SENATE DEM LEADERS INTRODUCE COVID POLICY PACKAGE: Senate Democratic leaders Wednesday outlined the framework of a legislative package aimed at addressing a myriad of challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the proposals are currently before the General Assembly. They include establishing a public health job corps made up of unemployed Marylanders that would be put to work performing COVID-related tasks such as contact tracing, improving vaccine distribution metrics and expanding of telehealth services and testing and contact tracing operations, among others, writes Bryan Renbaum for Maryland Reporter.
ELRICH: STATE VAXX PROGRAM HOBBLED BY USERS: Maryland’s vaccination program is still being hobbled by the sharing of sign-up links by recipients, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said. And, reports Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters, until people stop sharing those emails — and the state Department of Health comes up with a way to prevent such sharing — the system will be beset by frustration and chaos, according to Elrich and the county’s top health officials.
LAWMAKERS PUT ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE ON FRONT BURNER: Maryland’s General Assembly is paying closer attention to communities that have borne the brunt of pollution and other environmental injustices. Last summer, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) created the Advisory Workgroup on Equity and Inclusion after a series of brutal police encounters around the nation left many Black people dead. Environmental justice was one of the three areas that Ferguson set as priorities for the group to review, Elizabeth Shwe of Maryland Matters writes.
SENATE GIVES INITIAL NOD TO TAX CREDITS FOR IMMIGRANT WORKERS: The Maryland Senate voted Wednesday to give preliminary approval to a bill that would provide tax credits to many immigrant workers, including those who are undocumented, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. The credits over the next three years would be identical to what is given to residents eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit.
SUN BUYER SAYS HE’s WORRIED ABOUT LOSS OF DEMOCRACY: Stewart Bainum, the Montgomery County businessman whose nonprofit is poised to acquire The Baltimore Sun and its affiliated newspapers, is worried democracy is eroding and believes building a successful nonprofit news model could help stem that tide, according to friends and colleagues who know him, John O’Connor and Jeff Barker report in the Sun.
- Bainum would pay $65 million for the company, according to a Tribune Publishing filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Christopher Dinsmore writes in the Sun.
- The New York Times writes about Bainum and the sale of the Sun.
STATE KEEPS AAA BOND RATING: State Treasurer Nancy Kopp announced this week that in spite of continued fiscal headwinds caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the three major bond rating agencies have reaffirmed the state’s AAA bond rating, the longest continuous Triple-AAA bond rating for a state in the country, Kevin Kinnally writes for Conduit Street.
BILL ENCOURAGES SCHOOLS TO USE RENEWABLES: Some lawmakers are confronting the climate crisis by targeting school buildings, one of the largest energy consumers in local jurisdictions. Elizabeth Shwe of Maryland Matters reports that House Bill 630, introduced by Del. Jared Solomon (D-Montgomery), would require local school systems to update their energy policies and encourage, rather than mandate, them to use more renewable energy in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
TRANSPORTATION ELECTRIFICATION: The Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) is a regional collaboration of 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia that seeks to improve transportation, develop the clean energy economy, and reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector. Learn more about the group’s priorities and plans during the Maryland Clean Energy Center’s 2021 Policy Watch Series on February 22, from 1:00 – 2:00 PM. Advance registration is required.
SEN. LEE TARGETS ‘GHOST GUNS’ FOR REGULATION: Sen. Susan Lee (D-Montgomery) presented legislation Wednesday seeking to regulate the ability to purchase or manufacture untraceable, or “ghost,” guns, reports Hannah Gaskill for Maryland Matters. “Untraceable firearms are not just guns with serial numbers crossed off,” said Lee, “they also include guns that have been designed to get around state laws and the federal definition of ‘firearm.’”
MO CO PUSHES FOR MASS VAXX SITE: Briana Adhikusuma of Bethesda Beat reports that Montgomery County health officials are continuing to press for the state for a local COVID-19 mass vaccination center by preparing at least one site with the needed infrastructure and planning.
PG SCHOOLS TO REOPEN IN APRIL: Public schools in Prince George’s County will reopen for in-class learning in April, a month later than state officials had directed, under a plan announced Wednesday that could mean most employees who want the coronavirus vaccine will have it, Donna St. George reports in the Post.
CARROLL SCHOOLS VACCINATE EMPLOYEES: Carroll County Public Schools was given more than 700 does of the Moderna vaccine this week from the Carroll County Health Department to vaccinate CCPS employees, Kristen Griffith of the Carroll County Times reports.
MO CO SCHOOL OFFICIALS STUMPED BY UNION REOPENING STANCE: Montgomery County Public Schools officials, including Superintendent Jack Smith, said they were “surprised,” “disappointed” and “perplexed” by the teachers union’s vote of no confidence in the district’s reopening plan, Caitlynn Peetz reports in Bethesda Beat.
HO CO RELAXES SPORTS, ORGANIZATION RESTRICTIONS: After citing declining COVID-19 positivity rates, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball on Wednesday announced relaxed capacity restrictions on recreational sports, social and fraternal organization, and wedding receptions, Ana Faguy and Jacob Calvin Meyer of the Howard County Times report.
REP. HARRIS GAVE BIG TO TRUMP LOYALISTS: Maryland congressman Andy Harris’ biggest expense during the last election wasn’t fundraising, campaign commercials or staff. It was contributions to political friends, allies and organizations mostly loyal to then-President Donald Trump. The Republican from Baltimore County sent more than $325,000 from his 2020 campaign account to conservative groups and candidates, Jeff Barker of the Sun reports.
BA CO’s FORMER CHIEF PURCHASING AGENT DIES: Joanne Souris Deitz, who rose to become Baltimore County’s chief purchasing agent and was named the 1970 Towson Woman of the Year, died Feb. 5 at Mercy Ridge Retirement Community in Timonium. She was 90, Jacques Kelly reports in the Sun.