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The Affordable Care Act, “The Magic Pill,” More Brown Endorsements, The AG Race, and Harbor Point

Bret Jaspers

Maryland lawmakers react to President Obama’s “fix” to the Affordable Care Act. Our series on mental healthcare concludes. Brown’s gubernatorial bid picks up support from two former Attorneys General. A look at the 2014 AG race. The latest on the Harbor Point development. And more.

Changes To Affordable Care Act: President Obama yesterday announced a fix to the federal health care law that would allow insurance providers to continue offering plans that don’t meet the new standards of the Affordable Care Act. NPR has more about the change, which would allow insurance companies to extend such policies for one year. Congressman Andy Harris is calling the proposal “too little too late” – but the 1st District Republican is urging the Maryland Health Insurance Commissioner to expedite the review of plan extensions, in order to make sure that individuals will be able to keep their plans on January 1st. The House of Representatives is set to vote today on a bill that would let insurance companies not just extend these plans for people who already have them… but continue selling them to new customers. Congressman Chris Van Hollen is opposed to the idea; the 8th District Democrat tells the Frederick News Post that he thinks it would undermine the Affordable Care Act.

“The Magic Pill” Part 5: What Have We Got? It’s Very Much A Silent Pain Many people are hoping that the White House can finally make affordable health care available to everyone through the healthcare exchanges. But for people with mental health problems, just having health insurance may not be enough. WYPR’s Mary Rose Madden concludes our series “The Magic Pill: Will The Affordable Care Act Fix Mental Healthcare?”

Former Attorneys General Endorse Brown: Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown is continuing to rack up the endorsements as he continues his run for the Democratic nomination for governor. Brown yesterday picked up the support of Maryland's two previous attorneys general, Joe Curran and Steve Sachs – who, between them, have held the job for more than a quarter century. Sachs served as AG for 8 years, starting in the late 70’s… Curran followed him in the office and served for the next 20 years, being succeeded in 2007 by current AG Doug Gansler. Gansler is himself running for Governor; his spokesman told the Washington Post that the endorsements were unsurprising, and noted that Brown once worked in the same law firm with Sachs, and that Curran is the father-in-law of governor Martin O’Malley, who has also endorsed Brown’s campaign. Also in the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination is Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur.

2014 Watch: Attorney General Race WYPR's Fraser Smith and Steve Lash of the Daily Record talk about the Democratic candidates for Maryland Attorney General, and why potential Republican candidates may be biding their time. It’s this morning’s edition of Inside Maryland Politics.

Baltimore Emergency Management Official To Help In Philippines Response: One of the Baltimore’s top emergency management officials went to the Philippines yesterday, to help with the response to last week’s deadly typhoon. C. P. Hsia flew to the island nation to help streamline the flow of provisions to some of the regions most severely affected by last week's typhoon. He'll be part of a team organized by All Hands Emergency Management Consulting, which is based in Howard County. Hsia works closely with the mayor to address crises that arise in Baltimore. There’s more on this story here from the Baltimore Sun.

Harbor Point: The developer of Baltimore’s Harbor Point explained last night how it plans to build the project without releasing the toxic chromium buried beneath the site. The contaminated soil is now located beneath a five foot cap of clean dirt and gravel; developer Beatty Development Group says it will excavate the cap to drive in some 11-hundred pilings that’ll be used in part for the construction of the new Exelon Corporation headquarters. Doing so will temporarily expose the contaminated soil. The Baltimore Sun reports that Beatty says it’ll monitor dust levels and shut down construction if necessary. New air testing will also have to be done before construction can start. Beatty’s plan needs approval from the Environmental Protection Agency – which rejected an earlier proposal. The Maryland Department of the Environment also has to sign off for construction to begin.

Lawmakers Urged To Keep State Debt Unchanged: The head of Maryland’s Department of Legislative Services is urging lawmakers not to approve a proposal by Governor Martin O’Malley’s administration to increase our state’s authorized debt by $375-million over the next five years. The General Assembly’s Spending Affordability Committee got the recommendation from Department of Legislative Services Policy Director Warren Deschenaux yesterday. Marylandreporter.com notes that the committee will recommend spending limits to the governor next month.

Changes At Baltimore Jail: Baltimore officials are highlighting changes implemented since a smuggling ring was uncovered at the Baltimore City Detention Center, earlier this year. Corrections officials allowed a tour of the facility yesterday, showing off the 230 camera high definition video network that has been installed at the jail. Officials also say a cell phone jamming system is being installed, and corrections officers must pass through security screening as they enter. The Baltimore Sun notes that the changes come after more than a dozen corrections officers were indicted back in April, on charges that they were smuggling drugs and cell phones to inmates.

Hatem Bridge To Go All-E-ZPass: The Hatem Bridge will be the first in Maryland to eliminate cash tolls. The bridge spanning the Susquehanna River between Harford and Cecil counties is going E-ZPass-only sometime next year. The MDTA tells the Baltimore Sun that some 90 percent of motorists who use the Hatem already pay their tolls electronically. Drivers who don't have an E-ZPass will get a bill in the mail, thanks to video tolling, which is already being used at the bridge.

Under Armour Buys MapMyFitness: Under Armour is branching out in the digital world. The Baltimore-based sports apparel and footwear company announced it is acquiring MapMyFitness for $150-million. The Austin, Texas fitness technology company is known for its popular mobile apps and websites such as MapMyRun and MapMyRide. MapMyFitness recently announced it had reached 20-million registered users. There's more here from the Baltimore Business Journal and here from the Baltimore Sun.

Development Plans In Annapolis Put On Hold: Plans for the Crystal Spring development in Annapolis’s Forest Drive corridor have been put on hold. The Capital Gazette reports that outgoing mayor Josh Cohen has ordered Annapolis officials to stop reviews of the development until Mayor-elect Mike Pantelides takes office, and appoints new officials to review and process the application. The development was mentioned during the mayoral campaign, with Pantelides vowing to “favor the environment over development interests at Crystal Spring.” The proposed development is a mixed-use commercial project, centered on a continuing care retirement community.

Canada Goose Hunting Season Starts: Maryland’s Canada Goose hunting season gets underway tomorrow in the Atlantic Population zone, which includes the Eastern Shore and much of the Baltimore area. The Department of Natural Resources says that the bag limit is two geese per day. This year, migratory game hunters will be allowed to possess three times the daily bag limit – that’s an increase from last year’s possession limit. Canada goose hunting season runs through November 29th in its first phase; it starts up again mid December and runs through the end of January next year.

Baltimore Football: the Ravens will be in Chicago this weekend, for a game against the Bears. The game’s set to start at 1 o’clock on Sunday afternoon. The Ravens are 4 and 5 for the season; the Bears, 5 and 4.

WYPR's Morning Edition news anchor Ashley Sterner serves up the latest Maryland news and weather every weekday morning, delightfully interspersed with the occasional snarky comment.