STATE OF STATE: HOGAN UPBEAT BUT CAUTIOUS AS COVID DOMINATES TALK: Gov. Larry Hogan painted a picture of hope in his 19-minute virtual State of the State address on Wednesday evening and said he is confident that Maryland will ultimately triumph over the hardships associated with the coronavirus pandemic, Bryan Renbaum reports for Maryland Reporter.
- Hogan urged all Marylanders to get the coronavirus vaccine “when one becomes available to you,” but cautioned that it is going to be a long and difficult journey to get everyone vaccinated Hogan said Maryland residents must be patient, report Pamela Wood and Bryn Stole for the Sun.
- Erin Cox and Ovetta Wiggins of the Post quote Hogan as saying: “We all desperately want to return to our normal lives. But no matter how difficult it is to hear, you deserve the truth … So many of the problems we face today as a nation are because politicians refuse to tell the hard truths when it doesn’t fit their agenda.”
- Hogan reviewed responses by the state over the last year, saying, “It has made a tremendous difference, but now we need legislative action.” He called on lawmakers to pass the bill he has dubbed the RELIEF — the Recovery for the Economy, Livelihoods, Industries, Entrepreneurs and Families — Act of 2021, reports Bryan Sears in the Daily Record.
- Amid short vaccine supply to meet demand and criticism of the state’s rollout, Hogan sought to assure that the state won’t rest until vaccines are available to all Marylanders, Brian Witte reports for the AP. But the Republican governor said the amount of vaccines now being allocated by the federal government “is just a tiny fraction of what we need.”
- Hogan’s speech comes as the state has amassed more than 357,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Maryland and 7,043 deaths since the pandemic began, according to data from the state health department. Thousands of businesses have closed and thousands of people have lost their jobs, Holden Wilen of the Baltimore Business Journal writes.
- Here is MPT’s broadast of the speech on YouTube. And the full text from the governor’s website.
CONGRESSIONAL DEMS ASK HOGAN TO IMPROVE VAXX ROLLOUT: The Democratic members of Maryland’s congressional delegation called Wednesday on Gov. Larry Hogan to improve the rollout of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, citing frustration from constituents and local officials about inefficiency and inequity, Hallie Miller reports in the Sun.
HOGAN COVID RELIEF ACT GOES TO HOUSE PANEL: After advancing with amendments in the state Senate Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan’s $1 billion RELIEF Act of 2021 faces scrutiny in the House during Thursday’s Ways and Means Committee meeting, Darryl Kinsey of the Capital News Service reports. The bill has been characterized as a strong starting point in helping Maryland residents still struggling under economic losses during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
- The COVID-19 bill would provide stimulus payments for some working Marylanders, eliminate state and local income taxes on unemployment benefits and offer tax breaks to businesses. Senate Democrats added more than $500 million in spending to the plan last week and fast-tracked the bill through the committee process. Together, the proposals will cost a combined $1.3 billion, Madeleine O’Neill of the USA Today Network reports.
BILL WOULD STRIP GOVs OF SOME PAROLE DECISIONS: Maryland governors would be stripped of the final say in parole decisions for inmates sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after having served at least 17 years in prison under legislation being considered by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports.
FELDMAN BILL WOULD ALLOW ADULTS TO USE CANNABIS: Senate Finance Committee Vice Chair Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery) has filed legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis and pump funding into communities that have been adversely impacted by its current criminalization, writes Hannah Gaskill for Maryland Matters.
OPINION: CITIZENS SHOULD DRAW CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS: Howard Gorrell, the first complainant challenging the constitutionality of Maryland’s congressional districts for the 2010 decade, writes in an op-ed for Maryland Reporter that while Gov. Hogan signed an executive order creating a citizen redistricting commission, it lacks the authority to draw binding maps. However, its recommendations will put redistricting in the public eye.
MO CO KICKS OFF VACCINE EQUITY PLAN: As Montgomery County continues to vaccinate its older population against COVID-19, officials have turned their attention to others lagging behind — minorities whose communities are affected the most. A new county vaccination equity plan will set aside a portion of vaccines for minority communities disproportionately affected by the coronavirus, Briana Adhikusuma of Bethesda Beat reports.
RESPONSE STRATEGIES FOR THE MINIMUM OFFER PRICE RULE (MOPR): The current FERC order directs the PJM Interconnection to expand its Minimum Offer Price Rule to most of the state-subsidized capacity resources. The order will significantly impact the capacity market which serves Maryland ratepayers. How will regulators and utilities find common ground in responding to the order? What is FRR and how will it affect the FERC order? Join the discussion on February 8, from 1:00 – 2:00 PM, during the Maryland Clean Energy Center’s 2021 Policy Watch Series. Advance registration is required.
KILLING THE CHESAPEAKE: The USA Today Network in a multi-part series takes a deep dive into the Chesapeake Bay and how the Susquehanna River affects it and the people who love the Bay.
- PA’s polluted Susquehanna River is poisoning the bay. What can be done? Pennsylvania is failing badly in its obligation to clean up the Susquehanna watershed — harming the river, the bay and the people who depend upon them. By Mike Argento of the York Daily Record.
- Pennsylvania is failing the Chesapeake Bay — here’s how that affects you, by Mike Argento of the York Daily Record.
- ‘It’s part of your being’: A family’s Susquehanna River life from headwaters to the bay: Meet the Winands, a family uniquely connected to the Susquehanna River from beginning to end, by Frank Bodani of the York Daily Record.
- Susquehanna River water goes south from Lake Otsego — figuratively and literally: Degradation of the Susquehanna begins only a few miles from its source: Dams, farm pollutants, septic tank leakage and other ecological assaults, by Jeff Platsky of the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
- Dammed if you dredge, dammed if you don’t: Conowingo’s toxic muck a vexing problem for bay: The Conowingo Dam’s reservoir is filled with decades’ worth of sediment and pollution. With each passing storm, more gets pushed into the Chesapeake Bay, by Julia Rentsch of the Salisbury Daily Times.
- Dammed, drugged & poisoned: 3 iconic Susquehanna species struggle to survive: Smallmouth bass are suffering from lesions and intersex organs. Shad & eel are hampered by dams. These species illustrate the challenges facing the river, by Mike Argento of the York Daily Record. There are a more parts to the series, but you’ll have to subscribe.
HAVE A POINT OF VIEW?: We’re happy to run opinion pieces of 500-700 words on issues about state government and politics (but not candidates) in our commentary section. If you have something on your mind, send your commentary to Len@MarylandReporter.com.
MO CO PURSUES POLICE REFORM: After the killing of George Floyd last year and ensuing protests, local officials and lawmakers in the wealthy, left-leaning suburb of Montgomery County promised change in policing, adding funding for mobile crisis units to de-escalate confrontations with mentally ill residents and passing a “use-of-force” law that, among other things, requires officers to act when they see colleagues using what appears to be excessive force. More proposals are on the table. But various roadblocks loom ahead, Rebecca Tan and Dan Morse report in the Post.
MARYLAND’s U.S. PROSECUTOR RESIGNS: U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur, who had scored a series of high-profile political corruption convictions and launched anti-gang initiatives in Baltimore, is resigning as chief federal prosecutor in Maryland. Hur said Wednesday that he will resign his post Feb. 15 and be replaced on an interim basis by assistant Jonathan F. Lenzner. Hur’s resignation enables President Joe Biden to nominate a new U.S. attorney for Maryland, subject to U.S. Senate confirmation, Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports.