JUDGE HEARS TESTIMONY IN RESTAURANT BAN CASE: Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman told a judge that banning indoor dining at restaurants was “one of the most difficult things I’ve done as county executive,” Bryan Sears reports for The Daily Record. Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge William C. Mulford II is expected to make a decision Wednesday on extending a temporary restraining order that halted the dining ban.
- At Tuesday’s hearing, the judge pressed Anne Arundel County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman for answers, demanding to know why the county is relying on hospital bed capacity projections rather than actual numbers, David Collins reports for WBAL-TV.
- The plaintiffs who include the owners of the Blackwall Hitch, Smashing Grapes, Heroes Pub, La Posta, and Adam’s Ribs have testified that the restrictions are too severe to remain in business and that carryout and curbside would not be enough to sustain them, Eye on Annapolis reports.
MD SENATORS CALL FOR $2K CHECKS: Maryland’s Democratic senators are calling for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow legislation that would increase the size of stimulus checks for COVID relief from $600 to $2,000, Jeff Barker reports for the Sun. “If Sen. McConnell wants to vote against individual payments, that’s his decision. But he shouldn’t be holding the entire country hostage to his personal opinions,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen said.
MILLIONS IN RELIEF FOR FOOD PRODUCERS: The state of Maryland has now provided more than $9 million in COVID-19 relief funds to support agriculture and seafood producers, Bryan Renbaum writes for Maryland Reporter.
COVID STATUS: WASHINGTON UP, BMORE DOWN: Washington County’s positivity rate, 17.94%, was the highest among Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City as of Monday, Julie Greene reports for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. The data comes from the latest information at the Maryland Department of Health’s website.
- “Maryland officials on Tuesday reported 63 more deaths related to coronavirus, the second highest daily death total reported in the past seven months,” Marcus Dieterle reports for Baltimore Fishbowl.
- Baltimore has seen a drop in positive COVID-19 tests, however, with tests being 23% lower than they were four weeks ago, Sarah Kim reports for WYPR. The mayor urges people to continue social distancing.
- “Montgomery County will administer more than 4,000 vaccine doses as early as Tuesday to first responders and employees of medical providers not covered by a hospital system,” Briana Adhikusuma reports for Bethesda Beat. The county averaged 400 new cases per day last week, which was the second highest week for any week during the pandemic, the Bethesda Beat staff reports.
- Maryland hospitals are “not in crisis mode” such as seen in other states, the president and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association told WBAL TV. He estimates the state’s hospitals are at 89-90% capacity of staffed beds and said hospitals are beginning to vaccinate their workers, building momentum this week as more vaccination clinics are set up.
JUVENILE TREATMENT CENTER RIOT: Youth committed to a privately run Baltimore County treatment center, the Chesapeake Treatment Center, took over the facility in what state police described as a “riot” on the morning of Christmas Eve, Justin Fenton reports for the Sun.
LANDLORDS USING ‘LOOPHOLE’ TO GET OUT TENANTS NOT PAYING: More landlords are using a legal process to evict tenants by not renewing their leases, a tactic that has allowed them to get around the moratorium on evicting tenants for not paying rent during the pandemic, Hallie Miller reports for the Sun. In August and September alone, Baltimore district court saw an 82% increase in these types of hold over filings over the same period a year before.
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STATE SONG REPEAL GAINS STEAM: It’s finally happening – lawmakers are sensing enough support to repeal Maryland’s state song, a Civil War-era call to arms for the Confederacy, Brian Witte reports for the AP. Lawmakers have been trying to replace the song since 1974. It begins with a reference to Lincoln: “The despot’s heel is on thy shore, Maryland!”
COMMENTARY: COX CHINA TWEETS CALLED ‘EMBARRASSING’: Brian Griffiths of The Duckpin is calling out Del. Dan Cox (R-Frederick) on “embarrassing” tweets that the delegate made about the governor, raising accusations that Gov. Larry Hogan had close ties to China. Cox replied to a tweet by Sidney Powell asking “who does it own here?” and for examples of China connections by “#globalist senators and congressmen,” with photos of Hogan meeting with Chinese officials and approving a trade deal. [Editor’s note: The photos show Hogan meeting with officials of Anhui province, Maryland’s sister state. In 1980, Maryland became the first state to establish a sister state relationship with a Chinese province.]
MAJOR LANES PROJECT ON 495/270 MOVING FORWARD QUIETLY: Maryland transportation officials quietly moved forward with a major step seeking contractors for a $11 billion I-495/I-270 project going into the Christmas holiday, releasing the RFP on its website on Dec. 23 after employees had gone home for the long holiday weekend, Brian DePuyt reports for Maryland Matters. The project is slated to begin with rebuilding the American Legion Bridge.
MOCO GRANTS LARGE RETAILER EXEMPTIONS: Montgomery County, which had required large retailers to apply to have more than 150 people inside their doors at one time, has granted exemptions to 26 large retail applications such as Walmart and Giant Food, Briana Adhikusuma reports for Bethesda Beat. The only rejection was for Discount Mart in Takoma Park, because of the square footage of the store.
COURT SIDES WITH LIBRARIANS ON EQUAL PAY: The Enoch Pratt Free Library and Baltimore City have lost a pay discrimination suit and been ordered to pay almost $200,000 to five female librarian supervisors, after a court ruled that they were paid less because of sex, Brandon Ingram reports for WMAR.
CARROLL DELEGATION WANTS MORE STATE INVOLVEMENT IN SCHOOL REOPENINGS: Carroll County’s legislative delegation sent a letter to the Maryland State Department of Education proposing concrete guidelines for schools that could help them more quickly return students to classrooms, Kristen Griffith reports for the Carroll County Times.
SELECTION FOR MOSBY’S DELEGATE SEAT: A Democratic Committee in Baltimore City has selected attorney and former teacher Marlon Amprey to serve in the House of Delegates, Alex Mann reports for the Sun. He would fill the vacancy created when Nick Mosby became city council president.
BMORE THREATENED TO END OVERHEAD SURVEILLANCE PLANES:The Baltimore Police Department threatened to end a controversial aerial surveillance program in November, but may soon be in the awkward position of defending it in court even if the city does not continue the program intended to curb violent crime, Colin Campbell reports for the Sun. A Nov. 10 email claimed that “serious breaches of confidentiality” were jeopardizing the city’s relationship with the Ohio-based company that operates the private spy planes after media leaks.
911 LAW TO COME TO FREDERICK: The Frederick County Council will consider aligning with a state law, Kari’s Law, by enacting an ordinance requiring businesses, like a hotel, to have phones connect to 911 without having to get an outside line, Steve Bohnel reports for The Frederick News-Post.