Tag Archives: Larry Hogan

Private Schools Caught in Elrich-Hogan Feud

By Adam Pagnucco.

Last November, I wrote about the growing feud between Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and Governor Larry Hogan. Back then, the issues were the governor’s proposed Beltway widening project, the dispute about how to fix MoCo’s crumbling public safety communications system, the thin blue line flag that was delivered to a MoCo police station and transportation funding. Some of those issues have faded over time but the general radioactivity between the two men can still melt hazmat suits. And now the feud is threatening to blow up MoCo’s private schools.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were roughly 190,000 people age 5 through 18 living in MoCo in 2018. MCPS K-12 enrollment was 158,101 in the 2018-19 school year, suggesting that about 30,000 students, or almost one-sixth of all MoCo kids, were in private school or home school. The Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns series identified 108 private school establishments in the county with 6,610 employees in 2017. Their combined annual payroll was $322 million.

Private schools are a big deal in MoCo.

Right now, private school employees, parents and students are caught in a tit-for-tat power struggle between Elrich and Hogan. This isn’t the typical sparring that the two do over social media. With the county saying one thing and the state saying the opposite, what are these families and employees supposed to do? If you’re a school and you open, the county could fine you. If you don’t, your own parents could sue you and/or pull their kids from your school.

It’s the worst of all worlds!

The situation calls for the low-key tactics of former County Executive Ike Leggett. Hogan, a good old boy developer and son of a Republican politician, and Leggett, a soft-spoken law professor who had risen from a childhood of poverty, couldn’t be more different. But despite their different backgrounds and beliefs, Leggett understood the powers of the governor and learned how to work him. Leggett succeeded in getting Hogan to back off a campaign promise to cancel the Purple Line and the two worked hand-in-hand to lure Amazon to MoCo. If Leggett had any criticism of Hogan, he kept it private. Leggett took a loooooong time to endorse Hogan’s general election rival, Democrat Ben Jealous, and never campaigned against Hogan. The two became peas in a pod – and an odd-looking pod at that!

The lesson of Leggett is not one of capitulation but of continuing to talk despite areas of disagreement. Leggett never made things personal even when other people wanted to. I wrote many tough pieces on his administration and Leggett would respond by seeing me at an event, shaking my hand and saying, “How are you? Is everything OK? Let me know if you need something.” Then I would feel bad about being so hard on him and I would go beat up someone else for a while!

Leggett, who originally hired current health officer Travis Gayles, would have found a way to work this current dispute out. Working the phones with Hogan and state health secretary Bobby Neall, Leggett and his people would have devised a stringent network to regulate private school reopenings without provoking a legal war with the state. And he would have kept it out of the press. The only sign of discussion would have been mutual praise between Leggett and Hogan of what a great job each was doing on handling COVID. As for the private schools, many would probably have opted for distance learning rather than deal with cumbersome county bureaucracy and plan approvals, thereby producing a similar result to the one desired by Elrich. It just would have happened without yelling and screaming.

Leggett is happily retired from elected service now and is probably laughing as he reads this column. He is still around. Maybe Elrich and Hogan should bring him back, always the calmest guy in the room, to settle their increasingly bitter feud.

Share

Hogan Overturns MoCo Closure of Private Schools

By Adam Pagnucco.

Minutes ago, Governor Larry Hogan issued an amended executive order preventing political subdivisions from closing or modifying the operations of schools. The governor issued this statement:

The recovery plan for Maryland public schools stresses local flexibility within the parameters set by state officials. Over the last several weeks, school boards and superintendents made their own decisions about how and when to reopen public schools, after consultation with state and local health officials.

Private and parochial schools deserve the same opportunity and flexibility to make reopening decisions based on public health guidelines. The blanket closure mandate imposed by Montgomery County was overly broad and inconsistent with the powers intended to be delegated to the county health officer.

To be clear, Maryland’s recovery continues to be based on a flexible, community-based approach that follows science, not politics. As long as schools develop safe and detailed plans that follow CDC and state guidelines, they should be empowered to do what’s best for their community.

I want to thank all the parents, students, and school administrators who have spoken out in recent days about this important issue.

