State Roundup: Franchot ready to use leverage on Hogan highway plan to force changes

State Roundup: Franchot ready to use leverage on Hogan highway plan to force changes

FRANCHOT READY TO USE LEVERAGE ON HOGAN HIGHWAY PLAN: Comptroller Peter Franchot, in an interview with Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters, said that he envisions using his power on the contract-approving Board of Public Works to force changes that he sees as beneficial to Gov. Hogan’s road widening plans. Franchot serves alongside Hogan and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D), who has consistently voiced concerns about the highway project.

POSSIBLE LEGAL CHALLENGES TO TOLL LANE PLAN: Katherine Shaver of the Post reports that Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has said the state can expand the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 at no net cost to taxpayers because the private sector will build billions of dollars of toll lanes in exchange for keeping most of the revenue. But that promise doesn’t appear to include the potential public expense laid bare by a similar public-private partnership on the state’s troubled Purple Line project: those stemming from a legal challenge that can stall construction, drive up costs and sour relationships underlying decades-long contracts.

BLACK LAWMAKERS: SPORTS BETTING MUST INCLUDE MINORITY OWNERS: The leader of one of the largest blocs of votes in the Maryland General Assembly said Black lawmakers in Annapolis may not support efforts to create sports betting in the state if it does not include the ability for minority ownership, Bryan Sears reports for the Daily Record.

  • Del. Nick Mosby, the Baltimore City Council President-elect, is imploring leaders in Annapolis to ensure that Black and minority-owned businesses are included in those given sports betting licenses, Stephen Janis reports for AFRO.

BALTIMORE COUNTY SCHOOLS HACKED, CLOSES CLASSES: The timeline remains uncertain for Baltimore County Public Schools resuming online classes after a ransomware attack shut down the system, Liz Bowie and Alison Knezevich report for the Sun. Expert guesses for when classes could resume range from a few days to a few weeks for students in the online-only system.

  •  The attack came one day after state auditors released a report that found “significant risks” within the county’s computer network, Alison Knezevich reports for the Sun. The Office of Legislative Audits found the network was not adequately secured, and sensitive personal information was not properly safeguarded.
  • Neighboring Baltimore City has blocked emails from Baltimore County schools as county officials scramble to investigate the hack, David Collins reports for WBALTV. The audit findings concern the experts that Collins consulted.
  • The school system announced Saturday that it would be closed at least Monday and Tuesday, Bryna Zumer reports for WBFF.
  • Closing Monday and Tuesday “provides much-needed time for our staff to continue working to set up the instructional platform and to communicate next steps regarding devices,” the school system said on Facebook and Twitter. Lorraine Mirabella of the Sun reports.

OPINION: MOVE TO ALL-VIRTUAL LEARNING: The editorial board of the Sun urges the state board of education to move completely to virtual learning, writing, “The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown K-12 educational into chaos with some local systems electing to attempt in-person instruction, some going all-virtual, others pursuing hybrid models and most all stopping and starting, changing directions and rejiggering plans almost one week to the next. It’s enough to make grown-ups trying to balance work, family and their children’s’ educations stand on the nearest corner and howl at the moon.”

TEACHERS UNION WANTS STATEWIDE CLOSURE: Maryland’s leading teachers union is calling on state officials to declare in a statewide ruling that schools will remain closed for in-person learning through the end of the current semester, Madeleine O’Neill reports for the USA Today Network.

SCHOOL SYSTEMS SEE ENROLLMENT DROP: Carroll County lost hundreds of students this school year, a drop in enrollment that could result in millions of dollars of lost funding due to a funding formula, Kristen Griffith reports for the Carroll County Times. Most of those students seem to have left for private schools or homeschooling amid the pandemic.

  • Washington County Public Schools enrollment has hit an 11-year low, as the 2020-2021 numbers reflect a trend linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are certainly in a different landscape than we were last year,” Chad Criswell, senior project manager and planning supervisor for the district, told the Washington County Board of Education, Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

SUPREME COURT RULING COULD HELP MD COVID CHALLENGE: Del. Dan Cox and several plaintiffs, including pastors, are hopeful a new U.S. Supreme Court opinion will help them in an appeal in their lawsuit against Gov. Larry Hogan’s COVID-19 restrictions, Mary Grace Keller reports for The Frederick News-Post. The Supreme Court ruled in a separate case that New York’s restrictions illegally singled out houses of worship in attendance restrictions.

CUMBERLAND OUTBREAK AMONG HIGHEST IN U.S.:The New York Times shone a spotlight on Cumberland’s COVID-19 outbreak on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday, Manny Fernandez, Campbell Roberston, Mitch Smith and Will Wright report. They wrote that per capita, Allegany County now has the worst outbreak in Maryland, and the Cumberland region has the 14th-highest number of recent cases per capita of any metro area in the country. The original story was broken by the Cumberland Times News.

