Anaylsis: The New Hogan Budget

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Twenty-four hours after being sworn in, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced his fiscal year 2016 budget, cutting all agency spending by 2 percent, but increasing funding for K-12 schools and higher education.

Hogan announced a 2 percent cut across all state agencies to break what he called the “ongoing cycle of excessive spending and borrowing” caused by tax hikes.

Hogan’s budget also includes funding for the proposed Purple Line and Baltimore Red Line rail projects, Secretary of Budget and Management David Brinkley said. However, Brinkley said, “both projects are pending review and re-evaluation.”

Controversial taxes, such as the “rain tax,” were not addressed. While Hogan said he planned to cut taxes, it would be at a later date.

Hogan said Thursday his budget team created a “structurally balanced budget without gimmicks or sleight of hand,” something he said hadn’t been done for 10 years. He described his fiscal outline’s motto as, “Balance today, balance tomorrow.”

Hogan criticized the previous administration for “being on track to spend $700 million that we did not have” and putting the state “on a path to financial peril,” he said.

“Our budget puts Maryland on sound financial footing without raising taxes or fees and without eliminating agencies, departments or services, without laying off a single state employee and without any furloughs whatsoever,” Hogan said.

The operating budget, which Hogan said represents 19 percent of the state’s total annual spending, expends $16.4 billion on revenues of $16.4 billion, he said.

Hogan stressed how balanced the budget was, “excluding appropriation to the reserve fund, PAYGO capital and debt service.”

Hogan announced that education was one of the administration’s top priorities.

“I’m introducing record spending in K-12 education and growth in higher education spending as well,” Hogan said.

The total budget for public schools is at $6.1 billion, including an increase of about $45.3 million after contingent reductions, Brinkley said.

State Senator Thomas Middleton, D-Charles, said he had only seen the governor’s overview presentation, and needed to see the actual budget when it is released Friday.

“A lot of it, the devil’s in the details,” he said.

Many people were concerned that the Geographic Cost of Education Index, which bases funding for public schools based on the cost of living in a jurisdiction, would be slashed completely, Middleton said. The scaled spending was cut in half, but it could have been worse, Middleton said.

Middleton said he was encouraged that Hogan kept the budget for school construction roughly the same as last year.

K-12 schools are receiving $290 million for education projects, including $280 million for the Public School Construction Program.

“There’s a lot more detail that we need before we can analyze what really happened,” Middleton said.

The budget provides for a 1.3 percent increase for the University System of Maryland, which will roughly translate to $15 million, Marc L. Nicole, the executive director of the Office of Budget Analysis, said. The total state funding for the University System of Maryland will be $1.2 billion, Brinkley said.

Brinkley also addressed potential tuition hikes to the University System of Maryland, saying they would be up to the Board of Regents, not the executive branch of state government.

“There’s no one that wants to know the exact number for the USM more than me, but there’s so much more to be said than what was presented today,” said Patrick J. Hogan, the associate vice chancellor for government relations for the University System of Maryland.

“Overall, the budget does grow a little bit, so there are ups and downs. That was one of the priority areas of spending for Gov. Hogan,” Nicole said.

The general fund spending growth in the budget is about 0.5 percent.

Health care and other businesses are also receiving aid from the state government.

The FY 2016 capital budget has allocated $48 million for improvements to Maryland’s health infrastructure, including $30 million that will go toward the Prince George’s County Hospital, Brinkley said.

A statement released by Hogan’s office Thursday gave information about how the new budget would help life science companies by including $12 million in biotechnology tax credits, putting $9.4 million into stem cell technology and spending $2.5 million in investments and tax credits for cyber security research.

State Senator Stephen Waugh, R-Calvert and St. Mary’s, said he thinks this General Assembly has the opportunity to do some good for the state, and the budget is a big part of that.

“I think the governor’s rhetoric today has been very consistent,” Waugh said. “He’s going to get spending under control so we can get taxes under control so we can bring businesses back to the state. I’m pretty happy about that.”

Delegate Ben Barnes, D-Anne Arundel and Prince George’s County, cited his concerns with the budget, saying, “We need some rationale here. We need some information. We want him to roll up his sleeves and come out and give us details. He’s the governor of the state, so now’s the time.”

Budgets for Beginners:

The governor’s office releases a budget at the beginning of every calendar year for the fiscal year (FY), which begins July 1 and ends June 30 of the following year. The budget is named for the year in which it ends, so for example, FY 2015 started on July 1, 2014, and will end June 30, 2015.

Hogan has announced his FY 2016 budget, which will take effect on July 1 of this year. Previous Gov. Martin O’Malley’s office had proposed a budget for Hogan, who had the choice of building on it or creating something new altogether.

Brinkley said the Hogan administration did not create the budget from scratch. They only had about 19 percent of the operating budget to play with, he said, because of all the state’s long-term financial commitments.

As governor, Hogan has power to alter the FY 2015 budget through his role as a member of the Board of Public Works, which also includes Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot. O’Malley recently altered the budget to take out $400 million to slash the shortfall Hogan’s office would inherit, and Hogan can continue to make limited changes until his budget goes into effect.

By Anjali Shastry

Capital News Service correspondents Nate Rabner, Grace Toohey and Deidre McPhillips contributed to this report.

Education Groups Fear for School Funding with Budget Shortfall

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Gov.-elect Larry Hogan’s transition team has curtains pulled tight over the budget until after he takes office next week, but many education groups are gearing up to fight for school programs they feel are particularly endangered this year.

The Maryland State Education Association, previously known as the Maryland State Teachers Association, is running a radio campaign and petition drive to protect school funding in Maryland.

The petition calls for Hogan and the General Assembly — with a notably high number of new members and Republicans among them — to “step up and do more for our schools” and has, according to their website, more than 11,000 signatures.

