State Roundup: Police accountability package poised to pass Senate; lawmakers ready to let B’more vote on police dept. control

State Roundup: Police accountability package poised to pass Senate; lawmakers ready to let B’more vote on police dept. control

A view of the State House dome from the Noah Hillman Garage. (MarylandReporter.com photo.

POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY PACKAGE: Senate Democratic leaders Friday urged passage of a package of nine bills that are aimed at increasing accountability over the state’s law enforcement personnel, Bryan Renbaum of Maryland Reporter writes.

  • The raft of policing legislation that Maryland Senate leaders hail as “transformative” and the most far-reaching reform in four decades could pass in the chamber as soon as this week, after long hours of grinding committee debate and oft-contentious haggling over amendments, Bryn Stole and Pamela Wood of the Sun report.

LAWMAKERS READY TO LET CITY VOTERS DECIDE ON POLICE DEPT. CONTROL: It’s been since the eve of the Civil War that Baltimore held full control of its police department, which the General Assembly wrested from City Hall amid street fighting that saw political candidates and their supporters driven away from the polls by clubs, gunshots and even cannon blasts. Now, reports Bryn Stole of the Sun, Maryland lawmakers appear likely to let city voters decide whether to put the Baltimore Police Department entirely back under the mayor and City Council.

STATE GRANTS STIMULUS AID TO ALL TAXPAYERS: Tens of thousands of low-wage workers — including many immigrants — now qualify for a significant tax break, after Maryland lawmakers voted to expand the program and the governor did not block the measure from becoming law Friday, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

  • The legislation — which Gov. Larry Hogan (R) will let become law, his spokesman said — qualifies all taxpaying residents, regardless of immigration status, to receive the state’s earned income tax credit for the next three years, Erin Cox of the Post reports.
  • That the bill includes immigrants who may, or may not, have legal status is what bothers the Republicans. Joel McCord of WYPR-FM reports that House minority whip Kathy Szeliga argued that while government should uphold the law “this bill is rewarding people who have broken our law.” “It’s even encouraging people to come here,” she said.

STATE REPORTS 827 NEW COVID CASES, 13 DEATHS: Maryland reported 827 new COVID-19 cases and 13 more deaths Sunday, according to data from the State Department of Health. As of Sunday, the state has now seen 382,099 cases and 7,687 deaths as hospitalizations continue to decline, WJZ-TV staff reports.

HUGE DROP IN MO CO COVID: Montgomery County’s average daily increase in COVID-19 cases has been more than 2.5 times lower in February than in January. Bethesda Beat is reporting that in February, the county has averaged about 155 new cases per day. In January, there was an average of 412 new cases.

COVID’s HUGE COST TO HOSPITALS: A report released Monday by the Maryland Hospital Association lays out just how much the COVID-19 virus has affected the operations of Maryland hospitals. In April alone, hospitals in the state saw operating margins decline by $200 million; they also spent $70 million in capital in response to COVID-19, Johanna Alonzo of the Daily Record reports.

STATE TO SET ASIDE 500 JABS A WEEK FOR MTA: The Maryland Transit Administration launched a vaccine clinic Friday for its employees, and the state plans to set aside 500 vaccines per week for MTA drivers, mechanics and other front-line workers, the agency’s head told state lawmakers Friday, Colin Campbell of the Sun reports.

B’MORE OFFICIALS SPAR WITH HOGAN OVER VAXX ALLOCATIONS: Baltimore City leaders are reacting with consternation to an offhand comment from Gov. Larry Hogan. During remarks outside the just-opened mass-vaccination center at M&T Bank Stadium, Hogan said the city had gotten “far more (doses allocated) than they are really entitled to.” Mayor Brandon Scott has been asking state officials to reserve for city residents a portion of the doses to be administered at the stadium, Tyler Waldman of WBAL-AM reports.

  • Here’s the full statement from Mayor Scott, published in the Afro, in which he writes, “The State has not provided an equitable share to Baltimore City, but has required local health departments to utilize a broken, online-only sign up model that has forced our Health Department to develop workarounds.”

OPINION: EQUITABLE VACCINE USE NEEDED: In an op-ed for the Post, health professionals Joshua M. Sharfstein, Leana S. Wen and Peter Beilenson opine that the confusing rollout of coronavirus vaccines in Maryland is raising serious concerns of transparency and fairness. Despite the state health department describing its top priority as “equitable vaccine allocations based on county population,” Maryland counties vary widely in the proportion of vaccinated residents, from a high of 12.4% receiving two shots in Worcester County to a low of 3.3% in Prince George’s County. When the goal is equity but the reality is nearly fourfold variation, there’s a problem.

