State Roundup, December 30,2019

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DEADLIEST YEAR IN BALTIMORE: With a shooting murder in Baltimore Friday, the city’s murder rate now sits at 343, its deadliest year on record per capita, Alexa Ashwell of WBFF TV reports. In 1993 there were 353 homicides, yet the population was much higher in the city. [Census figures show Baltimore’s population in 1990 was 736,000; it is an estimated 602,000 this year.]

Sen. Ulysses Currie

Sen. Ulysses Currie

EX-SEN. CURRIE DIES: Ulysses Currie, a teacher-turned-politician from Prince George’s County who rose to leadership in the Maryland Senate before losing power in an ethics scandal, died at his home in Forestville early Friday. Currie, a Democrat, was a sharecropper’s son who became an educator and later worked his way up the political ladder to chair the Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee.

MORE QUESTIONS ON GLENN, CANNABIS: The unsealing of charges alleging that former Maryland Del. Cheryl Glenn accepted bribes in exchange for actions she took in Annapolis seemed to answer why she abruptly submitted her resignation last week, writes the Sun’s Pam Wood. But the charges, filed by federal prosecutors in July and made public Monday, raised many other questions such as who gave the bribes and was Glenn and others cooperating with prosecutors.

CONTINUING CANNABIS PROBLEMS: When Maryland launched its medical cannabis industry, the first companies to nab coveted licenses for growing, processing and selling the drug were overwhelmingly white-owned, writes the Sun’s Pam Wood. So, state lawmakers ordered more licenses to be issued, with the goal of getting more black people and women into the industry. But a year and a half later, those new licenses are on hold amid five lawsuits and accusations from applicants that the process was botched or biased.

NEW DEPUTY HEALTH SECRETARY: The Maryland Department of Health filled a crucial leadership job Monday after an advertisement for the post drew controversy for offering an unusually high salary for such a position. Dr. Alyia Jones will become a deputy secretary and head of the state’s Behavioral Health Administration, which oversees state mental hospitals and community programs for substance use, among other services, reports The Sun’s Meredith Cohn.

ELECTION DAY COMMUNICATIONS: Maryland election officials plan to use an expanded wireless network during the 2020 elections, prompted by a new law allowing people to register to vote on Election Day, Steve Thompson reports in the Post. But at least one lawmaker and a local elections board are questioning whether the new system will be worth the cost and will be safe from hackers. A cellular network will transmit new registrations from local polling places to state elections officials throughout Election Day, allowing officials to update voter lists that help meet objectives including that no one vote twice.

WILL MD. STILL ACCEPT REFUGEES? If Maryland wants to continue accepting refugees, Gov. Larry Hogan has less than a month to tell the Trump administration, Talia Richman reports in the Sun. An executive order in September from Republican President Donald Trump dictates that states and local governments must, for the first time, issue written consent allowing refugees to resettle within their jurisdictions. So far, more than 30 governors representing both parties have signaled their intent to continue welcoming new refugees, according to the Baltimore-based World Relief organization. They include the governors of neighboring Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

WRONG CRIME DATA: The number of rapes in Maryland increased last year by 15% over the previous year, according to an annual FBI Uniform Crime Report, released Sept. 30. This was significant — the largest year-over-year increase for the state since the FBI’s definition of rape was revised in 2013. It’s also wrong, reports Elliott Davis of Capital News Service in MarylandReporter.com. In fact, many of Maryland’s crime statistics reported by government agencies are unusually inconsistent — even “astounding” and “bizarre” — according to a national crime statistics expert.

BALTO. SOLICITOR RESIGNS: As Baltimore struggles to fight unrelenting crime amid turnover at the police department and in the mayor’s office, City Solicitor Andre Davis is resigning, saying Thursday he has “run out of fuel.”

MD NATIONAL GUARD TO POLAND: Dozens of members of the Maryland National Guard shipped out Saturday for Europe, WBAL TV reports. The guard members will deploy to Poland as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a mission that supports U.S. allies abroad.

MTA PROBLEMS: In a Sun op-ed, Justin Cuffley writes the Maryland Transit Administration system is not perfect. The ticketing machines frequently malfunction. And from my vantage point riding the light rail several times a week, MTA police seem to target the poor, African Americans and disabled with fines they are unable to pay.

SPECIAL ED PROBLEMS IN ANNE ARUNDEL: In the aftermath of the death of Bowen Levy, a student who died in November after he choked on a glove at Central Special School in Edgewater, Naomi Harris of the Capital conducted interviews with parents of students with special needs in the school system about securing resources and services for their children.

EX-SUPERINTENDENT HAIRSTON DIES: Dr. Joe A. Hairston, who served as superintendent of schools for Baltimore County for 12 years and championed an “all means all” credo of equality in education, died Friday at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore from complications related to a previous illness, according to his wife. He was 71, reports the Sun.

NO MORE JURY DUTY: In the Baltimore Post-Examiner, columnist Mike Olesker writes that he “will never be asked to sit on a jury again.” And with the crime rate so high in the city, what resident in the city has not been touched by it.

SUN NAMES CUMMINGS MARYLANDER OF THE YEAR: The editorial board of the Sun named the late congressman Marylander of the year specifically for what he did during 2019, even as his health failed.

NO BLONDES ALLOWED: Diane Bernard of the Post does a retrospective piece on a 50-year-old experiment at a Cabin John Junior High that showed how discrimination worked against people based on how they looked – those with blond hair. It had a big impact on many.

NEW PG FIRE CHIEF: In Tiffany Green’s first week of recruit school for the Prince George’s County Fire Department, the command staff visited the academy for its traditional meet-and-greet with the students. None of the department leadership, Green recalled, looked like her. “I can remember looking at those men and wondering where the women were,” Green said. “The quote I always remember is, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’” Green, 44, is the new chief of the department, reports the Post’s Lyn Bui.

FIREARMS EXPERT FORGED SIGNATURES: In at least some of his lab documents, Maryland State Police firearms expert Joseph Kopera forged the initials of a co-worker who ostensibly reviewed his work. The revelation has prompted the state police to launch a review of 4,041 Kopera case files for faked signatures and other possible shortcuts. Dan Morse reports in the Post.

THIN BLUE LINE FLAG: Bethesda Beat notes that Gov. Larry Hogan took to Twitter on Sunday to showcase a “thin blue and red line flag” given to him by three professional firefighters’ organizations — including the Montgomery County Career Fire Fighters. Hogan wrote he was “honored” to receive the flag before the Baltimore Ravens played the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. President Jeff Buddle of the Montgomery County Career Fire Fighters, a local union for paid first responders, joined Baltimore firefighters to present the “custom” wooden flag, according to a Facebook post from the union.

ARUNDEL LIQUOR BOARD: Anne Arundel County’s liquor board could go from three members to five if a pre-filed bill co-sponsored by four of the county’s senators passes during the 2020 legislative session, Olivia Sanchez reports in the Capital.