Rachel Baye | WYPR

Rachel Baye

Reporter

Rachel Baye is a reporter for WYPR covering Maryland state government and politics.

She came to WYPR in 2015 from the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization, where she covered the influence of money on state politics across the country. Rachel previously covered Washington, D.C.'s Maryland suburbs and education for The Washington Examiner. She also worked on an investigation into political contributions to Washington, D.C. politicians by city contractors through a project by WAMU and American University's Investigative Reporting Workshop, and she contributed research to the book longtime ABC anchor Ted Koppel published in October 2015.  Her work has appeared in several national and regional print and web outlets.

Rachel has a master's degree in journalism from American University and a bachelor's from the University of Pennsylvania. While in school, she held internships at Philadelphia’s public radio station, WHYY, on the live talk show Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane, and with CNN’s investigative team.

Maryland GovPics / Flickr

The number of COVID-19 cases among employees of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration continues to grow, with more than a dozen workers out across multiple locations as of Thursday. However, the union that represents those workers says the agency is doing little to prevent the virus from continuing to spread. 

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State leaders are grappling with how they would obtain and distribute a future COVID-19 vaccine. During a meeting with state lawmakers Wednesday, health officials and medical and pharmaceutical experts described a lack of national coordination and logistical challenges to distributing vaccines, while legislators questioned who will be able to get the vaccine first. 

Maryland GovPics / Flickr


Renee Nadreau started feeling sick two weeks ago. She had a cough and a headache. At first she thought it might be allergies. Then she woke up one day and couldn’t taste her coffee.

 

“Right then I knew I had COVID,” Nadreau said. 

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As Maryland school system leaders grapple with how to safely resume in-person learning, one thing is clear:  It will be very expensive. Four superintendents told a state Senate committee Wednesday that they need millions from the state to make it work. 

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A House of Delegates workgroup voted Thursday in favor of overhauling laws governing policing in Maryland. Among the changes, the group recommends repealing the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights and creating statewide rules for when and how police officers can use deadly force in the line of duty.

 

WYPR’s Rachel Baye and Nathan Sterner discuss the group’s work.

Rachel Baye / WYPR

If an FDA-approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19 were available today at no cost, less than half of registered voters in Maryland say they would get it, according to the latest Goucher College poll.

A slim majority of Democrats say they would get the vaccine, while slim majorities of Republicans and unaffiliated voters say they would not.

Rachel Baye / WYPR

A new poll from Goucher College shows widespread support for the kinds of police reform policies Maryland legislators are expected to introduce in January. 

 

More than 80% of those polled said they support making records of police misconduct public and having an independent prosecutor investigate police misconduct cases. Nearly 80% said they support creating statewide rules for when police officers are allowed to use lethal force. 

Rachel Baye / WYPR

The first of two statewide ballot questions this year could create a significant shift in power in Annapolis by allowing the General Assembly to move money around within the governor’s proposed budget. The legislature debated the proposed amendment to the state constitution for more than two decades before sending it to voters this year.

Patrick Semansky / AP

Members of the Maryland House of Delegates are considering at least a dozen changes to the laws governing police, from rules about the use of lethal force to who is responsible for investigating accusations of misconduct. During a meeting Thursday, support for those changes appeared to break down along party lines, with Republicans resisting some of the bigger shifts from the status quo.

Dominique Maria Bonessi

Law enforcement officials and some of the police’s most fervent critics agreed during a four-hour state Senate hearing Thursday that the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights needs to be changed. They disagreed, however,  on the scope of the change.

 

The controversial Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights, or LEOBR, governs police internal investigations and discipline. Critics say it gives too much protection to police who violate rules or even the law. 


General Assembly leaders voted Wednesday to issue a rare subpoena to Gov. Larry Hogan’s former chief of staff Roy McGrath. Lawmakers want answers about the $230,000 payout McGrath received when he left the Maryland Environmental Service to work for Hogan. 

 

Lawmakers plan to subpoena both McGrath and former Maryland Environmental Service director of operations Matthew Sherring. 


State lawmakers heard hours of testimony Tuesday about a slate of Democratic proposals to reform policing in Maryland, in the first of three straight days of hearings on the topic. In addition to civil rights advocates, law enforcement leaders and elected officials, the state Senate Judicial Proceedings committee heard from several residents who spoke about fathers, sons and other family members killed by police in Maryland.

Statewide efforts to reform policing will be the focus of a three-day marathon of hearings that begins Tuesday before the state Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee. The hearings will consider issues related to body cameras, police discipline, and use-of-force policies.

 

The timing of the hearings — more than three months before the annual 90-day General Assembly session begins — is unusual, but Sen. Will Smith, chair of the committee, said this is an unusual time.

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More than six months since the pandemic caused widespread job losses, Maryland Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson says her office has processed 96 percent of unemployment claims — which still leaves about 30,000 people waiting for benefits.

