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News coverage, series and commentary from WYPR's award winning news staff.
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Rachel Baye

Maryland elected officials are fighting over who should decide academic calendars for public schools.

Gov. Larry Hogan in 2016 signed an executive order requiring schools to start after Labor Day and end by June 15. He is now trying to write that change into the state code, while the Senate gave initial approval on Thursday to a bill reversing Hogan’s order.

John Lee

Baltimore County is looking under every sofa cushion for money to help close a projected $80 million budget shortfall next year.

 

That’s led Republican State Senator Chris West to propose that the state allow the county to charge developers impact fees.

 

 

Oriole Great Frank Robinson Dies at 83

Feb 7, 2019
The Associated Press

Crowding the plate, fearsome and fearless, Frank Robinson hammered his way into the Hall of Fame.

 

Rachel Baye

For a second year, Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed the creation of an inspector general within the state Department of Education to investigate reports of fraud and abuse in public schools.

At a hearing before a Senate committee Wednesday, Democratic committee members questioned whether the move would accomplish anything.

John Lee

Hundreds of Baltimore County teachers and their supporters rallied Tuesday night to push the school board to ask County Executive Johnny Olszewski to find the money for teacher pay raises.

 

They also want smaller classrooms and schools that are not in disrepair. WYPR’s John Lee was there and talked about what happened with Morning Edition host Nathan Sterner.

 

 

Daniel Carl Torsch Foundation

Dan Torsch’s older brother John remembers. It was about 17 years ago. 

 

“I can trace his addiction back to one 100 milligram morphine pill,” Torsch said.

 

They were teenagers, partying in Ocean City. Drinking, smoking weed, snorting cocaine. John offered his brother the morphine pill. The next morning John said he woke up with a hangover. 

 

“All I wanted to do was lay on the beach, maybe smoke a joint and eat some food,” Torsch said. “What do you think the very first thing Dan asked me when he woke up? ‘You got any more of those pills?’”

AP Photo/Patrick Sison

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski is considering appointing an Opioid Czar to be the point person as the county grapples with the second-highest rate of fatal opioid overdoses in Maryland. This comes as the county is being criticized for not doing enough to address a problem Olszewski says is ravaging parts of the county.

 

 

On the docket for this week in the Maryland General Assembly: bills about increasing the number of early voting centers, expanding food stamp eligibility, penalties for online harassment of minors, raising the minimum wage, and more. Here's a partial listing of committee hearings and other items of interest for Feb. 4--8, 2019.

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

In the first State of the State address after winning reelection, Gov. Larry Hogan highlighted several of his priorities for the legislative session, including tax cuts and tougher sentences for violent crimes. His agenda was met with both praise and criticism from both sides of the political aisle.

Rachel Baye

Gov. Larry Hogan is expected to deliver his annual State of the State address on Wednesday, highlighting some of his priorities for the General Assembly’s current legislative session. On Tuesday, Democratic leaders in the legislature announced their major priorities.

Rachel Baye

Now that the federal government has reopened, state lawmakers have turned their attention toward protecting Maryland residents from the economic effects of the next shutdown, and they warn that the next shutdown could be just around the corner.

The state’s Joint Committee on Federal Relations met Monday to consider the various impacts of any federal shutdown — the 35-day one that just passed, or the one that could come when the current federal funding agreement expires in three weeks.

Mary Rose Madden

As the partial federal government shutdown grinds into its second month, food banks have been cropping up to help federal workers—and contractors--who just missed their second paycheck.

The Maryland Food Bank, for example, has been setting up “Pantries on the Go” throughout the region to help, like the one this week in a parking lot just off Interstate 95 in Arbutus. There, workers set up tables covered with cans of soup, baskets of produce, and boxes of granola bars.

John Lee

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski is telling his department heads not to expect any more money in the next fiscal year than they got this year. That’s because the county has a projected $81 million shortfall this coming year.

 

Meanwhile, constituents are giving the county executive a long list of things they say they need.

 

 

Rachel Baye

Audio coming soon.   

The Maryland Transit Administration is offering federal workers who are working without pay free rides on MARC trains, MTA commuter buses, and Baltimore buses, subways and light rail, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday.

The state will also be collecting canned food to support area food banks.

