Christopher Connelly | WYPR

Christopher Connelly

Christopher Connelly is a political reporter for WYPR, covering the day-to-day movement and machinations in Annapolis. He comes to WYPR from NPR, where he was a Joan B. Kroc Fellow, and then worked as rundown editor for All Things Considered. Chris has a master’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley. He’s reported for KALW (San Francisco), KUSP (Santa Cruz, Calif.) and KJZZ (Phoenix), and worked at StoryCorps in Brooklyn, N.Y. He’s filed stories on a range of topics, from a shortage of dog blood in canine blood banks to heroin addicts in Tanzania. He got his start in public radio at WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, when he was a student at Antioch College.

Recess at Eagle Mountain Elementary School in Fort Worth, Texas, looks much like recess anyplace else. Some kids run and squeal, others swing, while a half-dozen of their peers are bunched up on the slide.

Journey Orebaugh, a 6-year-old in an off-white princess dress, is playing family.

"You just get a bunch of people and just act like who you want to be," she says. Journey likes to play the mom.

  When police officers are accused of misconduct – whether it’s excessive use of force or other lesser abuses – the internal police investigations are governed by the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights. The rules were written into law in 1974 to protect the due process rights of accused officers, but they’ve become a flashpoint for activists who argue they impede transparency and accountability from their police departments. Yesterday, a panel of state lawmakers took up the question of reforming the so-called LEOBR.

Gov. Larry Hogan surprised Baltimore Thursday when he announced that he’ll be closing part of the city’s jail. The Men’s Detention Center, built in 1859, houses about 750 men who will be moved to nearby facilities. The decision comes after years of scandal and lawsuits.

“The Baltimore City Detention Center has been a black eye for our state for far too long,” Hogan said.

Lawmakers in Maryland charged with exploring potential policing reform measures heard from the public in Annapolis on Thursday. More than a dozen activists from a broad coalition of labor, civil rights and faith groups turned out to call for major changes to make law enforcement more accountable, transparent and community-oriented.

After South Carolina lawmakers voted to take down the confederate battle flag flying over the state capitol, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday said it’s a fine line to figure out whether the state’s historical monuments are symbols of oppression or of history.

Hogan, speaking with reporters in Annapolis, said the state is no longer making Sons of the Confederacy license plates, and that he thinks the flag in South Carolina should come down. But he said that the Civil War is part of the state’s history, and going much further verges on “political correctness run amok.”

Huge amounts of crude oil are passing through Maryland every year by rail. A dramatic expansion of oil and gas production in the US has left drillers with a central question: How do you get the crude from the oil fields in the middle of the country to  refineries on the coasts. Railroads have been a big part of the answer, but some high-profile accidents have left many cities wondering if they’re at risk.

Sen. Ben Cardin was in Baltimore yesterday talking up federal legislation he introduced in the wake of the unrest following the death of Freddie Gray. Cardin’s so-called BALTIMORE Act, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, is a push to improve police-community relations.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski was in Sandtown Monday to talk with clergy about criminal justice reforms at the federal level, and discussed measures being considered in the Senate aimed at strengthening police-community relations.

Mikulski is the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations committee.  That committee gave approval last week to a spending bill that includes initiatives Mikulski thinks can improve policing. She said the protests following the death of Freddie Gray from injuries sustained in police custodies put light to a problem that exists in communities across the nation.

Two environmental organizations are suing Gov. Larry Hogan for blocking proposed clean air regulations on his first day in office. The Sierra Club and Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility argue that the governor lacked the authority to pull back the rules aimed at reducing nitrogen oxides that are key ingredients in ozone.

Just before leaving office, the Maryland Department of the Environment under then-Gov. Martin O’Malley approved smog-combatting regulations that would have required coal-fired power plants to run pollution controls throughout the summer ozone season and forced upgrades to pollution control technology in older facilities.

A workgroup made up of Maryland lawmakers met today in Annapolis to start exploring potential policing and accountability reforms that can be done at the state level. It was a largely organizational meeting, but advocates ranging from the ACLU and the NAACP to Amnesty International and CASA de Maryland used the date as a chance to make it clear that advocates are ready to put pressure on lawmakers to make change happen.

The General Assembly's leadership convened the workgroup on public safety after protests against police use of force erupted across Baltimore following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray from injuries sustained while in police custody.

In a little less than a month, the six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray will be arraigned in Baltimore Circuit Court. There are a number of questions outstanding in this case –more will crop up as more details emerge – but some big ones have already developed.

Martin O’Malley is expected to launch his campaign for president on Federal Hill tomorrow morning. The former Maryland Governor and Baltimore Mayor has been positioning himself over the as a progressive David to challenge the Goliath that is a Hillary Clinton campaign. It’s a record some progressives in the state dispute.

