State Roundup: BPW OKs $120M in budget cuts; judge rejects shutdown challenge

State Roundup: BPW OKs $120M in budget cuts; judge rejects shutdown challenge

The Board of Public Works met virtually Wednesday, chaired by Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford in his State House office. Governor's Office photo

BPW OKs $120M IN SPENDING CUTS: Maryland’s spending board approved $120 million in  budget cuts on Wednesday and warned that deeper cuts will be necessary to cope with the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

  • Budget Secretary David Brinkley told the Board of Public Works that the state could rely on savings from hiring and spending freezes as well as the state’s rainy day fund to cover this fiscal year’s revenue shortfalls driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, Bryan Sears writes in the Daily Record.
  • The most recent unofficial estimate of the current year’s revenue loss is between $900 million and $1.1 billion. There are about six weeks remaining in the state’s fiscal year, which ends June 30, Danielle Gaines reports in Maryland Matters.

AILING TRANSIT FUND FACES $550M SHORTFALL: Holden Wilen of the Baltimore Business Journal reports that Transportation Secretary Greg Slater said on Wednesday that Maryland’s already ailing Transportation Trust Fund faces an estimated $550 million revenue shortfall in the current fiscal year because of social distancing restrictions, and that number could be even higher next year.

CHALLENGE TO STAY-AT-HOME REJECTED: A federal judge Wednesday rejected a constitutional challenge to Gov. Larry Hogan’s stay-at-home orders, saying the governor’s directives are narrowly tailored to achieve Maryland’s compelling interest of protecting the public from the deadly COVID-19 virus, Steve Lash reports for the Daily Record.

COUNTY BY COUNTY CONFUSION: Rachel Baye of WYPR-FM reports that stores in Baltimore City are closed. In Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties, retail is open for curbside pickup and delivery. In Harford and Carroll counties, customers can actually go inside stores. When Gov. Larry Hogan said what’s considered safe will necessarily vary county by county, the result has been a patchwork of rules that change as you cross county lines.

UNIVERSAL COVID TESTING AT STATE JAILS: Maryland will begin universal testing for COVID-19 in all state-run correctional and juvenile facilities, the AP is reporting. Gov. Hogan also said the state is delivering more than 20,000 coronavirus tests each week to nursing homes, and distributing more than 33,000 additional swabs to local jurisdictions to help increase local testing capacity.

TRAVELERS LEAVE COVID HOTSPOTS FOR REOPENED AREAS: Nearly 860,000 additional travelers flocked to parts of Maryland and Virginia over the weekend as the states began to reopen Friday, according to researchers tracking smartphone data. Many were from the Washington suburbs, which remained shut down because of their significantly higher coronavirus caseloads, the data shows, Katherine Shaver of the Washington Post reports.

MONTGOMERY MAY LIFT SOME RESTRICTIONS: Maryland’s most populous county – Montgomery– said Wednesday that it may lift some social distancing restrictions within the next week, another tentative step toward reopening the Washington region as the rates of novel coronavirus infections and deaths show signs of slowing, Antonio Olivo, Rebecca Tan and Erin Cox of the Post report.

  • Montgomery County on Wednesday started publishing its progress on conditions for reopening after several weeks of widespread closures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Briana Adhikusuma reports for Bethesda Beat.
  • The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Montgomery County rose 1% on Wednesday, bringing the total of cases to 9,052. It is the lowest increase in the county’s caseload by percentage since March 15, when no new cases were added in the county, Dan Schere of Bethesda Beat reports.

IN-PERSON VOTING: To public interest groups, the high Republican voter turnout at the Howard County Fairgrounds represents a cautionary tale about ensuring — in Baltimore and across the nation — that officials offer enough in-person voting centers and locate them in areas that don’t provide one candidate or party an advantage over the other, Jeff Barker of the Sun reports.

  • In an emergency meeting Wednesday, the Maryland Board of Elections added two in-person voting centers in Baltimore for the June 2 primary to give city residents more opportunities to vote after ballots were significantly delayed in arriving by mail, Emily Opilo of the Sun reports.

