State roundup: Marylanders will vote on abortion rights referendum; debate over private-school funding stalls budget; P.G. Co. settles police brutality suit for $7.5 million

State roundup: Marylanders will vote on abortion rights referendum; debate over private-school funding stalls budget; P.G. Co. settles police brutality suit for $7.5 million

Rendering of proposed Columbia lakefront library looking toward the Columbia mall. The current fountain is on the right. Gov. Wes Moore called the site “some of most desirable real estate” in Howard County and the state, promising the state's financial support.. Story below. Howard County government photo

MARYLANDERS TO VOTE ON ADDING ABORTION RIGHTS TO STATE CONSTITUTION: Maryland voters will be asked to enshrine abortion rights into the state Constitution next year, after the Maryland House of Delegates’ passage of the “Right to Reproductive Freedom Act” on Thursday. SB 798 will place a referendum on ballots during the 2024 general election, allowing voters to decide whether the reproductive rights amendment should be added to Maryland’s Constitution. The bill, cross-filed by the House of Delegates as HB 705, doesn’t need to be signed by Gov. Wes Moore, although he has said he supports it. SB 798 affirms that every person has the fundamental right to reproductive freedom. Michelle Larkin of Capital News Service/Maryland Reporter

DEBATE OVER PRIVATE-SCHOOL FUNDING STALLS STATE BUDGET: Negotiations over a proposed $62.5 billion state budget plan briefly soured Thursday when House lawmakers said they were digging in their heels to support Gov. Wes Moore’s plan to decrease taxpayer spending on private schools. The hang-up — over whether to cut $2 million from a $10 million scholarship program that sends students from families with low incomes to private and parochial schools — comes as lawmakers face deadlines to pass the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Sam Janesch/The Baltimore Sun

P.G. CO. SETTLES POLICE BRUTALITY SUIT FOR $7.5 MILLION: The family of a Maryland man paralyzed during a traffic stop involving Prince George’s County police has received a $7.5 million settlement in the federal lawsuit they filed against the police department. The settlement is probably the second-largest payout over a police misconduct lawsuit in Prince George’s history, the family’s attorneys William “Billy” Murphy Jr. and Malcolm P. Ruff told The Washington Post. Katie Mettler and Jasmine Hilton/The Washington Post

COMMENTARY: BOOK CHRONICLES THE TRAGEDY OF GOLDEN BOY U.S. SEN. DANNY BREWSTER: Veteran journalist and author John Frece details with great skill, empathy, and meticulous research the tragedy of Daniel Baugh Brewster in his new book, ominously titled: “Self-Destruction: The rise, fall, and redemption of U.S. Senator Daniel B. Brewster.” Aided by his privilege, connections, and status as a war hero, Brewster eventually was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates, the U.S. House, and finally, the U.S. Senate. Booze-filled bad personal choices in marriage and staffing eventually lead him to lose his reelection, his family, and a six-year battle to defeat federal charges of bribery. Len Lazarick recalls his encounters with Brewster. Len Lazarick/Maryland Reporter

LAWMAKERS ARE OPTIMISTIC ABOUT BILL TO LIMIT GUNS: Maryland lawmakers say that, with less than two weeks to go, they are optimistic that bills they’ve crafted aimed at limiting the number of guns on the street, as well as violent confrontations, will pass in some form. The House of Delegates and the Senate have each approved bills, but need to resolve differences between them for a measure to pass before they adjourn April 10. William J. Ford/Maryland Matters

MD. HOUSE VOTES TO EXPAND GENDER-AFFIRMING CARE COVERED BY MEDICAID: Maryland lawmakers gave final approval Thursday to expanding procedures relating to gender-affirming care that are covered by the state’s Medicaid program. The 93-39 vote by the House of Delegates sends the measure to Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat who said he will sign the bill. Brian White of The Associated Press/The Baltimore Sun

***BOARD OPENINGS FOR MONTGOMERY AND PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY RESIDENTSThe Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has openings for residents of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties on the ERS Board of Trustees; one vacancy for each county. The term of appointment is July 1, 2023 – June 30, 2026. Anyone interested who is a resident of the county to which they want to represent must submit a Letter of Interest and resume of qualifications, received no later than close of business on April 7, 2023. Visit our website, for a Board of Trustee Candidate Packet.***

EX-GUNPOWDER EMPLOYEE RECOUNTS ALLEGED RAPES BY BOSS: In dramatic testimony on Thursday, a woman recounted the times she says the former longtime manager of Gunpowder Falls State Park raped her. The woman, who was in relationship with the married Michaell J. Browning, said she could clearly recall three times that he raped her in her isolated park home, although she believes there are many more.  The woman took the stand on the first day of testimony in the case against Browning, 72, who was indicted last year on 27 counts of rape, sexual assault and assault of the woman as well as a second young female employee. Browning has pleaded innocent and his defense attorney said all sexual acts with both employees were consensual. Julie Scharper/The Baltimore Banner

