Maryland General Assembly | WYPR

Maryland General Assembly

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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

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.


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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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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.

Barbara Haddock Taylor/The Baltimore Sun

Former state Delegate Cheryl Glenn was sentenced to two years in federal prison Wednesday for accepting nearly $34,000 in bribes in exchange for political favors.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake said during a virtual sentencing hearing she had to balance Glenn’s offense with her personal history of accomplishment and the need for deterrence.

Rachel Baye / WYPR


More than half a million Maryland residents have filed for unemployment insurance since March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the state is still working through a backlog of about 34,000 of those applicants whose claims have not been processed.

 

During a Zoom meeting Wednesday, Maryland Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson told state lawmakers that the state has so far sent $2.7 billion in unemployment benefits to more than 400,000 residents. But she said Labor Department staff members are still reviewing applications received in May and the first half of June.

Joel McCord

When Maryland’s General Assembly leaders cut short their 2020 session in March because of the coronavirus threat, they said they’d come back in May for a special session.

Monday, they announced there would be no special session to take care of unfinished business.

Rachel Baye

Former state Del. Cheryl Glenn accepted $33,750 in bribes between March 2018 and February 2019 in exchange for supporting several bills in Annapolis, according to criminal charges filed in federal court in July and unsealed Monday.

Rachel Baye

State Del. Cheryl Glenn resigned Wednesday, effective immediately. Glenn was the chair of the Baltimore City delegation in the House of Delegates and previously led the Legislative Black Caucus in Annapolis.

House Speaker Adrienne Jones announced Glenn’s resignation Thursday morning. Jones said Glenn didn’t give a reason for stepping down.

Rachel Baye

Chronic understaffing at several state agencies is forcing employees to work 80-hour workweeks and endure dangerous work environments, some employees told state lawmakers at a briefing Tuesday.

Rachel Baye / WYPR

Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller announced Thursday that he is relinquishing his gavel when the General Assembly returns to Annapolis in January. The 76 year old has cancer and several related health issues.

“My mind is still strong but my body is weak,” Miller said at a press conference Thursday. “This is a fulltime job. It’s a statewide job. And we need somebody younger.”

Rachel Baye

The Maryland Senate will have a new leader for the first time in 33 years when the legislature reconvenes in January.

As expected, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, the longest continuously serving state Senate president in the country, announced Thursday that he will step down from his leadership role.

Rachel Baye

A state panel has proposed a highly anticipated revamp of the formula Maryland uses to fund public schools. The new formula would facilitate a major overhaul of public education in the state that would eventually increase spending on schools by roughly $4 billion a year.

The formula gradually increases the state’s share of education costs so that in the year 2030, the state would spend an additional $2.8 billion. Local jurisdictions would be on the hook for the remaining $1.2 billion.

Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun

A longtime member of the House of Delegates from Prince George’s County, Tawanna Gaines, has been charged with federal wire fraud. Gaines resigned from the legislature on Friday.

Prosecutors say Gaines collected more than $22,000 from campaign supporters in a PayPal account, then used that money on personal expenses. Gaines did not disclose the PayPal account in state campaign finance records.

Governor Larry Hogan named 11 new members Wednesday to the scandal plagued board of directors of the University of Maryland Medical System.

The announcement came the same day as the UMMS Board elected a new chair and vice chair and released a consultant’s report that found hospital management made business deals with individual board members without informing the rest of the board or an appropriate board committee.

Rachel Baye

The race for speaker of the House of Delegates has narrowed. Speaker Pro Tem Adrienne Jones announced at a press conference Friday that she is dropping out of the running and backing Economic Matters Committee Chairman Dereck Davis in an effort to elect Maryland’s first African American speaker. Both Davis and Jones are African American.

Rachel Baye

Statements of grief and sympathy at the death of House Speaker Michael Busch came quickly from both sides of the political aisle and all around the state.

"My heart is broken for Mike Busch’s family, the State of Maryland, and the Speaker's extended family - elected officials and staff that he has been a mentor and coach to over his time in public service," Senate President Mike Miller wrote in a statement.

Maryland’s General Assembly heads into the last full week of its 90-day session with a number of issues yet to be resolved, including legislation that would strip trash incinerators of their “green energy” label and  bills to raise the legal smoking age to 21 and to forbid members of the University of Maryland Medical System’s board of directors from doing business with the system.

Gov. Larry Hogan introduced his bill to redraw the state’s Sixth and Eighth Congressional Districts Friday, but the Democratic leaders who drew the original districts don’t appear to be receptive to the Republican governor’s plan.

It’s a safe bet that the conflict of interest controversy over the University of Maryland Medical System doing business with members of its board of directors will suck up much of the energy in Annapolis as the General Assembly begins its two week sprint to  adjournment at midnight April 8.

A House of Delegates committee heard testimony Friday on an emergency bill introduced by Speaker Mike Busch aimed at keeping board members from doing business with the medical system. And a Senate committee heard testimony on a similar bill from Baltimore Democrat Jill Carter two weeks ago. Both bills appear to have solid bi-partisan support.

Monday is cross-over day in the General Assembly, the day when bills must cross from one house to the other to be guaranteed full consideration.

In addition, Democratic Party leaders are rushing to get controversial bills, such as the minimum wage increase to Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk in time to force an override vote before the end of session, or before Sen. Will Smith, a Montgomery County Democrat who is in the Navy Reserve, leaves for duty in Afghanistan.

Still, there are some things happening in committees this week, and some bills have already made it from one chamber to the other.

Much like last week, the bulk of the action in Annapolis remains on the floors of both chambers where agendas are frequently determined on a day to day basis.

Lawmakers are working to beat the deadline known as cross-over day—March 18 this year--when bills must cross from one house to the other to be guaranteed full consideration. In fact, Senate President Mike Miller has suggested he might schedule two floor sessions a day in order to get bills through.

But that doesn’t mean nothing’s happening in the committees. Legislative leaders have scheduled hearings on bills involving medical marijuana, sports betting, voter registration and abortion, among other issues.

Much of the action in Annapolis this week moves to the floors of both chambers where agendas are frequently determined on a day to day basis. Lawmakers are working to beat the deadline known as cross-over day--March 18 this year--when bills must cross from one house to the other to be guaranteed full consideration.

In addition, legislative leaders are trying to get some of the more controversial bills, like the minimum wage increase, to Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk in time for a potential veto override vote before March 29. That’s the date Sen. Will Smith, a Montgomery County Democrat and Naval Reserve officer, leaves to deploy to Afghanistan.

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