Wed July 16, 2014
Health Exchange Software Problems, O’Malley’s Fundraising, Winchester Graffiti, & SHA Safety Patrols
State officials vow that problems with the new software for Maryland’s online health insurance exchange will be fixed before the next open enrollment period. Governor Martin O’Malley raises nearly $800-thousand in the second quarter. The anti-immigrant graffiti spray-painted on a building in Westminster has been painted over. The Maryland State Highway Administration announces plans to increase safety patrols. Plus: an emergency response drill in the Inner Harbor, a residency requirement for Annapolis police is eliminated, Artscape is coming, & more.
Health Exchange Software Problems: State officials vow that problems with the new software for Maryland’s online health insurance exchange will be fixed before the next open enrollment period. After a glitch-filled rollout of the state’s exchange last year, Maryland officials moved to replace the original software with software used in Connecticut’s exchange. But the Daily Record reports that issues with Connecticut’s software recently resulted in nearly six-thousand people in that state losing their coverage. State officials say the issue will be corrected before Maryland needs to use the technology; at a meeting yesterday with a state legislative oversight committee, officials say the problem should be resolved later this month… and that they think the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange website will be running smoothly when the next open enrollment period starts, in November. The Baltimore Sun has more.
O’Malley’s Fundraising, Possible Presidential Bid: As Governor Martin O’Malley continues to mull a bid for the presidency in 2016, his two federal political committees have been raking in the dough. The Baltimore Sun reports that the committees raised nearly $800-thousand during the second quarter of this year. That’s a better fundraising haul than O’Malley made during the entire second half of last year. As he considers a presidential campaign, O’Malley has been touring the country, speaking before state and local parties, and campaigning for fellow Democrats in the mid-terms. He’s also been donating some of the money he’s brought in to some candidates. If O’Malley does launch a presidential campaign, he’d likely face former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the primary; while Clinton hasn’t said whether she’ll run, polls indicate that she’d dominate the field if she gets into the race.
Westminster Anti-Immigrant Graffiti Painted Over: The anti-immigrant message spray-painted on a building in Westminster is no longer visible after someone covered it over with paint. The original graffiti was painted on the former Army reserve center sometime over the weekend after the federal government said it was considering the site as a temporary shelter some of the children fleeing violence in Central America who’ve crossed over the US/Mexico border in recent months. Officials ultimately rejected using the site for that purpose. Maryland State Police say they are investigating the graffiti as a hate crime; they tell the Carroll County Times that they don’t know the identity of the culprit, but have received many tips. Police say they also don’t know who painted over the graffiti.
SHA Announces Expansion: The Maryland State Highway Administration has announced plans to spend $15-million over the next six years to expand its program of highway safety patrols. The SHA will also increase the hours during which crews will be available to assist disabled motorists in the Baltimore and Washington metro areas; currently, those crews work from 5am to 9pm; they’ll now be working 24/7. The SHA will also put up more cameras to monitor traffic condition… over the next two years, the number of cameras will increase until it reaches nearly 300. The Capital Gazette has more here; there’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.
Mediation Between Howard County Schools & Teachers’ Union To Begin: Mediation is expected to begin today in the stalled contract talks between the Howard County public school system and its teachers' union. An impasse was declared last month by the Howard County Education Association when issues like wages, step implementation and the length of the deal could not be resolved over the course of the school year. The president of the teachers’ union tells the Baltimore Sun that he's optimistic that mediation will produce a settlement soon.
Spinoff Date Set For Sun: The owner of the Baltimore Sun says it will spin off its publishing assets – including the Sun – into a new company at the beginning of next month. The Baltimore Business Journal reports that the Tribune Company is set to create the new Tribune Publishing Company on August 4th; stock in the new company will start trading on the 5th. In addition to the Sun, the new company will contain the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and other publishing properties.
FiOS Coverage In Towson: Baltimore County Councilman David Marks is questioning efforts by Verizon to fill in gaps in its FiOS coverage in Towson. Marks has sent Verizon a letter saying there's not enough progress in meeting the goal of full coverage for the area – which the Councilman says Verizon had promised to do by the end of this year. The telecommunications company disagrees; the Baltimore Sun reports that that Verizon says it only agreed to provide complete coverage in Towson by March 2016.
Residency Requirement For Annapolis Police Eliminated: Annapolis police officers are no longer required to live within 30 miles of the state’s capital. For the last three decades, the Annapolis City Code has contained that residency rule… but the Capital Gazette reports that it doesn’t appear to have been enforced for some time. And earlier this week, the City Council voted 9 to 0 to eliminate the rule, effective immediately. The Annapolis Police Department says the change will help them recruit and retain new officers.
Emergency Response Drill In The Inner Harbor: Federal, state and local agencies are conducting a full-scale emergency response exercise this morning in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. They’ll be conducting a drill to see how they’d respond to a distressed passenger vessel. City Police and Fire will participate along with Baltimore Water Taxi, Department of Natural Resources Police, the U.S. Coast Guard and Naval Reserve. Rescue flotation devices and dummies will be used in place of actors portraying victims. The exercise will take place from 8am until noon in the water near the 32-hundred block of Boston Street in Canton.
Artscape Is Coming: Preparations are under way for Artscape. “America’s largest free arts festival” takes place in Baltimore from Friday through Sunday, in areas around Penn Station… along Mount Royal Avenue and North Charles Street. Some streets are already closed… and more closures take effect tomorrow. More than 350-thousand people are expected to attend the event. The Baltimore Sun has more here.
Civil War Encampment Near Winchester: This coming weekend will bring excitement to the Union Mills Homestead outside of Westminster. This Saturday and Sunday will feature a Civil War Encampment complete with re-enactments of battles and artisans like a blacksmith and a miller. As many as 600 people are expected to attend the annual event, which will be held rain or shine.