PROTECTION SOUGHT AGAINST VOTE BY MAIL FRAUD: Four Anne Arundel lawmakers are calling on Maryland’s Republican governor to call a special legislative session and install rule changes to safeguard against fraud in Maryland’s June 2 vote-by-mail elections, changes election officials say can’t be implemented in time, report Olivia Sanchez and Brooks DuBose for the Capital Gazette.

ACCESS TO CHILD CARE EXPANDED: Maryland officials are expanding child care access to workers returning to their jobs during the first phase of the state’s recovery from coronavirus shutdowns, the state department of education announced Wednesday, Phil Davis and Liz Bowie of the Sun report.

RELEASE OF LONGEST SERVING FEMALE SOUGHT: Since 18-year-old Eraina Pretty was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder, she has earned a bachelor’s degree, served as a mentor to young inmates and been granted parole twice by the Maryland Parole Commission. Two governors have rejected her release. Now, at age 60, Pretty has contracted covid-19, according to her daughter, and advocates and others are urging Gov. Larry Hogan to commute the sentence of the state’s longest-serving female prisoner, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports.

FRANCHOT PUSHES FOR RESTAURANT REOPENINGS: Comptroller Peter Franchot has joined a growing chorus of voices calling for Gov. Larry Hogan to find a way to allow restaurants to offer more than just takeout service, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record. Under the current executive orders in place for nearly two months, restaurants have been limited to takeout, delivery and curbside service — not enough to support most of those businesses.

REOPEN PROTEST PLANNED FOR BA CO: Citing the “constitutional overreach of local governments” and concern over languishing county businesses, a newly-formed group is planning a Towson rally on Friday afternoon to push for the reopening of Baltimore County, Taylor DeVille reports in the Towson Times.

LEADER OF HEALTH GROUP PREDICTS VETO OVERRIDE: The president of Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative said he is confident that the General Assembly will vote to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of legislation that would have established a permanent funding source for the Prescription Drug Affordability Board, Bryan Renbaum of Maryland Reporter reports. The legislature is expected to reconvene in January 2021.

OPINION: MAKE THIRD PARTY PARTICIPATION EASIER: In a column for Red Maryland, Brian Griffiths asks, “what public benefit is there to continuing to make it difficult for third parties and independent candidates to appear on the ballot?” Among measures to make it easier for third parties to get on ballot, he first suggests reducing the number of required signatures for statewide candidates to get on a ballot from 10,000 to 2,000.

POLL FINDS TIGHTS RACES FOR CITY COMPTROLLER, COUNCIL PREZ: Longtime Baltimore Comptroller Joan Pratt is holding a small lead over City Councilman Bill Henry in a competitive race to serve as the city’s fiscal watchdog, according to a new poll for The Baltimore Sun, the University of Baltimore and WYPR-FM, Talia Richman of the Sun reports.

ARUNDEL RESIDENTS SEEK ED FUNDING HIKE: Many of the 25 Anne Arundel County residents who weighed in on the proposed county budget Wednesday night called for more money for school construction, raises for teachers and more mental health supports for students, Olivia Sanchez of the Capital Gazette reports.

FREDERICK SCHOOLS ROLL OUT ENHANCED DISTANCE LEARNING: A countywide rollout of Google Meet video conferencing began this week at Frederick County Public Schools in an effort to enhance the school system’s continuity through distance learning. Through the technology, teachers can set up live online sessions with students to offer additional educational support. Google Meet is not being used for live, virtual lessons, Katryna Perera reports for the Frederick News Post.

TRUMP TO VISIT FORT McHENRY: Many Americans may be staying in this Memorial Day weekend, but President Donald Trump is hitting the road, set to visit Baltimore’s Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine with the first lady on Monday, writes Zeke Miller for the AP.

BUYING BACK THE SUN: A group of Baltimore philanthropists, businesspeople and the union representing journalists are again rallying support for an idea that’s long been floated but never materialized: regaining local ownership for The Baltimore Sun, John Holland reports in the paper. Now, with the latest campaign in full swing, even some of the players involved say they aren’t sure whether it’s a realistic pursuit or a well-intentioned but futile effort to preserve an iconic newspaper and local institution.

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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