MDOT ADDRESSES ROAD, CONGESTION, BUILD-OUT CONCERNS: Traffic congestion estimates in the Maryland-D.C. metro area are stable despite the region’s rapid population growth, the acting secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation told a panel of state lawmakers on Tuesday. Bryan Renbaum of MarylandReporter writes that Greg Slater also told the House Environment and Transportation Committee at a briefing on highway construction that congestion continues to grow at a cost of $1.7 billion annually in the national capital region and that the average commuter spends about 87 hours in traffic each year.
- Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters writes that Slater said the firm that wins the right to build a new American Legion Bridge and to widen two Montgomery County highways will be the one that figures out how to keep traffic flowing while constructing the new Potomac River crossing.
BAY SPAN TO REOPEN BEFORE SUMMER: The entire westbound span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge will reopen before summer — one year ahead of schedule, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Tuesday, Katherine Shaver reports in the Post. The news brought cheers from Eastern Shore commuters and residents who endured massive backups in the fall.
OPINION: PUZZLED BY COMMUTER TAX BREAK: The editorial board of the Frederick News Post opines that, at a time when state and local governments are looking for ways to deal with traffic congestion, tight budgets and environmental challenges, we’re a bit puzzled by a bill proposed in Annapolis that would give long-distance commuters a tax break. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Ellis (D-Charles), would provide a credit against a person’s state income tax to help offset some of the costs of commuting at least 40 miles round trip
ETHICS LAWS ON FRONT BURNER: With at least six current and former Maryland lawmakers having been convicted of federal fraud or bribery charges over the last three years, it seems everyone in Annapolis is trying to figure out a way to restore public trust in government, reports Ovetta Wiggins in the Post. The Maryland state prosecutor wants to make it easier to file state charges against public officials who commit wrongdoing. The governor wants to increase the penalty for bribery. And the House speaker wants to ban political candidates from hiring their relatives to manage fundraising.
TOUGHER GUN LAWS SOUGHT: House lawmakers and members of the Maryland chapter of Mothers Demand Action issued an aggressive call Tuesday morning to strengthen and reform state gun laws this legislative session. At the forefront of the conversation was House Bill 4, sponsored by Del. Vanessa E. Atterbeary (D-Howard), who said that the legislation will address a “significant loophole” in current law regarding background checks during purchases of firearms, Hannah Gaskill of Maryland Matters reports.
AID-IN-DYING BILL: Medically assisted suicide failed by a single vote in the General Assembly last year. Now, advocates who want to make it legal for doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to terminally ill patients seeking to end their lives are launching another push to get the legislation approved, hoping that growing public acceptance of aid-in-dying laws will win over at least one more lawmaker, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post is reporting.
- However, reports Bruce DePuyt and Josh Kurtz in Maryland Matters, Senate President Bill Ferguson says that the General Assembly is unlikely to vote on an aid-in-dying measure this year because advocates appear to lack the support needed for passage.
CLIMATE CHANGE PROPOSALS: Senators and delegates on Monday night unveiled a package of five resiliency bills designed to make it easier for state planners and policymakers to prepare for — and, if possible, prevent — the ravages of climate change, Josh Kurtz writes for Maryland Matters. The all-female lineup of lawmakers who spoke at an Annapolis news conference Monday night represent Ellicott City, which has endured catastrophic damage from two “thousand-year” floods in less than two years; Annapolis, where City Dock is regularly under water; and Baltimore City, where poor residents swelter through heat islands and waterfront communities see regular flooding.
OPINION: END ‘PERIOD POVERTY:’ In supporting House Bill 208 – which would require every public school to install dispensers containing free menstrual hygiene products in at least two restrooms by October of this year and all restrooms by Aug. 1, 2024 – the editorial board for the Sun opines that more than 40% of those girls come from homes facing financial challenges, with the percentages much higher in places like Baltimore City, and Somerset and Dorchester counties. Such challenges makes it far more likely girls might miss school and important instruction because they don’t have access to the proper hygiene products to get through the day — a form of “period poverty.”
HETTLEMAN, RUTH TAPPED FOR VACANT GA SPOTS: Taylor Deville of the Catonsville Times reports that Del. Shelly Hettleman and Catonsville activist Sheila Ruth were confirmed as the nominees for vacant Baltimore County seats in the state legislature, the Baltimore County Democratic State Central Committee voted Tuesday night. Their names will now be forward to Gov. Larry Hogan, who has final say in appointing state house replacements. Hettleman would fill Sen. Bobby Zirkin’s seat; Ruth would fill Del. Charles Sydnor’s.
OPINION: RETHINKING EASY ROAD TO CANDIDACY: In a column for Red Maryland, Bryan Griffith questions how easy it is to get your name on the ballot in Maryland. He writes that he was “often a defender of these ballot access laws because it allowed everybody a seat at the table.” Now, however, he said, he isn’t so sure. “When it comes to Republicans, you have a party that is already running in districts where we are running an uphill battle, and every year we see candidates put their names on the ballot while never actually putting any effort into winning an election.”
OPINION: MARYLAND SHOULD LEAD IN CAUCUSES: In a column for Maryland Matters, Washington County Democratic activist Brian Gaither makes a case for breaking the grip that the Iowa Caucus has on presidential elections – calling it too white, too rural and too remote. He suggests that “Maryland, if the state parties and lawmakers agree, could caucus before Iowa. For the good of the nation, and for its own sake, the Free State should go first.”
THE 7th CONGRESSIONAL HOPEFULS: SEN. JILL CARTER: Progressive groups in Maryland are rallying around state Sen. Jill Carter, 55, a 2016 Bernie Sanders delegate who shares their vision of sweeping change: a “Green New Deal” to fight climate change, “Medicare for All” to help the uninsured, and ending foreign wars. She has picked up the endorsements of notable progressives, such as 2018 gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.
NOW OBJECTS TO MFUME’s USE OF OLD ENDORSEMENT: Kevin Rector of the Sun reports that since the start of his congressional campaign, Kweisi Mfume has met questions about his record with women — including an allegation of sexual harassment — in part by pointing to an endorsement from the National Organization for Women. But the endorsement is not for Mfume’s run in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District. It’s from his 2006 bid for a U.S. Senate seat. The group’s political action committee is objecting to his citing it now.
TRUMP BLASTS FOX NEWS, VAN HOLLEN: President Donald Trump blasted Fox News on Tuesday for “trying to be so politically correct” by interviewing Democrat Chris Van Hollen, whom Trump called “the no name Senator from Maryland,” writes Jeff Barker in the Sun.