LOTT: HOGAN WOULD BE STRONG SENATE CANDIDATE: Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said Wednesday that a hypothetical Senate race between Gov. Larry Hogan and incumbent Democrat Chris Van Hollen could turn out to be quite competitive, Bryan Renbaum of Maryland Reporter reports. Lott’s remarks follow a recent Washingtonian report that said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reached out to Hogan as a possible candidate to challenge Van Hollen in next year’s election.
NEW LAWS TAKING EFFECT TODAY: While most of us flip our calendars to a new year every Jan. 1, the state government starts its new year July 1. It brings a fresh budget and hundreds of new laws. Here are some of the measures that go into effect Thursday in Maryland, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.
- Maryland will ditch its pro-Confederate state song on Thursday, as measures aimed at stamping out racial inequities take effect along with hundreds of other new laws, Laura Vozzella and Ovetta Wiggins of the Post report.
- Under a new law, an administrative law judge determines whether someone qualifies for payment for a wrongful conviction, and the Board of Public Works is required to pay anyone who is eligible within 60 days of receiving the judge’s order, Rachel Baye of WYPR-FM reports.
SOME COVID MANDATES END TODAY: Many of Maryland’s emergency restrictions, including a statewide mask mandate, will end Thursday. Gov. Larry Hogan announced last month that Maryland would lift its COVID-19 state of emergency in two phases, with some policies ending Thursday and others after a 45-day grace period through Aug. 15, Lizzy Lawrence of the Sun reports.
- Starting July 1, Baltimore will lift its citywide mask mandate and state of emergency, a decision that came just one day after Gov. Larry Hogan announced the same measures for the state, Hallie Miller of the Sun reports.
- When most of the guidelines under Maryland’s pandemic state of emergency lapse Thursday, so too will provisions allowing Maryland bars and restaurants to sell mixed drinks to-go, Lizzy Lawrence and Christine Condone report for the Sun.
- Baltimore County public schools will no longer require its students or staff to wear face masks in schools and offices beginning Thursday, although unvaccinated people will be encouraged to continue using them, Liz Bowie of the Sun reports.
BIPARTISAN EX-LAWMAKERS PUSH FOR NEW REDISTRICTING MAPS: A bipartisan pair of former lawmakers who each lost narrow elections in 2018 have formed a nonprofit group to pressure the General Assembly to accept new legislative and congressional district maps being drafted by a commission created by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, Bennett Leckrone of Maryland Matters reports.
HOGAN FACES 2nd LAWSUIT OVER ENDING JOBLESS BENEFITS: Gov. Larry Hogan faces a second lawsuit over his decision to end federal pandemic unemployment benefits early. In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Baltimore Circuit Court, six unemployed Marylanders allege that the state — which plans to end the jobless aid Saturday — has violated its duties under state law and the Maryland Constitution to secure federal benefits for eligible residents. The complaint also names Maryland Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson as a defendant, Alison Knezevich and McKenna Oxenden report in the Sun.
SOMERSET CONTINUES WITH LOWEST VAXX RATE: Rural Somerset County has struggled to reach — and then persuade — its fewer than 26,000 residents to take the coronavirus vaccine, county health officials say. As a result, the vaccination rate in Maryland’s second-least-populated county has stubbornly remained the state’s lowest, Colin Campbell and Rose Wagner of the Sun report.
POTENTIAL COX GOV CANDIDACY COULD SHAKE UP GOP: Maryland Republicans hoping for an unprecedented third consecutive term controlling the governor’s mansion will have to contend with the potential for a deeply divisive primary. Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that a filing by Del. Dan Cox, R-Carroll and Frederick, is a signal that the vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump could be entering his party’s primary for governor, resulting in a potentially bitter primary with presumptive Republican frontrunner Kelly Schulz.
POTOMAC PIPELINE COULD BE REVIVED AFTER COURT RULING: The U.S. Supreme Court sided with a pipeline company on Tuesday, ruling that pipeline projects with federal approval can seize state-owned land to build natural gas pipelines, Elizabeth Shwe of Maryland Matters reports. Environmentalists say this decision could speed construction of a controversial pipeline proposed to run through a narrow stretch of Maryland near Hancock and under the Potomac River to deliver gas to West Virginia’s panhandle.
MAGLEV, B’MORE DEVELOPERS EYE SAME LAND: The proposed $10 billion, high-speed maglev train between Baltimore and Washington and a major waterfront housing development planned in the city’s Westport neighborhood are hurtling toward a legal showdown: Both would require the same undeveloped land, Colin Campbell and Lorraine Mirabella report in the Sun.
TASK FORCE RECOMMENDS CHANGES TO MO CO POLICING: An audit released Wednesday recommended a host of changes for policing in Montgomery County, Maryland’s most populous jurisdiction, including enhanced crisis-intervention training, revised use-of-force and internal affairs policies, and an overhauled training curriculum, Stephanie Lai of the Post reports.
- The task force has recommended changes to the Montgomery County Police Department, such as reexamining how use-of-force incidents are reviewed and improving de-escalation tactics, Dan Schere of Bethesda Beat reports. County Executive Marc Elrich convened the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force a year ago as one of multiple ways the county has tried to make changes to policing.
76-YEAR-OLD HEADS BACK TO PRISON AFTER FAILING TO ANSWER PHONE: A 76-year-old grandmother serving a 24-year sentence for dealing heroin was allowed to leave last June after 16 years to serve the remainder in home confinement under the supervision of federal prison officials. Gwen Levi moved in with her 94-year-old mother in Baltimore, volunteered at prisoner advocacy organizations and started to take classes. But she is being sent back to prison because she failed to answer her phone during one of those classes, Neena Satija and Justin Wm. Moyer of the Post report.
RAMOS TRIAL DAY 2: Jack Moore of WTOP-FM details what happened in yesterday’s trial of Jarrod Ramos, the man who killed Capital Gazette staffers Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiassen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters three years ago.
- The man who killed five people at the Capital Gazette newspaper office was calm, cooperative, did not seem confused and joked about an erroneous media report after his arrest during an interrogation, police testified Wednesday at a trial to determine whether he was legally sane at the time of the attack, Brian Witte of the AP reports.
- Prosecution in the trial to determine the sanity of the gunman moved to have a defense witness excused Wednesday afternoon, alleging that she was reading her answers from a script, Hannah Gaskill of Maryland Matters reports. “She’s been testifying here for about an hour — an hour and a half — and she’s been reading from a script,” Assistant State’s Attorney David Russell said to Judge Michael Wachs.
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING DAY 3: During today’s continuing trial into the insanity defense of Jarrod Ramos, state prosecutors will cross-examine Dr. Joanna Brandt, a forensic psychiatrist hired as a “teaching witness” to explain what a mental disorder is, how it manifests, and how it presents in different individuals. Defense attorneys called her to the stand to help the jury assess psychiatrist opinion and testimony. She did not evaluate Ramos. Lilly Price reports the story for the Capital Gazette.
NATIONAL MONUMENT TO SLAIN JOURNALISTS GETS GRANTS: Legislation enacted by Congress and signed into law in December authorized the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation to build a memorial on federal land in Washington, D.C., to honor slain journalists. Now the project has kicked off its capital campaign, Donovan Conaway of the Capital Gazette reports. The foundation on Tuesday announced it has received two grants totaling $6 million to support the establishment of the memorial in Washington.