While the Maryland State Education Association has used this strategy to drive several special-issue campaigns before, this time is different, said Sean Johnson, government relations director for the group.

“We started the campaign prior to the session,” Johnson said. “A lot of work and progress has gone into making our schools what they are. Many of those policy and funding decision-makers may not be returning to town.”

With more than one third of the 188 legislators sworn in to the General Assembly on Wednesday being new and forecasts for heavy budget cuts, Johnson said the goal was to get the word out early.

Johnson said he hopes Hogan will fund The Maryland Association of Boards of Education’s full budget request of just under $5.5 billion, which is about one third of the total general fund budget.

John Woolums, the director of governmental relations for The Maryland Association of Boards of Education, said that he recognizes the heftiness of the request and understands the potential effects a severe budget shortfall may have on education.

“We are concerned about the preservation of integral proponents of the Maryland education system that are not mandated by the state,” Woolums said, particularly the Geographic Cost of Education Index, a formula that provides additional state funding to local school systems where educational resource costs are above the state average.

Democrats were strongly in favor of the idea in 2014, but it did not go to vote. This time around, if a bill is presented to a legislature on a tight budget and with a larger number of seats filled with Republicans, support may not be as great, he said.

Vice Chairman of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, supports mandating the index and said that he is very worried about the education budget.

“We (legislators) have the power to cut funding, but not to bring it back,” Pinsky said. He eagerly awaits Hogan’s budget announcement expected on Thursday.

To Sen. Edward R. Reilly, R-Anne Arundel, control over the budget is what makes the governor in Maryland so powerful. But rumors about budget cuts are just that — rumors.

“Everyone up and down the food chain is nervous,” Reilly said. “Tax cuts might be coming. A revenue shortfall might be coming, and that would put pressure on all aspects.”

Precautions are already being taken. In a special session, the University System of Maryland Board of Regents on Friday voted to approve mid-year tuition adjustments for spring semester 2015.

The current state deficit is about $750 million and has the potential to rise to $1 billion if no spending adjustments are made, University of Maryland, College Park President Wallace Loh said in an email Friday announcing $15.6 million in cuts his administration plans to make this year to compensate.

“For now, we, and all state employees, must make sacrifices,” Loh said.

Freshman Delegate Benjamin Brooks, D-Baltimore County, said that he would most likely vote in favor of any legislation that benefits the education system.

“The shortest distance to prosperity from poverty is education,” said Brooks, maintaining that cutting funding for education would not only shortchange the students, but the state.

Educating the new legislators of the 435th General Assembly and reaching across the political aisle may not be the only problems facing education, though.

Generally, during the legislative session, “teachers definitely don’t know that decisions are being made,” said Pat Yongpradit, director of education at Code.org and former high school computer science teacher and curriculum team lead for Montgomery County Public Schools. “They don’t know how the governor is leaning. Legislators are cooking up things and the general public has to live with what comes out unless they know what’s happening.”

Yongpradit said that he would have been happy to retire from Montgomery County Public Schools, but was offered an opportunity to promote computer science education at a federal level.

“Maryland was No. 1, three or four times in a row, but now we’re third,” said Yongpradit, referring to Education Week’s annual report of the best public school systems by state. “I don’t know if that’s cause for alarm, but we’re doing great in comparison (to other states).”

Hogan is expected to give a briefing of the budget on Thursday, one day after his inauguration.

By Deidre McPhillips

Hogan Signs Comptroller’s Petition to Push Back School Start Past Labor Day

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Gov.-elect Larry Hogan finalized Comptroller Peter Franchot’s campaign to mandate public schools to begin after Labor Day by adding his name to the “Let Summer Be Summer” petition Thursday morning, which totaled 13,244 signatures in support of a later start date.

Franchot and Hogan said this change will bring increased revenue for businesses and the government—without any tax hikes—and bring more opportunities for family time.

“I think it makes a whole heck of a lot of sense to start school after Labor Day,” Hogan said. “There’s just no downside to this issue.”

Local school boards determine start dates, which have been trending to before Labor Day since the 2000s. John Woolums, director of governmental relations for the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, said this coincided with testing initiatives from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Many counties wanted more time for instruction before tests, Woolums said, but they also had the power to respond to local needs.

State Comptroller Peter Franchot (center) announces the more than 13,000 signatures on his petition supporting a start date after Labor Day for Maryland public schools at the Louis L. Goldstein Treasury Building in Annapolis, Maryland, January 15, 2015. (Capital News Service photo by Grace Toohey).

State Comptroller Peter Franchot (center) announces the more than 13,000 signatures on his petition supporting a start date after Labor Day for Maryland public schools at the Louis L. Goldstein Treasury Building in Annapolis, Maryland, January 15, 2015. (Capital News Service photo by Grace Toohey).

Worcester County followed the trend and switched to a start date before Labor Day, but after hearing Ocean City area businesses’ concerns, Woolums said, they chose to start this year after Labor Day. He said this local response is better than a statewide mandate.

Hogan recalled his years working summers in Ocean City as a teen, and said that extra weekend of work into Labor Day at $1.35 an hour made all the difference to him.

Franchot said this issue crosses party lines, and is an issue of the “common sense caucus,” because students, teachers, families, small businesses and taxpayers want a break. He said this date change can make that break happen.

“We can accomplish this easily,” Franchot said. “This meaningful adjustment can be done relatively smoothly and keep the current end of the school year at early- to mid-June.”

He said that local districts can determine how to make up lost pre-Labor Day school days and still ensure students are in the classroom for a minimum of 180 days by using the flexibility of winter and spring breaks, as well as eliminating “soft time” in current schedules.