The language of the governor’s amended executive order states at I.(e):

If a political subdivision determines that doing so is necessary and reasonable to save lives or prevent exposure to COVID-19, the political subdivision is hereby authorized to issue Orders that are more restrictive than this Order (“Local Orders”):

i. requiring any businesses, organizations, establishments, or facilities (except schools) to close or modify their operations; and/or

ii. requiring individuals to remain indoors or to refrain from congregating.

Share

Hogan Decides on Regular Election

By Adam Pagnucco.

Governor Larry Hogan has decided not to repeat the state’s use of a mail-predominant election that was adopted for the primary. Instead, citing the problems with mail ballots and long lines on election day, Hogan has opted to hold a regular general election with all early voting centers and all precinct polling locations open. He has directed the State Board of Elections to send an absentee ballot application to every eligible voter and to promote early voting, absentee voting and off-peak voting as “safe and efficient options.”

Hogan’s letter to the State Board of Elections appears below.

Share

Hogan’s Shift and Shaft

By Adam Pagnucco.

In a long-expected move, Governor Larry Hogan has submitted a long list of state budget cuts to the Board of Public Works. Cuts to state employee salaries and positions are getting a lot of attention. So is a proposed $200 million trim in state aid to public schools, although that needs the consent of the General Assembly to pass. What is less discussed is Hogan’s resumption of a time-honored practice used by higher level governments to dump their problems on lower level governments: the shift and shaft.

Here is how it works. Over the years, state governments decide that they wish to provide certain services, like schools, libraries, colleges, transportation infrastructure, public safety and so on. They could decide to provide them directly through state employees, and sometimes they do in whole or in part. But for reasons of convenience and coordination, they often choose to fund those activities through grants to counties and cities and have them provide the services to residents. Over time, state budgets get in trouble due to economic downturns so cuts are needed. State leaders don’t want to cut services, of course – they don’t want to deal with the backlash and they are happy to have counties and cities continue to provide them. They just don’t want to pay for them anymore. So they cut their grants to lower levels of government and make city and county leaders clean up the mess. (In fairness, the feds do the same things to the states.) The whole process is called “shift and shaft federalism.”

Maryland is no stranger to this concept. The Great Recession of a decade ago hit the state budget HARD. Governor Martin O’Malley’s top priority was preserving state aid for public schools. He was able to accomplish that for the most part through a series of tax hikes, a reduction of hundreds of millions of dollars in highway user revenue funds that had gone to county and municipal transportation budgets and a partial shift of teacher pension payments to the counties. The latter shift was partly ameliorated by supplemental grants paid to the poorest counties to help them meet teacher pension obligations. The counties bitterly resisted these moves, but once the state imposed them, most responded by raising property taxes, income taxes or both.

Hogan is now going down the same road as O’Malley. His cut list includes two programs that steer money to county budgets. The first one is the state’s disparity grant program, which sends money to poorer counties in an effort to remedy local tax capacity inequities. The state’s FY21 budget includes a $12.4 million increase in disparity grants which Hogan would eliminate. The second program is the state’s teacher retirement supplemental grants, which are intended to help poorer counties pay for the teacher pension payments that the state mandated in 2012. Hogan would eliminate them too. Combining the two programs, Hogan would cut their funding by 21.5%, one of the biggest percentage cuts in his entire package and close to the 25% maximum cut that the Board of Public Works could impose.

Here is the total impact by county of Hogan’s cuts to disparity grants and teacher retirement supplemental grants.

Three things stand out. First, most of these cuts are regressive. Other than Baltimore County, these jurisdictions have low assessable bases per capita, low income per capita or both. The very reason why these programs exist is to boost poor counties, so cuts to them are bound to be regressive. Second, many of these jurisdictions are governed by Republican local officials. Hogan is cutting his own people. Third, these amounts were included in county budgets passed over the last two months. Each of these reductions blows a hole in county budgets that were already going to be subject to cuts because of declines in local revenues. The tough choices will now get even tougher.

