‘ADJUDICATION PURGATORY’ YEAR LATER IN JOBLESS SYSTEMS: It has been a year since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and the state has made significant improvements to its unemployment call centers-such as beefing up staff and expanding hours of operation but substantial problems remain as many Marylanders have been waiting months to receive their benefits and some are even unable to get a claims representative on the phone, Bryan Renbaum of Maryland Reporter writes.
CLEARER RULES FOR COMPENSATING WRONGLY CONVICTED: Maryland is on track to set clear guidelines for how to compensate people who have wrongly been convicted of crimes, the culmination of an emotional, multiyear effort by exonerees and their allies, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.
POLL: 64% OF MARYLANDERS PLAN TO GET VAXX: Nearly two-thirds of Marylanders surveyed in a recent Goucher College poll — 64% — plan to get a coronavirus vaccine as soon as they can, or have already received at least one dose, Christine Condon of the Sun reports. An additional 15% said they plan to wait to see how the vaccines are working, and 18% said they would get vaccinated only if required or will “definitely not” get a vaccine.
- Still, that’s an improvement from the last Goucher poll, taken in October, when fewer than half of Maryland residents said they would agree to be vaccinated if an FDA-approved vaccine to prevent coronavirus were available at no cost, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters.
- About 1/3 of people surveyed feel the state government is doing an excellent or good job; 66% think they are doing fair or poor, WMAR-TV reports.
POLL: VAXX RELUCTANCE SIMILAR AMONG BLACK, WHITE MARYLANDERS: The Goucher poll also finds little difference in reluctance to take the vaccine for the coronavirus virus among Black and White Marylanders, even though Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has blamed the lagging vaccine rates among Black residents on hesitancy, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports.
CHILD-CARE WORKERS SAY THEY SCRAMBLE FOR VAXX: Many of the state’s child care workers have been hamstrung by work hours that coincided with the release of new vaccination appointments and a lack of time to navigate multiple websites, Brenda Wintrode of Maryland Matters reports. Child care center directors and legislators have bemoaned the lack of a state-coordinated effort to vaccinate the vulnerable workforce it regulates and have instead placed hopes in the Biden administration’s announcement last week to prioritize child care providers at federal pharmacy partners.
B’MORE POLICE CONTROL AMONG COP BILLS MOVED TO HOUSE: A groundbreaking package of police reform legislation has been passed by the Maryland Senate and now heads to the House of Delegates for hearings and approval, Kimberly Seif of CNS writes in a story in Maryland Reporter. With bipartisan support, the Senate on Wednesday passed the package of nine bills that aim to increase police accountability, and on Thursday they were referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
PROTEST OF POLICE VIOLENCE: With a pivotal trial in the case of George Floyd set to begin in Minnesota today, Tawanda Jones, 41, who lost her brother at the hands of police, on Saturday helped lead a caravan of cars through the streets of Baltimore, then an emotional 90-minute rally in front of City Hall in which she and the family members of five other Marylanders killed by police in recent years demanded a fairer, more responsive system, Jonathan Pitts of the Sun reports.
OPENING UP POLICE DISCIPLINARY RECORDS: Maryland is among about 20 states that prohibit the release of police disciplinary records, meaning the public cannot find out whether an officer has been the subject of complaints or faced punishment for misconduct, Steve Thompson of the Post reports. This year, after George Floyd’s police killing sparked national demands to overhaul policing, Maryland legislators who would like to see more transparency appear to have the wind at their backs.
SOME LAWMAKERS CONSIDER REVOKING JHU PRIVATE COPS: An effort to revoke the permission Johns Hopkins University won to create an armed police force will get a hearing from Baltimore City’s state Senate delegation, although it remains unclear how many lawmakers are willing to revisit the hotly contested issue two years later, Bryn Stole of the Sun reports.
SENATE PRES ‘HARD-PRESSED’ TO CONFIRM SCHRADER: The prospects for the state’s acting health secretary winning confirmation to the permanent post remain dicey and hinge on dramatic improvements in the state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Senate President Bill Ferguson said on Friday, Bryn Stole of the Sun reports.
- Schrader’s confirmation by the Maryland Senate remains in limbo and tied to vaccinations. In recent weeks, those vaccination efforts have raised as many concerns as they’ve answered as lawmakers and other officials question how doses are allocated and the lack of equitable access for minorities, Bryan Sears reports for the Daily Record.
