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Government & Politics

Notes: A new delegate, a gig for wife of Moore’s chief of staff, AG sues chemical polluters, and more

Kent Roberson was sworn in Tuesday as the newest delegate from Prince George’s County. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Maryland’s newest legislator was sworn in Monday, capping a two-decade journey that started as a legislative page and included a job in the State House mailroom.

Del. Kent Roberson (D-Prince George’s) took the oath of office on the House dais that overlooks the chamber where in 2002 he was one of a number of high school students selected to work on the floor, making coffee and filling binders with bills and amendments.

Jamii Roberson (right) pins the House of Delegate pin on the lapel of her husband Kent Roberson. Moments earlier, Roberson was sworn in as the newest delegate from Prince George’s County. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

“From there, the love of being here, never went away to serve here,” said Roberson. “Fast forward: In 2013, the opportunity came where I took a job to work in the mailroom because I wanted to be as close to this position as possible, making $5.50 an hour, which is abysmal. But that’s how much I wanted to be here. And so with two children, and a wife, struggling to make ends meet because they poured into my desire to be here, we sacrifice as a team.”

Now, 10 years later, Roberson is a member of the House of Delegates. As such, he will be paid more than $52,000 in his first full year as a state lawmaker with annual increases bringing the salary to more than $56,000 in the fourth year of the term.

In his current day job, Roberson is a senior manager for government relations at the Corn Refiners Association. He is also an ordained minister.

Roberson was selected earlier this month to fill a vacancy created by the departure of veteran Del. Darryl Barnes, who joined a lobbying firm. Roberson, who until recently was chair of the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee, will represent District 25.

Democratic central committees in Baltimore City and Montgomery County will be meeting in the days ahead to nominate replacements for two lawmakers who recently resigned, former Del. Kumar P. Barve (D-Montgomery) and former Del. Tony Bridges (D-Baltimore City).

That’s entertainment

Gov. Wes Moore (D) announced Tuesday that he has appointed Meryam Bouadjemi as a senior adviser and chair of the newly-created Maryland Entertainment Council. As chair, Bouadjemi — the wife of Moore’s chief of staff, Fagan Harris — will lead a group of industry leaders and experts, who will be appointed by Moore, to advise Maryland’s Department of Commerce in expanding the state’s film, television, and entertainment sectors.

“For Maryland to win the decade, we must compete in industries where we can create unique and enduring value,” Moore said in a statement. “Maryland is already home to globally-celebrated storytellers, a world-class workforce, and locations that are the envy of the country. The time is now for our state to emerge as a leader and social innovator in the industry, and Meryam is the right person to lead the charge.”

Bouadjemi is a filmmaker who is described by the Moore administration as a “social entrepreneur.” She has served as a senior adviser at the Sundance Episodic Lab and the Pillars Artist Fellowship, in partnership with Oscar winner Riz Ahmed, and produced “Charm City,” a feature-length documentary that was shortlisted for an Academy Award. She is a fellow at the Krieger School of Arts and Science at Johns Hopkins University, and is a guest lecturer at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.

“Maryland’s film, television and entertainment sector is unique in its capacity to expand diverse, meaningful pathways for employment, fuel small business growth, and drive infrastructure investment that spurs tourism and strengthens our creative economy,” Bouadjemi said. “The Maryland Entertainment Council will convene leaders from across industry, the legislature, labor, and creative communities to leverage our inherent assets, position Maryland as a distinct competitor, and seize on the generational opportunity of this trillion-dollar sector for our state.”

Brown sues companies for chemical contamination

Attorney General Anthony Brown (D) announced Tuesday the state has filed two lawsuits against 3M Co., DuPont and other chemical companies, accusing them of contaminating the state’s natural resources and jeopardizing public health.

The lawsuits alleged that these companies also knowingly manufactured, marketed and sold toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also called “forever chemicals.” Some of them are contained in household products, fire repellants and, according to the lawsuits, were present in food packaging, cookware and clothing.

Also, these substances can easily dissolve in water, creating a hazard to marine life and the water supply.

“Access to safe drinking water, a clean environment, and the precious natural resources of Maryland will not be jeopardized by those who put profits above public health and safety,” Brown said in a statement. “These corporations must pay to clean up the damage and be held accountable for the harms they have caused.”

Besides 3M and DuPont, one lawsuit also involves Corteva Inc. and The Chemours Co. The state claims the companies sold products that contained PFAS substances that were harmful to the environment and “human blood supply.”

“Defendants did not warn of the dangers posed by their PFAS Products, but instead concealed those dangers to protect their corporate image and limit their liability,” according to the suit. “Defendants knew specifically that their PFAS were reaching drinking water supplies and accumulating in people’s bodies as they were exposed to the chemicals over time.”

A second lawsuit involves those same companies and several others that used PFAS substances that contained film-forming foam, also referred to as “firefighting foam.” The foam has been used for decades by the military, airports, industrial facilities and local fire departments, according to the suit.

Both civil suits seek compensatory damages and allegations that include defective design, public nuisance and negligence.

Brown filed the suits on behalf of the state and three state agencies: the Departments of Environment, Natural Resources and Health.

Total Trone and more

The annual Montgomery County Business Hall of Fame luncheon is, inevitably, a magnet for glad-handing politicians – and never just from Montgomery County.

This fall, a glad-handing politician will be one of the honorees – a nifty setup as he sets his sights on higher office.

The Hall of Fame announced this week that U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-6th), co-founder of the Total Wine & More national liquor store chain, will be one of the inductees. Trone, of course, is now a candidate for the open U.S. Senate seat that will be vacant in 2024.

The other business leaders who will be inducted in the Hall of Fame on Oct. 24 are:

  • Jillian Copeland, founder of the Diener School and Main Street Connect
  • Joseph Craig English, an artist and printmaker
  • Tien Wong, a technology entrepreneur and CEO of Opus8, Inc.

The luncheon takes place at the Universities at Shady Grove, where the Hall of Fame is housed. Proceeds from the event provide scholarships for business students at the campus. The Hall of Fame has supported more than 1,000 students and raised more than $1.6 million for the USG scholarship fund since it launched over a decade ago.

Speaking of Trone, he launched yet another TV ad for his Senate campaign on Tuesday, this one focused on mental health and substance abuse. It’s his third of the young Democratic primary campaign for Trone, who is already spending his personal funds liberally as he battles with Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks and Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando, among others, for the nomination. Trone also recently began sending campaign literature into Democratic homes.

Alsobrooks and Jawando have attended the Business Hall of Fame event in prior years. Will they this fall?


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Notes: A new delegate, a gig for wife of Moore’s chief of staff, AG sues chemical polluters, and more