State Roundup: Biden will take aerial tour of collapsed bridge today; Moore appoints interim tax assessment director; bill to bar book bans passes

BIDEN WILL TAKE AERIAL TOUR OF COLLAPSED BRIDGE TODAY: President Joe Biden on Friday will take an aerial tour with Democratic Gov. Wes Moore of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, meet with families of the six men killed and receive an update on the massive cleanup and rebuilding efforts that he’s promised the federal government will pay for. Biden, a Democrat seven months away from an election rematch with former Republican President Donald Trump, has vowed to support Baltimore since a shipping vessel hit the Key Bridge on March 26. Sam Janesch/The Baltimore Sun

GOV. MOORE APPOINTS INTERIM TAX ASSESSMENT DIRECTOR: Gov. Wes Moore on Thursday announced the appointment of Daniel K. Phillips as interim director of the State Department of Assessments and Taxation. Phillips has worked with SDAT for 35 years and since 2020 has served as SDAT State Supervisor of the Real Property Division. Colleen Johnson/WBFF (FOX)

  • Phillips is replacing Director Michael Higgs, whose continued role at SDAT appeared in jeopardy after it was learned that the agency failed to send assessment notices to about 100,000 people by the end of January as required by law. The error, if left unfixed, could cost county and municipal governments nearly $200 million over three years. Bryan Sears/Maryland Matters

BILL AIMING TO PREVENT BOOK BANS IN MD. PASSES: A bill that aims to counteract book banning and protect public and school librarians passed the Maryland General Assembly Thursday, marking a bold statement from lawmakers in the face of a growing culture of book challenges locally and across the country. The Freedom to Read Act, sponsored by Montgomery County’s Sen. Nancy King (D-Dist. 39) in the Senate and by Anne Arundel County’s Del. Dana Jones (D-Dist. 30A) in the House, also was supported by several major organizations. Ginny Bixby/MoCo360

BILL WOULD MANDATE MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT: Maryland’s Senate is set to vote on a bill that could impose court-ordered mental health treatments for people whose significant mental health needs lead to frequent hospitalizations or interactions with law enforcement. Maryland is one of three states without a law regarding so-called “assisted outpatient treatment.” Danielle J. Brown/Maryland Matters

ERA ADVOCATES KEEP PUSHING: Despite more than a century-long push, the fate of the Equal Rights Amendment still sits in the hands of a deeply divided Congress, as well as various state legislatures, while debate continues over a controversial ratification deadline. Katharine Wilson of Capital News Service/Baltimore Post-Examiner

LAWMAKERS PASS BILL TO MAKE MENTAL HEALTH HOTLINE PERMANENT: Maryland lawmakers passed a bill to permanently fund the 988 mental health hotline in the state with a fee on residents’ cell phones. The 25-cent-a-month fee on all registered mobile phones is expected to bring in more than $25 million a year to hire staff and improve the technology at call centers.  Scott Maucione/WYPR-FM

VEHICLE REGISTRATION HIKE WOULD FUND TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS, EDUCATION AND EMERGENCY SERVICES: Passenger car owners in Maryland will see at least a $92 increase in the cost to register a vehicle as part of a package of fees meant to shore up the Transportation Trust Fund. The House and Senate are expected to vote as early as Friday on the package, which is part of a budget compromise between the two chambers on Thursday. That compromise will pump more than $2.1 billion over the next five years into road and transit projects, education and Shock Trauma and emergency services. Bryan P. Sears/Maryland Matters

GREEN GROUPS SAY BUDGET AMENDMENT GUTS PROGRAM TO CURB POLLUTION IN BUILDINGS: As the General Assembly moves towards a final vote on the state budget Friday, environmentalists have become alarmed over a recently inserted amendment that they believe guts and delays an innovative program to curb pollution in buildings and help ratepayers reduce their utility bills. Josh Kurtz/Maryland Matters

AFTER BURNING BRIDGES IN BALTIMORE, WILL HOGAN HAVE A ROLE IN REBUILDING ONE?: Since the cataclysmic Key Bridge collapse last week, former Gov. Larry Hogan has issued the requisite expressions of sympathy and support. He has said he is lobbying Republican lawmakers to back federal funding for a new bridge. He has met with the head of the longshoreman’s association. Yet he’s been relatively quiet — and many local leaders say Hogan’s tense history with Baltimore makes his words ring hollow, especially as he campaigns for an open U.S. Senate seat. Julie Scharper, Jess Nocera & Emily Sullivan/The Baltimore Banner

OPINION: BEICHLER CASE HOLDS A HARSH MIRROR UP TO OLSZEWSKI ADMINISTRATION: A police investigation launched on a flimsy pretext against a whistleblower is sending vibes of the Spiro Agnew era in Baltimore County. David A. Plymyer/Baltimore Brew

OPINION: POLITICAL PREDICTIONS; SPENDING IN 3RD CD; ANGRY OVER GAZA: “I am not heartbroken about Gaza. I am angry. I am angry about the dead children, the dead women, the dead grandfathers, the dead aid workers. But particularly the dead journalists.” 95 journalists have been killed so far, mostly Palestinians. Len Lazarick/Maryland Reporter

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