State Roundup, October 3, 2019

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BPW CONSIDER DEADLINE TO PAY EXONEREES: Under increasing public pressure to compensate five wrongly convicted men who spent decades behind bars, Maryland’s Board of Public Works is weighing whether to give itself a deadline to act, Erin Cox and Rachel Chason of the Post report.

RAHN GETS EARFUL OVER BAY BRIDGE BACKUPS: Maryland’s transportation chief apologized Wednesday for unusually severe weekend traffic backups at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, saying the state is working to reduce congestion during a two-year maintenance project on the westbound span, Katherine Shaver of the Post is reporting. Under grilling from the state’s Board of Public Works on Wednesday, Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn said he understood that Friday was a “miserable day” for motorists.

  • Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that Rahn offered the apologies during a sometimes terse exchange with Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and Comptroller Peter Franchot during the BPW meeting. “I am not at all convinced that suitable foresight was given or that sufficient steps were given to mitigate the burden and safety risks associated with this massive project,” said Franchot. “The Chesapeake Bay Bridge is not just a luxury. It’s an unconditional economic, social and public safety necessity.”
  • “There are certain things that don’t come to the Board of Public Works, that should,” Rutherford said, noting that the $27 million for the two-year bridge deck rehabilitation project was not required to come before the BPW for approval. Instead, projects by the Maryland Transportation Authority, which maintains, constructs and oversees the state’s toll facilities, are approved by its own board. Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters writes the story.

MDTA PRESENT BAY BRIDGE PLANS TO ARUNDEL RESIDENTS: A study searching for the best place for another possible bridge across the Chesapeake Bay is focused on three locations in Anne Arundel County. Michelle Basch of WTOP-AM reports that on Wednesday night, county residents packed an open house to learn more about the proposals and share their opinions. The Maryland Transportation Authority showed attendees maps and graphics of their proposals. Those in attendance also asked questions and submitted written feedback on the ideas. The list of possible locations for a new bay crossing was originally 14, but was whittled down in August.

20% OF DELEGATES STARTED AS APPOINTEES: In an article for Maryland Matters, Josh Kurtz writes that when Baltimore County Democrats Carl Jackson and Cathy Forbes join the House of Delegates in the next several days, assuming Gov. Larry. Hogan follows tradition and goes along with the recent recommendations of the county’s Democratic Central Committee, it will bring the total number of appointees serving in the 188-member General Assembly to 37. That means that almost 20% of all lawmakers either hold their current seats – or originally arrived in the legislature – as the choice of a select few political insiders, rather than the voters. House Speaker Adrienne Jones is part of that club. So are the chairmen of the House Appropriations Committee and two state Senate committees.

STATE MOVES TOWARD CITY JAIL DEMOLITION: Maryland is moving forward with a multi-million dollar plan to demolish buildings at the old Baltimore city jail, notorious for its terrible conditions and being overrun by a gang, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. Some of the oldest and most recognizable buildings will remain standing due to their historic and architectural value. Still, some city preservationists say they are dismayed by Gov. Larry Hogan’s determination to knock down so much of the former jail.

UNEMPLOYMENT PAYMENTS DELAYED: Unemployment payments were delayed for some Marylanders this week by about a day because of a technical issue, a Department of Labor spokesman has confirmed. A notice on the department website states that payments were not transferred Monday as scheduled to unemployment debit cards, but were made available Tuesday, Lillian Reed of the Sun reports.

VAPE SHOPS CONCERNED OVER NEW LAW, ILLEGAL MATERIALS: A new state law and illegal vaping materials are top concerns for viability of local vape shop businesses, which represent a considerable chunk of economic activity in Cecil County. Like many product and services, there are legitimate vaping materials and there are illegal ones. And it’s the black market products that are about to cause those operating within the law to go out of business, according to Cecil County’s vape shop owners, Jane Bellmyer of the Cecil Whig reports.

BA CO TO INSTALL AIR/HEATING IN SCHOOLS: With several Baltimore County schools closed because of record high temperatures for October, County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. announced Wednesday that the county will spend $16 million — paired with additional state money — to install air conditioning and heating units in county schools, Cody Boteler writes in the Sun.

PUGH HOUSE SELLS LESS THAN HALF ASSESSED VALUE: Holden Wilen of the Baltimore Business Journal, who broke the story about former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh selling one of her homes, reports that the home that Pugh sold, which she used as the principal office of her “Healthy Holly” children’s book series, was assessed for tax purposes at $187,700, more than $100,000 more than the $75,000 she sold it for.