Cutting days could end up cutting teachers’ professional development time, said Woolums. He also said the lost time from the beginning of the year would most naturally be made up in an extension at the end.

In May, the Task Force to Study a Post-Labor Day start for Maryland Public Schools—which included parents, teachers, business representatives, state delegates and senators, a student, and a representative from both the Maryland Tourism Board and the Maryland State Education Association—recommended to Gov. Martin O’Malley a later start for Maryland public schools.

The task force met eight times throughout the 2013-2014 school year, reviewing the impact of a later start date on the education system, the economy and summer tourism.

The state Bureau of Revenue Estimates released an economic impact report on the post-Labor Day start in August, which estimated a possible $74.3 million increase in direct economic activity by using assumptions about the number of families taking a new summer vacation. The Bureau of Revenue Estimates was not available for comment on the specifics behind these assumptions.

Bill Paulshock, owner of Bill’s Seafood in Perry Hall, Md., said Thursday the extra weekend can be the difference between a business staying open or having to shut down.

“It’s a stimulus package that’s not going to cost our taxpayers a dime,” Paulshock said.

But the Maryland Association of Boards of Education is completely against the idea of a statewide-mandated start date after Labor Day, said Woolums.

“There is the concern that economic interests, such as the reported sales tax revenues that could be generated by extending summer in Ocean City, are being held above and given higher priority than the educational needs of our students,” Woolums said.

The Maryland Association of Boards of Education, which represents the 24 local boards of education in the state, also opposes the state’s intrusion on local governance in such complex issues, like a starting date, Woolums said.

There were no teachers or representatives of education organizations at the conference

Thursday morning, though Franchot said many teachers signed the petition and are in support of the later state date.

State Senator James N. Mathias Jr., D-Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester, said he hopes to carry a bill on the topic to the Senate, and Delegate Anne Healey, D-Prince George’s County, has plans to also bring it to the House of Delegates.

By Grace Toohey

Maryland’s General Assembly Opens with 69 New Faces, More Power for GOP

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More than a third of the legislators at Wednesday’s opening of Maryland’s General Assembly were newly elected, the most sworn in at one time in recent memory, House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said during the inaugural legislative session.

This incoming group of 58 new delegates — 27 Republicans and 31 Democrats — and 11 new senators — including seven Republicans and four Democrats — will be dealing with a variety of issues over the 90-day legislative session. The state’s budget, which is expected to be presented next week by Republican Gov.-elect Larry Hogan, looms over all of them.

U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, left, and Governor-elect Larry Hogan speak to press after having a lunch meeting at Harry Browne's in Annapolis at the opening day of the Maryland General Assembly on Wednesday, January 14, 2015.   Capital News Service photo by James Levin

U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, left, and Governor-elect Larry Hogan speak to press after having a lunch meeting at Harry Browne’s in Annapolis at the opening day of the Maryland General Assembly on Wednesday, January 14, 2015.   Capital News Service photo by James Levin

Republicans also hold more sway overall than in recent memory, with 14 in the new Senate and 50 in the House of Delegates joining Hogan, who is to be sworn in next week.

Maryland’s projected budget shortfall crept past $1 billion late last year. Outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley’s plan to recoup $400 million of it was approved last week.

Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s, said Wednesday after the brief opening session that Marylanders should not expect any tax increases to make up the remaining shortfall.

Miller said the legislature this session will also be dealing with higher education and K-12 school systems; the environment; potential cuts to state discretionary funding; and cuts to a 2 percent cost-of-living raise for state employees.

Sitting next to each other on the House floor Wednesday were Dr. Terri Hill and Dr. Clarence Lam, both newly elected physicians from District 12. Neither Hill, D-Baltimore and Howard, nor Lam, D-Baltimore and Howard, has held public office before, but both said they ran to extend their public service from medicine to the legislature.

They join incumbent Dr. Dan Morhaim, D-Baltimore County, and newly elected Dr. Jay Jalisi, D-Baltimore County, to bring the total number of physicians in the General Assembly to four.

“We benefit when there’s a greater variety of voices at the table,” said Hill. “Gov.-elect Hogan has made clear what his priorities are, and I don’t think they’re in conflict with those of the General Assembly, but there’s going to be a lot of back and forth and give and take.”

The Democratic-majority General Assembly may face partisan challenges in working with Hogan’s administration, but freshman delegate Jason Buckel, R-Allegany, said that bipartisan cooperation is likely.

Buckel, a civil litigator, said the problems the legislature faces are not partisan, but statewide. His interest lies in the budget and tax issues, as he was named to the Ways and Means committee.

“We may have differences of policies for how we would reach the objective, but I don’t think our objectives are really any different,” Buckel said.

State Senator Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said getting the budget under control was the state’s single most important problem. Next week, Shank will join Hogan’s cabinet as the director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention.

Other issues to be tackled include Hogan’s proposal to repeal the stormwater remediation fee, a “rain tax” as it is popularly known, which taxes property owners based on impervious surfaces, and potential pollution of the Chesapeake Bay.

“The voters sent a resoundingly clear message that this level of taxation is not acceptable,” Shank said. “We have a tax revolt in Maryland, and I think you’re going to see a challenge in terms of making sure we live within our means.”

Other issues to be tackled include police body cameras, which became prominent after the shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, in August, and a debate about transportation funding.

With Hogan’s announcement on Tuesday that Pete Rahn, who he described as “the best highway builder in the entire country,” would be the new transportation secretary, he strongly indicated that proposed mass transit projects, such as the “purple line” linking Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, would not be moving forward.

Lam, assigned to the Environment and Transportation Committee, said he supports the debated rail projects — including a “red line” in Baltimore – because they encourage job growth and stability.

