State Roundup, November 15, 2019

WAKING UP TO 300 DEATHS ALREADY THIS YEAR: As of Thursday morning, Baltimore City has reached 300 homicides so far this year, reports Anne Kramer for WBAL AM. Detective Danny Moses confirmed the number along with the latest murder victims, a man and a woman shot and killed at McHenry and Monroe Streets in Southwest Baltimore. The station will have an hour special “Baltimore – State of Emergency” today (Friday) at 11 a.m. focusing on violence in the city.

GOVENOR FRUSTRATED ON BALTIMORE CRIME: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has expressed frustration with Baltimore’s spike in crime, saying the state has invested more for law enforcement in the city but cannot control decisions made by either the police department or City Hall, reports John Rydell for WBFF (Fox).

CASHLESS TOLLING FIASCO:A Maryland transportation agency recently sent erroneous warnings to 22,000 drivers saying that they were caught speeding on bridge in the northeastern part of the state, reports Dana Hedgpeth for the Post. The drivers received notices — in some cases as many as 10 — over the last month that they’d been speeding on the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge in Perryville, but it turns out it was all a mistake.

  • The notices are largely being met with anger and disbelief, reports David Collins with WBAL TV. Drivers claim they know they weren’t speeding, and they’re upset and anxious that their E-ZPass accounts could be suspended.

AROUND THE STATE, KIRWAN TOPIC OF CONVERSATION: The Sun provides answers to some key questions about one of the most significant public policy issues in Maryland. Pamela Wood explains the state’s ambitious education plan coming from the Kirwan Commission.

STATE COULD BE AT FAULT IN FIRE DEATHS: After a house burned in Sykesville on Nov. 7, killing two people, investigators determined there were no smoke alarms in the historical residence— and it’s possible the state could be found responsible for the devices not being installed, reports Mary Grace Keller for the Carroll County Times. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources owns the historic Raincliffe property, which is part of DNR’s Resident Curatorship Program.

VAPING VICTIM SPEAKS OUT: A man who says he had medical issues as a result of vaping tells WJZ he almost died after using a “bad tank” with his vape pen, reports Nicole Baker. The man is identified as “JR” and his story comes as at least 42 people have died in Maryland as a result of vaping.

STATE STARTS FINAL PUSH IN REAL ID: If there isn’t already a star on your driver’s license indicating it is REAL ID-compliant, your licensing agency wants to see you soon, and they’re trying to make the process more convenient, reports Kristi King for WTOP. The state’s Motor Vehicle Administration has extended hours at many branches and is offering appointments.

  • With less than a year to go before all state residents are required to have drivers licenses or identification cards that meet federal standards for authenticity, more than half of Southern Maryland residents have IDs that meet those standards, reports Paul Lagasse in The Enterprise. As of last week, 54% of Charles County residents were in compliance with the Real ID requirements issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. That’s the fourth-highest compliance rate in the state.

HOWARD COUNTY SCHOOLS DEBATE: The dismay and upheaval for Howard County schools redistricting has sparked debate about race and class and privilege, about achievement gaps and neighborhoods and whether Howard County is really integrated, reports Donna St. George in the Post. In a county that prides itself on diversity and inclusion, it aimed for further socioeconomic integration of schools, so that the neediest students were more spread out, easing concentrations of poverty.

COMMENTARY: HOWARD REDISTRICTING:Howard County already concentrates certain resources at the schools with the highest poverty rates, writes Lew Jan Olowski for  Any redistricting plan that moves children out of these schools deprives them of access to such need-based academic programs, he opines.

