A HAPPIER NEW YEAR!
MARYLAND RANKS LOW ON VACCINE ADMINISTRATION: More than 80% of vaccines from the initial allotment to Maryland have not been distributed, Pamela Wood and Danielle Ohl report for the Sun.
- Bloomberg ranked Maryland the state with the lowest percentage in administering vaccines available, Drew Armstrong, Gabrielle Coppola and John Tozzi write.
- As the vaccine effort gets underway, Candice Spector of the Easton Star-Democrat is reporting Talbot County has completed administering its first 100 vaccine doses to first responders and vaccinators, and has received 600 more doses.
- In Elkton, Jacob Took of the Cecil Whig reports Union Hospital received 900 vials of the vaccine, enough to inoculate thousands of healthcare workers and long term facility patients.
- Officials believe the vaccination numbers could ultimately be higher due to a lag in reporting, with 8,000 people vaccinated on Tuesday, the highest single-day total yet, Ray Strickland reports for WMAR. But there are some challenges administering vaccines. “It’s not just sticking needles in arms,” Gov. Larry Hogan said. “There’s a lot of moving parts. And I think nobody is quite performing at the top capacity.”
ANNE ARUNDEL REOPENS RESTAURANTS, ENDING LAWSUIT: A lawsuit challenging County Executive Steuart Pittman’s order to close indoor dining has been dropped, after Pittman announced that restaurants could stay open at 25% capacity, Lilly Price reports for the Capital Gazette.
- The settlement came after two days of hearings to continue an injunction against Pittman’s executive order, Bryan Sears reports for The Daily Record. It appeared both sides were motivated by the potential for losing the hearing before Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge William C Mulford II.
STATE TACKLES BELTWAY CONGESTION: Maryland and Virginia are studying the possibility of running express bus routes that connect Montgomery and Fairfax counties, Rebecca Cooper reports for The Washington Business Journal.
- The buses would relieve congestion at the American Legion Bridge and would connect Bethesda and Tysons with possible service to Germantown, Gaithersburg and Silver Spring, Briana Adhikusuma reports for Bethesda Beat.
- The state is also moving forward with plans to widen the Beltway and I-270 by adding express lanes starting at the bridge as well, Adhikusuma reports.
MINIMUM WAGE, OTHER LAWS TAKE EFFECT: Maryland minimum wage is rising from $11 an hour to $11.70 an hour effective Jan. 1, Will Vitka reports for WTOP in a roundup of new laws in the region starting Friday.
- With the coronavirus pandemic wrecking the economy since the wage increase was passed, Maryland businesses are saying the new wage will put even more stress on already foundering businesses, Tre Ward reports for WBAL-TV.
ECONOMISTS SPEAK TO MD BUSINESS LEADERS: An economist remarked “it’s tough to be a governor right now,” in a report by George Berkheimer for The Business Monthly about annual events of the Central Maryland Chamber and Howard County Chamber of Commerce in November, which featured the comments of several economists about the status of the U.S. and Maryland’s economy. “There’s no victory here, those decisions are going to cost somebody something, including potentially their job or their life,” said Anirban Basu, chairman and CEO of Sage Policy Group, a Baltimore-based economic and policy consulting firm.
STATE ANNOUNCES HELP FOR UTILITY BILLS: With winter setting in as economic struggles from the coronavirus pandemic continue, the state has increased its energy assistance fund by nearly 40% to help Marylanders with utility bills, the staff of Eye on Annapolis reports. Gov. Larry Hogan announced that more than $154 million is available in energy assistance funds. More than $110 million was distributed in fiscal 2020.
POSITIVITY IS UP ABOVE 8%: The seven-day average for coronavirus test positivity has remained about 8% for two days, Marcus Dieterle reports for Baltimore Fishbowl. The average remained between 7% and 8% from Dec. 6 to Dec. 27, until it rose to 8.1 on Dec. 28. It has increased for the past three days.
JPR CHAIRMAN READIES FOR MAJOR LEGISLATION IN FIRST WEEKS: Senate Judicial Proceedings Chairman Will Smith (D-Montgomery) gave a preview of the legislative session to come in an interview with Bryan Renbaum of Maryland Reporter, describing several major goals he hopes the committee will tackle in the first two to three weeks of the General Assembly session. Among them: COVID relief such as civil representation for tenants in evictions proceedings, meaningful police reform and parole reform.
COMMENTARY: STOP LOCKING KIDS UP FOR LIFE: One reason Maryland is ranked last, tied with several other states, for its administration of juvenile justice, is that Maryland continues to impose sentences of life without parole on its juvenile offenders, writes Margaret Martin Barry, a member of the Montgomery County Women’s Democratic Club, for Maryland Matters.
LEGISLATION REACTING TO MD ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICE SCANDAL: Maryland lawmakers plan to reform the Maryland Environmental Service after learning that the agency’s former director had obtained a large severance package and other perks as he voluntarily left to become the governor’s chief of staff, Pamela Wood reports for the Sun.
REFORM CALLS CONTINUE AFTER FILLING MOSBY’S SEAT: In a behind-the-scenes look at the Democratic Central Committee’s selection of Marlon D. Amphrey to fill the 40thdistrict delegate seat, Fern Shen of Baltimore Brew reveals the vote will continue to bolster cries for reform with political cronyism to be taken out of the nomination process for vacant seats.
PROFILE OF MAYOR SCOTT: Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott is “banking on his youthful urgency, years of government experience and lifelong roots in his hometown to accomplish what has eluded his predecessors,” Paul Schwartzman writes for the Post. Scott has pledged to campaign against two urgent crises – the pandemic and gun violence.
VIGIL FOR VICTIMS: Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott is holding a virtual vigil Thursday night for victims of violence in the city, which saw more than 300 homicides in 2020, Rachel Aragon reports for WBFF.
HELP FOR WASHINGTON COUNTY BUSINESSES: Washington County will offer two new programs in 2021 to offer relief to businesses like hotels and restaurants, Mike Lewis reports for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.
TRONE’S FAMILY STORY OF ADDICTION: U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) shared the personal story of fighting for, and ultimately losing, his nephew to addiction, in an interview with Lindsay Renner-Wood for the Cumberland Times-News. His nephew Ian died four years ago on New Year’s Eve due to a fentanyl overdose. Mental health and addiction were two major priorities for him when he ran for Congress, and it’s only become more urgent with the coronavirus pandemic. “Addiction, mental illness, they don’t care if you’re an independent, Republican or Democrat, rich, Black, or white,” Trone said. “It doesn’t matter. We’ve all got skin in the game, and we’ve all got to work together.