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Dozens of environmental activists gather outside the Maryland State House in Annapolis to push for the passing of the Maryland Clean Energy Advancement Act of 2015 during the opening day of the Maryland General Assembly on Wednesday, January 14, 2015.  Capital News Service photo by James Levin

Hogan has already begun to reach across the legislative aisle by putting Democratic state legislators on his cabinet. These include outgoing Delegate Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., D-Baltimore, as a senior adviser who will oversee a possible expansion of Maryland’s charter schools, and Rona E. Kramer, a former state senator from Montgomery County, to head up the Department of Aging.

While legislators were mixing and mingling with crowds inside the Capitol, protesters milled about in the cold outside.

Dozens of activists filled up Lawyer’s Mall calling for Maryland to change its policies on environmental issues, touting a bill by state Senator Brian Feldman, D-Montgomery, which calls for the state to double its use of clean energy from 20 percent to 40 percent.

Those in attendance held signs stating “Forward with Clean Energy” and waved handheld wind turbines.

But Miller said he is not optimistic about the bill’s chances of passing, citing the bill as “pricey” for small business owners and detrimental to workers at coal power plants.

“We want to continue to clean up the environment, continue to have clean air and clean up our streams, rivers and bay,” Miller said. “But at the same time, we worry of putting in place a guideline that we can’t reach in a reasonable period of time.”

By Anjali Shastry, Deidre McPhillips and Brian Marron
Capital News Service

State Now Allows Hunting on Farmers’ Fields to Control Deer

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When Max Dubansky first moved to his farm about 15 years ago, he often saw about 100 deer in his fields.

“We were losing up to $1,000 in lettuce in one night,” Dubansky, 40, said. “Something had to give.”

Dubansky owns and operates Backbone Food Farm in Oakland. His farm is right up against woods, which makes it more vulnerable to hungry deer.

“Deer are responsible for $7 million to $8 million in crop damage each year,” Maryland Department of Natural Resources Deer Project Leader Brian Eyler said.

But the Maryland Department of Natural Resources offers a program to help farmers protect their crops against hungry ruminants.

Deer Management Permits are available at no cost to farmers who suffer economic loss from deer eating or damaging crops.

Those farmers with crop loss or damage can contact their county Department of Natural Resources representative who sends a technologist or a biologist to evaluate the property.

Based on the acreage, crops, damage, and the status of surrounding farms, the department issues a certain number of permits to the farmer. Each permit allows for a certain number of deer to be killed based on the department’s assessment.

If a farmer continues to suffer crop damage after the permitted kills are reached, they can apply to renew the permit.

“Permits are for antlerless deer only,” said Western Maryland Regional Wildlife Manager Jim Mullan.

Does are the primary targets for deer management because removing one doe essentially eliminates three deer for the next year, Mullan said.

“When you harvest a doe, you’re stopping that doe from any future reproduction,” Mullan said. “A healthy adult doe will produce about two fawns.”

However, Mullan said, farmers are allowed exceptions for antlered deer if orchards suffer from “rubbing;” when bucks rub antlers on trees to strip the velvety coating off new antler growth or during mating season, which is called the rut.

Mullan said the department tends to limit those exceptions so hunters in the regular season can shoot antlered deer, as many hunters strive to bag bucks with large antler racks.

Farmers who obtain permits can choose who hunts on their land — or can do the hunting themselves.

Eyler said a lot of these special permits are issued during the regular hunting season because it’s easier to get a deer that time of year.

The state issued 1,636 permits in 2012, and 1,655 in 2013. Though that’s just a 1 percent increase, hunters harvested 10 percent more deer via permits in 2013 — 8,505 vs. 7,650 in 2012.

Licensed hunters bagged 87,541 deer in the 2012-2013 season, and killed 95,865 in the 2013-2014 season — about a 9.5 percent increase.

Eyler said hunters who kill deer on a permit go through the same process as a regular-license kill — submitting a hunter ID number and registering the kill with the department — but must also submit the deer management permit number under which they killed the deer.

Once that process is taken care of, hunters can treat their harvest as if it were a regular-season kill.

Dubansky said an effective deer fence helped keep them out, but some still found their way to his crops.

“Once we got the fence up, there were problem deer (that found their way around the fence),” he said.

Deer that still got into his fields were taken care of with his permits.

While not a hunter, Dubansky says he thinks the program is great and has used about five permits a year to keep pesky deer out as well as allowing people to hunt on his property during the regular season.

“It’s an important tool for farmers,” Eyler said. “It gives them a tool for outside of the regular season.”

It also helps control the overall deer population in the state.

About 10 years ago, the population peaked at about 300,000, but last year’s fall estimate was about 227,000, Eyler said.

By Max Bennett

Looks Like Harriet Tubman Park is Happening

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Harriet Tubman, the famous freedom fighter and Underground Railroad conductor, may soon become the first African-American woman to be honored with her own national parks.

The U.S House of Representatives on Dec. 4 approved the National Defense Authorization Act, which included creation of two Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Parks — in Maryland and New York.

The U.S Senate voted to proceed with consideration of the massive defense bill, with the Tubman parks intact, on Thursday. A final Senate vote is expected on Friday at the earliest.

The park is expected to increase tourism, create jobs and strengthen Dorchester County’s local economy. In 2010, tourism represented one-fifth of Dorchester County’s employment, generating more than $132 million for the local economy, according to Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.

The new historic park will trace Tubman’s early life on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where she spent 30 years as a slave before escaping from bondage in 1849.

She went on to become one of the leaders of the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses designed to help African-American slaves find their way to freedom in the northern states and Canada during the 19th century.

The park would include sites in three counties: Caroline, Dorchester and Talbot.

A provision in the National Defense Authorization Act allows for the National Park Service to acquire seven non-contiguous parcels of land that hold historical significance to Tubman’s life.

