State Roundup: General Assembly to adjourn early

State Roundup: General Assembly to adjourn early

The State House in Annapolis (MarylandReporter.com file photo)

GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO ADJOURN WEDNESDAY:  The Maryland General Assembly will adjourn Wednesday due to concerns about the coronavirus, Senate President Bill Ferguson announced Sunday. The General Assembly is required to be in session for 90 days each year. The current session was scheduled to adjourn Sine Die at midnight on the evening of Monday, April 6. The General Assembly plans to meet again in the last week of May for a special session, Bryan Renbaum writes for Maryland Reporter.

  • Ferguson made the announcement news conference at the Miller Senate Office Building in Annapolis. He was accompanied by House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Republican legislative leaders. This is believed to be the first time the Assembly has cut a session short since the Civil War,  according to Pamela Wood and Luke Broadwater for the Sun.
  • The decision to end the session earlier than the 90th day has not happened in recent memory. The legislature at times has closed down for a day at a time because of weather events including, snowstorms, Bryan Sears writes for the Daily Record.
  • Shortly after the leaders’ news conference, the Senate and House convened for a rare Sunday session — the first in nearly 30 years  —  and began approving bills “in rapid=fire fashion. Most measures zoomed across the deks with little debate or discussion,” Bruce DePuyt reports for Maryland Matters. Legislative leaders said working for 3-1/2 more days would enable lawmakers to focus on must-pass legislation — like the operating and capital budgets and an emergency bill to guide how the state will operate during the crisis, Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters reports.
  • Brian Witte of the AP reports that Ferguson said, “This was not an easy decision to make and was made in consultation with public health experts and lawmakers from both parties.”
  • Common Cause Maryland, the ACLU of Maryland and the League of Women Voters of Maryland were among the dozens of organizations that urged Democratic leaders to recess rather than continue operating with limited input from the public, Holden Wilen reports for the Baltimore Business Journal.
  • On Friday, Erin Cox and Ovetta Wiggins reported in the Post, the Maryland General Assembly’s presiding officers had announced heightened social distancing policies, barring lobbyists from State House legislative chambers and allowing them to enter state office buildings only by appointment, Erin Cox and Ovetta Wiggins reported in the Post on Friday.

Editor’s Note: The COVID-19 story is quickly changing. Even as we work to bring you the most up-to-date information, you may notice differences in the reporting.

CASES HIT 33 in MARYLAND: The first case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in Talbot County, bringing the state total up to 33, including the case from Howard County, the Frederick News-Post reports.

  • Emergency Management coordinator in the county’s Department of Emergency Services, Geneva Schaffle, confirmed the Talbot County case of COVID-19 early Sunday evening, Kelly Powers of the Salisbury Daily Times reports.
  • Howard County and Loyola University Maryland reported their first cases of the new coronavirus, statewide numbers continued to climb – and casinos, racetracks and even a local mall were ordered closed Sunday as officials let the public know that business as usual was no longer an option, John Holland and Frederick Rasmussen of the Sun report.
  • While one Loyola University Maryland student has tested positive for COVID-19, another student is awaiting test results. University President Rev. Brian Linnane said both students are making a good recovery at home, WJZ-TV reports.
  • Howard County on Sunday confirmed its first case of coronavirus, as County Executive Calvin Ball has declared a state of emergency and announced that The Mall in Columbia and other commercial gathering places will be closed for at least a week, report John Holland and Ana Faguy for the Howard County Times.
  • Andrew Schotz of Bethesda Beat reports that the number of coronavirus disease cases in Montgomery County has doubled since Thursday, from 6 to 12, according to figures released Sunday.
  • Baltimore City reported its first case of the novel coronavirus Saturday night as the pandemic continues to spread across Maryland and the U.S., Jessica Ianetta reports in the Baltimore Business Journal.
  • WBFF-TV reports that the city health commissioner says the first case of COVID-19 in Baltimore is believed to be an instance of “community transmission.

CASINOS AMONG LARGE VENUES SHUT: Gov. Larry Hogan is shutting down the state’s casinos, racetracks and off-track betting parlors indefinitely in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

  • Hours after Gov. Hogan warned bar owners that they must comply with the state’s ban on large gatherings, eight businesses in Fells Point announced that they are shutting their doors out of an abundance of caution due to coronavirus, McKenna Oxenden of the Sun reports.
  • In a news release, the governor also said that failure to prohibit large gatherings is a crime, and will be enforced if businesses fail to comply, the Cumberland Times-News reports.

