COVID VARIANT FOUND IN MARYLAND: The new, highly transmissible coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa has emerged in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Saturday, marking the second state to report a confirmed case of the mutated virus, report Derek Hawkins, Miriam Berger and Meryl Kornfield for the Post.
STATE LAUNCHES GoVAX CAMPAIGN: Pointing to a brighter future with fans at Baltimore Orioles games, backyard cookouts and family visits, community and political leaders launched Maryland’s “GoVAX” campaign Friday to convince people to get the coronavirus vaccine, Emily Opilo and Pamela Wood report in the Sun.
MO CO TACKLES EQUITY, TRANSPARENCY IN VACCINE DISTRIBUTION: Ten months after the liberal, diverse suburb of Montgomery County saw its first cases of the coronavirus, it faces what might be its most daunting task yet: distributing a protective vaccine to all 1 million residents, Rebecca Tan of the Post reports. Lawmakers and health officials in the county, which two years ago passed a sweeping racial equity bill, have emphasized the need to distribute the coronavirus vaccine according to “equity principles.”
- After weeks of Montgomery County officials calling for more transparency and clarity on the COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Sen. Chris Van Hollen echoed their concerns, saying residents are getting confused, Briana Adhikusuma of Bethesda Beat reports.
MOST ANNAPOLIS LAWMAKERS GET VACCINE: The vast majority of lawmakers received the coronavirus vaccine last week as members of the House of Delegates prepare to return to full floor sessions in early February. Lawmakers, eligible under state and CDC guidelines, received COVID-19 vaccinations from the state Health Department in what was a relatively quiet rollout, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. The efforts, however drew some criticism as the state’s overall vaccination program has been spotlighted for being slow and inconsistent.
SNOWS HAMPER TESTING, VACCINE PLANS: Christine Condon of the Sun reports that several Maryland coronavirus vaccination and testing locations run by the state and the counties announced closures Sunday amid heavy snow, in a development that may briefly hamper the state’s effort to combat COVID-19. “As the situation develops, there may be further impacts on testing operations on Tuesday, February 2 and possibly beyond,” according to the Maryland Department of Health.
CONTROVERSIAL POLICE BILL GETS HEARING: The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee held its first of three work sessions to address its more controversial police reform bills Friday, Hannah Gaskill of Maryland Matters reports. The topic: whether or not certain misconduct investigation records should be available for inspection under the Public Information Act.
SENATOR RIPS BILL FOR POTENTIALLY ‘BANKRUPTING’ POLICE: Bryan Renbaum of Maryland Reporter writes that state Sen. Chris West (R-Baltimore County) said he has serious concerns about legislation that would provide both criminal and civil penalties for police officers who decline to intervene when their fellow officers use excessive force against a suspect.
LITTLE OPPOSITION TO CLIMATE BILL: In the world of climate related bills, it’s not often you hear of a legislative hearing that draws minimal opposition, or where labor and environmental groups agree to work toward the same goal. Somehow, that happened in Annapolis Thursday, Joel McCord of WYPR-FM reports.
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LEVERAGING INVESTMENT & ADVANCING CLEAN ENERGY INNOVATION: This virtual panel discussion will examine creative approaches to financing energy solutions, innovation in the advanced energy space, and access to capital to expand economic development in Maryland. Join the Maryland Clean Energy Center for this Policy Watch Session on February 1, from 1:00 – 2:00 PM, with a special focus on opportunities for Green Banks, and Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Legislation. Advance registration is required.
RESTAURANTS SEE ‘GOOD FIRST STEP’ TOWARD REOPENING: Marshall Weston, head of the Restaurant Association of Maryland, in an interview with Bryan Renbaum of Maryland Reporter, said that Gov. Larry Hogan’s lifting an order requiring the state’s bars and restaurants to close by 10 p.m.. beginning Monday, Feb. 1, is a “good first step. However, restaurants are really going to need a lot more in the coming weeks …”
ALCOHOL, TOBACCO REGULATING MOVES FROM FRANCHOT: Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters reports that the regulation of alcohol and tobacco in the state of Maryland officially changed hands on Friday. It was the first meeting of a new entity called the Maryland Alcohol and Tobacco Commission — and the end-product of a political fight between the Maryland General Assembly and Comptroller Peter Franchot (D).
POSSIBLE HIKE IS ALCOHOL SALES TAX WORRIES HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY: The COVID-19 pandemic has hurt the hospitality industry in a way that restaurant owner Fred Rosenthal said he has not seen in his 40 years in the business. Now Maryland House Bill 463, currently in the state legislature, could bring even more difficulties, according to restaurateurs and economists. If passed, the state’s alcohol sales tax would be increased from 9% to 10% statewide, in phases on different businesses over the next three years, Erika Riley of the Frederick News-Post reports.
OPINION: HIGHER TAX WOULD KILL SOME RESTAURANTS: Monaghan’s Pub owner Jack Milani, in a column for Maryland Reporter, opines that residents can help save local businesses, saying that “local bars and restaurants across Maryland are suffering, with many closing permanently. Gone with them are the jobs that they support. Higher taxes, like the proposed alcohol tax increase in Annapolis, would knock many more of us down for good.”
TENANT BILL WOULD AID RENTERS: A Maryland delegate aims to protect tenants in Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties by ensuring landlords have a rental license before they try to evict them, Brooks Dubose of the Capital Gazette reports. House Bill 524, sponsored by Del. Mary Lehman, would require a landlord who files a failure to pay rent judgment to first prove their property is licensed and inspected, firmly placing the burden of proof with the landlord to show that the property is in compliance with the law throughout the eviction process.
PITTMAN SEEKS BONUS FOR HUNTERS’ DONATION: Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman is calling on state lawmakers to support a bill that would make clear that it is legal for local governments to offer hunters a reimbursement for deer donated to county food banks, Oliva Sanchez of the Capital Gazette reports. House Bill 594 would eliminate questions of legality for one of Pittman’s coronavirus pandemic programs, allowing hunters to receive $50 for each legally harvested deer they donated to the county food bank.
OPINION: ANIMAL BILLS SHOULD MOVE FORWARD: Animal activists Jennifer Bevan-Dangel and Lisa Radov, in a column for Maryland Matters, write that 2020’s “unfinished agenda includes legislation that was moving forward with bipartisan support, including bills to ban cruel wildlife killing contests (SB200/HB293), end the use of animals in cosmetic testing (SB282/HB611), and require that dogs left unattended in extreme weather have adequate shelter (SB122/HB81).”
CARROLL EYES EFFECTS OF BILLS ON COUNTY: The Carroll County’s Board of Commissioners had a packed agenda at its Thursday meeting with discussions focusing on the effect of environmental bills introduced during Maryland’s General Assembly, the transition of Carroll County’s fire and emergency medical service departments to a hybrid paid/volunteer county model and Carroll’s agriculture preservation initiative, Yasmine Askari reports in the Carroll County Times.
MIA MASON RUNS AGAIN TO CHALLENGE HARRIS: Three days after Heather Mizeur, a former state lawmaker and 2014 candidate for governor, announced that she planned to challenge U.S. Rep. Andy Harris (R) next year, Mia Mason, the Democratic nominee against the six-term congressman last year, announced that she plans to run as well, Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes.
POLITICAL SHIFTS IN FREDERICK: Brandon Frazier has witnessed a lot of growth since he first moved near Lake Linganore in Frederick County nearly two decades ago. The registered Republican said that the county could be beginning to trend blue, noting recent migration from Montgomery County and other parts of the region and the county will be “solidly purple” for at least the next few election cycles. Ryan Marshall and Steve Bohnel write about the political changes for the Frederick News-Post.
STEELE, PEREZ CONSIDER RUNS FOR GOVERNOR: A pair of high-profile political figures of opposite parties — Republican Michael Steele and Democrat Tom Perez — say they are considering running for Maryland governor in 2022, Jeff Barker reports in the Sun. Steele is the former lieutenant governor who is now an MSNBC commentator. Perez is a former Obama administration official and the former Democratic National Committee chair.
VAN HOLLEN BILL TARGETS SPECIAL ED STUDENTS: Sen. Chris Van Hollen introduced legislation earlier last week that would fully fund two federal education mandates that help students with special needs and high poverty schools, Liz Bowie of the Sun reports.