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The bill also calls for the creation of a historic park in Auburn, N.Y., in order to commemorate the area where Tubman spent her later years. The park would include her home; the Home for the Aged named for her; and the Thompson Memorial AME Zion Church.

In 2013, President Barack Obama established the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Dorchester County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, allowing for the National Historical Park designation. A national monument preserves at least one important national resource; a national park is usually larger and includes a variety of nationally significant resources, according to the National Park Service.

The monument in Cambridge will serve as a part of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park, which is under construction and expected to open in 2015, according to the National Park Service.

Mikulski has been advocating for the parks since 2008 along with Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. They helped to secure more than $900,000 in federal funds to improve historical signs, infrastructure and utilities, according to a statement from Mikulski’s office. Maryland has also been granted $11 million from the U.S. Departments of Interior and Transportation. The funds will go toward the park.

“A Harriet Tubman National Historical Park is a fitting tribute to honor her lasting legacy in Maryland and our nation while inspiring future generations of women and girls,” Mikulski said. “I look forward to swift passage in the Senate so that President Obama can sign this legislation into law.”

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., have also been active in the process.

“Through bipartisan work with Sen. Cardin, we are able to create a national park to honor Harriet Tubman while protecting local property owners,” Harris said.

A large portion of the designated national park area will be on federal land owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. It will remain under the management of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and part of the national monument, according to the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets budgetary guidelines for the Department of Defense.

The park will consist of 775 acres in Talbot County, 2,200 in Caroline County, and 2,775 in Dorchester County.

The sites include Tubman’s likely birthplace in Dorchester County; the Brodess Plantation parcel, where she worked as a young girl; the Cook Plantation parcel, where as a teenager she worked as a seamstress; and Poplar Neck plantation, where Harriet Tubman escaped slavery in 1849.

“Tourism has been a big help to our business,” said Anthony Thomas, owner of Canvasback Restaurant and Irish Pub in Cambridge. “I’m sure when the park comes, it will be even better.”

Thomas estimated at least 16 tour buses a year come to visit the Harriet Tubman Museum and Learning Center next door to his restaurant. Many visitors stop by to eat at Canvasback after they’re finished at the Museum.

Carol Ruark, owner of A Few of My Favorite Things Gourmet and Gifts, also located on the same block as the Tubman museum, said she hasn’t noticed a significant tourism impact. However, she appreciates the educational opportunity that the museum and future park will provide.

“When they hold conferences that brings a lot of business,” she said. “But usually, there is no difference.”

While visiting the museum, on Race Street in Cambridge, patrons may view paintings and photographs of Tubman as well as some of the landmarks that will be included in the national park. Visitors at the museum can also schedule 2- to 3-hour guided tours of the historical sites and stops on the Underground Railroad before the park’s 2015 opening.

Chris Kendrick, an audio-visual engineer visiting Saturday from Kensington, said he appreciated the Tubman museum as a student of history and noted its relevancy amid today’s racial climate in the United States.

“What I love is that we are in a time where people will finally be able to love each other and be neighbors and not promulgate the kind of attitudes that Harriet Tubman was willing to fight against and even die for,” Kendrick said.

“Harriet Tubman was an iconic figure our nation’s history, for whom liberty and freedom were not just ideas,” said Sen. Cardin in a press release last week. “More than 100 years after her death, Harriet Tubman will become the first African-American woman and first individual woman to have a National Historical Park named in her honor. It’s a great day for the Eastern Shore and our country.”

 

By Daniel Kerry

Denton’s Harry Hughes Looks Back

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With the Choptank River in his backyard and his dog by his side, former Maryland Gov. Harry R. Hughes enjoys a low-key life after decades of public service.

Hughes, 88, resides alone in his two-story home — referred to as Hazelwood — hidden from passing cars on Pealiquor Road in Denton, Maryland. Next door and across the street, golf balls soar through the air at Caroline Country Club, where Hughes is a member.

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His aging rescued yellow Labrador retriever, Miller, greets visitors with friendly barks. Miller and his master are slowing down, but eagerly meet their guests. Miller with inquisitive sniffs and Hughes with firm handshakes.

The house, which he and his late wife, Patricia Hughes (née Donoho) moved into about 15 years ago, was built in 1941 and previously owned by Mrs. Hughes’ parents.

The two did some remodeling of the historic house.

Mrs. Hughes died in 2010 at 79 years old.

“She was quite an interesting person,” Hughes said. “She was very smart, much smarter than I.”

He said life without her is different and somewhat lonely.

Hughes credits her with pushing him to attend law school, which led him to public service, at George Washington University.

“She supported me in all the political endeavors I was involved in,” he said.

The pair met around 1948 when his mother, Helen, tutored Patricia Donoho in preparation for prep school.

They married June 30, 1951, at an Episcopal church in Seaford, Delaware. At least, that’s what they told everyone.

“She came down to Washington when I was in law school at G.W.,” he said. “We went to Prince George’s County and we got married. Never told anybody.”

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Hughes said there was no reason why they didn’t tell anyone about their Feb. 7, 1950, elopement.

“After we were married, we never discussed it,” he said. “We didn’t tell anyone until after Pat died.”

Patricia gave birth to their daughters, Ann Fink, now a retired special education teacher, in 1953 and Elizabeth, now a retired lawyer, in 1956.

“We had a very, very close family and just did everyday normal things that families do,” Fink said.

Fink said the family had a pony named Butterball and that Hughes would be in the stables baling hay and cleaning stalls.

“He wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. That’s what he instilled in me,” she said.

LIFE AS A YOUNG MAN

Hughes grew up in Denton.
“You learn to entertain yourself,” Hughes said of small-town life. “I spent many an hour knocking fly balls to a friend of mine and him knocking them out to me.”

