HOUSE OF DELEGATES PASSES POLICE REFORM: The House of Delegates passed sweeping police reform legislation Thursday evening, Bryn Stole reports for the Sun. Some of it is similar to what the Senate passed by wide margins, setting the stage for negotiations between the chambers over the details of how law enforcement officers are trained, investigated and disciplined.
- The debate over the ominbus policing bill revealed the different realities of policymakers weighing how to hold police officers accountable, with one lawmaker saying she worries about her own son being treated differently because he is black, Ovetta Wiggins reports for the Post.
- The bill passed on a 96-40 vote, Brian Witte reports for the AP in the Cumberland Times-Dispatch. It would require body cameras by 2025. It also would put limitations on no-knock warrants and create a statewide use-of-force standard that bans chokeholds and creates a duty to intervene.
STATE FRACTURED OVER REOPENING RESTRICTIONS: Leaders of two of the state’s largest jurisdictions will not follow the state into fully reopening most businesses with no capacity restrictions, Bryan Sears reports for The Daily Record. Several others say they’re ready to ease restrictions as called for by Gov. Larry Hogan.
- The city of Baltimore will keep coronavirus capacity restrictions despite Gov. Larry Hogan’s order that pandemic restrictions could be lifted across the state, Emily Opilo reports for the Sun.
- A city spokesman told The Baltimore Brewthat in order to maintain Baltimore’s stricter mandates “the city will be invoking its local emergency powers,” Fern Shen reports for the Brew. The administration plans to provide more details Friday afternoon.
- The move by Baltimore City represents a break with not only the state but its surrounding jurisdictions, Jessica Iannetta reports for the Baltimore Business Journal. Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard, Harford and Carroll counties have all announced that they will follow the state’s reopening schedule, though Anne Arundel kept limits on indoor and outdoor social gatherings in place.
- Some owners in north Baltimore said with surrounding counties lifting restrictions it’s going to drive customers across city lines, while some other owners agree with the mayor’s decision, Tre Ward reports for WBALTV.
- Prince George’s County is lessening some restrictions, but still limiting capacity to 50%, indoor private gatherings to 20 people, and outdoor gatherings to 50 people, William Ford reports for Washington Informer.
- Montgomery County also appears to be lessening its restrictions but not quite in step with the state, Briana Adhikusuma reports for Bethesda Beat. The County Council proposed a regulation Thursday night that would increase capacity from 25% to 50% for businesses like indoor dining and fitness centers. The council will vote on the regulation Friday afternoon.
- Carroll County businesses are able to be open more normally under the governor’s order, but they say it is just one step toward returning to normal and with tables required to be six feet apart for indoor dining it’s not full capacity, Pat Stoetzer reports for the Carroll County Times.
- In Washington County, area religious leaders are ready to welcome back larger numbers of worshipers, but they expect some people will be hesitant to return, Dave McMillon, Julie Green and Sherry Greenfield report for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.
COMMENTARY: HOGAN SHOULD HAVE CONSULTED LOCALS ON REOPENING: Gov. Larry Hogan chose to make a reopening announcement without consulting with or informing local jurisdictions, a big mistake during a time when coordination is so vital, opines the Sun’s editorial board. “Given the real dangers involved with vaccines not yet in nearly enough arms and highly contagious variants on the move, one can only hope that the cost of this too-far, too-fast relaxation of rules and loss of public health credibility won’t some day be measured in lives lost,” they write.
FRANCHOT CALLS FOR AUDIT AS MORE FEDERAL REFIEF SPENDING BECOMES LAW: Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) is urging for more oversight on all the pandemic relief spending, Josh Kurtz reports for Maryland Matters. On Thursday he sent letters to all 188 members of the General Assembly, urging them to create a commission that to account for how state and federal COVID-19 relief funding is being spent in Maryland.
