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VA Reforms, Transportation Funding, A Governor’s Race Poll, & A “Move Over Law” Enforcement Effort

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via flickr

US Senator Barbara Mikulski is among a number of lawmakers supporting a bill to reform the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs. Most of the Maryland gubernatorial candidates are pledging to restore funding for local road maintenance and repairs that had been cut from the state budget by the O’Malley administration. Plus: another poll on the governor’s race, a targeted enforcement of Maryland’s “move over law,” the Red Line, “use of force” investigations in Baltimore, and more.

Mikulski Supports VA Reforms: US Senator Barbara Mikulski is among a number of lawmakers supporting a bill to reform the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs. Senator Mikulski says she’s unhappy with the results of a recent audit of the VA, which shows that veterans in Maryland wait an average of 81 days for an initial appointment. That’s the fourth longest wait time in the nation. Mikulski notes that the audit does contain some “good news for Maryland” -- that existing patients only wait an average of four days… and that there's no evidence of waiting list tampering in Maryland, as there has been in other states. Senator Mikulski is backing legislation to bring new doctors into the VA system and give some veterans the option of going to a local doctor for healthcare. The House has already passed a bill and the Senate is due to take up its own measure soon. 

Another Governor’s Race Poll: With less than two weeks until Maryland’s primary election, another opinion poll on the governor’s race is out, this one conducted by the Washington Post. The results mirror those of a Baltimore Sun/Opinionworks poll that came out over the weekend… showing big leads for Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown in the democratic race… and founder of Change Maryland Larry Hogan in the Republican contest. The poll shows that Brown has the support of 46 percent of likely Democratic voters. State Attorney General Doug Gansler is polling at 23 percent, and Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur has 16 percent. On the Republican side, Hogan has the support of 35 percent of the likely GOP voters surveyed. Harford County Executive David Craig has 19 percent, Charles County businessman Charles Lollar has 13, and Anne Arundel County Delegate Ron George has 5 percent. Maryland’s primary election takes is on Tuesday, June 24th. Early voting begins tomorrow.

Gubernatorial Hopefuls Agree On Restoring Transportation Funds: Many of the candidates looking to be Maryland’s next governor have found something they can agree on – that the local road repair money cut from the state budget by the O’Malley administration should be restored. Speaking yesterday at the annual convention of the Maryland Municipal League in Ocean City, Republicans Larry Hogan, David Craig, Charles Lollar, and Ron George all pledged to restore Highway User Revenues to 2008 levels, if elected governor, by restoring the old formula used to calculate how much cash should be sent to local governments. Democrat Anthony Brown said he would do the same, while fellow Democrat Doug Gansler said he would increase highway user revenues by increasing the number of jobs in Maryland. A third Democrat in the race – Heather Mizeur – did not attend the meeting, due to scheduling conflicts. WYPR’s Kenneth Burns has more here; there’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.

Rawlings-Blake Raises Concerns Over Plan To Shelter Child Immigrants In Baltimore: Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is among a growing number of Maryland lawmakers raising concerns about a proposal to turn a vacant office building near Baltimore’s Lexington Market into a shelter for children caught entering the country illegally. The idea comes as the federal government is dealing with a surge of immigrants at the Southwest border of the US, including many children fleeing from violence in Central America. The Obama administration is reportedly eyeing the Metro West complex, on North Greene Street, as a possible shelter for the children. Until last year, the building was home to Social Security Administration offices. Mayor Rawlings-Blake says she has serious concerns about the plans… telling the Baltimore Sun that the facility is “really not fit for the purpose” of sheltering children. The Mayor says that the Obama administration needs to find safe places for them. Both of Maryland’s US Senators – Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin – are opposed to using the Baltimore building as a shelter. Governor Martin O’Malley has declined to comment.

Change In Red Line Route Creates New Controversy: WYPR's Fraser Smith and Mark Reutter of the Baltimore Brew talk about the rerouting of the proposed Red Line and how the change may cause a significant delay to completion of the project. It’s this morning’s edition of Inside Maryland Politics.

“Use Of Force” Investigations Become More Transparent: Baltimore Police are posting “use of force” investigations online to improve transparency and accountability in the Department. In addition, police are asking the city's civilian review board to look at shootings involving officers and deaths of people in custody. Speaking to reporters yesterday, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said police have a responsibility to be as forthright and transparent as the law allows. The agency began posting a list of incidents being investigated by the new "Force Investigation Team" this week. The Baltimore Sun has more.

“Move Over” Enforcement Effort Today: State Police will be conducting a coordinated traffic initiative today to remind drivers about Maryland’s "move over" law. Under that law, drivers are required to change lanes, or slow down whenever they approach emergency vehicles that are stopped on the side of the road. Violators face a fine of $110 and one point on their driver’s license. State Police are teaming up with MDTA police to enforce the law today, along all 110 miles of I-95. The enforcement effort will run through 6pm. The Washington Post has more.

Old Bay Fries Coming Soon To Grocery Stores: Maryland-based McCormick & Co. will partner with manufacturer Mr. Dee's to being Old Bay Natural Cut Seasoned Fries to grocery stores. The frozen french fries will be available at a number of stores across the country, including Walmart and Publix. According to the Baltimore Business Journal, it's part of "The Can that Connects Us" campaign in honor of Old Bay's 75th anniversary. In addition, Old Bay will run its first-ever TV commercial for a limited time in the mid-Atlantic. 

Bear Sightings In Howard County: There have been several bear sightings reported in recent days in Howard County. Maryland's Department of Natural Resources says it has received four calls from residents about bear sightings in the Columbia and Ellicott City areas. A DNR spokesman tells the Baltimore Sun this is the time of year for seasonal bear movements and people are probably reporting the same bear.

Baltimore Baseball: The Orioles fell to the Boston Red Sox last night; the score was 1 to nothing. The two teams wrap up their series tonight at Camden Yards, in a game set to start at 7pm.

Washington Baseball: the Washington Nationals beat the San Francisco Giants last night; the score there: 2 to 1.