AFTER MUCH WRANGLING, RELIEF ACT SET TO BECOME LAW TODAY: After the House of Delegates nixed a last-minute provision that would’ve included broader stimulus checks for Maryland taxpayers, Gov. Larry Hogan plans to sign a billion-dollar relief effort into law Monday. Hogan’s RELIEF Act, as currently amended and approved by both the House and Senate on Friday, would include sweeping tax relief for small businesses and Marylanders, and direct stimulus checks to certain low-income taxpayers, Bennett Leckrone reports for Maryland Matters.
- A push in the House of Delegates to include noncitizen workers — including some with legal status and some without — threatened to derail the act. To get the bill back on track, House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson agreed to remove the provision for immigrant workers, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.
- The plan also will benefit small businesses, nonprofits, food banks and the unemployed, among many others, pumping the largest infusion of state tax dollars into the battered economy since the pandemic began, Erin Cox and Ovetta Wiggins of the Post report.
- In less than 20 minutes Friday, the House and Senate moved to give final approval to the $1 billion-plus RELIEF Act. The approval came after hours of back and forth on stimulus payments for low-income workers, some who are undocumented immigrants, who do not use a Social Security number to pay their taxes, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record.
STATE TO OFFER $60M IN CHILDCARE GRANTS: Maryland’s licensed child providers and approved family childcare providers are eligible for a $60 million grant program that is aimed at helping offset additional costs incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, reports Bryan Renbaum of Maryland Reporter. The program will be established by the state’s Department of Education and will be funded with federal money Maryland received from the coronavirus aid package Congress approved last month.
SENATE ALSO OVERRIDES KIRWAN VETO: The Maryland Senate on Friday voted to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a monumental education reform bill, culminating years of work from policy experts, education advocates and lawmakers and finalizing it into law, Elizabeth Shwe and Danielle Gaines report for Maryland Matters. The House of Delegates had voted in favor of the override earlier that week, meaning that the bill will be enacted into law in 30 days.
- Maryland is now on track to develop a school system that will be the envy of the nation and as good as any in the world,” said William “Brit” Kirwan, the retired University System of Maryland chancellor who championed the programs, which were developed by a commission named for him. Pamela Wood reports the story for the Sun.
HOGAN MEETS WITH BIDEN ON COVID RESPONSE: Gov. Larry Hogan traveled to the White House for a meeting Friday, something he was loath to do during the administration of former President Donald Trump, Jeff Barker reports for the Sun. The Republican governor attended an Oval Office session about COVID-19 relief with President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and a bipartisan group of other governors and mayors.
D.C. AREA COULD GET $14B IN FEDERAL COVID RELIEF FUNDS: More than $14 billion in direct coronavirus relief funding may be pouring into government coffers in the District, Maryland and Virginia in coming months — and for D.C., that could include the $755 million it was denied in the first relief package nearly a year ago, Meagan Flynn reports for the Post.
COVID RATE DECLINING: Maryland health officials reported 847 new cases of the coronavirus and 18 more deaths Sunday as the state continues to see a declining rate of cases reported daily, Phil Davis reports in the Sun. State officials have now reported a total of 370,983 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, since roughly mid-March. In addition, 7,374 Maryland residents have died due to the disease or complications from it.
MO CO DELEGATIONS QUESTION STATE VAXX ROLLOUT: Briana Adhikusuma of Bethesda Beat reports that the Montgomery County delegation on Friday pushed state officials about COVID-19 vaccine rollout decisions, including the allocation process, not having a unified registration system, and why the county does not have a mass vaccination site.
TEACHERS UNIONS STRUGGLE WITH REOPENING: As many Maryland school districts prepare to return to classrooms for the first time in nearly a year, local teachers unions are staring down a deadline with a decision: How hard should they push back against reopening plans they believe put their health and lives in danger? Unions have demanded a list of safety and health conditions are met before they return to in-person teaching. Their demands went largely unchallenged until last month when Gov. Larry Hogan urged school boards and superintendents to open up by March 1, Liz Bowie reports in the Sun.
2 COLLEGES FORESEE FALL REOPENINGS: The University of Maryland College Park and the University of Maryland Baltimore County have announced that they anticipate large-scale reopenings in the fall, Johanna Alonso reports in the Daily Record.
OPINION: PROTECTING HEALTH CARE CHOICE: In a column for Maryland Reporter, Jacqueline Halbig von Schleppenbach of the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries opines that “As we embark on the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic—albeit with vaccine distribution underway—demand for health care and the financial support many need to help pay for treatment has become a hot topic. Fortunately, this month the Maryland Senate will consider a positive piece of legislation that would protect the right for Marylanders to choose a Health Care Sharing Ministry to manage their health care expenses.”
