VAN HOLLEN: HOW STIMULUS WILL AID MARYLAND:: U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) Friday criticized the Hogan administration’s rollout of coronavirus vaccines, saying the state needs to do more to make vaccines more accessible in underserved communities. Bryan Renbaum of Maryland Reporter interviews the senator, focusing on how the $1.9 trillion stimulus package that President Joe Biden recently signed into law might help Marylanders.
- Sen. Ben Cardin and Van Hollen estimate that Maryland and its local jurisdictions will receive a total of nearly $6.4 billion, with the state getting $3.9 billion, the counties getting $1.2 billion and municipalities getting $1.1 billion, Adam Pagnucco of Seventh State reports.
OPINION: UNEMPLOYMENT MESS, THE REAL STORY: In a commentary for Maryland Reporter, Charlie Hayward writes that about this time last year, the state’s Department of Labor, Division of Unemployment Insurance was processing unemployment claims smoothly—and more-or-less efficiently—despite its antiquated, but reliable, computer software. DUI maintained reasonably good customer service. But make no mistake about it, DUI’s pre-pandemic benefits processing work was a complex, industrial-sized, undertaking.
SUNSHINE WEEK STUDY: AGENCIES CAN DO MORE TO PROMOTE OPENNESS: In an MDDC Press Association project for Sunshine Week, Luciana Perez Uribe Guinassi and Andrew Schotz write, in a story in Maryland Reporter, that a one-month test of government agencies in Maryland revealed a patchwork of approaches in how public records are tracked and how requests for access are filled.
STATE COULD LOSE $200M IN STIMULUS: Maryland could lose a $200 million chunk of federal stimulus funding meant to shore up state government, as the result of a provision in the federal law meant to limit the use of the stimulus to fund tax breaks, Danielle Gaines and Laura Olson write for Maryland Matters.
FERGUSON REJECTS OVERSIGHT PANEL FOR STIMULUS SPENDING: The leader of the Maryland Senate Friday rejected calls to create a legislative oversight panel to monitor how the state’s share a $1.9 trillion federal stimulus is spent, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports. Comptroller Peter Franchot, the state’s top tax collector, called for such a panel Thursday as President Joe Biden signed the package into law.
NEW CASES DROP ON SUNDAY: Maryland health officials reported 860 new coronavirus infections Sunday, dropping back below 1,000 daily cases, as Gov. Larry Hogan defended his decision last week to lift capacity restrictions on various establishments during a morning television appearance, Phil Davis and Christine Condon of the Sun reports.
STATE LAUNCHES SIGNUP PORTAL FOR MASS VAXX SITES: Maryland has launched a single portal for people to register for coronavirus vaccinations at mass vaccination sites, amid frustration with the state’s decentralized system and criticism from Democrats over racial disparities in who is getting the vaccine, Rachel Weiner of the Post reports.
- State lawmakers and others said the move represented a good, but overdue, first step. Some suggested that local health departments should have been made a part of the new system, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports.
MARYLAND EXPECTS VAXX GROWTH: While Virginia is averaging 55,000 shots per day, and anticipates pushing that to 70,000 in the coming weeks, Maryland and the District of Columbia are forecasting similar expansions, with Maryland exceeding 42,000 shots daily and officials there saying they have capacity for 100,000 a day, supply permitting, Steve Thompson and Jenna Portnoy of the Post report.
BALTIMORE AREA SCHOOLS SAY MORE EDUCATORS VACCINATED: Baltimore-area school districts say that most teachers who have requested a COVID-19 vaccine through the district have been inoculated or scheduled an appointment to do so, but that it’s difficult to know how many teachers have yet to receive — or don’t want — a vaccine, Liz Bowie of the Sun reports.
UNLIKE SOME STATES, MARYLAND MOVES TO MAKE VOTING EASIER: Inspired by — or perhaps infuriated by — the contentious 2020 presidential election, Maryland lawmakers are pushing dozens of bills to change the way the state’s voters cast their ballots, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. Maryland’s Democrat-led General Assembly is moving to make it easier to vote by mail and to vote early, partially driven by the pandemic election that saw record turnout in the state by those means.
