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PSC Says It Can Regulate Uber, First Gubernatorial Debate Scheduled, & Baltimore’s Pension Overhaul

Christopher Connelly

Maryland’s Public Service Commission has ruled that ride-sharing company Uber is a common carrier, and that it should be subject to state transportation regulations. Maryland's top gubernatorial candidates are set to face off in a televised debate on October 7th. The overhaul of Baltimore’s police and fire pension system that took effect in 2010 was upheld by a federal appeals court yesterday – but the legal battle isn’t over. Plus: the Ravens face off against the San Francisco 49ers in tonight’s pre-season opener at M&T Bank stadium; kickoff is set for 7:30.

The PSC Says Uber Should Be Regulated: Maryland’s Public Service Commission has ruled that ride-sharing company Uber is a common carrier, and that it should be subject to state transportation regulations. As WYPR’s Kenneth Burns reports, the ruling affects two of Uber’s services: “UberBLACK” and “Uber SUV.” Another service – UberX – is not affected; nor is another ridesharing company, Lyft. The PSC is still working to determine how to classify those services, but tells the Baltimore Business Journal that there’s no timeline yet for a decision. The PSC has ordered Uber to apply for motor carrier permits for its affected services within the next 60 days. Uber says it will appeal the ruling. Uber says it shouldn’t be classified as a common carrier, as it connects drivers and riders with smartphone app, and doesn’t directly hire those drivers or own their vehicles. The PSC has ordered its staff to draft new regulations for transportation services such as Uber – and says it will take that company’s input while putting the new regs together. The Daily Record reportsthat the new regulations are expected to be drafted within the next three months.

Gubernatorial Debate Set: Maryland's top gubernatorial candidates are set to face off on October 7th. The campaigns for Democrat Anthony Brown and Republican Larry Hogan have agreed to a televised debate which will be sponsored by WJZ-TV and the Baltimore Sun. The debate will not be live; it’ll be taped in the morning and broadcast at 7pm. The Washington Post reports that the Brown and Hogan camps are still working on a possible TV debate in the DC area and a radio debate as well.

Sierra Club Backs Brown: The Sierra Club has endorsed Anthony Brown in the governor's race. The environmental group had backed Delegate Heather Mizeur in the Democratic primary, but said today that the lieutenant governor and his running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, have a track record of advocating for policies that help the Chesapeake Bay.  There are more than 14-thousand Sierra Club members in Maryland. The Washington Post has more.

Appeals Court Upholds Baltimore Pension Overhaul: The overhaul of Baltimore’s police and fire pension system that took effect in 2010 was upheld by a federal appeals court yesterday. The decision overturns a lower court’s ruling that the law limiting cost-of-living increases for younger retirees was unconstitutional. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says the move saved the city about $400-million in pension costs; she tells the Baltimore Sun that she’s “pleased” with the court’s ruling. But legal wrangling over the pension changes likely isn’t over. In issuing its decision, the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals said unions could take its challenge back to court – provided that it uses a different argument. Union officials tell the Sun that they plan to continue the court battle.

Improvements At Penn Station: A new sign is welcoming rail travelers to Penn Station; it’s part of a plan to improve what people see as they travel by rail through Baltimore. The Baltimore Business Journal reportsthat some two-million people pass through the transit hub each year; Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says their first impressions impact Baltimore in a big way.

Tropical Storm Bertha Injures OC Swimmers: Tropical Storm Bertha has led to some heavy surf in Ocean City and a number of injuries among swimmers over the past few days. The Baltimore Sun reportsthat many swimmers became caught in dangerous wave breaks and more than 20 injuries were reported, mostly to swimmers' shoulders and collarbones. Lifeguards pulled all swimmers out of the water at noon yesterday to explain the dangers. The hazardous conditions are expected to diminish over the next day or two.

Ravens, Under Armour Donate Uniforms: All 24 of Baltimore's high schools have new uniforms for boys' football and girls' basketball thanks to Under Armour and the Baltimore Ravens. Retired Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was the keynote speaker at yesterday's unveiling of the uniforms.

Anne Arundel Still Needs Back-to-School Donations: Anne Arundel County officials are renewing their call for donations… to ensure that all the county’s underprivileged students will have the supplies they need when they go back to school later this month. The Capital Gazette reports that system’s back to school program will serve 72-hundred students this year… and as of yesterday, the County still needed to round up supplies for 13-hundred students. If you want to help out, the county’s Department of Social Services is accepting money – or donations of school supplies themselves.

Restaurant “Weeks”: Baltimore County's Restaurant Week kicks off today with a ceremony in Towson. The Oyster Bay Grille will host the opening event with chefs from participating restaurants preparing samples of their menu items. In all, 64 restaurants in Baltimore County will take part in Restaurant Week, which gets underway tomorrow for most diners, runs 17 days – that’s two and a half weeks, for Restaurant “Week.” Baltimore City’s Restaurant “Week” is only 10 days, and it’s underway now; set to conclude on Sunday.

Baltimore Baseball: The Orioles saw a three-game winning streak break yesterday, as they fell 5 to 1 to the Toronto Blue Jays. The two teams play again tonight.

Washington Baseball: The Washington Nationals beat the New York Mets; the score there was 7 to 1.

Baltimore Football: The Ravens open up the preseason tonight at M&T Bank Stadium with a game against the San Francisco 49ers. The game starts at 7:30pm. The Ravens and the 49ers will then hold joint practices Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

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.