IN ‘SHAMBLES,’ STATE FAIRGROUNDS SETS SIGHTS ON SPORTS BETTING: The Maryland State Fairgrounds are a “shambles,” according to the people who run the Timonium site, in desperate need to remove lead paint peeling from the grandstand and renovate century-old pipes. The group is hoping sports betting could be a winning ticket to pay for repairs. And state Sen. Chris West, who represents the area, is sponsoring a bill for a sports betting license for the fairgrounds once the state begins to issue them, even as legislators are only just beginning to hash out details of how it will operate.
MAGLEV SUPPORTERS URGE KILLING LEGISLATION: Backers of a proposed high-speed train running between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., said legislation that would block the use of state funds on the project is unnecessary, and would send a negative signal to the line’s private-sector investors, reports Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters.
UNDERSTANDING ALL THE POLICE REFORM BILLS: House Speaker Adrienne Jones is sponsoring a comprehensive piece of legislation that seeks to alter police practices from every angle. But advocates reject the bill, opting instead to rally behind smaller, single-issue bills. With so many pieces of legislation moving through both chambers, it’s easy to get confused about who is trying to accomplish what. So Hannah Gaskill of Maryland Matters broke down portions of Jones’ omnibus bill to compare and contrast with other legislation seeking to accomplish similar goals.
BILL WOULD PROVIDE VOTING INFO TO INCARCERATED: Those incarcerated awaiting trial or convicted of misdemeanors would be able to register to vote and learn about their voting rights under legislation in the Maryland General Assembly this year, reports Kimberly Seif for Capital News Service. The story appears in Maryland Reporter. The Senate version of the bill, which was jointly referred to the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, is being sponsored by Sen. Chris West, R-Baltimore County.
BILL WOULD END JUVIES LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE: Sentencing juveniles to life without parole could essentially end in Maryland if legislation going through the General Assembly becomes law, writes Tori Bergel of the Capital News Service. In a story that appears in Maryland Reporter, Del. Jazz Lewis, D-Prince George’s, the bill’s sponsor, told Capital News Service in an email that, “No child should ever be told that they have no hope for the future but to die in prison. We are all of us more than the worst mistake we made as a teenager.”
OPINION: ATTACKING CLIMATE CHANGE: In a column for Maryland Reporter UM freshman Julia Hananel of Bethesda writes, “I’ve grown up hearing about how my family lost their home and possessions in New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina. … Severe weather events are just one of the many crises brought by climate change, and they’re occurring more frequently and with greater intensity. By passing the Climate Crisis and Education Act, Maryland has the opportunity to take direct action to reduce our emissions, helping curb the drastic effects of climate change.”
ANNAPOLIS, ARUNDEL SEEK OVERSITE OF TOURISM GROUP: Annapolis and Anne Arundel County want to regain oversight of Visit Annapolis after its longtime executive director was fired amid an internal investigation. County Executive Steuart Pittman and Mayor Gavin Buckley asked state lawmakers representing the county to support legislation that would require the tourism marketing group to make an annual report on how it uses its share of the local hotel tax, as well as open its books to the county auditor’s office, reports Oliva Sanchez for the Capital Gazette.
MEETING BENCHMARKS CONCERNS NEW CARROLL FIRE AGENCY: As Carroll County moves closer to opening its Department of Fire and Emergency Services, some members of the Board of County Commissioners expressed concern over whether the department would be able to meet necessary benchmarks in time, Yasmine Askari of the Carroll County Times reports. In October, the commissioners voted unanimously to create the county’s first combination fire and emergency medical services department, bringing together Carroll’s 14 community fire companies and hiring 200 personnel over the course of three to five years.
CARROLL, SEEKING MORE VACCINE, TO GET LESS: While Carroll County officials have been calling for the state to give the county more COVID-19 vaccine, the county health department will receive less over the next month. The Carroll County Health Department received at least 1,100 doses in five of the past six weeks, including a high of 1,500 the week of Jan. 10 and 1,200 last week, reports Bob Blubaugh for the Carroll County Times.
OPINION: IS THIS THE WAY TO SAVE THE SUN? Brian Griffiths of the Duckpin blog writes in an op-ed about documents obtained by the Public Information Act show that Damian O’Doherty Center Maryland, KO Public Affairs, and the Save Our Sun effort discussing with Sen. Sarah Elfreth the seizure of The Baltimore Sun by eminent domain and a “forced transfer” to a nonprofit group.
CARDIN, VAN HOLLEN REBUKE TRUMP: Sens. Ben L. Cardin (D) and Chris Van Hollen (D) issued stinging rebukes of former President Trump on Saturday after the Senate fell 10 vote short of convicting Trump in his second impeachment trial, Laura Olsen writes for Maryland Matters.
WHY ISN’T A NAVAL ACADEMY BUILDING NAMED AFTER CARTER? There is a simple answer to why nothing at the Naval Academy is named after the only president to graduate from it. President Jimmy Carter is still alive, writes Heather Mongilio for the Capital Gazette.