BGE Rates Rise, O’Malley Announces Fixes To Online Health Exchange, and MD’s Minimum Wage | WYPR

BGE Rates Rise, O’Malley Announces Fixes To Online Health Exchange, and MD’s Minimum Wage

Dec 16, 2013

Credit MyBGE via flickr

BGE’s electricity and gas distribution rates are going up. Governor Martin O’Malley says the “biggest technological problems” with the state’s online health insurance exchange are fixed. Plus: MD’s minimum wage, MD’s bail hearing system, Dance quits consulting job, the strategy for the Baltimore Police Department, and more.

BGE Rates Rise: Bills are going up for BGE customers– but not as much as the utility had hoped for. On Friday, Maryland’s Public Service Commission agreed to let BGE raise distribution rates for gas and electricity. The Capital Gazette reports that the average customer will see monthly bills rise by $2.86 a month. The hikes the PSC approved are less than half of what BGE requested – if the utility had won everything it asked for, bills would have gone up about $5.87 per month. The PSC has also granted limited approval to BGE’s proposal to add surcharges to electricity bills next year, with the proceeds paying for electricity grid upgrades. As part of a five year plan, BGE will add 8 cents per month to the average residential electricity bill next year. That surcharge will rise annually… and, in the year 2018, it’ll reach 36 cents a month. The Baltimore Sun notes that the Office of Peoples Counsel has already appealed a rate increase the PSC approved earlier this year for Washington-area utility Pepco. The consumer advocate says it could decide to appeal BGE’s rate increase as well. There’s more here from the Daily Record.

O’Malley Says Online Exchange Issues Are Fixed: Governor Martin O’Malley held a press conference on Saturday to announce that the “biggest technological problems” with the state’s online health insurance exchange have been fixed. As the Baltimore Sun reports, O’Malley said that all nine of the major issues with the website have now been addressed – including the site’s tendency to freeze while people try to sign up for plans. The Washington Post reports that the state now plans to begin a marketing campaign to encourage people without insurance to use the online exchange. O’Malley’s set a goal of having 150-thousand uninsured Marylanders to sign up for private plans by the end of March. The state’s online exchange has come under increasing criticism from Maryland lawmakers, including 6th District Congressman John Delaney – the Sun notes that Delaney has suggested that the state abandon its website and start using the one operated by the federal government.

A Tale of Two City Police Departments: Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts is repeating a strategy he used at his last command in Oakland, California; bring in a consultant and develop a plan to overhaul the department. WYPR’s Kenneth Burns looks at what went wrong in Oakland.

MD’s Minimum Wage: State legislative leaders say the General Assembly will consider legislation to raise Maryland’s minimum wage next year… but also say that not every county will likely end up having the same rate. On Friday, Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch said it’s unlikely that the legislature would sign off on raising the state minimum wage to $11.50 an hour – a minimum recently approved by lawmakers in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. The Baltimore Sun reports that Senate President Miller has floated setting the statewide minimum at $8.25 an hour, with the option for local jurisdictions to set higher rates. Miller also suggested an amendment to the state constitution that would tie the minimum wage to inflation.

MD’s Bail Hearing System: Today, Miller and Busch will meet with Governor O’Malley… to talk about how the General Assembly should address a ruling by the state’s highest court that defendants have a constitutional right to a lawyer at initial bail hearings. Maryland holds about 180-thousand bail hearings a year, and law enforcement officials have argued that there's not enough money to have a public defender at all of them. It’s been estimated that the state would need to spend more than $28-million a year to comply with the court’s ruling. The Washington Post reports that lawmakers are expected to consider several reforms to the current bail system during next year’s General Assembly session.

Will We See Jail-Related Bills In The General Assembly? WYPR's Fraser Smith and John Wagner of the Washington Post talk about what a state panel recommended for the corruption-plagued Baltimore City Detention Center, as well as the departure of Maryland corrections secretary Gary Maynard. It’s this morning’s edition of Inside Maryland Politics.

Dance Quits Consulting Job: Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance has resigned from a consulting job for a company that does work with the County school system. On Saturday, Dance e-mailed school board members to say that he would stop working for the Illinois-based SUPES Academy. He’d worked for the company to coach principals in Chicago. The Baltimore Sun reports that Dance maintains that nothing he did was wrong, but says that his work for SUPES had become an unwelcome distraction for his work for the County. The County Board of Education still plans to hold a closed door session tomorrow to discuss Dance’s work.

Barbot Addresses Infant Sleeping Deaths: Baltimore's health commissioner says she’s concerned about the high number of babies in the city who die while sleeping with a parent or caregiver. Dr. Oxiris Barbot tells the Baltimore Sun that there have been eleven confirmed cases of sleep-related infant deaths this year, which includes babies who were smothered by someone accidentally rolling over on them. The commissioner says these kinds of deaths are preventable; she urges parents to put babies to sleep alone, on their backs, in cribs.

Foxx Steps Down From DPW: Baltimore’s Department of Public Works is getting a new director. On Friday, Alfred H. Foxx announced that he’s stepping down from the post at the end of January; the Daily Record reports that current deputy director of the DPW Rudolph S. Chow will take over at the helm of the city’s largest department when Foxx leaves.

Baltimore Football: The Ravens are getting ready for tonight's matchup against the Detroit Lions on "Monday Night Football." Both teams are 7-and-6 and looking to make a push to the playoffs.  Kickoff is 8:40 on ESPN.