ASSEMBLY LEADERS COOL ON HOGAN TAX PROPOSALS: As the state General Assembly got underway, Maryland’s legislative leaders offered tepid support Wednesday for some of the tax cuts Gov. Larry Hogan proposed. The tax proposal that received the warmest reception would continue Maryland’s biggest-in-the-nation cash payment to the working poor, which expires in two years. Ovetta Wiggins and Erin Cox/The Washington Post.
- On the opening day of the 2022 General Assembly session, Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday that it is time for the General Assembly to “double down” on tax reductions, including the elimination of taxes on retirees. Steve Lash/The Daily Record.
PANDEMIC WEIGHS HEAVY AS LAWMAKERS RETURN TO ANNAPOLIS: State lawmakers returned Wednesday to Annapolis for their annual legislative session, with the coronavirus pandemic continuing to weigh on their minds and alter their procedures. Pamela Wood and Bryn Stole/The Baltimore Sun.
- Gone were the plastic-paneled pods that senators sat in during the highly unconventional 2021 session, and all 141 members of the House of Delegates convened together in their chamber, an annex that had been constructed across the street disassembled. And members of the public were allowed to make a socially distanced return to the balconies above the House and Senate floors. Danielle Gaines/Maryland Matters.
PURPLE LINE SAGA: 4½ YEARS LATE, $1.4B OVER BUDGET: Maryland’s Purple Line would begin carrying passengers in the Washington suburbs in fall 2026 — 4½ years behind schedule — and cost an additional $1.4 billion to build under a proposed contract to complete the beleaguered light-rail project, state transportation officials said Wednesday. The longer-term financial implications would be steeper. Katherine Shaver/The Washington Post.
- The Maryland Department of Transportation cited the rising cost of materials, a shrinking labor force, material shortages due to supply chain challenges, increases in the insurance market and other factors post-pandemic as reasons for the delay and rise in price. Abigail Constantino/WTOP-FM.
HEALTH DEPT CYBERATTACK WAS EXTORTION, STATE ADMITS: The cyberattack that has hobbled Maryland’s health department since last month was ransomware designed to prevent health workers from accessing critical systems until an extortion was paid, officials publicly acknowledged for the first time Wednesday. Steve Thompson/The Washington Post.
- Chip Stewart, Maryland’s chief information security officer, said, “Both law enforcement and cybersecurity authorities have observed that health and hospital systems are increasingly being targeted by malicious actors during the pandemic.” Stewart said the threat actors demanded payment, but he and other department officials declined to specify the amount. They did not give in to the payment demands, he said. Hallie Miller/The Baltimore Sun.
- Stewart’s statement is the most expansive comments made by state officials regarding the Dec. 4 attack. Gov. Larry Hogan, speaking to reporters Tuesday, teased the announcement. “It’s not a great situation, but it’s a lot better than it could be,” Hogan said. Bryan Sears/The Daily Record.
ANALYSIS: LEGISLATURE MORE TRANSPARENT THAN EVER: The pandemic has prodded the Maryland General Assembly to make its actions more open and transparent than ever. This includes many steps that had been advocated for years by journalists and good government types. That doesn’t mean that this greater openness will make the lawmakers actions more palatable if you happen to disagree with them. But it may help you understand them. Len Lazarick/Maryland Reporter.
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RECREATIONAL CANNABIS: Maryland lawmakers returned to Annapolis Wednesday to take on a number of issues, among them, the legalization of recreational cannabis. Last fall, a Goucher poll found that 60 percent of Marylanders favor legalizing marijuana. But the House and Senate are taking sharply different approaches. Joel McCord/WYPR-FM.
REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS GROUP RETOOLS, REBRANDS: As reproductive rights advocates gear up for a push to strengthen Maryland’s abortion protections, a leading player in the legislative battle finds itself retooling some of its operations as the year begins. Josh Kurtz/Maryland Matters.
CLIMATE ACTIVISTS PUSH LAWMAKERS TO CUT POLLUTION: Six Maryland environment professors penned a letter to the presiding officers of the General Assembly this week, imploring them to commit to reducing climate pollution in Maryland by 60% below 2006 levels by 2030. Elizabeth Shwe and Josh Kurtz/Maryland Matters.
- As lawmakers made their way across Lawyer’s Mall Wednesday for the opening session of the 2022 General Assembly, they passed 100 empty chairs, a display by those pushing for climate legislation. Mike Tidwell, of Chesapeake Climate Action Network, says the chairs represent the number of people who die every six hours from the effects of climate change. Joel McCord/WYPR-FM.
HOGAN NAMES TOLES TO REPLACE FORMER DEL. DAVIS: Gov. Larry Hogan appointed Karen Toles on Tuesday to the House of Delegates, one day before the 90-day legislative session began in Annapolis, taking over Dereck Davis’s seat as he became comptroller. Because Davis’s term expires this year, Toles will need to run for the seat in the June 28 primary. William Ford/The Washington Informer.
OPINION: AFRICAN-AMERICANS LINE UP TO SUPPORT PEREZ FOR GOV: In a column for The Afro, former Del. Salima Marriott writes about Tom Perez and why so many African-Americans have lined up to give early support Tom Perez’s bid for governor, including former Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett. “Tom’s life’s work has been to get stuff done and fight for justice and jobs. Which is why he has early endorsements from African American leaders from across Baltimore City and Maryland,” she writes.
DEM LAWYER RUNNING TO REPLACE SEN. REILLY: Dawn Gile, a lawyer who represents businesses of all sizes across the state in litigation, said she decided to run for the District 33 Maryland Senate seat as a Democrat when she saw the effects the COVID-19 pandemic was having on families. Gile is running against incumbent Republican state Sen. Ed Reilly and business owner Stacie MacDonald, also a Republican. Dana Munro/The Capital Gazette.
ANTI-MASK SUIT IN WORKS AGAINST ARUNDEL HEALTH CHIEF: In response to the Anne Arundel County health officer’s public safety order last week reinstating a countywide mask mandate, Republican County Council member Nathan Volke and Republican county executive candidate Herb McMillan reached out to a lawyer about the legality of the order. That lawyer, Charles Muskin, is now drafting a lawsuit against the county and the county health department. Dana Munro/The Capital Gazette.
PROFILE: HEATHER HUNTER OF WMAL RADIO: When drive-time fans of WMAL’s O’Connor and Company tune in for their morning O’Connor fixes, they don’t directly hear the voice of one of the most important people in the studio: Heather Hunter, Larry O’Connor’s executive producer. Independent Women’s Forum
RASKIN’s BOOK HIT NO. 1 ON NYTIMES LIST: Maryland’s U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin’s new book Unthinkable, in which he describes his experiences leading the impeachment effort against former President Donald Trump shortly after his son’s death by suicide and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol, has made it to No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller list for nonfiction.
FORMER ATTY GENERAL STEPHEN SACHS DIES AT 87: Stephen H. Sachs, who had prosecuted the Catonsville Nine in the late 1960s and later served two terms as Maryland’s attorney general before becoming a partner at Wilmer Cutler & Pickering, died Wednesday morning at his Roland Park Place home. The former Mount Washington and Cross Keys resident was 87. Frederick Rasmussen and Jacques Kelly/The Baltimore Sun.
- Although Sachs’ political career ended when he was at the relatively young age of 52, he remained on the edges of the political scene, serving as a mentor to scores of younger Democrats. His protégés include Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D); U.S. Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.), now running for attorney general; Del. Sandy Rosenberg (D-Baltimore City); and former Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, who is running for governor. Josh Kurtz/Maryland Matters.