- Lawmakers in Maryland are working to enact legislation that would greatly improve accessibility for disabled voters. Tori Bergel of CNS in a story in Maryland Reporter writes that one of the more notable bills would change the state’s entire voting system. SB0271/HB0423, sponsored by Sen. Clarence Lam, D-Baltimore County and Howard, and Del. Jessica Feldmark, D-Baltimore County and Howard, respectively, would require that all Maryland voters use a uniformly accessible device to cast their votes.
HOGAN: MY KOREAN FAMILY HAS EXPERIENCED RACISM: Gov. Larry Hogan said Sunday that his family has felt the effects of discrimination over the past year amid a wave of racism against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, the AP is reporting. Hogan’s wife, Yumi Hogan, is Korean American. Speaking to Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union,” he said, “My wife, my three daughters, my grandkids, all Asian, and they — they have felt some discrimination personally.”
MDOT ‘PROMISES’ BILL SPLITS BUDGET PANEL: Backers of the “Maryland Department of Transportation Promises Act of 2021” insist their proposal is a simple and straightforward one. They want to hold top transportation officials to the public pledges they’ve made on behalf of Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature transportation initiative — the reconstruction of the American Legion Bridge and the widening of two highways that run through Montgomery County, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports.
MARYLAND LIKELY TO PASS PLASTIC BAG BAN: Maryland took a big step last week toward becoming the next state in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags, Madeleine O’Neill of the USA Today Network reports. The House on Wednesday passed the Plastic Bag Reduction Act, which would prohibit businesses from giving away plastic bags at the point of sale, with a vote of 97-37. The bill next heads to the Senate, where it is also likely to pass.
NONPROFIT EXEC JOINS GROWING GUB HOPEFULS: Jon Baron, a former nonprofit executive and federal official from Montgomery County, is weighing a Democratic run for governor of Maryland, joining a sizable and growing list of people jockeying to replace term-limited Gov. Larry Hogan in 2022., Bryn Stole of the Sun reports.
STATE’s NEXT GOV PROBABLY WON’T BE FROM GOP: J. Miles Colemen, in Sabato’s Crystal Ball for UVA’s Center for Politics, assesses the next guberatorial races throughout the country and how the red/blue divide will stack up. He kicks off with Maryland, where popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is term-limited. It will be hard for Republicans to hold. With a Leans Democratic rating, the Crystal Ball expects a Democrat to flip the seat.
STATE COURTS MOVE TO NEXT OPENING PHASE: Maryland courts are moving into a new resumption of operations phase, the AP is reporting. The Maryland Judiciary will move into the fourth phase of its five-phased COVID-19 plan today. The clerks’ offices in the circuit courts and district court locations will be open to the public for all matters. However, the number of people may be limited to achieve COVID-19 social distancing requirements.
O’s TO REOPEN AT 25% CAPACITY: When the Orioles take the field for opening day next month, Camden Yards will reopen at 25% of the stadium’s capacity — a self-imposed restriction stricter than new state rules, team officials announced Friday, Emily Opilo and Jon Meoli of the Sun report.
BAINUM MAY MAKE BID FOR ALL OF TRIBUNE: The New York hedge fund Alden Global Capital may have to fend off a new suitor – Maryland hotel magnate Stewart Bainum Jr. – for all of Tribune Publishing, the chain that owns major metropolitan dailies across the country, including The Chicago Tribune, The Daily News and the newspaper that Bainum initially is trying to save – The Baltimore Sun, Marc Tracy of the New York Times reports.
VAN HOLLEN’s STRONG STAND AGAINST FILIBUSTER: It’s not an exaggeration to say that the U.S. Senate’s filibuster rules threaten not only President Biden’s ambitious domestic agenda but also democracy itself, opines Robert McCartney for the Post. The four senators from our region, all Democrats, support the reform efforts. Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland is the strongest voice for change. He wants to scrap the filibuster altogether, saying it “just compounds the anti-democratic nature of the U.S. Senate.”
FORMER ARUNDEL EXEC ROBERT PASCAL DIES AT 86: Robert A. Pascal, a longtime public servant who was the Anne Arundel County executive from 1974 to 1982, died Friday at age 86, Christine Condon of the Sun reports. Pascal was known not just for his political prowess but also his business acumen and athletic ability. He later donated much of his earnings to charity.