Maryland leaders honor the memory of former South African President Nelson Mandela. Plus: Brown takes responsibility for online exchange problems, Harris proposes Obamacare change, news from last night’s meeting of the Baltimore City Council, weekend MARC service, and more.
Maryland Marks Mandela’s Passing: Maryland leaders are honoring the memory of former South African President Nelson Mandela, who died yesterday at the age of 95. Senator Ben Cardin says that with Mandela’s death yesterday, “humanity has lost one of its greatest leaders.” Senator Barbara Mikulski says that as the world celebrates his life, we should “recommit ourselves to the cause of freedom and equality.” 7th District Congressman Elijah Cummings says that with Mandela’s passing, the world has “lost an exemplary model of the kind of person we should all aspire to be.” 4th District Congresswoman Donna Edwards says Mandela’s “lasting legacy is the belief that we must live free ‘in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.’ Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says she will continue to look to the example Mandela set, and urge all of Baltimore to do the same to strengthen and grow the city. And City Council President “Jack” Young says Mandela’s legacy will forever endure and inspire men and women for generations to come. WJZ has more here.
Brown Takes Responsibility For Online Exchange Problems: Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown says he shares in the responsibility for the faulty roll-out of the state's health care exchange. The Baltimore Sun notes that Brown was given one of the lead roles in the Affordable Care Act project. During an event for his gubernatorial campaign in Silver Spring yesterday, Brown said he might support an inquiry into the problems, although that should wait until the website is fixed. As the Washington Post reports, state Attorney General and gubernatorial rival Doug Gansler has been alleging that Brown has been "ducking responsibility" for the website's woes. Brown says new numbers on the state exchange's performance will be released today and says he'll meet with reporters next week and on a regular basis to provide updates on fixing the exchange's problems.
Harris Proposes Change To Obamacare: 1st District Congressman Andy Harris has proposed a change to the Affordable Care Act that he says would allow a rollback of the federal budget cuts known as sequestration. The Republican Harris wants to require states to pay a larger share of the money necessary to expand Medicaid under the Obamacare law. Currently, the federal government is set to pay 100 percent of the cost of new enrollees in Medicaid for a couple years. Harris wants to shift some of that cost to the states. Only half of the states have agreed to the Medicaid expansion – Maryland is one of them – and the Baltimore Sun reports that Harris’s proposal would only affect those states, and not the ones that have opted out. The liberal advocacy group “Americans United for Change” says Harris’s plan represents “another attempt to sabotage the Affordable Care Act by the Republican party.”
O'Malley & Brown Struggle To Provide Answers On Health Exchange: WYPR's Fraser Smith and Karen Hosler talk about Governor O'Malley's pre-Thanksgiving press conference on the state's health care exchange and the controversy surrounding the main contractor hired to build the site. It’s this morning’s edition of Inside Maryland Politics.
“Ban The Box” Legislation Proposed: Baltimore could be the first city in the county to prevent employers from asking job applicants to tell employers whether or not they’ve been convicted of a crime. That’s according to City Councilman Nick Mosby, who’s proposing a measure called “ban the box” – the box in question is a common feature on job applications, requiring seekers to check it if they’ve been convicted of a crime. Councilman Mosby says his proposal does not prevent employers from conducting background checks after candidates are interviewed. His goal is to get applicants interviewed – particularly those convicted of minor offenses.
Resolution On Sex Offenders Proposed: Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke is calling on the state to allow the past history of accused sex offenders to be admitted as evidence during trials. Clarke proposed a resolution to that effect in last night’s City Council meeting. Right now, it’s up to a judge to decide whether to include a defendant’s history -- while a victims past history is allowed automatically. Clarke says that’s unfair. Councilwoman Clarke says that the story of registered sex offender Nelson Clifford brought the issue to the forefront. Clifford has been acquitted of four rape cases and is scheduled to face a fifth trial next month.
Harbor Point Development Moves Forward: Baltimore’s planned Harbor Point development has cleared a key hurdle from environmental regulators. Yesterday, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency sent letters to project manager Beatty Development approving a revised development plan. The original plan was rejected by regulators in October, partly because proposals monitoring the environmental safeguards were based on faulty data. The new plan uses equipment recommended by regulators. The developers of Harbor Point still have to submit a final plan for air monitoring; approval for that could come early next year Harbor Point will be home to Exelon’s new Baltimore headquarters.
What You Need To Know About MARC’s Weekend Service: MARC trains will begin weekend service this weekend. There’ll be nine roundtrips each Saturday and six more each Sunday, all on the Penn Line. The schedule is here. And WYPR’s Joel McCord has more here.
Minimum Wage Legislation: A bill to raise the minimum wage in Montgomery County is now law with the signature of County Executive Ike Leggett. Yesterday’s action means the rate will go from the current $7.25 an hour to $8.40 in October of next year… the first step of a gradual increase that will see the rate reach $11.50 an hour in 2017. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Prince George's County and Washington DC are close to final approval of bills lifting the minimum wage to $11.50 in their jurisdictions. And the General Assembly is expected to take up legislation that would raise the minimum wage statewide in next year’s session; the idea has the support of Governor Martin O’Malley. More online here.
Baltimore Homicides For 2013 Now Higher Than 2012: Baltimore City has now seen more murders this year than it had in the entirety of 2012. As the Baltimore Sun reports, a homicide reported last night was the city's 218th of this year. This will be the second straight year that Baltimore’s murder rate has increased. In 2011, there were 197 murders in the city, the fewest in more than 20 years.
MD Casinos Post Strong November: Maryland’s casino gambling program had another strong month in November. According to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, the state's four casinos generated about $66.8-million last month. The Maryland Live casino in Hanover pulled in more than $53.4-million, which is up nearly 56-percent from a year ago. Excluding the Rocky Gap casino, which opened in May, overall casino revenue increased by 47-percent, compared to November 2012. The Baltimore Sun has more here.
Baltimore Football: The Ravens take on the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. The game’s set to start at 1pm. And the game could be accompanied by some winter weather; the National Weather Service is calling for "freezing rain or rain and sleet with snow likely" on Sunday. Exactly what the storm has in store for us is unclear… but forecasters say areas to the west of I-95 have the best chance of seeing frozen precipitation, with mostly rain closer to the bay.