Wed March 26, 2014
School Schedule Changes, Snow Day Waivers, Medical Marijuana, Mays Chapel, & MD’s Budget
A roundup of this morning’s school delays and closures. Plus: snow day waivers, medical marijuana, MD’s budget, Frederick’s budget, Mays Chapel redistricting, the FBI headquarters, 25th Street Station, a contract vote for Baltimore County police, reservoir boating, and more.
School Schedules: Yesterday's snow has prompted several school schedule changes. 90-Minute Delay: Talbot County schools; 2-Hour Delay: Caroline County schools; Closed: Wicomico County schools and Worcester County schools.
School Systems Can Request Waivers For Making Up Snow Days: This snowy winter has busted the bank of snow days for every public school system in our state. Now, the systems have to figure out how to make those days up – options include extending the school year further into June, and holding class on days that students had earlier been scheduled to take off. Public schools are usually required to hold 180 days of class --– but after a ruling by the State School Board yesterday some systems could be partially exempt from that requirement. The board has voted to allow school systems to get waivers for up to five days. But the waivers aren’t automatic; under the plan, the state school superintendent will consider waiver requests on a case-by-case basis. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.
Maryland’s Budget: The House of Delegates today will start debate on Governor Martin O’Malley’s $38.9-billion budget proposal. The State Senate has already approved its version of the plan. The Baltimore Sun reports that O’Malley’s budget would increase state spending by 5%, but without imposing any new taxes. O’Malley’s plan also includes a 2% raise for state workers, and would increase spending on education programs. The proposal makes up for a budget shortfall by reducing planned supplemental payments into Maryland’s pension system. That latter provision faces criticism from Republican lawmakers, who yesterday unveiled their alternative budget proposal; the GOP plan would preserve the planned pension payments, and limit state spending to 1% above last year’s levels. The Annapolis Capital notes that Republicans offer alternative budgets every year, but those plans face long odds in the state legislature, where Democrats have a commanding majority.
Frederick’s Budget: Frederick Mayor Randy McClement will present his budget proposal for FY-2015 this afternoon at Frederick City Hall. Mayor McClement has told the Frederick News Post that he’s placing a priority on investing in infrastructure, economic development, the police department, and city staff. There will be several public hearings on the budget in the coming weeks, and Frederick’s Board of Aldermen will adopt whatever version emerges on May 15th.
Medical Marijuana: The State Senate’s Judicial Proceedings committee voted 10 to 1 yesterday to approve changes to Maryland’s medical marijuana program. The full Senate could take up the measure as soon as today. The Senate bill would create 94 medical marijuana dispensaries around the state, and would allow a state commission to decide how many growers would be licensed to produce the drug. That’s a major difference from a medical marijuana bill that’s already passed the House of Delegates, which would permit only 10 licensed growers in Maryland, and have those growers dispense the drug. Both bills are aimed at replacing a medical marijuana law that went into effect last year – that measure allows academic medical centers to dispense the drug, but no such centers have agreed to do so. There’s more here from the Frederick News Post, more here from the Washington Post, and more here from the Daily Record.
Mays Chapel Redistricting: The Baltimore County School Board last night settled the matter of which students will be going to the new Mays Chapel Elementary School. The board voted for the B-1 redistricting plan. That was the plan that was recommended to the board by a commission that studied the issue. Over the past few months, parents in the area have been divided over how redistricting lines between schools should be drawn in order to fill the new school and to relieve overcrowding. Mays Chapel Elementary will open in August. The Baltimore Sun has more here.
Baltimore County’s New School Security Cameras: All of Baltimore County's 107 elementary schools are now equipped with a network of security cameras. County officials yesterday unveiled the new "One View" system, which allows police and school officials to access surveillance footage in the schools from remote locations. The $3.7-million camera network was approved after the Perry Hall High School shooting at the beginning of last school year. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.
Maryland Hopes To Get FBI - And That Federal Workers Go Out To Lunch: WYPR's Fraser Smith and Karen Hosler talk about Maryland's efforts to lobby the federal government to relocate the FBI's headquarters to Prince Georges County, and why it might not be an easy sell. It’s this morning’s look Inside Maryland Politics.
“25th Street Station” Extension Hearing Delayed: A hearing on whether to grant an extension for the proposed “25th Street Station” development in Baltimore’s Remington neighborhood has been postponed. That hearing was supposed to take place last night… but one of the members of the city’s Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals had to leave he meeting before it could take place. The Daily Record reports that a new hearing will likely come in the next few weeks. The $65-million “25th Street Station” project would bring a Wal-Mart and new apartments to the city’s Remington neighborhood. It was approved by the City Council back in 2010, and is nearly two years behind its original planned completion date.
Proposed Restructuring Of Harford County’s Republican Central Committee: A bill that would restructure Harford County’s Republican Central Committee is creating controversy. The Baltimore Sun reports that the measure would give an “ex-officio” status to GOP members of the House of Delegates from any district that includes part of the county. That would give them input in the selection of replacements of members of the Central committee. All the Delegates in Harford County’s delegation are sponsoring the bill. But the current members of the Central committee are opposed, saying the measure is “disruptive to party unity and counter to the… wishes of the Republican voters of Harford County.” The bill has been stuck in committee for weeks; it’s unclear whether it will get a vote in the full House.
Tonjes Placed On Leave During IT Department Probe: Baltimore's chief of information technology has been put on administrative leave. There is also an investigation into the IT department, following allegations that contract workers for that department were paid for work they didn’t do. The investigation was announced last week; it’s expected to be complete “in a matter of weeks.” Yesterday the Baltimore Sun reported that Chris Tonjes, who leads the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology, was put on indefinite leave while the probe is underway. A spokesperson for the mayor says the leave is "routine" and "does not indicate guilt of any kind."
Baltimore County Police Vote On Contract: Members of the Baltimore County police union will begin voting today on a new contract; the Baltimore Sun reports that the deal would require that new hires contribute more to their pensions; it would also ensure that no union members will be furloughed or laid off through 2016. The contract deal would also offer members a 3% bonus later this year, and a 3% cost of living raise next year. Voting on the contract will take place today and tomorrow.
Boating Season Begins, Late: And there’s some good news for folks who want to go boating at the Liberty and Prettyboy reservoirs; the reservoirs’ ramps are now open for the season. Usually, boating season starts at the beginning of March… but icy conditions delayed the start for several weeks. Boating season at Loch Raven Reservoir opens April 4th. The Department of Public Works notes that valid permits are required for boating at all three city reservoirs.
Baltimore Football: The Ravens have announced a one-year contract extension for head coach John Harbaugh. Harbaugh guided the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory last year; he’s now signed through 2017.