These counties will be pleased to know that Hogan is proposing to eliminate the state’s $75 million supplemental retirement contribution. So while the counties will continue to be expected to pay for state pensions without the benefit of state assistance, the state will save money by cutting its own payments.

It is good to be at higher levels of government!

More cuts to local entities will probably be coming. Hogan proposed cutting $200 million in state aid for public schools (a move that needs General Assembly approval) and $36 million in state aid for community colleges. His package also contains another $130 million “unallocated reduction to local governments” that needs to be considered by the General Assembly. There may also be more mid-year cut packages.

Good luck to the counties. And good luck to the voters too.

Update: Comptroller Peter Franchot has come out against many of Hogan’s cuts, including the cuts to the counties. Assuming that the Board of Public Works sticks to its schedule and votes on the package tomorrow, Treasurer Nancy Kopp will decide the outcome.

Share

Reznik Demands to Know Why Korea Tests Haven’t Been Deployed

Like many, I was impressed and lauded Gov. Larry Hogan’s importation of 500,000 COVID-19 test kits from Korea. It looked like he had really filled the yawning leadership gap from the federal government. Unfortunately, there are rising concerns that the tests may not be useful. Indeed, they may have been widely available and Maryland may have overpaid for them.

In a letter reprinted below to the Health Secretary Robert Neall, Del. Kirill Reznik (D-39) asks a number of pointed questions about why they are not being used widely around the state. Reznik quotes Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich explaining “without things like reagants, they are sort of like paperweights.”

Other legislators are similarly concerned. Del. Marc Korman (D-16) said on Twitter, “A great frustration I have heard is that 10 days after the Governor ordered testing at all nursing homes, these nursing homes have not received tests. . . . No timeline or schedule has been provided.”

Similarly, up in Baltimore, Del. Brooke Lierman reports that “My mother’s facility has tests only because they individually purchased them privately-the state provided nothing. I have talked to several people whose loved ones are in facilities who did not – this is a tragic unacceptable situation.”

Share

Hogan Issues Stay at Home Order Starting at 8PM

UPDATE: You can read the order from the governor online here thanks to Luke Broadwater over at the Baltimore Sun. The reality is that not much will really change for many people, though it seems like construction work will now need to cease. Contrary to the governor’s statement, seems like I should still be able to do takeout at Jetties south of the border. However, I urge you to read it for yourself.

According to the Baltimore Sun:

Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday issued a stay-at-home order for Marylanders to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

That means no one should leave their home for any reason other than essential work, to get food or other fundamental reason. He said no one should travel outside of the state or ride public transportation unless it is “absolutely necessary.” The order takes effect at 8 p.m.

“We are no longer asking,” Hogan said.

I think the governor may have just criminalized my going for take out at Jetties and shopping at Magruder’s literally just inside the District line. But I imagine I’ll have to wait for the details.

The effectiveness of this measure will likely depend on the strictness of the definition of essential work. Construction workers, for example, are still working in groups at many locations. It’s not an easy decision with so many people thrown out of work already.

I appreciate the governor’s efforts to play it straight with Marylanders. His frank statement that “Marylanders need to know that, unfortunately, we are only at the beginning of this crisis and it is going to get considerably worse before it gets better” is honest and right for the times.

It should help make clear that social distancing is here to stay for awhile. I am also grateful for Gov. Hogan’s previous quick moves to implement social distancing and to create new hospital beds very quickly. The leaders of the General Assembly, Speaker Adrienne Jones and President Bill Ferguson, have also been absolutely sterling in working closely with the Governor to meet this crisis.

Share

MoCo’s Most Influential, Part Two

By Adam Pagnucco.

Part One of this series laid out the rules and methodology for how we determined MoCo’s most influential people. Before you complain about it, just remember – these lists are not my lists. They were developed by adding together the nominations of 85 people who are themselves extremely knowledgeable and influential. If you have a problem with that, take it up with them!

And now let’s get started. Today, we will begin listing the most influential elected officials on MoCo’s state and county politics. The criteria include elected officials who appear on our ballots even if they don’t live here. Quotes attributed to sources are not mine and come from our voters.

