COUNTY LEADERS SEEK WAYS TO AVERT GUTTING LOCAL ROADS PRIORITIES: A day after a public announcement to cut more than $3 billion in transportation projects, county officials are pushing for answers and a way to avert the gutting of local road and transit priorities. Leaders from the state’s 24 major political subdivisions arrived in Cambridge for the annual Maryland Association of Counties winter conference with more questions than answers and a growing sense of frustration. Bryan Sears/Maryland Matters.
I-81 AMONG DOZENS PROJECTS FACING POSSIBLE CUTS: Money for Interstate 81 was in the plans of multiple governors, the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly said thanks, and the state’s new transportation secretary acknowledged both the “partnership” with local officials and their safety concerns. Yet millions of dollars, $68 million to be exact, has been scheduled by the state Department of Transportation to be reduced on the project, designed to widen a 3.5 mile stretch of the highway. Dwight Weingarten/The Hagerstown Herald Mail.
JUVENILE JUSTICE REFORM ACT CONSEQUENCES, CHANGES MULLED: Attending the MACo winter conference, local officials discussed how new state laws, specifically Juvenile Justice Reform and Child Interrogation Protection Act bills passed last year, are working. Laurel Police Chief Russell Hamill said the reform has created “unintended consequences.” Part of the law states an officer “cannot conduct a custodial interrogation” of a child until an attorney has been consulted. Prior to the law, Hamill said, officers were allowed to talk with youth after an alleged crime occurred and could find out more information such as whether that child is physically abused, homeless or just hungry. William Ford/Maryland Matters.
- The House Judiciary Committee held its third briefing on juvenile justice reform Tuesday, this time with representatives from a national policy organization, a local judge and six nonprofit organizations that work with troubled youth. The committee organized briefings in the fall to assess juvenile reforms as some lawmakers and community leaders said crime has increased, especially among youth. William Ford/Maryland Matters.
STATE MILITARY BASES SEARCH FOR PFAS IN GROUNDWATER: Maryland military facilities are in the early stages of remedial investigations into “forever chemicals” that jeopardize drinking water supplies in groundwater after a September report by the Department of Defense identified hundreds of military sites across the country as at risk for such chemicals. Fatema Hosseini and Cecelia Shilling of Capital News Service/MarylandReporter.com.
EDITORIAL: PROTECTING JUDGES SHOULD NOT LESSEN TRANSPARENCY: As lawmakers seek to find ways to protect judges from violence, such as befell Judge Andrew Wilkinson, who was shot to death in the driveway of his Hagerstown home by an angry father, we need to decide how far we will go to shield them. “Creating a cloak of secrecy around them denies journalists and other watchdogs a key tool in tracking personal finances — and a home is often an individual’s largest single investment. A residential address also is critical in tracking down public records that could touch on a variety of potential civil and criminal entanglements.” The Editorial Board/The Baltimore Sun.
STATE BUDGET ISSUES AT TOP OF CAMBRIDGE FORUM: State budget issues were on the minds of those gathered at a legislative forum hosted by the Dorchester Chamber of Commerce. When it comes to the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, for example, Speaker Pro Tem Sheree Sample-Hughes said the state won’t have enough money in the budget to cover what has been proposed until 2027. She also brought up fuel tax funds, which have decreased in the state due to the increase in electronic vehicles. “Do we put in fees for these electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles so we can come out into somewhat of a balanced budget?” she asked. Maggie Trovato/The Easton Star Democrat.
CHAUDRY REINSTATED TO HATE CRIMES COMMISSION: The Maryland Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday reinstated a member of the state’s Commission on Hate Crime Response and Prevention who had been suspended over social media posts about the Israeli government’s military actions in Gaza, saying in a statement that the office lacked the authority to remove her. Ovetta Wiggins/The Washington Post.
- Zainab Chaudry, the director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Maryland, was reinstated two weeks after she was suspended. According to a press release from Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown, the law “does not provide the Attorney General the authority to remove a Commissioner before the expiration of their term nor the authority to suspend a Commissioner during their term of service.” Ginny Bixby/MoCo 360.
POLITICAL NOTES: DELEGATE BECOMES SENATOR: With a gathered crowd of loved ones, civic-minded Marylanders and legislators primarily from his native Prince George’s, District 25 Del. Nick Charles officially became Sen. Charles on the morning of Dec. 5. Greenbelt Council member Brandon “Ric” Gordon, 41, a dedicated community servant, died on Sunday, Nov. 26. Richard Elliott/The Washington Informer.
STATE VIOLATION? BA CO COUNCIL CHAIR CALLED MEMBERS TO PRIVATE MEETING: After sending out amendments that would drastically limit the powers of Baltimore County’s inspector general, the chair of the County Council, Julian E. Jones Jr., summoned his fellow politicians to a private meeting about the changes. The 5 p.m. meeting called by Jones appears to be in direct violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Act. Mark Reutter/Baltimore Brew.
ARUNDEL SCHOOLS TURNS TO SCIENCE READING INSTRUCTION: Anne Arundel County’s public school system is trying again to embrace the science of reading instruction, finally letting go of a teaching method that has been rejected by literacy researchers, 22 other school districts in Maryland and most U.S. states. Kristen Griffith and Liz Bowie/The Baltimore Banner.
HOWARD BUS DRIVERS TO VOTE ON UNION: Howard County Public School bus drivers, aides, and monitors employed by Zum Transportation Services plan to vote on union representation next week, following widespread issues at the start of the school year and problems that have persisted since then. Aliza Worthington/Baltimore Fishbowl.
PG OFFICERS ‘NOT GUILTY’ IN FATAL SHOOTING OF HANDCUFFED MAN: Michael Owen Jr., the first Prince George’s County police officer to be charged with murder for actions taken in uniform, was found not guilty on all the counts he faced in the fatal shooting of a handcuffed man, including second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. Staff/The Washington Post.
ROBERT DUBEL, FORMER SUPER OF BA CO SCHOOLS, DIES AT 98: Robert Y. Dubel, the popular former superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools who led the system for nearly two decades, died Nov. 29. He was 98. Former state Superintendent of Public Schools Nancy Grasmick considered him an icon and a mentor, saying his death leaves “a very big hole in my life. He was an icon to me. He was a mentor to me for 47 years, and even though I had moved onto the state Department of Education, he’d still call me and help me resolve issues.” Frederick Rasmussen/The Baltimore Sun.