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Notes: Guess who’s coming to the State of the Union? Plus, an Annapolis lobbying shop goes national, a MoCo deal, and more


Notes: Guess who’s coming to the State of the Union? Plus, an Annapolis lobbying shop goes national, a MoCo deal, and more

Feb 07, 2023 | 7:00 am ET
By Josh Kurtz
Notes: Guess who’s coming to the State of the Union? Plus, an Annapolis lobbying shop goes national, a MoCo deal, and more
The U.S. Capitol will be a beehive of activity on Tuesday night, with President Biden's State of the Union address, and several prominent Marylanders attending. Photo by Jennifer Shutt/States Newsroom.

When President Biden delivers his State of the Union address Tuesday night, several prominent Marylanders will be in attendance as guests of the state’s congressional delegation.

Most notably, newly installed Gov. Wes Moore (D) is attending as the guest of Maryland’s senior congressional lawmaker, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D).

Cardin’s office said Moore will also attend the secretary of the Senate’s annual dinner Tuesday before heading to the joint session of Congress for the State of the Union. Cardin said he extended the invitation to Moore to celebrate renewed prospects for a robust federal-state partnership, and said that, “Team Maryland, which again includes the state’s chief executive in Annapolis, is poised to make major advancements in infrastructure, transportation, public health and safety, the Chesapeake Bay, and so much more thanks to the epic achievements we made in the last Congress.”

Cardin added, of Moore: “It’s an exciting time to be a Marylander, and I’m thrilled that one of the key reasons for that excitement will be joining me on Capitol Hill for the State of the Union.”

Moore, it would seem, will be spending a lot of time in Washington, D.C., this week, as he’ll also be attending the National Governors Association winter conference, which takes place Thursday through Saturday.

In addition, Moore is scheduled to take part in a local leaders summit on Wednesday in D.C., sponsored by the Center for American Progress to discuss the Biden administration’s economic and climate agendas. Also scheduled to appear, according to the organization: North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D), New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D), Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D), D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), Baton Rouge, La., Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, and Richmond, Va., Mayor Levar Stoney.

Beyond Moore, several other members of the congressional delegation have interesting guests coming to Biden’s speech.

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) has invited Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) to join him. In a statement, Van Hollen said he sees parallels between Biden and Alsobrooks.

“From the first day President Biden took office, Democrats in Congress have worked with him to build back our economy stronger than ever and to ensure greater and more shared prosperity for all Americans,” he said. “County Executive Alsobrooks has brought the same inclusive vision to her work, and I’ve been glad to partner with her as she has steered the County through tough times and toward better days.”

U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D) has invited Maryland’s new secretary of State, Susan Lee, to be his guest. Raskin called Lee, who served with him in the state Senate, “a model public servant and a cherished friend.”

U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D) has asked Jennifer Corbin, director of the Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency’s Crisis Response System, to be his guest. Sarbanes described the county’s crisis response system as “a nationwide model for the delivery of comprehensive crisis services [that] has improved the health and well-being of many Marylanders during emergencies.”

In the same vein, Rep. David Trone (D) is bringing his daughter Julia, a school-based therapist, in part to spotlight the important role mental health providers play in the U.S.

Freshman Rep. Glenn Ivey (D), the newest member of the Maryland delegation, has invited Dawn Dalton, a Prince George’s County police reform advocate, to join him.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D) announced late Tuesday that his guest would be Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County).

Two members — Reps. Kweisi Mfume (D) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D) — have invited their wives to be their guests. The office of Rep. Andy Harris (R) did not respond to a request for comment on who the congressman invited to attend the State of the Union.

One addendum: Del. Carl Jackson (D-Baltimore County) told Maryland Matters last week that he’d be a guest of Cardin’s at the State of the Union address. Jackson is going — Cardin’s office got him a ticket. But it looks like Moore gets the “official guest” designation.

Annapolis lobbying firm goes national

Over the past few years, some national lobbying firms have set up outposts in Annapolis. Now, a leading Annapolis government relations outfit, Perry, White, Ross & Jacobson, is moving in the opposite direction, establishing a federal practice.

The firm is making Lisa Bianco, who has held a variety of jobs on Capitol Hill and in national politics, including working for members of Maryland’s congressional delegation, a partner who will be the director of the federal process.

Tim Perry, managing partner at Perry, White, Ross & Jacobson, called Bianco’s hiring “a natural extension” of the firm’s growth as it prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary this summer.

“Obviously, with the breadth and depth of her experience in Washington and throughout the state, there are a lot of places she could go,” Perry said. “This is something we were anxious to pursue. To have an officially dedicated federal practice is really exciting.”

Perry White has occasionally put clients in touch with members of the state’s congressional delegation, but has never invested much time focusing on federal lobbying.

Bianco is no stranger to Maryland politics. She worked as chief of staff and district director to former Rep. John Delaney (D) and as Hoyer’s campaign director. Other credentials include serving as member services director to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol and as chief of staff to Rep. Joe Neguse (D), who represents her home state of Colorado.

