REVENUE ESTIMATES HIGHER, BUT $600M-$700M LESS THAN PRE-COVID: Bryan Renbaum of MarylandReporter.com spoke with Comptroller Peter Francot on Friday. He said that while revenue estimates improved since September – which he called a surprise – “We are still $600 million or $700 million less than what we should have been pre-pandemic.”
- The state’s chief tax collector, an announced candidate for governor in 2022, called on Gov. Hogan (R) and Democratic leaders of the General Assembly to approve a one-time stimulus payment to lower-wage workers, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports. “I have identified $1.5 billion in state reserves that could be spent immediately to prevent evictions, feed the hungry, provide medical care, and also support small businesses,” Franchot said.
- Andrew Schaufele of the board of revenue estimates said the state’s residents who earn lower wages have borne the brunt of the economic fallout of the coronavirus, but the second quarter federal stimulus “actually helped those households sustain their spending,” buoying state revenues, Kate Ryan of WTOP-FM reports.
- Maryland sales tax revenue has increased over projections for fiscal year 2021, which ends in June, Schaufele reported. That’s due to consumers transferring spending from services, which are generally not taxable and less available during the pandemic, to goods, which are taxable. Lottery revenues were up as well, he said, as was income tax revenue, driven by capital gains, Emily Opilo of the Sun reports.
STATE TO PAY PURPLE LINE FIRMS $100M: Maryland will pay the companies managing the Purple Line’s construction $100 million by Dec. 31 to settle contract disputes that caused most major work on the transit project to stop this fall, according to details of a $250 million agreement released Friday, Katherine Shaver of the Post reports.
- The Board of Public Works is scheduled to meet on Dec. 16, and must approve the settlement in order for it to take effect. According to meeting documents, the first $100 million of the agreement would need to be paid on or before Dec. 31, Dan Schere of Bethesda Beat reports.
- Gov. Larry Hogan will ask the state’s Board of Public Works this week to approve a $250 million settlement with Purple Line Transit Partners, the collection of firms building a 16-mile light rail line in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports.
COMMERCIAL OYSTER HARVEST CONTROVERSY: The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is considering a rule that would make any area of the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries with five or more wild oysters per square meter eligible to become a “public shellfish fishery area.” These zones are exclusively for commercial harvesters, reports Christine Condon of the Sun. When the state established the original oyster fishery areas in 2010, it created a mechanism to remove an area if someone applied to lease it for aquaculture. But it didn’t establish a process for adding new fishery areas.
LEGISLATURE SET TO ALTER LEOBR: The General Assembly appears poised this coming session to sharply alter – if not outright repeal – a 46-year-old law governing how police departments discipline wayward officers, amid criticism that the procedures are too protective of them and largely shielded from the public, Steve Lash reports for the Daily Record.
MO CO OUTLINES LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES: Montgomery County’s elected officials said during an online state legislative forum Friday morning that their 2021 goals include COVID-19 pandemic assistance and a long-anticipated $4 billion education reform bill, Dan Schere of Bethesda Beat reports.
ELECTORS VOTE TODAY: Trump said in late November he’d leave office if electors formalize former Vice President Joe Biden’s win. With electors voting Monday at noon, The Baltimore Sun answers questions about what will happen. The meeting will be streamed live at elections.maryland.gov/electoralcollege. Since their first meeting in 1789, Maryland’s electors have cast their votes in Annapolis at the State House — the nation’s oldest state capitol in uninterrupted legislative use — with a few “isolated” exceptions, Ben Leonard writes for the Sun.
- So who are Maryland’s electors? Bennett Leckrone and Danielle Gaines explain for Maryland Matters.
LACK OF SPECIAL SESSION REVERBERATES: The decision by leaders of the Maryland General Assembly not to hold a special legislative session this fall to address the myriad problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reverberate politically, reports Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters.
OLSZEWSKI BLASTS SCHOOL SUPER OVER CYBER ATTACK RESPONSE: Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski sent a scathing letter Friday to the county school superintendent, charging his response to the Nov. 24 cyberattack on the school system has been disjointed and ineffective, John Lee of WYPR-FM report.
SUNDAY: 2,638 NEW COVID CASES, 17 MORE DEATHS: Maryland reported Sunday 2,638 new cases of the coronavirus and 17 more deaths as the state continues to post daily infection rates above 5% and see more community spread in the state’s most populated regions, Phil Davis of the Sun reports. Sunday’s additions bring the state’s total to 234,647 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, and 4,954 people who have died due to the disease or complications from it.
- Here’s the Sun’s daily update of coronavirus cases in the state.
2 HIGH-COVID COUNTIES NOT SLATED FOR FIRST BATCH OF VACCINE: Allegany and Garrett counties in Western Maryland, which have some of the state’s highest rates of COVID-19, won’t receive any of the first batch of vaccines expected to arrive in Maryland as soon as next week, Jean Marbella and Jeff Barker of the Sun report.
OPINION: HALF OF CARROLL RESIDENTS DON’T WANT COVID SHOT: In citing a survey that found that only about half of Carroll countians plan to get a vaccine for COVID-19 when it comes out and nearly one in four responded they “definitely” would not get the shot, the editorial board of the Carroll County Times opines that, “ it’s alarming to see that so many people would rather take their chances with COVID-19, which has altered school, business and life so substantially in Carroll and, across nation, kills on a daily basis about the same number of people who died at Pearl Harbor, than to get the vaccine.”
POLS SEE UPSIDE TO PANDEMIC FUNDRAISING: Sophia Silbergeld, Democratic strategist and a partner at Adeo Advocacy in Baltimore, said while there are some challenges for politicians trying to fundraise during the pandemic, the shift to virtual events is “80% opportunity,” writes Danielle Gaines for Maryland Matters. “On the candidate and campaign side, there’s no longer really event costs like space rental, bar and food. So you’re saving a huge amount of money,” she said. “And on the donor side, there’s no more travel time and downtime before you get to hear from the candidate and ask your questions.”
COLLEGES WRESTLE WITH B’BALL RETURN: Edward Lee of the Sun reports that Maryland college basketball players and coaches have welcomed the opportunity to play, providing some semblance of normalcy at a time when there is hardly anything typical in the face of the pandemic. On the other hand, five programs have already been forced to temporarily halt their seasons because of coronavirus issues.
CARROLL HIGH SCHOOL SPORT RESTARTS ON JAN. 5: High school sports competition in Carroll County is slated to resume Jan. 5, nearly 10 months to the day when it last appeared on a calendar, Pat Stoetzer of the Carroll County Times reports. COVID-19 is still here, and Carroll County Public Schools is in virtual learning mode for the remainder of 2020. But high school athletics is back beginning Monday, Dec. 14 with the first day of practice for winter sports.
TRUMP ATTENDS ARMY-NAVY GAME: President Trump attended Saturday’s 121st Army-Navy game, marking the third straight year he has done so as sitting president, Bill Wagner of the Capital Gazette reports0. Trump also attended the 2016 Army-Navy game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore as president-elect.