Hughes played baseball throughout his childhood. A baseball glove was the first birthday gift he remembers receiving.

When Hughes reached the age of 17, baseball went to the wayside when he joined the Navy Air Corps to serve in World War II.

But before he saw action, the war was over and Hughes began his academic career at Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, then studied at the University of Maryland, College Park.

He pitched for Maryland’s baseball team while studying business and public administration.

“The whole idea was to play professional baseball,” he said. “I was just taking whatever course I could get to get through college.”

At Maryland, he played under hall-of-fame coach Burton Shipley, who Hughes said “did strange things,” like pulling the team off the field after two bad calls and sitting along the baseline to berate an umpire for a whole game.

He played in leagues during summers and played for a New York Yankees farm team in Easton for a year.

Hughes forsook his dream of playing in the majors at about 24 years old when his career faltered and Mrs. Hughes pushed him to enroll in law school.

“My about-to-be wife was just as happy that I didn’t stay in baseball. She used to come watch the games and read a book in the stands.”

MODERNITY

Hughes wasn’t asked to participate in campaigning for Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in his run for governor, but he made a $500 contribution to Brown during the primaries, according to state campaign finance reports.

Brown’s defeat wasn’t a shock to him.

“I wasn’t terribly surprised that he lost,” he said. “But I was surprised by the size of the victory.”

The 4 percentage point margin of victory by Larry J. Hogan Jr. was attributed to many factors, including Brown’s apparent lack of accessibility to voters and press, according to some experts.

“That’s foolish,” Hughes said. “It sounds like a combination of some very bad things and decisions that the Brown campaign did.”

Hughes held press conferences weekly and made himself available while he was in office.

“Having a press conference every week makes it so they don’t have to call you,” he said. “You’re available to answer questions.”

Hughes still makes himself available — by answering the phone at home.

“He doesn’t use email,” said Hughes’ gubernatorial campaign manager and friend Joe Coale. “I said, ‘Harry, if you can use a phone, you can use email! If you can understand the intricacies and are able to articulate the detail of the Maryland state budget, you can use email.’”

Hughes’ lack of email comes after someone Coale called a “hotshot” showed Hughes how to use the technology.

“In an effort to impress Harry,” Coale said, “he went through all these options.” Coale said all the bells and whistles overwhelmed Hughes, who gave up on the idea of
using email.

WHAT’S IMPORTANT

Hughes is no longer involved in politics, but maintains his presidential position with the eponymous Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, which partners farmers and environmentalists to improve Maryland’s environmental health, in Queenstown.

The center conveys Hughes’ dedication to protecting the environment in Maryland, something he championed during his administration.

He said saving the Chesapeake Bay is still one of the biggest issues in the state.

“I remember telling people it’s not going to happen overnight,” Hughes said of restoring
the bay.

Despite growing up in Caroline County, the only county on the Eastern Shore without direct access to the Chesapeake Bay, the bay was very important to him.

“I always liked the bay,” he said. “You kept hearing all this bad stuff about the crab population, the oyster population.”

Hughes said he considers himself a “reasonable environmentalist” and says the bay, crabs, and oysters identify Maryland.
Transportation, Hughes said, is another crucial topic.

“Transportation is a big issue,” he said. “There are issues right now today.”

“The mass transit in Baltimore is an issue.”

He mentioned a bridge in Denton has needed updating for years.

“It’s now going to happen,” he said. The new bridge will be high enough over the Choptank to eliminate the draw it has now. Hughes said it will be expensive, but necessary.

Hughes said taxes are used as a scapegoat for Maryland expats.

“You keep reading every once in a while about people that are complaining about the state, that there’s a large number of people that have moved to Florida to get out of the state of Maryland because of taxes,” he said. “I don’t know whether that’s true.”

One main reason people leave the state? “Primarily the weather for one,” Hughes laughed.

POLITICAL CAREER

Hughes practiced law in the 1950s. When Jack Hogan left the House of Delegates, Hughes successfully ran for the open Caroline County seat in 1954. In 1958, he made a bid for state Senate in Caroline, won, and held that seat for 12 years.

When serving on the Senate began affecting his law work, he decided to forgo another term.

“Then Gov. Marvin Mandel named him Secretary of Transportation,” said John Frece, co-author of “My Unexpected Journey,” Hughes’ autobiography. On Jan. 4, 1971, Hughes was officially named to the position.

As the first Maryland Secretary of Transportation, Hughes helped bring agencies, including the Port Authority, the Motor Vehicles Association, and the State Roads Commission, together under one umbrella.

“It was really interesting. I think I enjoyed that job more than any other job I’ve had,” Hughes said.

Unlike being a legislator, Hughes said, his secretarial position allowed him to see the changes his department made.

But he resigned amid a controversial contract bidding process for the first leg of the Baltimore subway.

“There were some shady deals being pushed,” Frece said. “He wouldn’t go along with it and tried, and tried, and tried to straighten it out and decided to resign rather than go along with it.”

In May 1977, Hughes quit.

“That night, my wife and a couple our friends were meeting for dinner and I said, ‘Pat I’m going to resign tomorrow.’ Just like that. And I did.”

Frece said Hughes’ resignation catapulted him to the 1978 election.

“My wife and I talked about (running for governor) a lot, I talked to several people about it. I figured if I didn’t do it I’d probably regret it for the rest of my life,” Hughes said.

During his gubernatorial primary campaign, Hughes lagged with only about 7 percent of voters saying they would cast their ballot for him.

But a week before the primary election, the Baltimore Sun featured a front-page Hughes endorsement.

“When a paper like the Sun gave an endorsement, it was generally influential,” said Frece, a former Sun reporter. “For them to say that Harry Hughes is their choice legitimized his candidacy.”