CRIME REBOUNDED IN TOWSON LAST YEAR AFTER PANDEMIC DECLINE: A 17-year-old boy was killed and a man was injured in two separate downtown Towson shootings in the space of eight days, sparking fears that big-city crime was taking root in the rapidly growing heart of the suburb north of Baltimore. But new data from the Baltimore County Police Department shows crime in downtown Towson rebounded last year to 2019 levels after a dip during the first two years of the coronavirus pandemic, when many businesses and retailers initially shut down.  Police defined the borders of central Towson for the first time to track the success of new strategies. Cassidy Jensen and Steve Early/The Baltimore Sun

HOWARD CO. PLANS LAKEFRONT LIBRARY, MIXED-INCOME HOUSING IN COLUMBIA: In a major change to downtown Columbia’s landscape, Howard County unveiled new plans for a central library on one of the most iconic pieces of real estate in the planned community, right above the fountain on the town’s Lake Kittamaqundi. No dollar figures were announced for the 100,000-square-foot library, which will be in Howard County Executive Calvin Ball’s capital budget he will propose Friday. But the renderings from an internationally known architectural firm display a dramatic concept of a building that will include an amphitheater and play areas. Len Lazarick/Maryland Reporter 

DISCUSSION OF JAILED YOUTHS VIOLATED TRANSPARENCY LAW: A portion of a meeting between four Baltimore County councilmembers and the county’s corrections director about conditions for youth at the county jail was in violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Act, County Attorney James Benjamin said Thursday. During a virtual meeting on March 17, Director of Corrections Walt Pesterfield told Chairman Julian Jones Jr. and three councilmembers, all Democrats, that some allegations of squalid conditions for youth inmates at the Baltimore County Detention Center were false or only partially true, according to the councilmembers and Pesterfield. Cassidy Jensen and Lia Russell/The Baltimore Sun

LAWMAKERS HOPE TO MAKE RYE THE STATE’S SPIRIT: The Baltimore Oriole. The Diamondback Terrapin. Lacrosse. The Blue Crab. Black-eyed Susans. Marylanders soon may be toasting those state symbols with a new one – Maryland Rye, the proposed state spirit. While there are attempts most years to make something a state symbol, many do not pass. But HB178 is bipartisan, with nine Democratic sponsors and one Republican. “Here’s a bill sure to lift your spirits,” Sen. Ron Watson, D-Prince George’s, said when he summarized the cross-filed SB497 bill on the Senate floor Thursday. Maryland has a long history with rye whiskey. Kara Thompson of Capital News Service/Maryland Reporter

COMMENTARY: BLOCKING TREATMENT OF WASTEWATER FROM TRAIN CRASH IS HYPOCRISY: The colossal outrage expressed by Baltimore City and County elected officials, joined by state and federal counterparts, against the proper treatment of wastewater from the Feb. 3 Ohio train wreck by Clean Harbors of Baltimore reeks of extreme hypocrisy. Gerald Winegrad/Capital Gazette

COMMENTARY: PRIVATE ELECTRONIC MONITORING IS A BAD IDEA: Maryland is currently in the midst of an ill-conceived experiment with an outsourced criminal legal system: private electronic monitoring of pretrial defendants. Private electronic monitoring costs more taxpayer money and provides a worse service to both courts and defendants. The time has come for lawmakers to take action. Henry Druschel/Maryland Matters

COMMENTARY: COMMUTER PONDERS RISKS OF COMMUTING ON BALTIMORE BELTWAY: In the wake of a horrific crash that killed six construction workers, followed by a tanker truck overturning and bursting into flames, a new commuter asks veteran Baltimore Beltway commuters: Is it always this bad? Rick Hutzell/The Baltimore Banner

About The Author

Regina Holmes

Contributing editor Regina Holmes has worked as a journalist for over 30 years. She was an assistant business editor at the Miami Herald and an assistant city editor at Newsday in New York City, where she helped supervise coverage of 9/11, anthrax attacks and the August 2003 Northeast Blackout. As an assistant managing editor of the Baltimore Examiner, she helped launch the free tabloid in 2006. Before joining Maryland Reporter, she was the managing editor for Washington, D.C.-based Talk Media News, where she supervised digital, radio and video production of news reports for over 400 radio stations. The Baltimore native is a graduate of Vassar College and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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