15. Delegate Kumar Barve (D-17) – 12 votes

Source: Leading voice on Beltway/270 proposal in Annapolis and calls the shots on many environmental initiatives.

Source: Stops a lot of stupid sh*t in the county delegation.

AP: The sources really got this one wrong as Kumar deserves a higher rank. He chairs the House Environment and Transportation Committee and is a former House Majority Leader. He has been in the house since some of today’s delegates were in elementary school. Kumar is brilliant, hilarious and knows the General Assembly as well as anyone. Other delegates need to learn from him as long as he remains in Annapolis.

13 (tied). Council Member Tom Hucker (D-5) – 18 votes

Source: One example, look at 495/270: press conferences, meetings, petition, relationships with SHA, Governor (which he finessed) — got results. He has a deep understanding of relationships and communication partnerships. Knows how to whip up/work with constituents to get things done.

AP: Tom Hucker’s secret for political success is that he knows who he is as a politician. You don’t see him hemming and hawing in public, flip-flopping or trying to figure out where the political winds are blowing. He just pushes ahead with his brand of practical, meat-and-potatoes progressivism and never strays too far from his base. That and his expertise in the outside ground game make him one of the most focused and effective elected officials in MoCo. Bonus points: his Chief of Staff, Dave Kunes, is one of the best.

13 (tied). Council Member Nancy Navarro (D-4) – 18 votes

Source: Nancy has become the moral leader of county government. She boldly spearheaded plans to re-shape how county government leaders understand structural racism, view our community, and even perceive themselves. She’s also helped create a platform for the County Council to engage on economic development issues. She’s done both of these things while overseeing a Council Presidency that saw a new administration, four new Councilmembers, and many new faces on central staff.

Source: Navarro has stepped up on every major issue and gathered the “council troops” to take the reins of county government at a time when the County Executive’s leadership is sorely lacking. She has exquisite timing and strategically lays out a vision for getting things accomplished in this leadership vacuum.

AP: No one wants to take on Nancy directly. She makes people who cross her pay a price! That’s why she usually gets her way, especially in directing money towards her district. Also, the fact that she is the only council member left from the 2010 budget crisis will amplify her influence in the coming weeks.

12. Governor Larry Hogan – 19 votes

Source: Completely driving the transportation priorities for the county. Officials deride but residents adore his proposals to expand highways even if the county proposal is utterly more sensible.

Source: Strong, capable and bold. Leading on the coronavirus when counties were still contemplating how to respond. He inspires trust and I can’t tell you how many people say, “I love Hogan.” A true leader at a difficult time.

AP: Governor Hogan deserves to be ranked higher. He doesn’t live here, but how many state initiatives have had a bigger impact on county politics than his I-270/Beltway proposal? It’s a short list.

10 (tied). Delegate Anne Kaiser (D-14) – 20 votes

Source: Quietly behind the scenes, she has become MoCo’s most influential state legislator by a mile, writing legislation that pushes progressive priorities in a practical way. Others get more press. She gets it done.

Source: One of the most prominent Kirwan and education voices, and a mentor to lots of (especially female) electeds.

AP: If I were going to advise a young delegate on how to get ahead in Annapolis, I would tell that person to watch Anne Kaiser. She is not flashy or fancy. She doesn’t seek out press attention. She just does her job, works hard, listens to others, plays on the team and picks her spots to move the team forward. Now she has the ways and means committee chair that once belonged to the legendary Sheila Hixson and she is not done. Don’t be surprised if you are calling her Speaker Kaiser in a few years.

10 (tied). Delegate Eric Luedtke (D-14) – 20 votes

Source: Decent amount of helium in Annapolis, arrow will probably continue to point skyward within the House.

Source: Put together the arrangement that made Adrienne Jones speaker. Influential enough to float tax proposals that can mobilize widespread opposition.

Source: Kaiser would be more obvious choice here given the gavel but no one made more of an impact for good or ill with service tax proposal this session, dominating the conversation.

AP: Smart, outspoken, intellectually honest and ready for combat with right-wingers, Eric has become one of the go-to guys for taking point in House leadership. Underneath all that, he is still the person I first met a long time ago: a socially progressive teacher out to push for the common good. Who knows how his career will progress, but I guarantee it won’t be boring!

