PRESCRIPTION DRUG BOARD HOLDS INAUGURAL MEETING: The first official meeting of the Maryland Prescription Drug Affordability Board kicked off Monday with its members being given an extensive presentation about the financial disclosure requirements they must make as part of their service, Bryan Renbaum reports for MarylandReporter.
- Members of a new prescription drug panel pledged on Monday to do a deep dive into the factors that cause consumers to experience sticker shock at the pharmacy counter, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters writes. The five-member Prescription Drug Affordability Board held its first meeting, a 90-minute organizational session, in Annapolis — under the watchful gaze of a roomful of lobbyists and other observers.
‘DISTRACTED CAUCUS:’ Meet the Distracted Caucus, writes Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters. Four state lawmakers — Sen. Jill Carter and Dels. Talmadge Branch, Terri Hill and Jay Jalisi — are running in the special Feb. 4 Democratic primary for the congressional seat left vacant by the death of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings. State Sen. Mary Washington (D) is running for mayor of Baltimore in the April 28 primary. Del. Nick Mosby (D) is running for City Council president in the primary. And Republican state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling and Del. Neil Parrott are running for congressional seats in the April 28 primaries.
TWO CUMMINGS PRIMARIES, TWO DIFFERENT WINNERS? Glynis Kazanjian of Maryland Matters reports that the special election to fill the remainder of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings’ congressional term is being held over the same period as the 2020 Maryland presidential primary — creating the real if long-shot possibility that different winners could emerge from the special and regular elections. The special primary election in the 7th District — one of Maryland’s biggest Democratic strongholds — is Feb. 4. The winners of the Democratic and Republican primaries will advance to the special 7th District general election on April 28 — the same day as the 2020 presidential primary in Maryland.
$9M IN TAX CREDITS FOR THOSE WITH STUDENT DEBT: Gov. Larry Hogan has announced the awarding of nearly $9 million in tax credits for Maryland residents with student loan debt, the AP is reporting. The administration says 9,600 applicants were eligible for the Student Loan Debt Relief Tax Credit. That number includes 6,331 eligible applicants who attended in-state institutions; each will get a $1,000 tax credit. Mranwhile, 3,269 eligible applicants who attended out-of-state institutions will receive $813 each in tax credits.
TWO NEW PORTRAITS IN SENATE CHAMBER: Before he became Senate president, Sen. Mike Miller and Sen. Verda Welcome, the first black woman elected to the chamber, served and co-sponsored legislation together. Now, in a historic move, their portraits have been placed on the back wall of the 370-year-old institution, Luke Broadwater is reporting for the Sun.
- In 1962, Verda Freeman Welcome was a civil rights pioneer, a teacher and the first black woman in the country elected to a state Senate. On Monday night, she became the first black person to have her portrait hung in a chamber of the Maryland State House, reports Erin Cox for the Post.
- As lawmakers entered the Senate chamber Monday night, two red velvet curtains adorned the back wall, where portraits of two former governors had hung for 115 years. Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes that Senate President Bill Ferguson explained that a visit to the State House from students in his district four years earlier had inspired him to make the portraits hanging in the Senate chamber more representative of Maryland. One student wrote to Ferguson that not seeing anyone on the walls who looked like her “made me sad.”
CHANEL BRANCH TAPPED TO REPLACE DEL. GLENN: Chanel Branch was chosen by the Democratic central committee she leads to fill the House of Delegates seat vacated by Del. Cheryl Glenn, who was recently charged with bribery and wire fraud, reports Talia Richman for the Sun. Glenn’s name will be forwarded to Gov. Larry Hogan, who has final say on the appointment. She would serve alongside her father, Maryland House Majority Whip Talmadge Branch, a candidate in the Maryland 7th congressional district special election to fill out the term of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings.