Gov. Larry Hogan signed 350 bills on Tuesday that were passed in the recent General Assembly session that ended last month. The list included some police accountability measures, bills aimed at improving the state's business climate and pieces of his own legislative agenda.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan lifted the state of emergency on Wednesday that he initiated last Monday night after protests against the death of Freddie Gray turned into looting and rioting. The governor said there’s still a lot of work to be done to help the city recover and address the underlying cause of the rage that spilled out over the city’s streets.

A week after Baltimore’s mostly peaceful protests turned into riots, tensions flared again after a shot rang out at the intersection of Pennsylvania and North Avenues. Officers pursued a man carrying a handgun, which the police department says discharged when the revolver was dropped.

The streets of Baltimore were relatively clear after 10 o’clock on Tuesday night, due to a curfew instituted by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Black after rioters destroyed buildings and set fires across the city.

In the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood, home to Freddie Gray, where demonstrations throughout the day took on a fairly festive tone, many people streamed away as night fell and the curfew loomed. But a handful of activists committed to stay out and test the police.

Across Baltimore on Tuesday, volunteers and city workers fanned out to clean up damage caused by looters and riots last night after the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died from injuries suffered in police custody.

Despite the partisan budget stalemate that dominated headlines as the Maryland General Assembly session came to a close last week, lawmakers in Annapolis have been slowly moving in a new direction on drug policy and drawing support from both sides of the aisle.

  Maryland’s General Assembly went out of business for another year on Monday, ending a session that many hoped would signal the dawn of a new bipartisan era in a party line budget settlement.  GovLarry Hogan praised the legislature for its bipartisan work, but said he probably wouldn’t spend money Democrats set aside for public education, state worker pay and Medicaid and other safety net programs.

A budget showdown has been simmering in Annapolis, and with just a few days left before the end of the session, tensions are peaking. House Speaker Mike Busch and Gov. Larry Hogan had tough words for each other Thursday as the two leaders insist on preserving their priorities in the budget.

Busch drew a line in the sand, saying he won’t move forward on the governor’s budget priorities until he gets some assurances on priorities that House lawmakers have expressed.

Indiana is drawing fire over a religious freedom law that critics say protects people who want to discriminate based on religious principles, particularly against gays and lesbians. Sparks flew in Annapolis on Wednesday over how Maryland should respond.

After days of re-drafting and deliberation, a Senate committee moved forward Tuesday on Gov. Larry Hogan’s charter school reform legislation. But it did so after major re-working. In the end, all but one senator on the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee approved a charter reform bill that looked very little like Hogan’s proposal.

“Nobody’s going to be completely happy,” said Chairman Joan Carter Conway. “I haven’t been happy since the day I saw this bill.”

There are just more than two weeks until the end of the legislative session in Annapolis. News Director Joel McCord talked to WYPR’s Christopher Connelly about some of the big items in the state house this week. 


The two chambers of the Maryland General Assembly took up and passed separate bills related to the controversial drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on Tuesday. One would put a moratorium on fracking until a panel can study the potential public health consequences. The other sets strict standards to hold gas drillers accountable if those consequences occur.

Gov. Larry Hogan and the state’s Congressional delegation met Monday morning to discuss Maryland’s federal priorities, and bringing the new FBI headquarters to Maryland was at the top of the list. The project, with its 11,500 jobs, seemed enough to overcome any partisan differences between Maryland’s mostly Democratic congressional delegation and its Republican governor.

Even with the price of oil slowly inching up, gas prices at the pump are still some of the lowest we’ve seen in years. But whatever it costs to fill up your tank, in Annapolis there’s a debate simmering over how much the state should add to the gas tax.

Joe Getty used to be a senator on the state’s budget and tax committee. These days, though, he’s Governor Larry Hogan’s legislative director. The Carroll County Republican went back to his old committee this week to make the case for a key piece of his boss’s agenda: Stop the state’s gas tax from going up.

Five states allow physicians to help terminally ill patients end their lives. Now, the Maryland General Assembly is considering legalizing the practice here. Supporters call it death with dignity. Opponents say it’s physician-assisted suicide.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced new initiatives Tuesday to combat what he calls heroin emergency in the state. States across the East Coast have seen a dramatic rise in heroin. In Maryland, heroin-related deaths have nearly doubled since 2010, and now outpaces the state-wide homicide rate.

Hogan, who grew emotional while announcing the initiatives, said he knows first-hand the devastation of heroin addiction after he lost his cousin to an overdose. Still, he said he was surprised by how far-reaching the problem was when he was out campaigning throughout the state.

Beekeepers turned up in Annapolis on Tuesday to raise concerns about pesticides linked to beehive collapse and support a bill that would limit access to those chemicals. But Hogan administration officials voiced doubt on the science and the practicality of the proposed legislation.

  It was hotels versus the online travel agencies in Annapolis on Wednesday. At issue: Exactly how much taxes online travel companies should be paying.

When an online travel agent like Priceline or Travelocity books a room, they get it at a discount from the hotel chain. Then they mark it up and rent it to the customer – that’s how they make their money.

Online travel agents like Priceline and Travelicity make their money by negotiating discount rates with hotel chains, and then renting it to customers at a higher rate.

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