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State lawmakers continued day two of their marathon hearings Wednesday on a series of bills aimed at reforming policing in Maryland. They heard from police, prosecutors, civil rights lawyers and from the mother of a 14-year-old boy who was shot and killed by police.

Police had been called to the Southwest Baltimore home of Greta Willis in August 2006 for what they were told was a fight between her and her son, Kevin Cooper.


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.

Emily Sullivan/WYPR

The Baltimore City Council passed legislation to  provide annual reports on city employee-owned businesses and require owners of vacant properties to conspiciously post ownership information on those buildings on Monday night. They also progressed legislation to rename the Columbus Obelisk monument to honor victims of police brutality, as well as a bill that would establish residency requirements for certain Baltimore Police Department command staff. WYPR's Emily Sullivan and Nathan Sterner recap the meeting. 

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.

The Challenge of Arts Education In A Virtual World

Sep 21, 2020
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While educators throughout Maryland face the challenges of virtual learning, arts teachers are in a particularly difficult situation as they try to recreate rehearsal and performance spaces online.

Arts teachers in Baltimore City say they are focusing on students’ well-being as well as new ways to teach.

AP PHOTO/MARY ALTAFFER


  Gov. Larry Hogan will allow restaurants to expand indoor dining capacities to 75%  at 5:00 p.m. Monday. The Republican is encouraging residents to partake in Maryland’s first statewide Restaurant Week, despite concerns over COVID-19 spread throughout the state.

“To celebrate the first-ever Maryland Restaurant Week, I encourage Marylanders to support their favorite local businesses, whether you do so through delivery, curbside pickup, or by dining indoors or outside,” Hogan said Friday in a news release. 

John Lee

The Baltimore County teachers’ union will survey its members this week to learn what they think about returning to classrooms. This comes as the union calls on school superintendent Darryl Williams to rescind his decision to have teachers report to school buildings October 19.

CREDIT CARMICHAELLIBRARY/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

After a new outbreak of COVID-19, the University of Maryland, College Park is quarantining 200 students in one of its dorms for 14 days. The union representing thousands of employees at the university says it’s concerned about the safety of workers and students. 

Stuart Katzenberg, a representative of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Maryland Council 3, which oversees the union local. Katzenberg said that members of the union working at Denton Hall, where the students are quarantined, are now at risk of contracting the virus.

Emily Sullivan/WYPR


  A new bill before the Baltimore City Council aims to require hospitality businesses to bring back the same employees who were laid off at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic as they reopen; hospitality employment is down 50% from last year, compared to 12% for all jobs across the city.

The council’s Labor Committee recessed without voting on the bill after city lawyers said they needed more time to consider a set of amendments during a hearing Thursday. The committee did pass another bill that would require new owners of businesses to retain the same employees for at least 90 days.

YouTube


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.

John Lee

All of Baltimore County’s teachers and some of its students will soon be heading back to school buildings.

That announcement Thursday caught the teachers’ union, school board members and the county executive by surprise.

SCREENSHOT VIA COUNTY EXECUTIVE STEUART PITTMAN FACEBOOK PAGE LIVE STREAM

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman announced an initiative Thursday to provide legal assistance to renters called “Operation Eviction Prevention.”

At a press conference in front of the Annapolis District Court building, Pittman said the county is partnering with nonprofits and attorneys to provide legal services.

Joel McCord

The presiding officers of Maryland’s General Assembly disappointed a coalition of progressive activists Wednesday night, telling them they would not call for a special session to act on issues such as housing, worker protection and police reform.

Members of the coalition, from groups like Progressive Maryland, Jews United for Justice and CASA, spread out on 141 socially distanced folding chairs—the same number as in the House of Delegates—in a field outside an Annapolis school. They were trying to demonstrate that lawmakers could safely hold legislative hearings and votes.

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.


Emily Sullivan/WYPR

Baltimore City’s spending board greenlit a rare $25 million emergency withdrawal from the Rainy Day Fund Wednesday to balance a budget that had to be rewritten because of the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Jack Young’s administration issued the third ever request to dip into the fund after the finance department said it needed the emergency funds to balance the city budget.

