State Roundup, October 30, 2019

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STATE COMPENSATION TO EXONEREES $9M: Five men who were wrongly convicted and imprisoned for decades in Maryland would receive compensation from the state valued at about $9 million under a plan to be approved Wednesday by the Board of Public Works, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

  • Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports that the settlements, confirmed by the men or their lawyers, amount to $78,916 for each year of wrongful incarceration. It would be the first time in 15 years the state has approved compensation to exonerees seeking redress. The vote would also mark the end of a protracted journey for the men, who served a collective 120 years in prison and have waited as long as 20 months for the state to respond to their petitions.

EXELON, MD REACH POLLUTION SETTLEMENT: Conowingo Dam owner Exelon Corp. and the state of Maryland have reached a settlement under which the Chicago-based energy company will invest $200 million to clean up the Susquehanna River, and, by extension, the Chesapeake Bay, Scott Dance of the Sun reports.

STATE UNION WORKERS COMPLAIN OF UNDERSTAFFING: Members of the largest union of state government employees, who are locked in a contract dispute with the governor, took their complaints of under-staffing to Annapolis Tuesday, reports Pamela Wood for the Sun.

WAVE OF RETIREMENTS DIDN’T OCCUR: Despite workers’ concerns about the future of the state’s retiree health benefits program, government agencies are not seeing a wave of retirements, a legislative panel was told on Tuesday. Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports that changes to the state’s prescription drug benefits – passed by the General Assembly in 2011 to take effect in 2018 – have angered retirees and spooked active employees, particularly those who are closing in on retirement.

BAY BRIDGE & THANKSGIVING TRAVEL: Thanksgiving travelers headed to the Eastern Shore are expected to face major delays at Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Bridge because repair work on the western span is now scheduled to continue through the holiday week — part of a state plan announced Tuesday to expedite a two-year project that has caused massive backups, Katherine Shaver of the Post writes.

FIRST RESPONDERS TRAINING SITE: After decades of talk about such a facility, local, state and federal officials on Tuesday gathered at a 48-acre site along Sharpsburg Pike to break ground for a center to train emergency services, fire and law enforcement personnel, Dave McMillion of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports. Police and other emergency officials are trained at different facilities, but at the Washington County public safety training center, they will learn together to be better prepared for increasingly complex scenarios, officials said.

MD’s BAT POPULATION FALLS: Halloween is known as one of the spookiest times of the year, filled with witches, ghosts, and scattering bats. But Maryland’s flapping, black creatures may be less prevalent this year, like years in the recent past, Emily Top of Capital News Service reports. From cold-loving fungus to high-powered wind turbines, Maryland’s bats are getting annihilated.

BAKER’s BIRTHDAY BASH: He’s turning 61 next month, and he hopes to celebrate with a few hundred check-writing friends. But what is former Prince George’s County executive Rushern Baker (D) really up to? An invitation to Baker’s “birthday bash” promises “a night of great food, drinks, and wonderful company” but is skimpy on further particulars, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports.

CAPITAL-GAZETTE CASE: Questions about mental health are expected to figure prominently when jury selection begins Wednesday as prosecutors and defense attorneys seek 12 jurors who will decide whether the Capital Gazette gunman was criminally responsible and will serve his time in a state prison or mental institution, legal experts predict, Alex Mann of the Annapolis Capital reports.

MAYOR CANDIDATE SEEKS ZERO MURDERS: Taiwan Jamal “T.J” Smith, former chief of media relations for the Baltimore Police, announced his candidacy for mayor Tuesday next to the building where his younger brother, Dionay, was shot and killed in 2017, Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew reports. Surrounded by the families of crime victims, Smith introduced himself as a transformational leader who will not be satisfied until the city’s murder rate – the worst in the country by some measures – literally evaporates.

CITY BANS POLICE GAG ORDERS: The Baltimore City Council passed a bill on Monday that bans the use of gag orders in the settlements of all police brutality and discrimination cases and bolsters transparency throughout the city’s litigation system, Emily Sullivan of WYPR-FM reports.

OBITUARY: JEFF RAYMOND, 56: Here are more obituaries on our friend and former Patuxent Publishing colleague Jeff Raymond, who reported on county government. From Jacques Kelly at the Sun, “Jeff was highly respected by the business community and the staff of the paper,” said Tom Linthicum, former executive editor of The Daily Record and a former Baltimore Sun editor. “He was a serious and conscientious journalist. He also had a great sense of humor.”