State Roundup: Climate change legislation hits snag; EZ Pass customers get a break

State Roundup: Climate change legislation hits snag; EZ Pass customers get a break

On Thursday, Senate Democrats led by Senate President Bill Ferguson at podium announced their support for paid family leave legislation. Screenshot from Ferguson's Facebook page

CLIMATE CHANGE BUILDING STANDARDS QUESTIONED FOR AFFORDABILITY: The renewed effort by Maryland Democrats to push sweeping climate legislation through the General Assembly has hit one of its first major challenges, with commercial real estate representatives balking at the bill’s major alterations to building efficiency standards and questioning the affordability of the proposed changes. Stephen Neukam of The Capital News Service/Maryland Reporter

EZ PASS CUSTOMERS GIVEN GRACE PERIOD: E-ZPass customers who have unpaid tolls now have a nine-month grace period to reconcile their accounts. The Maryland Transportation Authority Board approved a Customer Assistance Plan that includes a grace period waiving all civil penalties for customers who pay their unpaid tolls by 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 30, 2022. David Collins/WBALTV

  • Unpaid toll bills will not be referred to the Central Collections Unit or the MVA. In many cases that’s led to flags being placed on vehicle registrations and threats from the MVA to withhold tax refunds and document renewals. Mallory Sofastaii and Ryan Dickstein/WMAR
  • Decisions to switch to electronic billing during the pandemic and to delay bills during that time have created chaos for customers who are now being charged hundreds of dollars at once, with additional $25 late fees for unpaid bills. Customers have complained of limited success reaching an employee to dispute charges because customer service phone lines are tied up. Lilly Price/The Baltimore Sun

 CITY TO LIFT MASK MANDATE: Mayor Brandon Scott on Thursday announced he will lift Baltimore City’s indoor mask mandate on March 1, citing the city’s improving COVID-19 metrics. Scott said he will talk with Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby and Baltimore City Comptroller Bill Henry about the next steps for reopening Baltimore City Hall. Marcus Dieterle/Baltimore Fishbowl

  • The announcement comes as Baltimore City’s Covid-19 metrics continue to improve. Jessica Iannetta/Baltimore Business Journal

PANEL OF LAWMAKERS TO TAKE UP SCHOOL MASK MANDATE DECISION: Maryland lawmakers will consider today whether to rescind a statewide emergency regulation mandating the use of face masks in schools following several weeks of pressure from the governor, Republican lawmakers and some parents. This panel’s decision will follow a vote by the Board of Education to rescind the requirement. Lillian Reed/The Baltimore Sun

JURISDICTION LEVEL DATA RELEASED FOR SCHOOLS TESTING, LOW ACROSS THE BOARD: The Maryland State Department of Education released more data this week on student achievement, offering a sobering look at how the pandemic has affected school systems across the region.

HOGAN RELEASES STATEMENT ON ‘BARBAROUS’ INVASION: Gov. Larry Hogan issued a statement Thursday in reaction to the invasion of the Ukraine, which he called an attack on sovereign nations. Hogan added that “If we fail to stand for freedom, Europe and the world will be a much darker and more dangerous place.” Robert Sobus/WBAL NewsRadio

SENATE DEMOCRATS VOW TO PASS PAID FAMILY LEAVE: Maryland Senate Democrats rallied Thursday in support of creating a statewide paid family and medical leave program, with Senate President Bill Ferguson vowing that legislation to create the program is “going to pass this year.” Bryn Stole/The Baltimore Sun

  • In the last 10 years, nine states and the District of Columbia have passed paid family and medical leave bills. Legislatures in 13 other states, including Virginia and Delaware, have such bills under consideration. Joel McCord/WYPR

MSEA SAYS TEACEHERS ARE BURNED OUT: Schools across the state are experiencing “a crisis with unprecedented” staffing shortages, unmanageable workloads and climbing levels of burnout, according to the Maryland State Education Association. Teresa McMinn/Cumberland Times-News

ANALYSIS: TOLL LANE PROJECT DELAY TAKES IT OUT OF HOGAN’S HANDS: By ordering the Maryland Department of Transportation to reconsider a protest filed by a losing bidder, a Montgomery County judge has made it significantly more likely that lame-duck state leaders — or the next governor — will determine the fate of Gov. Larry Hogan’s plans to add toll lanes to two Montgomery County highways. Bruce DePuyt/Maryland Matters

GUN SAFETY BILL WOULD PROTECT CHILDREN: A bill is being proposed in the General Assembly to strengthen gun safety and storage laws for guns to be kept away from children under age 17, with the intent to help prevent youth suicide and potentially reduce gun violence. Brittney Verner/WMAR

Get your commentary published: In recent weeks, Maryland Reporter has published a wide range of opinion on issues that are before the General Assembly — or should be, writers say. Subjects like soft drinks for kiddie meals, security of mail-in ballots, car pricing on the internet, the hazards of corporate taxation and the fears of people with disabilities about assisted dying, If you have a commentary about Maryland government and politics you’d like to see published, send it along to It needs to be exclusive to Maryland Reporter and 700 words or less.

COMMENTARY: DELEGATE CANDIDATE STATES SUPPORT FOR RUSSIA: Republican House of Delegates Candidate Shekinah Hollingsworth is indicating heavy support for Russia on her social media. Brian Griffiths/The Duckpin

BILL WOULD MAKE IT HARDER TO FIRE HEALTH OFFICERS: Local governments could find it more difficult to fire a health officer under a bill before the Maryland General Assembly. Bryan Sears/The Daily Record

BALTIMORE COUNTY COUNCIL DISTRICTS THROWN OUT: Baltimore County officials are reviewing their options after a federal judge blocked the county from using its newly drawn map of County Council districts, saying the boundaries would diminish Black voters’ opportunity to elect their chosen candidates. Jeff Barker/The Baltimore Sun

VAN HOLLEN LISTENS TO RURAL BROADBAND CONCERNS: Sen. Chris Van Hollen heard from residents in rural areas without broadband internet about the need for it across the state at a roundtable in Sabillasville. Jack Hogan/Frederick News-Post

POLITICAL NOTES: Floor debate touching on black fathers, a new delegate candidate in District 23 and more are reviewed in Political Notes. Josh Kurtz and Danielle Gaines/Maryland Matters

NEW DELEGATE CANDIDATE IN GARRETT COUNTY: Bob Spear, 76, of Swanton, is running as a Democratic candidate for the House of Delegates in District 1A. Staff/The Garrett County Republican

Happy Birthday to Del. Jazz Lewis, D-Prince George’s

MARYLANDERS FOR AFFORDABLE RX: Marylanders for Affordable Rx is educating policymakers and the public on the real reasons behind high prescription drug costs and exposing special interests that are out to pad their bottom line at the expense of Maryland’s hardworking people. Across the country and in our state, we see special interests, like Big Pharma and the independent pharmacy lobby, push agendas that would make it harder for patient advocates like pharmacy benefit managers to negotiate for lower prescription drug costs. Learn more and help us stop special interests from increasing our Rx costs. (Paid Advertising)

About The Author

Meg Tully

Contributing Editor Meg Tully has been covering Maryland politics for more than five years. She has worked for The Frederick News-Post, where she reported during the General Assembly session in Annapolis. She has also worked for The (Hanover) Evening Sun and interned at Baltimore Magazine. Meg has won awards from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association for her state and county writing, and a Keystone Press Award for feature writing from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. She is a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. If you have additional questions or comments contact Meg at:

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