 

Baltimore County Public Schools

The Baltimore County Public Schools’ IT help desk was overwhelmed during the days leading up to the start of school, as well as during the first several days of virtual classes.

School administrators told the county school board Tuesday night that from August 30 until September 11, there were more than 8,000 requests for technical support.

Emily Sullivan/WYPR


Baltimore City Department of Public Works officials told city council members Tuesday that more than a third of their trash and recycling crews didn’t work in August because of the coronavirus pandemic, allowing some neighborhoods to go weeks without pick-ups.

“We have been hit on all sides by COVID,” John Chalmers, Head of DPW’s Bureau of Solid Waste, said in a hearing before the Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. 

MELISSA GERR/WYPR

You might have noticed some hazy skies today here in the Baltimore region. That haze is coming all the way from the massive wildfires that have been raging through the West Coast. 

National Weather Service meteorologist Brian LaSorfa said the smoke was carried by the jet stream and could be hanging over the Baltimore region for the next couple of days.

Baltimore Heritage/Flickr


  The Maryland Board of Elections approved Baltimore City’s early voting and Election Day voting centers during a Friday meeting.  

Early voters can cast a ballot at eight early voting centers, which will open Oct. 26 through Nov 2. Those casting a ballot on Election Day will have 24 election day voting centers to choose from; early voting centers will also host voters on Election Day. 

Seth Sawyers/flickr

Special education students make up 12 percent of the enrollment in Maryland public schools.

With the school year just getting under way with virtual learning, advocates and parents say many of those students are already at risk of failure.

AP PHOTO/RICK BOWMER


 SeaChange, the mail-in ballot company that the state Board of Elections blamed for proofing errors in Baltimore’s June primary election, has walked away from its contract with Maryland less than two months before the November general election. 

The Minneapolis-based company informed the state board last week that it would not go through with the work needed to produce Maryland ballots; printing was scheduled to begin Sept. 3. Elections officials say the state has contracted with multiple vendors to print ballots and still on track to have all of its mail-in ballots printed by the end of this month.

Wikimedia Commons/Frederic C. Chalfant

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may have ordered a moratorium on evictions through the end of this year to contain the spread of COVID-19. But housing advocates say that doesn’t mean Baltimore renters won't face a mass eviction crisis.

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. 

Ted Eytan/Flickr

LaFontaine E. Oliver, the president and general manager of WYPR, was voted the chairman of NPR’s governing board on Friday afternoon. 

The board is instrumental in both NPR’s day-to-day and long term strategy: it decides management’s policies and overall direction, monitors the news organization’s performance and provides financial oversight of its 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

 

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.

The Associated Press

Baltimore County’s elections director expects half the people who will vote in the county this fall will do it by mail.

AP/Julio Cortez

Transit officials, school officials and transit riders appeared virtually before the Baltimore City Council Wednesday night to discuss the Maryland Transit Administration’s proposed bus route cuts stemming from the fiscal impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I don't, we don't, MDOT does not sit here as an opposing side trying to convince you that these cuts are OK,” Kevin Quinn, the MTA’s executive director, said before the council’s transportation committee. “They are impactful.” 

 

Wikimedia Commons

  

New data from the District Court of Maryland and Department of Legislative Services shows that landlord-tenant court cases in Maryland have been on a gradual upward trend since 2005. The vast majority of those are eviction cases for failure to pay rent.

There have been fewer landlord-tenant court cases in 2020 because of eviction moratoria during the pandemic. But before the pandemic began, cases were increasing across the state. 

Joel McCord

Labor Day was created to pay tribute to the American labor movement. So, the reporters and photographer who labor at the Annapolis Capital and Carroll County Times went for some collective action this Labor Day to protest Tribune Publishing’s decision last month to shut down their newsrooms and three others across the country.

The Capital Gazette staffers had planned to follow an old newspaper tradition, gathering a few things—old notebooks, the mementos that decorated their desks-- and leaving as their colleagues lined up to applaud them.

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