Baltimore County schools are on a two-hour delay today, as are schools in Caroline, Howard, and Talbot counties. Plus: MD's unemployment rate, medical marijuana, pre-kindergarten, another data breach, and more.
School Delays / Academic Calendars: The following schools are opening two hours late on this Tuesday morning: Baltimore County schools, Caroline County schools, Howard County schools, and Talbot County schools. School systems in Maryland are hoping state officials will provide them some relief when it comes to making up classes lost to snow days. All 24 districts have exceeded the number of snow days built into their academic calendars and many have nearly a week to make up. The school year in Maryland is a minimum of 180 days. It's unclear if the state agree to shorten the calendar.
MD Loses Jobs While Unemployment Rate Falls: Maryland lost 98-hundred jobs in January, according to numbers released yesterday by the US Labor Department. Economists say that the winter snowstorms that hit our state in January are likely responsible for the drop. But even as the state lost jobs, the state’s unemployment rate fell to 5.8%, from 6.1% the month before. Economists tell the Baltimore Sun that the discrepancy between the figures could be caused by a higher number of Marylanders commuting to DC or Virginia for work. Governor Martin O’Malley says that, despite last month’s job losses, the state’s economy shows “signs of strength.” There’s more here from the Baltimore Business Journal and here from the Daily Record.
Alleged Illegal Fees at Heart Of Class Action: The tenants of a Baltimore-based property manager have gone to court in an effort to shed light on an alleged billing practices have left them thousands of dollars in debt. WYPR’s Kenneth Burns reports that the class action suit seeks $75,000 in damages for current and past tenants of Sage Management.
Medical Marijuana: The House of Delegates has approved legislation that would revise Maryland’s medical marijuana law. The bill would give specially licensed doctors the authority to prescribe marijuana to patients with debilitating medical issues. Under current law, the distribution of medical marijuana is limited to academic medical centers – none of which have agreed to take part in the program. If the State Senate approves the House bill – and if it’s signed into law by Governor O’Malley – it would replace the current law. O’Malley has not indicated whether he would sign the bill. There’s more here from the Washington Post and here from the Baltimore Sun.
Pre-K Expansion: The House of Delegates yesterday approved a bill that would expand Maryland’s pre-kindergarten program. The measure would make about 1,600 more children eligible for it, by allowing kids from families with incomes at or below 300% of federal poverty guidelines to take part. The measure has the backing of Gov. Martin O’Malley, who included $4.3 million in his budget proposal to pay for the expansion. The State Senate has approved its own version of the legislation; the Senate would have to approve the House bill, or vice versa, to send a pre-K expansion to the governor. Expanding pre-kindergarten has become an issue in the 2014 governor’s race, with the top three Democrats vying for their party’s nomination offering competing plans. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun and here from the Annapolis Capital.
Other Bills: The House approved several other measures yesterday, including a bill that would allow some ex-offenders to shield their misdemeanor criminal records from online background checks, and another bill that would allow wind farms to go up on preserved farmland. The State Senate hasn’t yet acted on these measures.
New Governor’s Race Poll: Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown has a large lead in the Democratic race for governor, according to a new poll conducted for the Maryland State Education Association. The survey of likely voters was conducted by GBA Strategies; 48 percent of those surveyed say they would vote for Brown in the June 24th primary. Nineteen percent of those polled said they support state Atty. Gen. Doug Gansler and 9 percent for Montgomery County Del. Heather Mizeur. Eighteen percent of voters were undecided. The poll has a margin of error of 4.8 percentage points.
Another Data Breach: News out yesterday of another data breach: nearly 10,000 Marylanders could be affected by the hacking of a state contractor's computer systems. State health officials say the names and Social Security numbers of about 9,700 Marylanders with intellectual and developmental disabilities were exposed. The data was on the computer system of Service Coordination Inc, which provides case management for more than 10,000 Marylanders with disabilities. The Baltimore Sun notes that the breach occurred back in October; the Sun reports that an investigation has already taken place, and that law enforcement officials have identified the alleged hacker and seized equipment and accounts from that person.
Downtown Frederick Ranked Among Nation’s Best Downtowns: Downtown Frederick has been ranked among the best downtowns in the nation. The ranking was conducted by livability.com, which cited downtown Frederick’s retail amenities, recreational facilities, and emphasis on historic preservation as reasons for the high marks. It also cited the Arts and Entertainment District designation given to downtown Frederick, which has helped bring artists into the area. Frederick’s downtown was ranked #6 on the list of top ten downtowns; the top slot went to Fort Worth, Texas. There’s more here from the Daily Record.