- Hogan took an interview with Politico on Thursday, and discussed the relief bill. Bruce DePuyt breaks it down in an article for Maryland Matters about Hogan’s comments, including that the Republican governor “probably” would have voted against it.
- Franchot said should be a bipartisan commission, Tyler Waldman reports for WBAL.
- “Howard County is expected to receive $63.1 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law Thursday by President Joe Biden,” Ana Faguy reports for Baltimore Sun Media. Howard County government is expecting half of that money in the next 60 days and the second half will arrive a year after the first.
- And an increased tax credit for low and moderate income families included in the plan “has the potential to ease the burden of the nation’s 11 million children living in poverty by this summer,” Deborah Bailey reports for AFRO.
- Baltimore city is expecting $670 million in relief money, Rachel Aragon reports for WBFF.
MD TAX DEADLINE EXTENDED: Comptroller Peter Franchot is taking emergency action to extend the deadline to file 2020 Maryland state income taxes from April 15 to July 15, Bryan Renbaum reports for Maryland Reporter.
CONFEDERATE STATE SONG HEADING TO THE DUSTBIN: Maryland’s state song sympathizing with the Confederacy may finally be heading to the dustbin of history, Len Lazarick reports for Maryland Reporter. The House of Delegates gave preliminary approval to its repeal Thursday.
- The“outdated” song penned in 1891, labels President Abraham Lincoln as a “despot,” poses a call to action to defend the state from the Union, and personifies the state as “not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb,” Callan Tansill Suddath reports for the Capital News Service in Baltimore Fishbowl.
SPORTS BETTING IMPLEMENTATION BILL MOVES THROUGH HOUSE: The Maryland House of Delegates gave its OK Thursday for legal sports betting with a mix of in-person betting and betting through apps and websites, Pamela Wood reports for the Sun.
- In addition to casinos, the three stadiums that are home to the Baltimore Ravens, the Washington Football Team and the Baltimore Orioles baseball team could have sports betting sites, Brian Witte reports for the AP in the Washington Times.
CECIL TEACHERS MIXED ON REOPENING AS VACCINATIONS MAKE PROGRESS: Even as Cecil County Public Schools announced 1,600 staff members have received at least the first dose of vaccinations, many teachers are sharing mixed feelings about the possibility of more in-person classes, Matt Hooke reports for the Cecil Whig. Concerns include enforcing social distancing, safety, and how to teach to both in-person and virtual students at the same time.
90% OF HOWARD TEACHERS VACCINATED: 90% of Howard County public school teachers have been received their first dose of vaccine or been scheduled for vaccination, Kristin Danley-Greiner reports in Patch.
EMERGENCY CONTRACTS FOR VACCINE ROLLOUT NOT VERY PUBLIC: The state has issued at least two large emergency contracts to improve the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, Meredith Cohn and Hallie Miller report that the Sun obtained these contracts through a records request. These types of contracts undergo little public scrutiny.
COMMENTARY: OPIOID CRISIS CONTINUES: Our greatest weapon to stop drug abuse is not the criminal justice system, whose resources have been taxed to the limit in this struggle, but rather our public health and educational institutions, Dr. Dan Morhaim writes in a Sun op-ed calling attention to the ongoing addiction and overdose crisis. Morhaim is a former state delegate.
BEITZEL BILLS HEARD: Two bills proposed by Del. Wendell Beitzel, R-Garrett, had hearings in Annapolis, the staff of the Garrett Republican reports.
RASKIN ON TOUGH YEAR: U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin personally endured the worst of 2020 on the final day of the year when he lost his son, but for much of the past year he has been trying to help people deal with countless challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mitchell Miller reports for WTOP.
COMMENTARY: CALL FOR MORE BROADBAND: The pandemic has highlighted the reality that much of Worcester County does not have access to broadband, opines County Commissioner Chip Bertino in an op-ed for the Salisbury Daily Times. “Access to broadband is a necessity and must be made available to every home and business within our county,” he writes.