HOGAN OMITS POPULATION IN PRAISING STATE VAXX ROLLOUT: Gov. Larry Hogan said last week that Maryland is outperforming most other states when it comes to getting lifesaving doses of coronavirus vaccine into the arms of its residents. But the data point he used to make that case doesn’t paint a complete picture, Nathan Ruiz of the Sun reports.
EXPERTS: VAXX DISTRIBUTION PROBLEM AVOIDABLE: Experts say that some of the problems that have plagued the District, Maryland and Virginia, from canceled appointments to crashing websites, could have been prevented, Rebecca Tan and Julie Zauzmer of the Post reports.
SPORTS GAMBLING CLOSER TO OK: Maryland could have up to 22 in-person locations for sports gambling and 15 options for online and mobile betting under a proposal moving forward in the General Assembly. A House of Delegates committee gave the green light Friday afternoon to a plan to expand the state’s gambling industry to include fantasy games and betting on sports, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.
OPINION: PUBLIC INFO COMPLIANCE BOARD NEEDS MORE AUTHORITY: In a commentary for Maryland Reporter, Lisa Kershner, public access ombudsman for Maryland state government, and John West, chair of the Public Information Act Compliance Board, opine that after nearly five years of operation, it is clear that neither the ombudsman program nor the PIA Compliance Board is working as efficiently or effectively as it could. While the ombudsman has broad jurisdiction to mediate all kinds of PIA disputes—from total failures to respond to requests and denials of access to records, to unreasonably broad and repetitive requests—the ombudsman also lacks any enforcement authority.
BOOZE BILLS KILLED IN COMMITTEE: Two liquor bills that would expand the sale of alcohol in Maryland were struck down by a House of Delegates subcommittee on Friday. One bill would have allowed grocery stores to sell beer and wine if the establishment was providing fresh food and was in a food desert, as a way to incentivize grocers to move into those areas, Johanna Alonso reports for the Daily Record.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY FOR EQUITY & INCLUSION: Innovative strategies, business models, and technologies can be used to address underserved markets. Join the Maryland Clean Energy Center for this Policy Watch Session on March 8, from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m., to discuss how new policies or changes in existing policy can be used to minimize or eliminate barriers in these areas. Advance registration is required.
BIDEN TO VISIT B’MORE VAXX MAKER: President Biden will make his first visit to Baltimore as chief executive this week, visiting a plant that is making coronavirus vaccine as the federal government tries to significantly ramp up supplies of the shots, Jeff Barker of the Sun reports.
COLLEGE WORKERS SEEK BETTER WAGES, PROTECTIONS: Across the statewide university system, graduate students and front-line campus workers have long fought for fair wages and greater protections at work. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and their demands became more urgent. Lauren Lumpkin reports in the Post.
STATE SCHOOL TESTING WAIVED TILL FALL: Kristen Griffith of the Carroll County times reports that Maryland’s board of education waived state testing until the fall and Carroll County Public Schools plans to make use of what is viewed as more time for instruction. The state superintendent initially said testing would occur this spring despite the issues created by the coronavirus pandemic and the CCPS community expressed concern.
ADVOCATES SEEK STATE PROTECTIONS FOR HOMEOWNERS: Advocates are continuing their call for Maryland legislators to pass relief for homeowners, warning of a looming foreclosure crisis unless lawmakers take action, Bennett Leckrone of Maryland Matters reports. New foreclosures are currently halted in Maryland as a result of Gov. Larry Hogan stay on new notices of intent to foreclose — but advocates with the Maryland Judiciary Task Force warn that some foreclosures that were filed before the start of the pandemic are still proceeding, and that some homeowners might not be aware of their own forbearance options.
17.8% OF FREDERICK COUNTY RESIDENTS GET VAXXED: COVID-19 vaccines have hit the arms of 46,161 Frederick County residents thus far, or 17.8% of the local population, up from 14% last weekend. Ten percent of the population has received the second dose, up from 8.8%, Frederick County government’s website showed Sunday, Mary Grace Keller reports for the Frederick News-Post.
EATERIES GET REPRIEVE FROM DELIVERY APPS FEES: A temporary cap on what food delivery services can charge restaurants that has been imposed by some jurisdictions has saved these struggling businesses thousands of dollars a month and helped keep them afloat during the pandemic in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties, Christina Tkacik reports for the Sun. Others are urging customers to find ways around these apps altogether.
STATE THREATENS TO DRAIN CARROLL COUNTY POND: Maryland Department of Environment is threatening to drain a pond in Hampstead unless residents fix the damage it’s causing to a dam, which would cost some $150,000, Kristen Griffith of the Carroll County Times reports.