  • The Maryland Department of Health has confirmed more than 60 people have died as a result of the virus and local obituaries tell the story of lives lost, Teresa McMinn reports for the Cumberland Times-News.

SUNDAY: 1,999 NEW COVID CASES: On Sunday, Maryland reported 1,999 new cases of the coronavirus and 23 more deaths as Maryland’s hospitals continue to accept more COVID-19 positive patients into their intensive care units, Phil Davis of the Sun reports.

SATURDAY: SLIGHT LULL IN CASE NUMBERS: Maryland officials reported 1,590 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, a slight lull in the days after Thanksgiving predicted because of reduced testing capacity, Lorraine Mirabella reports for the Sun.

HARRIS WORRIED ABOUT NEW COVID RESTRICTIONS: U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.-1st, worries about the wave of new government COVID-19 restrictions and orders hurting small businesses as well as potential infringements on civil liberties, according to the Easton Star Democrat.

PRISON LINKED TO SOMERSET’s HIGH COVID RATE: Somerset County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, has a nearly 16% COVID-19 positivity rate, the second highest in the state. According to the governor’s office, the majority of the county’s COVID-19 cases are linked to the prison in Westover, the state’s largest prison, Rachel Baye of WYPR-FM reported last week.

FIELD HOSPITAL MAY BE NEEDED SOON: The investment in an emergency field hospital at the Baltimore Convention Center will pay off this winter, Morgan Eichensehr reports for the Baltimore Business Journal. The hospital was intended to meet a surge in the COVID-19 pandemic and has seen limited use so far.

NO CHARGES, ARRESTS IN TURKEY DAY COVID PATROLS: Emily Zantow of the Washington Times reports that Maryland State Police say no charges or arrests were made Thursday evening when troopers were deployed statewide by Gov. Larry Hogan to help crack down on coronavirus restriction violations. The agency said in a press release Friday that troopers “had to only issue a minimal amount of warnings for people in businesses not wearing face coverings or social distancing.”

OPINION: WITH REPUBLICANS LIKE HOGAN, WHO NEEDS DEMOCRATS? In a commentary for the Carroll County Times, Republican Del. Haven Shoemaker, who headed for North Carolina for Thanksgiving, blasts “Liberal Larry Hogan,” writing that just when you thought Hogan “couldn’t possibly be any more of a RINO, he doubles down.” And he counts the ways.

MD STUDENTS FACE DISCIPLINE FOR LACK OF COVID TESTS: At University of Maryland, where thousands of students have undergone coronavirus tests, 150 are being considered for disciplinary action after failing to take required tests, Dick Uliano reports for WTOP.

METRO CONFRONTS RIDERSHIP NOSEDIVE: The Metro system in D.C. was increasing ridership and seemed on solid financial footing when COVID-19 happened and ridership fell off an astounding 93%, Carolyn Proctor reports for the Washington Business Journal. The transit agency is bracing for a $200 million shortfall and is offering buyouts to prevent 1,400 anticipated layoffs.

LAWYERS MALL PROJECT NEAR COMPLETION: The two-year, $13 million Lawyers Mall rehabilitation project is coming to a close just in time for the 2021 session of the Maryland General Assembly in January — when coronavirus restrictions will mean fewer people will be able to enjoy it, at least for the time being, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

EXPANDING INTERNET ACCESS: In communities ranging from Baltimore City to rural Allegany County, limited access to broadband or quality high speed internet has hit families as they struggle to switch to online learning, Brenda Wintrode and Sean McGoey report for Capital News Service. Maryland officials want to close the divide with more broadband.

HOGAN SLIMS DOWN: Gov. Larry Hogan has succeeded in losing at least 50 pounds since the COVID crisis hit, using diet and exercise on an elliptical, Ovetta Wiggins reports for the Post.

CECIL 1st MD COUNTY TO CERTIFY ELECTION: Cecil County is the first county in Maryland to certify this month’s election results, Jacob Took reports for the Cecil Whig.

HAGERSTOWN SEES BUDGET SHORTFALL: “The City of Hagerstown is still facing a $1.6 million budget deficit from the ongoing economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Alexis Fitzpatrick reports for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

FATHER OF MARYLANDREPORTER FOUNDER DIES: Leonard W. Lazarick Sr., a long-time engineer in the defense industry, a decorated combat infantry veteran of the Pacific theater in World War II and father of MarylandReporter’s founder Len Lazarick, died Nov. 29 of complications related to COVID-19 in Holland, Pa. He was 97.

REMEMBERING JUDGE ROMBRO: Richard Rombro, a retired judge who was an advocate for progressive causes and who formerly served in the Maryland General Assembly, died of stroke complications, Jacques Kelly reports for the Sun. Rombro, who served in the General Assembly from 1958 to 1962, died Nov. 17 at Roland Park Place.

Meg Tully contributed to today’s Roundup.

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 newspaper, The Chester Telegraph. If you have additional questions or comments contact Cynthia at:

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