Coale recalled sitting in the Lord Baltimore Hotel with Hughes on election night, wondering what the outcome would be.

Coale began receiving phone calls from thought-to-be-lost precincts, saying Hughes was winning overwhelmingly.

“I said, ‘Harry, break out the champagne, you’re going to be the next governor,’” Coale said.

Hughes defeated acting governor Blair Lee III in what Lee’s son, Blair Lee IV, called a “shocking” upset.

“It was as much as a surprise as Larry Hogan winning,” said Lee.

Lee said his late father was somewhat relieved Hughes won because his father didn’t really want to be governor.

“I think he was happy Harry won,” he said. “He knew Harry. He trusted Harry.”

The general election went smoothly and Hughes emerged victorious over Republican John Glenn Beall Jr.

IN OFFICE

Starting out with a surplus, the state was doing well early in Hughes’ first term. But the recession hit the state hard.

Hughes managed to push legislation curbing state spending as well as established a joint Maryland-Virginia veterinary school, which opened federal funds for both states.

Hughes made prison changes, established the Task Force on Violence and Extremism, and created the National Institute Against Prejudice and Violence.

Task force chair Connie Beims said the group was “too far ahead” of the times in terms of protecting minority populations and the institute fizzled out after Hughes left office.

Hughes made waves in environmental policy by establishing the Critical Areas Act — which protects land within 1,000 feet of tidal waters or tidal wetlands from development for the first time. He also banned catching rockfish until the population was stable; and appropriated $37 million in funding for bay-restoration projects.

“He was a shining example to me in terms of environmental policy,” former Gov. Parris Glendening said.

Hughes faced criticism for his handling of the 1985 Savings and Loan Crisis, where unstable savings and loan associations failed due to risky investments with depositors’ money.

He was scheduled to visit Israel and Egypt on an economic development trip at the same time the situation was becoming worse. Hughes was concerned that either going or cancelling would hurt the tense atmosphere. In the end, he went on the trip but cut it short to address the crisis.

Hughes said when the issue came up in the 1985 general assembly, “the damage was already done.”

“It was incredible,” he said. “I had some special sessions at the General Assembly and got some legislation passed, put up a lot of money to protect depositors.”

Hughes eventually got his constituents’ money back. The only missing money was potentially
accrued interest.

But Marylanders were not happy with the way he handled a memo explaining the delicate situation regarding the banks and the depositors.

The implication was that the governor should have known that some of these S&Ls were being run by “crooks,” according to Hughes’ autobiography.

“It was a tough time for me because I was getting a lot of the blame,” he said. However, some people since then have thanked him for saving their money.

Frece said Hughes saw a moral responsibility to protect depositors who were about to
ose their life savings.

“In a way it was his worst moment and his best moment,” Frece said.

LEGACY

“In my assessment as a Marylander, a former governor, and political science professor, Harry Hughes is one of the best governors the state has ever had,” Glendening said. “Also, unfortunately, one of the least appreciated.”

He said the Savings and Loan Crisis clouded two great gubernatorial terms.

“Despite all that, Hughes’ legacy is as a reform governor who was as honest as the day was long,” he said. “It was eight years of honest government.”

While Maryland faced ethical and moral challenges from some individuals, Hughes was a model of integrity, Glendening said.

Frece said Hughes is a decent man who is “clear eyed.”

“Politics never drove him, he was one of those rare elected officials that had the best interest of the state and best interest of citizens at heart,” he said. “He steadily achieved good things for the state over those two terms.”

Beim said Hughes was a man of conviction before he took office.

“I’m always proud to say I was a member of the Harry Hughes team,” she said.

Fink said her father’s time in office was nothing short of hard work. “He’s had to make some tough decisions, I think. But he got the job done,” she said.

THE LATTER DAYS

Hughes ran for a United States Senate seat. He was up against Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Rep. Michael Barnes in the primary.

“I remember meeting with Barnes and saying to him, ‘If we both stay in this, we’re going to split the vote and Barb’s going to win,” he said. “But I couldn’t get him to get out so that’s what happened.”

However, Hughes said that was for the better: Patricia was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease around that time.

He decided to stay home with Patricia.

He still is active with the Agro-Ecology Center and holds season tickets, right off first base, for his beloved Baltimore Orioles.

“Now I put him first,” Fink said. “I take care of him because he took care of us.”

Fink said Hughes always put others before himself.

“He’s family and that’s what we do: We take care of family,” said Fink’s husband, Mike Fink. “I couldn’t ask for a better father-in-law.”

“I think he gets lonely sometimes, but we try to include him as much as we can,” Ann Fink said. “He’s getting frailer, we worry about him more.”

But Hughes has old Miller and personal assistant Cindy Sharer, who visits during the day, to keep him company. He sees Ann and Mike Fink as well as this three great-grandchildren and their father often.

Out in his backyard exists a small fenced-in area with a fussy latch and a backdrop of the marshy Choptank River.

Inside the fence are two headstones. One for Mrs. Hughes, and one for the governor. The pair will spend eternity in Denton, looking out on the Choptank.

By Max Bennett

Maryland Public Schools: Which Districts Recognize Religious Holidays

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This school year, 14 of Maryland’s 24 school systems will not recognize any religious holidays — such as Christmas and Rosh Hashanah – by name.

The 14 include every school system on the Eastern Shore, and five others around the state.

These districts instead use secular terms, like “Winter Holiday” or “Spring Break,” to describe the school closings.

The 10 districts that will recognize religious holidays by name during this school year include Howard, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.

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The issue of using religious names for school holidays received increased attention recently when Montgomery County’s Board of Education voted to remove all references to religious holidays from its 2015-2016 calendar.

The decision came after Muslim community members called for the board to recognize the Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha holidays.

