The Baltimore City Council has approved the so-called “ban the box” bill; Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is expected to sign the measure into law. Plus: two debates are set for the Democrats running to be Maryland’s next Attorney General, new numbers on high school graduation rates, an investigation into a fish kill in the Chesapeake Bay, and more.
The Box Is Banned: A long-debated bill aimed at helping ex-offenders find jobs in Baltimore has won the approval of the City Council. The legislation would forbid employers from conducting criminal background checks on most job applicants until conditional job offers are made. It’s called the “ban the box” bill, named after a box on many applications that job seekers are asked to check if they have criminal records. City Councilman Nick Mosby, the bill’s sponsor, says passing the measure sends a message that “This is a city that’s serious about not discriminating against ex-offenders and to provide folks with the best opportunities possible.” The bill passed the Council last night on in a 10-4 vote, despite a last minute effort by business leaders to remove penalties that include a fine and jail time. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is expected to sign the bill into law. WYPR’s Kenneth Burns has more here. And there’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.
E-Cigarette Legislation Goes Before City Council: Also at yesterday’s Baltimore City Council meeting, lawmakers got a first look at a bill that would prohibit the use of e-cigarettes wherever smoking is forbidden. The bill was introduced by City Councilman James Kraft. It would also extend the laws that regulate tobacco distribution to e-cigarettes. The Daily Record notes that a similar bill died in the General Assembly this year.
Attorney General Debates: Maryland's three Democratic candidates for Attorney General have agreed to two debates, in advance of the June 24th primary election. As the Baltimore Sun reports, State Senator Brian Frosh and Delegates Aisha Braveboy and Jon Cardin will face off May 19th at the University of Maryland College Park and June 9th at the University of Baltimore School of Law. That last debate will take place the same week as Maryland’s early voting period begins, on June 12th. There won’t be any debates on the Republican side, as Towson attorney Jeffrey Pritzker is running for his party’s nomination unopposed.
High School Graduation Rates: New numbers are out on Maryland’s high school graduation rate. Data from the Department of Education indicate that the national average freshman graduation rate hit 80 percent for the school year that ended in 2012. That was the highest national graduation rate ever recorded. But Maryland’s was higher, at 84 percent. That’s a full percentage point better than it was the year before. There’s more here from WJZ.
Diesel Trucks At Port Of Baltimore To Be Replaced: The Maryland Port Administration is getting $750-thousand from the federal government to buy new trucks. The EPA announced the grant yesterday. It’ll be used to replace diesel trucks that haul cargo at the Port of Baltimore with vehicles that put out less pollution. Governor Martin O’Malley tells the Baltimore Sun that the lower emissions from the new trucks will help communities near the port “breathe a little easier.”
Fish Kill Investigation Underway: A fish kill was spotted near Baltimore yesterday, stretching from Fells Point out into the Chesapeake Bay. State officials tell the Baltimore Sun that up to 1-thousand fish may have died in the incident, most of them Atlantic menhaden. Officials note that warm weather frequently sees such die-offs to local waters. Algae blooms, which suck oxygen out of the water, are often a culprit… but a preliminary investigation hasn’t uncovered any evidence of one. State officials are now testing the water to determine what caused the fish to die. The results of the water samples are expected in about a week.
Neuman To Deliver Anne Arundel County Budget Message On Thursday: Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman is preparing to tell her constituents how she thinks their tax dollars should be spent. Neuman will unveil her fiscal year 2015 budget on Thursday. She'll deliver her annual budget message at 11 a.m. in Anne Arundel County Council Chambers in Annapolis; there’s more here.
Patterson Park’s Cannons: The cannons of Patterson Park are getting a makeover. The Park’s seven historic cannons are being removed so they can be restored and returned in time for a festival to mark the Battle of Baltimore's bicentennial in September. Cannon expert Forrest Taylor tells the Baltimore Sun that some of the cannons date back to the Revolutionary War, or earlier.
Baltimore Baseball: The Orioles are gearing up to start a two-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight; first pitch at Camden Yards is set for 7:05pm – provided that the showers and thunderstorms in this evening’s forecast don’t intervene.