More to come in Part Three!

Share

Hogan by the Numbers

The following chart shows the share of the vote received by Gov. Larry Hogan in each county as well as the swing from 2014:

Hogan won majorities in all but four jurisdictions and carried all but the big Democratic three of Montgomery, Baltimore City and Prince George’s. (He won a plurality in Charles.)

In heavily Democratic Montgomery, Hogan won an impressive 44.5%-an unheard of percentage for Republicans in this Democratic heartland. An impressive number of people must have cast ballots both for Larry Hogan and for Marc Elrich.

While Prince George’s was Hogan’s worst county, he made his strongest gains there in picking up an additional 13.4% of the vote, suggesting that the Governor made strong gains in the African-American community. Ben Jealous also lost nearly one-third of the vote in Baltimore City.

Share

How Will Turnout Matter This Election Cycle?

I’ve been covering who has been turning out in early voting heavily the past few days. There is little evidence of a wave of young voters turning out that will carry the Democrats to victory. At the same time, the electorate looks much improved for Democrats from 2014 even if it is not showing signs of being as favorable to them as the 2016 presidential electorate.

Of course, we won’t know the complete picture about how turnout has changed from either 2014 or 2016 until all the votes have been cast. But it seems important to take a moment to pause from statistics to  consider when and how turnout dynamics matter.

Turnout Won’t Matter in the Governor’s Race

Based on the polls, Ben Jealous is in dire trouble. In a future post, I hope to explore why Jealous is flailing despite Maryland’s favorable demographics that should be even more favorable due to shifts in voting behavior unleashed by Trump in a future post. In a nutshell, he losing far too much of the Democratic base.

Anthony Brown fared poorly among white voters four years ago. Ben Jealous looks set to do even worse even as Democrats elsewhere look poised to make substantial gains among highly educated women. Equally problematic, he is hemorrhaging support among nonwhite voters.

Even the most favorable Democratic turnout wind cannot save Jealous from these fundamental problems. They could help close the gap with Hogan but that would merely serve to make his loss somewhat more respectable. But there is no way that Jealous can win the election if he loses roughly 30% of Democratic voters as polls currently indicate.

Who Votes Matters More Down Ballot

Republicans are hoping that there will be a Larry Hogan wave that gives them enough seats in the General Assembly to uphold his veto in at least one house. They’ve focused particularly hard pm the Senate in their “drive for five.”

Except to my surprise in our polarized era, voters seem quite inclined to split their tickets. The same polls that show Larry Hogan receiving a vote share in the high 50s reveal similar proportions wanting Democrats to control the legislature.

In 2014, the Republicans picked up the low hanging fruit in several districts that had long leaned more Republican in national elections and became even more so with Trumpian populism. But there were simply enormous gaps in support for Hogan and Republican legislative candidates elsewhere.

That pattern could easily appear again in 2018. Gov. Hogan has framed this election as a vote to maintain what he presents as our much improved status quo and that he works well with the legislature. That’s hardly an argument to throw out Democrats in the General Assembly.

Republicans are hoping that better candidates and huge financial investments will change this dynamic. But Democrats who defect for Hogan may not be so quick to do so when presented with different candidates. Democrats who think Hogan is fine or Jealous has too many unrealistically expensive plans will often find their local Democratic candidate better attuned to their patch and deem the Republican too right wing.

In Senate races with Democratic incumbents fighting a tough battle for reelection, such as Ron Young in Frederick or Kathy Klausmeier in Baltimore County, a more favorable electorate could provide them with a crucial cushion.

It could also make a difference in the many exciting county executive races and help, for example, carry Johnny Oleszewski into office in Baltimore County. The races in Howard and Anne Arundel have also tightened, though it’s unclear how much. If Democratic challengers can get within a few points, a more favorable electorate could open the door to an upset. It won’t be enough to overcome a spread that looks more like 55-45.

In short, this year, turnout dynamics look likely to have the potential to play a crucial difference around the margins but the candidates have to get close enough for the margin to make a difference.

Share