ADVOCATES SEEK CHANGE IN PROCESS FOR FILLING LAWMAKER VACANCIES: Nearly half of the state lawmakers from Maryland’s largest county and about 1 in 4 statewide were not originally elected to their seats. Instead, they were appointed, sent to Annapolis by a handful of local party officials, according to Common Cause Maryland. With nine vacancies in the General Assembly filled through appointments this year and a 10th in the works, advocates are renewing a push to change a process that they say concentrates power into the hands of people on elected but politically connected local panels. Ovetta Wiggins/The Washington Post.
MARYLAND’s LOW JOBLESS RATE CHALLENGES EMPLOYERS: For three months running, Maryland has had the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. But that’s not necessarily cause for celebration. The state’s jobless rate dropped to 1.7% in August, then fell to the lowest level ever — yes, ever — recorded for any state in September at 1.6%, less than half the national rate of 3.9%. But such extremely low unemployment poses real challenges for many employers and businesses. Lorraine Mirabella/The Baltimore Sun.
POLICE UNION SEEKS TO SHIELD SOME OFFICERS FROM NEW TRANSPARENCY LAW: A Maryland police union says a new law meant to allow access to officer disciplinary records should not apply to those created before the law took effect. Release of the records would be unfair to an officer, the union says, because he was guaranteed confidentiality when the investigation into his conduct took place. Steve Thompson/The Washington Post.
SUPPORT GROWS FOR CORRECTIONS OMBUDSMAN: Support is coalescing behind legislation that would create an ombudsman’s office, modeled in part after prison watchdogs in other states and in part on the Juvenile Justice Monitoring Unit already functioning under the attorney general’s office, where prisoners in the state system could take their complaints. Ben Conarck/The Baltimore Banner.
HIGHER ED RECOMMENDATIONS TO MISS DEC. 1 DEADLINE: A legislative work group established to assess Maryland Higher Education Commission policies for authorizing degree programs was tasked with producing a report with recommendations by Dec. 1, but that’s not going to happen. Sen. Nancy King (D-Montgomery), a co-chair of the Program Approval Process Workgroup, said in a recent interview that a report may not be ready until January. William Ford/Maryland Matters.
OPINION: MOORE’s ROOKIE MISTAKES WITH O’s STADIUM, INNER HARBOR: Both the Orioles stadium deal between the state and O’s owner John Angelos, which turned out to be a non-binding memorandum of understanding, and developer David Bramble’s plan for the Inner Harbor were almost immediately met with skepticism and, in some cases, anger and disdain. What’s since become clear is that Gov. Wes Moore did not do his homework before getting out in front of the proposals. David Plymyer/Baltimore Brew.
MOORE EXEC ORDER TARGETS EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS: In order for Maryland to more easily preempt emergencies, Gov. Wes Moore issued an executive order last Monday establishing what will be known as state of preparedness declarations. “The safety and security of our residents is our top priority, and this executive order empowers us to act proactively in the face of potential threats,” Moore said in a statement Tuesday. Hannah Gaskill/The Baltimore Sun.
1st YEAR OF MOBILE SPORTS BETTING RAISES REVENUE, CONCERN: Sports betting was first legalized in Maryland in 2021, with online wagering starting in November 2022. In the year since, it has entertained bettors across the state to the tune of a predicted $4 billion in bets. With 15% of sportsbooks’ profits going to the state, it’s expected to raise at least $40 million for public education in its first year. However no money goes into the Problem Gambling Fund and the success of online sports betting has prompted some states, like Maryland, to consider internet gambling, or iGaming. Hayes Gardner/The Baltimore Sun.
STATE TO FINALLY GET $30 MILLION TOBACCO SETTLEMENT: Maryland will get over $30 million in disputed payments that the state was set to receive nearly 25 years ago, when the landmark settlement between tobacco companies and nearly every U.S. state was approved. A panel of arbitrators unanimously ruled Friday that the funds were owed to the state by tobacco giants Philip Morris USA Inc., the manufacturer of Marlboro and Parliament cigarettes, and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., which owns the Camel and Newport lines. Dan Belson and Tony Roberts/The Baltimore Sun.
NLRB ACCUSES TOWSON APPLE STORE OF WITHHOLDING BENEFITS: The top U.S. labor watchdog accused Apple of violating the National Labor Relations Act by withholding benefits from unionized employees at its Towson store, according to a complaint released Tuesday. The Towson Town Center store became the first unionized Apple store in the nation in June 2022 when its employees voted 65-33 to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Lia Russell/The Baltimore Sun.
O’s MERCHANDISE WORKERS PICKET OVER NEW OPERATOR: Dozens of Orioles merchandise employees and union allies picketed outside the Camden Yards team store on Black Friday, saying its new operator has slashed work hours and health care benefits. Taylor DeVille/The Baltimore Banner.
DEL. ROGERS TO SEEK HOUSE SEAT; TRONE GETS NEA BACKING: Del. Mike Rogers (D-Anne Arundel) this week confirmed that he’s joining the race in the 3rd congressional district. After almost 30 years in the Army and five years in the House of Delegates, Rogers said he views the potential to be in the House of Representatives as an extension of his public service. Rep. David Trone (D-6th) officially garnered the endorsement of the National Education Association in his run for U.S. Senate, based on a recommendation from the Maryland State Education Association. Josh Kurtz and William Ford/Maryland Matters.
COMMENTARY: FIRE SUPPRESSANT POSES RISK TO HEALTH, ENVIRONMENT: Since 1966, the fire suppressant AFFF has been used by firefighters to extinguish Class B fires, which stem from combustible and flammable liquids and gases such as gasoline, alcohol, jet fuel, lacquers and petroleum. However, this firefighting foam poses a major risk to the environment and to human health, since it contains PFAS, a group of highly toxic substances also known as “forever chemicals.” Under Maryland law, the use of AFFF for training and testing purposes is generally prohibited as of Oct. 1, 2021. But there is no legislation or regulation banning the use of AFFF in Maryland in emergency response situations. Jonathan Sharp/MarylandReporter.com.
HOWARD COUNTY’s SCHOOL BUS CRISIS: WHAT HAPPENED? Correspondence between the Howard County Public School System and its largest bus contractor Zum sheds new light on the missteps that led to a chaotic start to the school year, when 2,400 students were left without a ride to school and many more arrived home hours after the last bell. Daniel Zawodny/The Baltimore Banner.