BILL WOULD MANDATE INSPECTIONS OF SOME NURSING HOMES: Maryland lawmakers are considering a bill that would mandate state inspections after out-of-state owners purchase nursing homes, where the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic has exposed lapses in infection control, patient care and oversight, Rebecca Tan and Rachel Chason of the Post report.

730 MO CO STUDENTS RETURN TO CLASS: Today, hundreds of children in Montgomery County will be dropped off for the second “first day” of school this academic year. The day will mark 730 MCPS students’ first time in classrooms in just shy of a year, since March 13, 2020. And things will look a lot different, Caitlynn Peetz of Bethesda Beat reports.

MORE B’MORE STUDENTS HEAD BACK TO CLASS: Today, Baltimore City Public Schools is welcoming more students and staff back to the classroom with additional health and safety measures in place. Rachel Aragon of WBFF-TV reports. The district is implementing health and safety protocol like masks and social distancing, but COVID-19 testing options are expanding for students and staff participating in optional in-person learning.

OPINION: HO CO SCHOOLS READY: In a column for the Howard County Times, Howard school superintendent Michael Martirano writes that “Every inch of our school buildings have been evaluated and prepared for the return of students and staff and align to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 health guidelines, and I can state with certainty that our buildings are ready.”

FREDERICK COUNCIL REDISTRICTING TO BEGIN: As state officials begin the process of redrawing congressional and state legislative districts, Frederick County officials face a similar task, thanks to the county charter, reports Steve Bohnel for the Frederick News-Post. The charter requires that County Council members appoint a commission to redraw the county’s five council districts by April 1 of this year.

ENVIRONMENT DEPT RELEASES GAS EMISSIONS REDUCTION ROADMAP: The Maryland Department of the Environment has released its long-awaited roadmap outlining what the state would need to do to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 50% from 2006 levels by 2030, and reach net-zero emissions by 2045, Christine Condon of the Sun reports.

PANDEMIC ALTERS OYSTER INDUSTRY: The pandemic-affected oyster season has been difficult for the industry in Maryland, causing farmers and watermen to rethink how they sell their product and changing how programs conduct oyster restoration, CNS’s Audrey Decker reports in a story in Maryland Reporter.

TWO ARUNDEL LAWMAKERS WHO OWN GYM SUED: A former employee is suing two Anne Arundel County state lawmakers who own a gym together, claiming one of the delegates fired her after she reported a coworker sexually harassed her, Brooks Dubose of the Capital Gazette reports.

WHERE ARUNDEL LAWMAKERS STAND HALFWAY THROUGH SESSION: Halfway through a General Assembly session unlike any other, Anne Arundel County lawmakers have managed to push their bills forward from behind masks, in crackly Zoom hearings, in split and socially distanced House floor sessions, or from behind protective plexiglass phone booths in the Senate, Olivia Sanchez reports for the Annapolis Capital.

UM BILL WOULD KEEP STUDENT FEES WITHIN SERVICES: In a bill submitted to the Maryland General Assembly, the University of Maryland’s SGA proposed adding a layer of student review to the way University System of Maryland institutions distribute student fees, Clara Niel of the Diamondback reports. In 2019, the university took a $3.9 million budget cut. So, to offset losses, it pulled 5% of all campus fund reserves. Some of the reserves included departments such as Dining Services and Resident Life, whose fund balances are mostly financed by student fees.

BMA, WALTERS RAISE MINIMUM WAGE TO $15: The Baltimore Museum of Art has joined the Walters Art Museum in raising full-time employees’ wages to a minimum of $15 an hour, Ed Gunts reports for Baltimore Fishbowl. The BMA announced this week that it received a $110,000 gift from philanthropists Harriet Anne and Jeffrey Legum to raise the base pay for hourly workers from $13.50 to $15. The Walters previously disclosed that it would raise employee salaries earlier this month. It now pays full-time employees at least $15 per hour and part-time employees at least $13 an hour.

About The Author

Cynthia Prairie

cynthiaprairie@gmail.com
https://www.chestertelegraph.org/

Contributing Editor Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor since 1979, when she began working at The Raleigh Times. Since then, she has worked for The Baltimore News American, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Prince George’s Journal and Baltimore County newspapers in the Patuxent Publishing chain, including overseeing The Jeffersonian when it was a two-day a week business publication. Cynthia has won numerous state awards, including the Maryland State Bar Association’s Gavel Award. Besides compiling and editing the daily State Roundup, she runs her own online news outlet, The Chester Telegraph. If you have additional questions or comments contact Cynthia at: cynthiaprairie@gmail.com

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