Wed January 29, 2014
School Schedule Changes, Unemployment, Speed Cameras, Debate Proposals, & General Assembly News
A look at this morning’s school delays and closures. Plus: MD’s unemployment rate, speed cameras, gubernatorial debate proposals, Obama’s MD visit, illegal dumping, boating restrictions near Cambridge, & General Assembly issues, including health insurance, “revenge porn,” domestic violence.
Snow-Related Schedule Changes: There are 2-Hour Delays for schools in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, and in Anne Arundel, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties. Schools are closed in Caroline, Harford, Kent, Queen Anne's, Talbot, Wicomico, and Worcester counties. A liberal leave policy is in effect until 11am for state employees.
MD’s Unemployment Rate Falls In December: New numbers from the federal government say Maryland added 73-hundred jobs last month. The US Labor Department says that the state’s unemployment rate was 6.1% in December, down from 6.4% the month before. By comparison, the national jobless rate is 6.7%. Governor Martin O’Malley notes that Maryland is one of only 17 states that have created at least as many jobs as were lost during the Great Recession; Maryland reportedly gained some 36-thousand new jobs in 2013 alone. But while O'Malley said yesterday that the falling unemployment rate is good news, he added that there’s still work to do… calling on lawmakers in the General Assembly to support programs aimed at bolstering the middle class, and renewing his call for a higher minimum wage in Maryland. He’s backing a plan that would up the rate to $10.10 an hour by the year 2016. WYPR’s Christopher Connelly has more. And there’s more here from the Baltimore Business Journal and here from the Baltimore Sun.
Obama Comes To Maryland: Fresh off last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama be visiting Maryland today. He’s set to speak about the economy at a Costco store in Lanham. Other possible topics for today's speech could include a push for greater federal investment into infrastructure, research and other areas. The President's expected to make his remarks at around 10:30am, but the Washington Times reports that the appearance will be closed to the public. Following today's Maryland appearance, the President will travel to Pittsburgh and Milwaukee, followed by a visit to Nashville tomorrow.
Speed Cameras In Baltimore: A Baltimore City Council committee is set to begin investigating a secret audit of the city’s now-mothballed speed camera system on Tuesday of next week. At the meeting, the Council’s Judiciary Committee will determine how to proceed with the investigation. Last week, the Baltimore Sun released the findings of an audit – conducted last year – showing that the error rate of the city’s speed cameras was more than 10 percent, far higher than city officials had claimed. The office of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake calls the audit “incomplete and inconclusive” – and says that a more comprehensive audit would give a better picture of how the speed camera system operated. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.
Speed Cameras In Annapolis: Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides says he welcomes an audit of the speed cameras in the state capital. Pantelides tells the Annapolis Capital that he thinks audits are a “great thing” – but adds that he’s heard no complaints about cameras in his city, and isn’t sure how Annapolis would fund such an audit. Annapolis has only 3 speed cameras; it’s the only jurisdiction in Anne Arundel County to use the devices.
Election 2014: The Debate Debate WYPR's Joel McCord and Paul Herrnson of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research talk about why Lt. Governor Anthony Brown's proposed gubernatorial debate schedule is surprising. It’s this morning’s edition of Inside Maryland Politics.
Emergency Legislation On Health Insurance: The House of Delegates has approved an emergency plan to help those who had problems signing up for health insurance through the state's online exchange. The measure would provide coverage retroactive to January 1st for people who were not able to buy health insurance online. The State Senate passed a slightly different version of the bill last week and the two chambers will have to work out their differences before the bill is sent to Governor O’Malley, who has already said he will sign it. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun and here from the Washington Post and here from the Annapolis Capital.
Domestic Violence Legislation: Lawmakers in the State Senate yesterday looked at several proposals aimed at tightening Maryland’s domestic violence laws. The Daily Record reports that Maryland is the most difficult state in the nation for victims seeking a protective court order against an abuse; one of the proposals would lower the standard of proof necessary to obtain a protective order. Another proposal would allow people to get permanent protective orders against people convicted of second-degree assault, which the Baltimore Sun reports is the most common criminal charge in domestic violence cases. A third proposal would increase penalties for people who commit domestic violence in front of children. The measures are being backed by Governor Martin O’Malley’s administration. There’s more here from the Annapolis Capital.
“Revenge Porn” Legislation: Lawmakers in the House Judiciary committee yesterday examined several proposals that would make it a crime to post so-called "revenge porn" on the Internet. One proposal would make it a felony for someone to post sexually explicit images of a person without their consent; that bill carries a prison term up to five years, and fines up to $25-thousand. Other bills would make it a misdemeanor, with fines as high as 1-thousand dollars, and jail terms up to one year. The Baltimore Sun reports that the American Civil Liberties Union is concerned that broadly written proposals could infringe on first amendment rights.
Longshoremen’s Union Ordered To Pay Damages For October Strike: A local longshoremen’s union has been ordered to pay nearly $4-million in damages, in order to replace revenue lost during October’s three-day strike at the Port of Baltimore. The president of the Longshoremen's Association Local 333 tells the Baltimore Sun that union officers are seeking ways to avoid payment via an appeal. The October strike followed a breakdown in contract negotiations. The union and the group representing port employers are still deadlocked on a new contract, but while negotiations continue, the union has promised not to strike or force a lockout.
Rawlings-Blake Calls For Increased Penalties For Illegal Dumping: Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is calling for tougher penalties for those convicted of illegal dumping in the city. The Mayor says that Baltimore spends more than $16-million a year cleaning up the furniture, tires, and other debris that people toss along the city’s streets and into its waterways. The Mayor is calling on the General Assembly to pass legislation requiring the courts to notify the Motor Vehicle Administration when a person is convicted of illegal dumping using their vehicle; the Baltimore Sun reports that she wants an eight point penalty assessed on the drivers licenses of those convicted of the crime.
Boating Restrictions Near Cambridge: A heads up for anyone planning on boating in the waters near Cambridge over the next three days. The US Coast Guard will be enforcing a 500-yard perimeter around the Hyatt Regency on the Choptank River. The restrictions come as House Republicans hold their annual retreat at the hotel today through Friday. Coast Guard officials tell the Baltimore Sun that entering or operating a boat within the perimeter zone will require authorization, but boats already at berth, moored, or anchored within the zone won’t have to move.
Polar Bear Plunge Rescheduled: The Polar Bear Plunge into the Chesapeake Bay to benefit Special Olympics Maryland has been rescheduled for March 8th. The event was supposed to have taken place last Saturday, but was canceled because of the extremely cold temperature, high winds and waves at Sandy Point State Park. Now scheduled a couple months later, the event will give volunteers four opportunities to run into the water. There will be food and heated tents available and the parking passes from the January 25th event can be used. There’s more here from the Annapolis Capital.
Radioactive Tool Stolen: The Maryland Department of the Environment says a tool containing a small amount of radioactive material was stolen following an inspection on Monument Street in Baltimore City. The tool is used to measure concentrations of lead in paint. Officials say the device poses "no imminent public health risk" – adding that the radioactive material in the device is sealed and housed in a tungsten shield and there are locks to prevent its shutter from being opened. The Baltimore Sun has information on what you should do if you know of the tool’s whereabouts.