OPINION: SHUT MORE GATHERING PLACES: The editorial board of the Sun reports that “we appreciate that Gov. Larry Hogan has issued an emergency order closing casinos, racetracks and simulcast betting facilities in an effort to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. But he also must call for the closure of all nonessential gathering places — including bars, eat-in restaurants, movie theaters and malls.”

ED REFORM BILL CURTAILED: The Maryland Senate on Saturday voted to dramatically curtail a proposed top-to-bottom overhaul of the state’s schools over concerns of an impending economic crisis from the novel coronavirus, Ovetta Wiggins and Erin Cox of the Post report.

  • Earlier Saturday, lawmakers pushed forward with three sweeping education bills as they considered ending the 441st legislative session early due to the spread of the coronavirus, Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood of the Sun report.

SENATE OKs $580M HBCU PROPOSAL: The state Senate voted unanimously Sunday to pass House Speaker Adrienne Jones’ legislation that would send $580 million more to the state’s four historically black colleges and universities over 10 years, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

DESPITE NEW AUDIT, 24 CONFIRMED TO UMMS BOARD: A Maryland Senate committee voted Sunday to confirm nearly two dozen nominees to the University of Maryland Medical System board ? despite a recent audit that revealed new details about the self-dealing scandal that rocked the hospital network last year, Luke Broadwater and Kevin Rector of the Sun is reporting.

  • A new review of the University of Maryland Medical System’s finances uncovered more financial dealings between board members and their organizations than previously known ? revealing nearly $115 million in payments to more than two dozen board members and their related businesses in recent years, report Luke Broadwater and Kevin Rector for the Sun.

PITTMAN CONTINUES PUSH FOR TAX RESTRUCTURE: Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman continues his push for changes to local tax structures as a bill allowing counties to impose higher tax rates on wealthy residents, although its fate is unclear now that the General Assembly is to end its 2020 session Wednesday, Olivia Sanchez reports for the Capital Gazette.

MO CO COMPROMISE ON COUNTRY CLUB TAX: Montgomery County’s state legislators have reached a compromise on a long-running debate over how much country clubs should pay in property taxes. The agreement was attached Friday to the annual budget bill moving through the General Assembly in the closing weeks of the 2020 session, Louis Peck reports for Bethesda Beat.

WHO IS CDC CHIEF REDFIELD? Jacques Kelly of the Sun profiles Dr. Robert Redfield, a former University of Maryland School of Medicine faculty member and AIDS researcher, who is the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He lives in North Baltimore, and he is receiving a barrage of criticism for the CDC’s delay in implementing widespread testing for the coronavirus.

ARUNDEL CLOSES REC FACILITIES: One day after the Anne Arundel County announced a sweeping closure of recreation services and facilities because of the spreading coronavirus, County Executive Steuart Pittman said he’s dropping admissions fees to regional parks during the state of emergency, Capital Gazette staff is reporting.

  • Olivia Sanchez of the Capital Gazette reports that the Anne Arundel County Sheriff’s Department won’t be issuing evictions notices amid intense measures being taken by state and local government to prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus.

GARRETT COUNTY ADDRESSES COVID-19: Representatives from agencies across Garrett County used a quarterly emergency preparedness meeting Friday to continue their planning for COVID-19 prevention and testing efforts, the Garrett Republican publishes a press release from the county health department.

LOWER SHORE COPS TAKE PRECAUTIONS: Many people are shifting to working remotely to protect themselves and others, but law enforcement officers can’t pack up and start performing their duties from home. That’s why police agencies on the lower shore are taking some extra precautions, Rose Velazquez reports for the Salisbury Daily Times.

ALLEGANY NURSING HOMES REACT: Nursing home and care facilities throughout the Allegany County region are taking extensive precautions to keep their residents safe and secure in the wake of the nationwide COVID-19 outbreak, especially with the number of cases now reported in Maryland pushing past 30, Brandon Glass of the Cumberland Times News reports.

CARROLL COMMISH PONDERS GA RUN: Sitting Carroll County Commissioner Eric Bouchat (R-District 4) has floated plans for a Maryland General Assembly run, though he cautions there’s nothing concrete yet, Catalina Righter of the Carroll County Times reports.

About The Author

Cynthia Prairie

Contributing Editor Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor since 1979, when she began working at The Raleigh Times. Since then, she has worked for The Baltimore News American, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Prince George’s Journal and Baltimore County newspapers in the Patuxent Publishing chain, including overseeing The Jeffersonian when it was a two-day a week business publication. Cynthia has won numerous state awards, including the Maryland State Bar Association’s Gavel Award. Besides compiling and editing the daily State Roundup, she runs her own online news outlet, The Chester Telegraph. If you have additional questions or comments contact Cynthia at: cynthiaprairie@gmail.com

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