Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Congressman Chris Van Hollen defend the Affordable Care Act – while acknowledging shortcomings of its rollout. Mike Pantelides will be sworn in today as Annapolis’s mayor. Plus: MD’s minimum wage, O’Malley’s trip to Brazil, and more.
Rawlings-Blake, Van Hollen Talk Up Affordable Care Act: Two Maryland politicians took to the national TV airwaves yesterday to talk about the rollout of the Obama Administration’s signature health care law. 8th District Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake appeared on NBC’s “Meet The Press” to defend the Affordable Care Act – but also, to acknowledge the shortcomings of its rollout. Mayor Rawlings-Blake said that the Obama Administration “botched” the rollout of the online health insurance exchange… and Representative Van Hollen said that Maryland’s exchange is “a mess.” But both Democratic lawmakers said that fixes are being made… and urged lawmakers from the other side of the aisle to assist in getting the exchanges running smoothly. Over the weekend, the Obama administration said it had met its self-imposed deadline of fixing the healthcare.gov website for the “vast majority” of users. And last week, governor Martin O’Malley said that he hopes the biggest problems with the state’s health exchange– the Maryland Health Connection – will be fixed by the middle of December. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.
Pantelides Takes Office: About a month ago, Annapolis elected its first Republican mayor since 1997… and today, Mike Pantelides will take office. The ceremony starts this afternoon at 3; at it, the eight members of the Annapolis City Council will also be sworn in. The ceremony will include speeches from Greece’s ambassador to the US and House Speaker Michael Busch; it’s open to the public, and will take place at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts on Chase St. Even as mayor-elect, Pantelides is getting to work. On Saturday, he sat down with a group of public safety officials to be briefed on Annapolis’s emergency response plans, and to learn his role within them. The Capital Gazette reports that the meeting was mostly focused on Annapolis’s snow emergency plans. Yesterday, he appointed a new city attorney – replacing an appointee put in office in 2010 by outgoing mayor Josh Cohen. The Capital Gazette reports that Cohen has told key members of the city staff that they should anticipate being replaced.
O’Malley Visits Brazil: Governor Martin O’Malley will spend the next week working to strengthen economic and cultural ties between Maryland and South and Central America. He’s in Sao Paolo, Brazil today – along with a delegation that includes representatives from more than 30 Maryland-based companies, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, and officials from Maryland universities and the Port of Baltimore. O’Malley says the Port of Baltimore imports more cargo, in tonnage, from Brazil than any other country in the world. O’Malley will remain in Brazil through the end of the week; he’ll then spend two days in El Salvador before returning to Maryland. O’Malley’s itinerary is here; there’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.
Advocates For Higher Minimum Wage Prep For 2014 Session: Maryland’s minimum wage is likely to be a major issue in next year’s General Assembly session. Prince George’s County Delegate Aisha Braveboy tells the Daily Record that she plans to sponsor a bill that would raise the rate from its current $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour, phased in over three years. The minimum wage would then be tied to the consumer price index, to ensure that it keeps going up. The legislation would also expand the number of people eligible for the minimum wage. And it would up the rate for wait staff from its current 50 percent of the statewide rate to 70 percent. A coalition of labor unions is backing the plan, and Delegate Braveboy says she thinks it will pass. Last week, lawmakers in two Maryland counties – Montgomery and Prince George’s – voted to raise their minimum wages to $11.50 an hour; lawmakers in Washington DC are set to vote on similar legislation this week.
Illness: A Barrier To Attending School A significant percentage of the more than 85-thousand students in Maryland who miss 20 or more days of school a year is chronically absent because of illness. The exact number is not known because education officials have only just started tracking these students. In this installment of our series “Empty Desks: The Effects of Chronic Absenteeism,” WYPR’s Gwendolyn Glenn talks to sick students about their challenges… and to school officials about programs in place to help them.
Will Maryland Have Its Own Fiscal Fight? WYPR's Fraser Smith and Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com talk about the state's fiscal deficit and the O'Malley administration efforts to raise the state's authorized debt. It’s this morning’s edition of Inside Maryland Politics.
Weekend Ammonia Leak In Hampden: Stores are back open in the heart of Baltimore’s Hampden business district – after being shut down for much of Saturday, because of an ammonia leak. The leak was reported at around 7:30 on Saturday morning; Fire Department officials tell the Baltimore Sun that the leak was caused by a faulty compressor. HAZMAT crews had to shut down the 36-hundred block of Falls Road while the ammonia was cleared; no one was injured by the leak. Businesses are now tallying up the losses from Saturday’s forced closures.
Lights Are Up For Hampden’s Miracle On 34th Street: Hampden’s “Miracle on 34th Street” got underway over the weekend. The 700 block of west 34th street is now lit up with an estimated million-plus holiday lights; it’s part of a decades-long holiday tradition. The street will be twinkling every night in December. There’s more here from WJZ and here from the Baltimore Sun.