She has also worked for an array of campaigns, including the White House campaigns for Al Gore and John Kerry.

“Throughout her impressive career, Lisa Bianco has worked to address many of the most pressing issues facing our country,” said Hoyer, who described Bianco as “a dear friend.”

Raskin, who played a prominent role on the House Jan. 6 panel, hailed Bianco’s “deep mastery of the legislative process and great knowledge of how Capitol Hill works.”

“Her recent service on the January 6th Committee was exemplary and of significant enduring value,” he said. “She brings remarkable insight and skill to her new position.”

Bianco said that when the work of the Jan. 6 committee was winding down, she determined that she did not want to travel the well-worn path to a K Street lobbying shop in D.C.

“This is literally the only firm I would have worked with,” she said. “They’re so top-notch. They’re at the top of their game.”

Perry was a chief of staff to the late Senate President Mike Miller (D), then spent seven years at the Baltimore-based law and lobbying firm Gordon Feinblatt LLC before launching his own firm with other Democratic strategists and government officials. Less than a year and a half after launching, the firm’s leaders were caught by surprise by the election of a Republican governor, Larry Hogan. But rather than trying to bring on some Republican strategists, the firm decided instead to rely on its relationships and knowledge of the issues to win and retain clients.

Lobbying “is always going to be a relationship-driven process,” Perry said. “But what you know and how you present the information is equally important.”

Perry White quickly became one of the top-billing firms in Annapolis. He and Bianco said she would begin reaching out to her long list of national contacts to tell them about the firm’s services.

“This is really just about joining the top-tier firm in Maryland and replicating what they do here on the federal level,” she said.

Blueprint needs another architect

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Accountability and Implementation Board’s Nominating Committee held a brief meeting Monday to review its process for choosing new members.

That’s because Fagan Harris, who had been serving on the board, stepped down recently to become chief of staff to new Gov. Wes Moore (D) and will need to be replaced.

Meanwhile, former state Sen. Paul Pinsky (D) is relinquishing his role as vice chair of the nominating committee after being chosen by Moore to head the Maryland Energy Administration.

Pinsky served as vice chair on the nominating committee since it was established in 2021. The six-member body recommended names for former Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to select for the seven-member Accountability and Implementation Board, which oversees the state’s multi-billion-dollar education reform plan.

On Monday, the nominating committee chose Shanaysha Sauls to remain as chair and Cheryl Bost, president of the Maryland State Education Association, to replace Pinsky as vice chair.

The other three committee members are Franchesca Brown, Rose Li and Edward Root.

Anyone interested in serving on the AIB can submit their names starting Friday through Feb. 24. The committee will make two recommendations, but Moore must select one person to serve on the committee.

For more information or to express interest in joining the committee, email [email protected].

A new development workgroup for Montgomery County

With Montgomery County’s development process under intense scrutiny following the sacking of all five members of the county Planning Board last fall, the Montgomery County House delegation, along with County Executive Marc Elrich (D) and the county Department of Planning, have agreed to jointly set up a workgroup to examine the county’s development review process, with a special focus on economic competitiveness. Del. Lesley Lopez (D), who is chair of the delegation’s Metro Washington Area Committee, will serve as the workgroup’s chair.

The Development Review Process Workgroup will be begin its work around May 1, and will be charged with delivering findings to the Montgomery County House delegation by Oct 15.

The workgroup, which plans to hold at least three public hearings in May and June, will consist of:

  • A representative from one of the Planning Department’s area planning divisions that conducts development reviews
  • A representative from the Planning Department’s Intake and Regulatory Coordination Division
  • A representative from Montgomery Parks
  • A staff representative of the county executive’s office
  • A staff representative of the County Council as designated by the council president
  • Three representatives of the development community agreed to by the county executive and the Planning Board chair, including one who develops commercial/industrial projects, one who develops multi-family/mixed use projects, and one who develops single-family projects
  • Three representatives of the broader community agreed to by the county executive and Planning Board chair, including one from Upcounty, one from Midcounty and one from Downcounty
  • The director of the Montgomery County Office of Racial Equity & Social Justice or their designee
  • A representative of state Sen. Ben Kramer (D), who has been highly critical of the county’s planning process

The workgroup also envisions representatives from utility companies serving as resources who will be invited to weigh in at appropriate points in the process.

As part of this deal, Kramer is expected to withdraw his legislation that would set up a task force to fully restructure the county’s planning process.

“This inclusive workgroup demonstrates a commitment to our Montgomery County constituents, from across state and local levels of government, to address a perennial issue — development,” Lopez said. “The findings of the workgroup will be actionable toward shaping potential legislation, and a bonus will be the deepened relationships between agencies. It’s a great step forward for our county, and has the potential to yield significant results.”

William J. Ford contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: The story has been corrected to reflect that the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Accountability and Implementation Board is seeking a replacement for Fagan Harris. The story was updated late Tuesday to include House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) on the State of the Union guest list.