MD GOP PROPOSES SMALL BUSINESS BILLS: Members of the House Minority Caucus introduced a series of bills on Thursday that are aimed at providing relief to small businesses that are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bryan Renbaum reports for Maryland Reporter.
- One of the bills would require each local board of health to establish oversight guidelines about when, how and under what circumstances businesses can be inspected, cited or ordered to close, Josh Kurtz writes for Maryland Matters.
FEDERAL LAWSUIT ON DIGITAL ADVERTISING TAX: National groups are challenging Maryland’s first-in-the-nation tax on digital advertising in federal court, seeking an injunction to prevent the new tax from being collected, Pamela Wood reports for the Sun.
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and trade groups representing large tech companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google argue the tax is unconstitutional and violates federal laws regarding the internet and e-commerce, Holden Wilen reports for the Baltimore Business Journal.
- The Washington Times has this piece on the issue.
MD CHOOSES TRANSURBAN GROUP FOR TOLL LANES: Maryland transportation officials announced Thursday that they have selected Australian toll road operator Transurban to develop high-occupancy toll lanes for the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270. The company already operates tolls in northern Virginia and on the Beltway and I-95, Katherine Shaver reports for the Post. The deal would potentially cement the company’s dominance.
- The deal officially selected the group, known as Accelerate Maryland Partners LLC, which includes Tysons Corner, Va.-based Transurban USA and Macquarie Infrastructure Developments, a New York firm, as lead equity developers and lead contractors, Bruce DePuyt reports for Maryland Matters.
- Montgomery County Council President Tom Hucker criticized the decision and the project generally, saying there should be a more balanced approach that includes transit, Briana Adhikusuma reports for Bethesda Beat.
BALTIMORE SOLICITOR SAYS RULES ON TRAVEL UNCLEAR: After a week of legal research, Baltimore’s solicitor concluded that rules for travel by elected officials are ambiguous and inconsistently applied, a determination that places no fault on State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby for accepting trips from nonprofit groups to conferences in Kenya, Scotland and Portugal, Tim Prudente reports for the Sun.
- The rules have been applied to staff members, but the solicitor questioned whether it was clear they applied to elected officials, Fern Shen reports for Baltimore Brew.
- Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott is forming a 90-day work group tasked with reviewing the city’s policies on travel for elected officials, Ryan Dickstein reports for WMAR.
RACIAL CONCERNS WITHIN MSP RANKS: Sen. Joanne Benson, D-Prince George’s County, met with 20 former and current African American Maryland State Police troopers to discuss disparities in treatment due to race, such as underrepresentation, retaliation and discrimination, being overlooked for promotions and receiving harsher punishments, Tracee Wilkins reports for NBC Washington. The Maryland State Police department denies the allegations.
VACCINE SHIPMENTS DELAYED DUE TO WEATHER: Winter storms in parts of the country are causing “significant delays” of shipments of COVID-19 vaccines to Maryland, Mike Lewis reports for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.
MD REP PROPOSES ONE-STOP VACCINE WEBSITES: U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown has introduced legislation to incentivize states to create one-stop vaccination booking websites, Hallie Miller reports for the Sun.
UNIVERSITY EMPLOYEE VACCINATION HAS BEEN CONFUSING, UMD REPORTS OUTBREAKS: Higher education employees have found their eligibility for vaccines was murky, even as they taught in person this school year, Johanna Alonso reports for The Daily Record. The Maryland Department of Health issued guidance clarifying that higher education workers under certain conditions would be included in groups 1B and 1C, and at this point most universities have set up resource centers and webpages to help guide employees on vaccination.
- The University of Maryland is limiting indoor and outdoor gatherings of students to five people, citing a “significant and concerning increase” in positive cases, Amanda Hernandez reports for The Diamondback.
ATTORNEYS ASKING FOR VACCINES AS COURTS REOPEN: A letter writing effort is underway for lawyers to be placed in a vaccination priority group as court reopen, Steve Lash reports for The Daily Record. Currently, most private attorneys would qualify for vaccinations according to their individual cases by age or health condition.
LOCAL CORONAVIRUS RESTRICTIONS UPDATE: Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner does not expect to lift restrictions on bars and restaurant hours or their ability to serve alcohol after 10 p.m. until there are fewer coronavirus hospitalizations, Greg Swatek reports for The Frederick News-Post.
- In Baltimore, Mayor Brandon Scott is lifting a one-hour restriction on dining, and removed a 10 person limits on indoor gatherings and 25 person limit on outdoor gatherings, Sarah Kim reports for WYPR.
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.
BALTIMORE SUN STAFF CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC: Topped by a photo of a rainbow over the Baltimore Sun building, Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi offer analysis of the news that the Sun is not bound for the hedge fund-chopping block. Instead, a Maryland business executive plans to buy Baltimore’s newspaper and preserve it as a nonprofit, a “possible victory” reporters are looking at with joy and cautious optimism.
LOCAL BOARDS OF ELECTIONS PARTY AFFILIATION CHANGE: Legislation in the General Assembly would base party affiliation of the majority of the local board of elections members on the majority of voters in the county, not on the party affiliation of the governor as is done now, Bennett Leckrone reports for Maryland Matters.
PROTECTING STATE LAKES: A committee has heard testimony on a bill to keep funding for a state lake protection fund sponsored by Del. Wendell Beitzel, the staff of the Garrett County Republican report. Deep Creek Lake is one of the state-owned lakes that benefit from the fund’s environmental programs.
STUDENTS KEEP BOARD OF ED VOTES: Legislation hoping to end the “gridlock” in the Howard County schools by eliminating voting for student members of local boards of education has died in committee, Jacob Calvin Meyer reports for Baltimore Sun Media.
BILL SUGGESTS HELP FOR TEEN PARENTS: A trio of bills in Maryland’s state legislature would help support high school students who are parents, Tom Hindle reports for the Capital News Service.