State Roundup: As General Assembly opens, Hogan announces non-partisan redistricting panel

State Roundup: As General Assembly opens, Hogan announces non-partisan redistricting panel

The Montgomery County senators, all Democrats: From left, Will Smith, chair, Judicial Proceedings Committee; Craig Zucker, vice chair, Rules; Cheryl Kagan, vice chair, Education, Health and Environmental Affairs; Susan Lee, Majority Whip; Ben Kramer; Nancy King, majority leader; Brian Feldman, vice chair, Finance; Jeff Waldstreicher, vice chair, Judicial Proceedings. From Sen. Kagan’s Facebook page

HOGAN ANNOUNCES NON-PARTISAN REDISTRICTING PANEL: Gov. Larry Hogan issued an order Tuesday to establish a redistricting commission that will be composed of ordinary citizens and is tasked with making the state’s congressional and legislative districts more competitive. Maryland has some of the most gerrymandered congressional districts in the nation, Bryan Renbaum reports for Maryland Reporter.

  • Hogan said he will launch “a sustained effort” to push for a less-partisan process of redrawing political districts, an effort he has failed to get through the General Assembly for the past six years, Pamela Wood and Bryn Stole of the Sun report.
  • Hogan announced the creation of a nine-member nonpartisan panel tasked with the redrawing of the state’s eight congressional districts, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. The sidestepping of state lawmakers comes after five years of unsuccessful efforts by Hogan to convince the General Assembly to adopt changes that would make the state’s districts potentially more competitive.
  • For five legislative sessions, Hogan attempted to pass a bill that would take the task of drawing legislative and congressional boundaries away from the governor and the legislature and into the hands of an independent, nonpartisan commission — but was always rebuffed by the Democratic legislature, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters.

SESSION STARTS WITH CULTURE SHIFT IN ANNAPOLIS: The resurging coronavirus pandemic is forcing a culture shift in the state capital of Annapolis, where in past years the business of lawmaking happened in impromptu hallway meetings and during dinner receptions almost as often as in hearing rooms. The 442nd session of the Maryland General Assembly that begins today has been stripped down to a mostly online operation, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

  • The coronavirus will likely dominate the 2021 session, even as lawmakers work on priorities including the budget — the one task they are required to complete — as well as overriding vetoes from Gov. Larry Hogan, police reform, equity issues and updating the recently passed education bill sometimes referred to as Kirwan, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.

NEW RULES FOR 2021 SESSION: The rules for this year’s General Assembly have changed to meet the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. Hannah Gaskill of Maryland Matters finds the answers to questions on what to expect.

ANNAPOLIS BUSINESSES SEE LESS-PROSPEROUS SESSION: Like nearly everything since March — including last year’s shortened General Assembly session — the coronavirus pandemic is expected to cut into activities that Annapolis business owners have relied on for years. Now they are bracing for a less prosperous start to the year as the General Assembly kicks off a stripped-down session today, Brooks DuBose of the Capital Gazette reports.

WHO ARE THE FRESHMEN? Several Democrats and Republicans have been appointed to the legislature in the nearly 10 months since the 2020 session’s abrupt end in the early days of the pandemic. Others are taking on new roles in the upcoming session. Bennett Leckrone of Maryland Matters writes about the freshmen members.

STATE VACCINE DISTRIBUTION SPEEDING UP: Maryland has no immediate plans to overhaul its coronavirus vaccine distribution plans to begin injecting all seniors earlier, Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday, despite top Trump administration officials urging states to do just that. Hogan said the speed of vaccinations in Maryland, a cause of serious concern and criticism two weeks ago, has picked up dramatically, Bryn Stole and Meredith Cohn of the Sun report.

NEW COVID STRAIN IN ANNE ARUNDEL: Pamela Wood of the Sun writes that Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Tuesday that the first two cases of a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus have been detected in Maryland.

  • The United Kingdom variant of the virus infected a couple from Anne Arundel County, Hogan said. One spouse recently traveled to multiple continents, he said, and both are quarantining with their two children, who have not tested positive. Contact tracing of the couple’s interactions is underway, Post staff is reporting.