Maryland’s public universities have for months strategized about ways to keep students and faculty safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. But staff members who provide essential services, from housekeeping to IT, at many of those universities say their schools’ leaders have treated their safety and wellbeing as afterthoughts.

Members of the labor union that represents the staff shared their concerns with a group of state lawmakers on Wednesday.


Rachel Baye / WYPR

Thousands of state employees got a pay cut this week, when the state eliminated an emergency pay bump for some of the workers performing jobs classified as "essential" during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Social workers, police and corrections officers, and hospital staff were among those getting an extra $3.13 per hour or an extra $5.15 an hour when they worked in a quarantine unit of people who had tested positive for COVID-19. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Maryland is acquiring 250,000 rapid COVID-19 tests, which will be put to immediate use, Gov. Larry Hogan said during a press conference Thursday. The tests are the first batch expected to result from an agreement by Maryland and nine other states with the Rockefeller Foundation.

 

The new rapid antigen tests yield results in 15 minutes, Hogan said during an event at the Sparks headquarters of Becton, Dickinson and Company, the maker of the tests.

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State legislators on Wednesday received a bleak picture of life at the Maryland Environmental Service under the leadership of former director Roy McGrath. During his time at the helm, McGrath was “guarded and secretive,” and morale was low, former MES deputy director Beth Wojton told members of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Fair Practices and State Personnel Oversight.

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Theaters and concert venues can open beginning Friday at 5 p.m., just in time for Labor Day Weekend. Gov. Larry Hogan announced that change Tuesday with the news that Maryland is entering the third and final phase of his COVID-19 recovery plan.

 

Theaters for both movies and live performances, concert arenas, and other entertainment venues will be allowed to open at half capacity, up to a maximum of 100 people at an indoor venue, or 250 people at an outdoor venue. 

Rachel Baye / WYPR


Baltimore County has recruited 1,500 election judges to staff polling places, but the county is still looking for substitute judges to provide backup. To encourage participation, the county is offering judges a new incentive:  $100 more per day.


Thousands are marking the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington Friday with growing calls for police reform. In Maryland, those calls often point to the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, or LEOBR, as a barrier to police accountability.

 

Representatives of law enforcement groups defended the LEOBR during a meeting with state lawmakers Thursday and pushed back on other suggestions for reform.

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State lawmakers on Tuesday grilled the Maryland Environmental Service’s board over the unusual severance package given to its former director, Roy McGrath, when he left to become Gov. Larry Hogan’s chief of staff. After his severance package became public earlier this month, he resigned that job. Rachel Baye and Nathan Sterner discuss the controversy.

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When Amy Stephens learned that St. Augustine School in Elkridge, Maryland, would offer a combination of in-person and virtual learning this fall, she asked if she could teach her music, theater and strings classes via livestream. She was told no, she would need to be physically in the classroom, interacting with the entire student body each week. 

So a couple of weeks ago, she quit her job.

The Maryland State Board of Elections is weighing a proposal to replace the small polling places that serve one or two voter precincts with a much smaller number of large vote centers. Local election officials are pushing the idea in response to a massive shortage of election judges and locations that can house polling sites.

Rachel Baye / WYPR

The State Board of Elections plans to begin mailing all voters applications for absentee ballots on Aug. 24, State Elections Administrator Linda Lamone said Tuesday in a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan.

Although the state is encouraging all voters to submit their ballots by mail, Hogan has said state law requires every polling place to be open on Election Day this November. But legal experts say the state of emergency Hogan declared in response to the COVID-19 pandemic could give the governor broad power to change how and when people vote.

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This story is part of an NPR nationwide analysis of states' revenue and budgets during the pandemic.

Rachel Baye / WYPR

In response to rising numbers of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan is expanding the list of places Marylanders are required to wear masks. Beginning Friday, masks will be required statewide in all indoor public places and outdoors when it’s impossible to keep physically distant from other people.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


The Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center is experiencing a coronavirus outbreak among both staff and the youth incarcerated there. As of Thursday, at least four of the facility’s 31 youth residents and at least three staff had confirmed cases of COVID-19.

 

As a result, the youth at the detention center have limited opportunities for education, and many have no interaction with their teachers.

Rachel Baye / WYPR

Gov. Larry Hogan used a wide-ranging press conference Wednesday to respond to a barrage of criticism from local leaders about rising COVID-19 case numbers and the state’s plan for the upcoming election. WYPR’s Rachel Baye walks through what he said with Matt Tacka.

Maryland Juvenile Justice Monitoring Unit

At least three staff members and four youth residents are confirmed to have COVID-19 at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center, a state detention center whose current residents range from 13 to 18 years old. As a result, many of the youth are either quarantined in their housing units or, if they are confirmed to have the virus, isolated in their rooms.

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