THE WEEK AHEAD: After a largely ceremonial first few days at the General Assembly, Sun reporters Pamela Wood and Luke Broadwater are back on Facebook Live to preview the first full week of the legislature’s 2020 session. This Wednesday brings the release of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s budget proposal — which Democrats are expected to scrutinize for spending that could shifted to a recommended massive funding increase for public schools — as well as hearings on three gun-related bills.
NAACP, PG COUNTY SUE CENSUS BUREAU: Calling preparations for the 2020 Census “conspicuously deficient,” the NAACP is suing the U.S. Census Bureau, demanding that the agency send more workers into the field and spend more money on encouraging people to participate in the once-a-decade head count. The Sun is reporting that the Baltimore-based civil rights group and Prince George’s County, a majority African American county, filed the lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.
BPW OKs $18.8M FOR LAND PROTECTION: The Board of Public Works has unanimously approved recommendations of more than $18.8 million in Rural Legacy Program grants for conservation easements in 18 counties, the Garrett County Republican is reporting. Funding from these grants will permanently protect more than 4,500 acres of working farms, forests, open space, shorelines, and wetlands — plus cultural and historical resources — throughout the state.
BAY BRIDGE TOLL BOOTH REMOVAL: Construction to remove toll booths on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Bridge has begun as the Maryland Transportation Authority transitions to a cashless tolling system, the AP is reporting. The latest round of construction on the bridge began Sunday night and is expected to last through the end of June, according to a MDTA statement. Three toll lanes at the bridge have been shut down permanently and existing toll booths will be demolished to widen lanes.
ED BOARDS SIGN ON TO SPORTS STREAMING: A company partnering with the National Federation of State High School Associations made a presentation to the Carroll County Board of Education about a system that would let community members stream Carroll high school sporting events remotely for a monthly fee. Catalina Righter of the Carroll County Times reports that several Maryland counties have already joined the NFHS Network including Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Baltimore counties.
OPINION: TELEWORK ECONOMY: Even while the Trump administration is pulling back on teleworking within the federal government, the editorial board for the Sun lauds the telecommuting economy for the state of Maryland and Baltimore City, opining that it is a particular help to the Baltimore area. “Not only because of the presence of Social Security, but because while Maryland is home to an estimated 144,542 federal jobs, it’s within telecommuting distance of about 2.6 million others — or, in other words, the total nationwide federal workforce.”
METRO SEEKS FUNDS FOR SILVER LINE STAFF: Metro will need $24 million from the District, Maryland and Virginia to begin hiring employees and preparing for service on the Silver Line extension, according to an operating budget proposal for the project released Monday. Justin George of the Post reports that the transit authority plans to devote $60 million — including the local contribution — in this fiscal year to staff the long-awaited nearly-11-mile rail extension, which will connect Dulles International Airport to Loudoun County.
B’MORE COUNCIL PUSHES REFORMS: Less than two months after Baltimore’s former mayor pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion charges, the City Council is pushing forward on a slate of government reform measures that include giving itself the power to oust a mayor for misconduct, Talia Richman of the Sun reports. Council members introduced a number of charter amendments in the wake of the wide-ranging “Healthy Holly” scandal, in which former Mayor Catherine Pugh sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of self-published children’s books to companies that did business with the city.
B’MORE BANS PLASTIC BANS: Baltimore City Mayor Jack Young signed a bill Monday that bans retailers’ use of plastic bags starting next year, saying he was proud Baltimore is “leading the way in creating cleaner neighborhoods and waterways.” Talia Richman reports for the Sun that the law will prohibit grocers and other retailers from giving out plastic bags, and require them to charge a nickel for any other bag they supply to shoppers, including paper bags. Retailers would keep 4 cents from the fee for each alternative bag they supply, with a penny going to city coffers.
- Emily Sullivan of WYPR-FM reports that the Comprehensive Bag Reduction Bill was the council’s ninth attempt to ban plastic bags since 2006. Young thanked former councilman Jim Kraft, the first Baltimore City legislator who attempted to ban plastic bags. Councilman Bill Henry, a Democrat representing northeast Baltimore, introduced the legislation signed on Monday.