LIBERAL BASTION CHILLY TO FRANCHOT: While Peter Franchot was met with respect and greeted cordially by the District 18 Breakfast Club’s leaders in Montgomery County, the temperature of the room palpably dropped when the comptroller answered questions and spoke transparently about his position on issues, writes blogger Ryan Miner for A Minor Detail. Questions ranged from the need for private-sector growth, the Board of Public Works, Kirwan spending, the I-270/495 beltway widening project, schools beginning after Labor Day, recreational cannabis legalization, and his friendly relationship with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

UMD PARENT REACTS TO VIRUS RESPONSE INVESTIGATION:  The father of the University of Maryland student who died during an outbreak of adenovirus on the campus said Wednesday that he wasn’t satisfied with the findings of an independent investigation into the school’s response to the infection, reports Nora Eckert and Jillian Atelsek for The Diamondback.

  • The lack of a “mature culture of emergency management” at the University of Maryland College Park could have delayed earlier and more robust responses to a mold infestation and viral outbreak in fall 2018 that led to the death of a student, reports Danielle Gaines in Maryland Matters on the independent investigation released this week.

RAWLINGS-BLAKE WON’T RUN FOR CONGRESS: Former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Thursday she will not run for the congressional seat previously held by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, reports Luke Broadwater for the Sun.

SPECIAL ELECTION PLANNING: And with the special election coming, it presents a challenge because schools used as polling places will have to close, reports Talia Richman for the Sun. Local education officials in Howard, along with Baltimore County and the city of Baltimore, are still deciding how they want to handle the unexpected demand for their buildings on a Tuesday when they expected to be holding classes.

NEW DEM CHAIR COMING: Maryland Democrats will elect a new party chair on Dec. 7 to replace Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who vacated the post to run for her late husband’s seat in Congress, reports Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood for the Sun.

PURPLE LINE SPURS PG HOUSING PLANS: Prince George’s leaders say the Purple Line will be the key to the county contributing its fair share to the region’s ambitious housing goals, reports Alex Koma for the Baltimore Business Journal. The 16-mile light rail line linking Bethesda and New Carrollton is years away from opening, but lawmakers believe they should start planning to take advantage of it now.

COURT RULES AGAINST MTA POLICE: The Maryland Transit Administration violated the constitutional rights of light rail passengers when MTA officers put on a show of force in conducting a sweep of the train cars to ensure fares were paid, reports Steve Lash for The Daily Record on a ruling by the state’s second-highest court. The ruling overturned the gun- possession conviction of a passenger caught in the sweep.

AIR BNB LEGISLATION HARD TO ENFORCE: Two years after passing legislation that opened the doors to short-term rentals on sites such as Airbnb, Montgomery County still lacks the resources to enforce more than a thousand potential violations, reports Kate Masters for Bethesda Beat.

GROUP SUPPORTS POLICE FLAG: Members of the nonprofit group Brothers Before Others handed out Thin Blue Line Flags along with coffee and donuts at the Fifth District Police Station in Germantown, reports Elle Meyers for the Montgomery Sentinel. The charity’s demonstration of support comes about a week after Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich decided that a wooden wall hanging bearing the Thin Blue Line Flag should not be hung in the Germantown Police Station.

TEACHERS VIE FOR BOARD OF ED SLOT: More than a dozen teachers are vying to become the first teacher-member of the Maryland State Board of Education, reports Danielle Gaines for Maryland Matters.The election is the result of a bill passed by the General Assembly earlier this year that will add a teacher and a parent to the school board next year.

COURTHOUSE NAME TO CHANGE TO CUMMINGS: A move by local leaders to rename a portion of the city’s courthouse complex in memory of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings moved one step closer to reality Thursday, reports Melody Simmons for the Baltimore Business Journal. Baltimore’s Planning Commission unanimously voted to endorse legislation to change the name of the Courthouse East Building to the Elijah E. Cummings Courthouse.

About The Author

Meg Tully

Contributing Editor Meg Tully has been covering Maryland politics for more than five years. She has worked for The Frederick News-Post, where she reported during the General Assembly session in Annapolis. She has also worked for The (Hanover) Evening Sun and interned at Baltimore Magazine. Meg has won awards from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association for her state and county writing, and a Keystone Press Award for feature writing from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. She is a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. If you have additional questions or comments contact Meg at:

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