Of the 10 school systems recognizing religious holidays by name this school year, six include both Christian and Jewish holidays. None of Maryland’s school districts have a policy of closing on Muslim holidays, but some school districts have closed on some Muslim holidays when they happened to fall on the same day as a Jewish holiday.

Teresa Tudor, chairwoman of the calendar committee for Anne Arundel County Public Schools, said the district recognizes religious holidays by name in order to be straightforward with families about school closings.

“We specify Easter because the reason you’re getting time off is Easter,” Tudor said.

Anne Arundel County Public Schools began recognizing and closing for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur roughly a decade ago. Tudor said the decision came down to student absence rates.

“There was a push among parents and students who were Jewish, and we were at a point where our data supported closing,” Tudor said.

The district has recognized both Christian and Jewish holidays by name since then, and Tudor said there are no plans to change the practice.

During this school year, four districts recognize some religious holidays by name, but not others. Allegany County, for instance, recognizes Christmas and Easter by name, but not Rosh Hashanah.

Mia Cross, a spokeswoman for Allegany County Public Schools, said the district’s calendar is built around the public school holidays listed in the Annotated Code of Maryland.

These include days off for Christmas and Easter, but no other religious holidays. School districts are required to close on these holidays, unless granted an exception by the State Board of Education.

Carroll County public schools close at both Christmas and Easter and Rosh Hashanah this school year, but the district only recognizes the Jewish holiday by name. The 2014-2015 calendar refers to school closings around Christmas and Easter as “Winter/State” and “Spring Break” holidays, respectively.

Roughly 15 years ago, Carroll County Public Schools stopped recognizing Christmas and Easter by name on its calendar. During the 2009-2010 school year, the district began recognizing Jewish holidays by name.

Carroll County’s Board of Education elected to change this for the 2015-2016 calendar, which will recognize both Christian and Jewish holidays by name. The decision was in response to feedback the board received when it asked for community input on the calendar.

“Some of the public pointed out that we call every other holiday by its name,” said Carey Gaddis, supervisor of Community and Media Relations for Carroll County Public Schools.

Tracy Sahler is a member of the calendar committee for Wicomico County Public Schools, and has worked with the school system for 16 years. She said the district has kept the names of religious holidays out of its calendar for as long as she can remember.

The district refers to school closings around Christmas as “Winter Holidays” because they happen to occur in winter, Sahler said.

“They’re not religious holiday breaks. They are breaks from school,” Sahler said.

By Stephen Waldron

Maryland Film Tax Credits at Risk; No More Wedding Crashers for Shore

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Frank Underwood may be looking for a new base of operations.

Maryland tax credits worth millions have kept “House of Cards” in the state for three seasons, but a real-world budget crunch may mean Kevin Spacey — who plays the political villain — and rest of the cast and crew will head elsewhere.

A state legislative committee held a public hearing Tuesday on the feasibility of Maryland’s film production tax credit, most notably associated with the Netflix series.

Hannah Byron

Hannah Byron,, assistant secretary for the Maryland Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts

Film productions are exempt from state tax when purchasing goods or services related to the production, but the state is reaping only 10 cents for every dollar it gives up, according to a report from the state’s Department of Legislative Services.

The report concludes that the credit does not promote long-term economic growth for Maryland and recommends that the General Assembly allow the film production activity tax to expire as scheduled on July 1, 2016.

Legislative Services staff members who contributed to the report were present at the meeting to defend their recommendations.

“The current funding amount is about $25 million (per year). But is that what optimizes economic benefits to the state?” said Robert Rehrmann, a policy analyst who contributed to the report.

Film production tax credits have become more popular in the last decade, with 37 states and the District offering some form of incentive in 2014.

In a letter to Gov. Martin O’Malley last year, Charlie Goldstein, senior vice president of MRC Studios, which produces “House of Cards,” warned that if the show does not receive tax credits, they will look to film in another state.

In total for all productions, Maryland has provided or set aside $62.5 million in tax credits from fiscal year 2012 through 2016.

Supporters of the tax say the film industry promotes economic growth in Maryland by bringing in jobs and more local spending, and that we need to offer at least $25 million in credits each year to be competitive with what other states offer.

“For many small businesses in the state, it has made the difference for keeping their doors open, the difference in hiring new staff, or the difference in making capital improvements to their property, ” said Hannah Byron, assistant secretary for the Maryland Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts.

While some small businesses are reaping the benefits, the Department of Legislative Services’ report estimates that Maryland is only getting a 10-cent return for every dollar of tax credits provided to the film industry.

Byron countered that another independent study calculated a return of $1.03 — or 3 percent — on every dollar in credits, and that the Legislative Services report did not focus enough on indirect benefits of production, such as the potential for film tourism.

Still, the report has a few more criticisms, one being that 96.5 percent of all credits are going to only two productions — “House of Cards” and HBO’s “VEEP.”

The report also points out that a few jurisdictions benefit much more than others, and also that the productions are short-lived and will not add any permanent benefit to the economy because jobs provided will be temporary.

Michael Davis, a scenery builder in Maryland for over 27 years, disagreed with this idea Tuesday in testimony before the committee.

“I worked on project after project, sometimes more than one at a time, and other times no work at all … and the pay is at least 30 percent more per hour and we will work 50 to 60 hour per week during a production,” Davis said.

However, Rehrmann reminded, the report shows less than one-tenth of 1 percent of Marylanders are employed by the film industry.

The decision on whether to extend or modify the current tax credit will have to be made by the General Assembly by July 1 and could be influenced by Gov.-elect Larry J. Hogan Jr.

“We’ll take a look at (the report) and have something to talk about later … there’s one governor at a time,” Hogan said Tuesday.

By Dani Shae Thompson