lash reports for the Daily Record.

MO CO PREPS FOR 2nd COVID WAVE: Montgomery County officials said Wednesday that the county is preparing for a potential second wave of COVID-19 cases in the fall, Briana Adhikusuma reports for Bethesda Beat.

MO CO PROGRESSIVES OPPOSE TAX LIMIT BALLOT QUESTION: Former Montgomery County school board member Jill Ortman-Fouse is co-chairing a new group opposing Question B, Robin Ficker’s charter amendment on property taxes, along with former Jamie Raskin staffer William Roberts. The group has attracted a large number of progressive institutional supporters, Adam Pagnucco of Seventh State reports.

  • Question B, if passed, would not allow the county to raise property taxes above the rate of inflation, Briana Adhikusuma reports in Bethesda Beat. Ficker, a frequent candidate, former state delegate and current candidate for governor, collected more than 13,500 signatures to get a public referendum on the tax policy change.

HOGAN AGAINST RUSHING RGB REPLACEMENT: Gov. Larry Hogan is speaking out against Republican efforts to push through a Supreme Court Justice nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg less than two months before the general election. In an interview at the Texas Tribune Festival, Hogan said it would be a mistake for members of his party to push through a Supreme Court nominee before Election Day, WJZ-TV reports.

  • Hogan, a moderate Republican leading a state with a deeply Democratic electorate, said in an interview aired Wednesday that the Senate should not “ram through a nominee on a partisan-line vote,” Erin Cox of the Post reports. The nation’s highest court, he said, deserves “a dignified process.”

THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: ASK THEM THIS: As the first debate between President Trump and former VP Joe Biden nears, Towson professor Richard Vatz, in a column for MarylandReporter, gives a history of debates between presidential candidates and offers some suggestions for questions that could be asked of the two current candidates.