WHAT SCHOOL RETURN LOOKS LIKE IN MARYLAND: While about half of students in the country will be able to go back to their school buildings the first week of January, those in Central Maryland will remain glued to computer screens in their bedrooms and kitchens with no clear idea of when they might get back to in-person classes. McKenna Oxenden of the Sun reports on what each district is doing.

  • Students in Montgomery County will not return to in-person classes until March 15 at the earliest, under a new schedule that marks another delay in classroom-based instruction amid the surging pandemic, Donna St. George of the Post reports.

RUTHERFORD EYES SUMMER SCHOOL TO AID LEARNING LOSS: School students in Maryland and their parents should be preparing to be in school this summer to overcome the learning deficits that have happened due to lack of in-person schooling during the COVID pandemic, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford said in a Zoom interview with Len Lazarick of Maryland Reporter.

TEST BACKLOG ACCOUNTS FOR FREDERICK COVID SPIKE: Frederick County smashed the daily record for COVID-19 infections Tuesday, as the novel coronavirus showed no signs of abating nearly a month into the vaccination effort, Greg Swatek of the Frederick News-Post reports. The spike, however, was in part due to a processing backlog of COVID-19 tests at Frederick Health Hospital during a 48-hour period over the weekend that has since been resolved.

OPINION: TIME TO DITCH STATE SONG: In a column for Maryland Reporter, Ginger Macomber opines that “the legislature has another chance to repeal Maryland’s Confederate state song Maryland, My Maryland this session. It must take action to finally stop honoring the Lost Cause and send a strong message that all are welcome in Maryland.”

ANNAPOLIS PREPARES AFTER FBI WARNS OF THREAT: As tensions rise over possible threats to state capitals by supporters of President Trump, Maryland’s Capitol Police are coordinating with Annapolis, Anne Arundel County and Maryland State police forces to defend the State House complex from any threats this weekend. However, the governor said police are not aware of a credible, specific threat against the Annapolis complex, Washington Post staff report in a roundup of what is happening in the D.C. area.

HOGAN CONDEMNS ‘Q-ANON’ DELEGATE’s MESSAGE; DELEGATE APOLOGIZES: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Tuesday that a Republican state delegate who called Vice President Pence a traitor during last week’s breach of the U.S. Capitol was a “Q-Anon conspiracy theorist,” Ovetta Wiggins and Erin Cox of the Post report.

  • Del. Dan Cox, in an email Tuesday, apologized for a now-deleted message on Twitter in which he wrote “Pence is a traitor.” Cox, in his email, expressed regret and called the message a “poor choice of words,” Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports.

RASKIN TO LEAD TRUMP IMPEACHMENT TRIAL: U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland was named lead manager for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday night in a news release, according to the Sun.

RASKIN’s COURAGE, FACING GRIEF, TERROR: U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin returned home sometime after 4 a.m. last Thursday, after Congress finished certifying the election results in the shadow of a mob invasion, and tried to get some rest. “I haven’t been sleeping a lot since we’ve been without Tommy,” Raskin (D-Md.) acknowledged. It has been less than two days since he buried his son, Meagan Flynn and Erin Cox of the Post report.

  • Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times Maryland also writes about Raskin, who shortly after burying his son, found himself hiding with his House colleagues from a violent mob incited by President Trump and fearing for safety of his daughter, who was hiding nearby. Within hours, Raskin was at work drafting an article of impeachment with the mob braying in his ear and his son’s final plea on his mind.

JUDGE DELAYS MARYLAND MAN’s EXECUTION: A U.S. District judge in Washington has delayed the execution of two federal inmates, including a Maryland man scheduled to die Friday, the last of a group ordered to be executed by the Trump administration in its final days in office, Jean Marbella of the Sun reports.

SEN. CASSILLY’s FATHER DIES: Robert Rogers Cassilly Jr., the patriarch of his Harford County family who was in the military during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, died of old-age complications Jan. 4 at his Bel Air home, writes Jacques Kelly for the Sun. He was 95, and the father of state Sen. Robert G. Cassilly, a Republican from Harford County.

About The Author

Cynthia Prairie

cynthiaprairie@gmail.com
https://www.chestertelegraph.org/

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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