Rachel Baye

Audio coming soon.   

The leaders of five Baltimore-area jurisdictions said Wednesday that the ongoing federal government shutdown is straining local resources, including food assistance programs. At a press conference in Annapolis, they urged Congress and President Donald Trump to end the shutdown immediately.

John Lee

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski last night appeared before the school board to give them a sobering presentation on the county budget. And part of his message to the board was that it will be years before three new high schools can be built in Baltimore County.

 

WYPR’s John Lee was there and spoke with Morning Edition host Nathan Sterner about what happened.

 

 

Oyster Restoration: It's Easier Said Than Done

Jan 21, 2019
Pamela D'Angelo

  

Ten years ago, President Obama issued an executive order requiring Maryland and Virginia to restore oyster populations, decimated by disease, over-harvesting and pollution, to tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay by 2025.

But that has been easier said than done, according to state and federal scientists meeting in Newport News, Va.

Mary Rose Madden / wypr

The Baltimore City Police Department is in a state of disrepair - worse than people originally thought, and it will take millions of dollars and years longer than anticipated to fix it, according to the monitor overseeing the reforms.

The department “is a dysfunctional organization, a highly dysfunctional organization,” Kenneth Thompson, the monitor, told the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee Thursday. “Its policies were poor, its staffing is poor, its technology is poor.”

The system for keeping track of simple things like how often officers stop and frisk people is so outdated that it’s backed up for years, he said.

Rachel Baye

Gov. Larry Hogan previewed his $46-billion fiscal 2020 budget Thursday, and education appears to be his top priority.

Photo courtesy BCPS

The Baltimore County School Board is about to try again to find a permanent school superintendent.

 

This comes as the interim superintendent, Verletta White, said she still wants the job.

 

 

Governor's Office

Gov. Larry Hogan is the second Republican in Maryland history to be sworn into a second term. The first was Theodore McKeldin, whose second inauguration occurred in 1955.

When he took his oath during his inauguration ceremony Wednesday, Hogan placed his hand on the same Bible McKeldin used in that 1955 inauguration.

Chris Connelly / WYPR

A proposal before state lawmakers would expand Maryland’s hate crime law to include displaying a noose or swastika on someone else’s property without permission.

 

 At 10 o'clock in the morning, Austin Lanham should be working at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center routing satellite communication.

But with the partial federal government shutdown, he's not working, deadlines are slipping, he's not getting paid and the preschool his two sons go to is shut down because it's on NASA's property. "Now I'm just a full-time stay at home dad," he says.

Rachel Baye

Senate President Mike Miller is being treated for prostate cancer.  As the 76-year-old legislator made his diagnosis public on Thursday, he promised that he will continue overseeing the state Senate while undergoing chemotherapy during the General Assembly session that began on Wednesday.

Rachel Baye

State Senate President Mike Miller announced today he is being treated for prostate cancer, but the 76-year-old legislator vowed to continue overseeing the chamber while undergoing chemotherapy.

Miller said he told the members of his chamber about the diagnosis in the spirit of honesty.

He became emotional throughout Thursday’s floor session, choking up as he recognized several former legislators and former members of his staff who were watching from the gallery.

Senate President Mike Miller showed up to work on Wednesday, the first day of the General Assembly’s annual session, with a cane, and he hinted at additional ailments.

The 76 year old said he needs the cane because of problems with his hip and knee. When a reporter asked whether he has other health concerns, he promised to disclose more information about his health during Thursday’s floor session.

“I plan to be president of the Senate for quite some time, and my health is very challenged, but we’re going to work through it,” he said.

Rachel Baye

 

The start of the 439th session of the Maryland General Assembly Wednesday ushered in a class of 60 new legislators. The 188 members now include a record number of women and the youngest woman to ever serve in the state Senate.

Rachel Baye

The Maryland General Assembly begins its annual 90-day session Wednesday in Annapolis, and reducing violent crime in Baltimore is at the top of political leaders’ agendas.

Fitzgerald Withdraws

Jan 8, 2019

  

Joel Fitzgerald, Mayor Catherine Pugh’s choice to be Baltimore’s next police commissioner, has withdrawn his name from consideration. 

The Fort Worth, Texas, police department, the force Fitzgerald leads now, made the announcement in a terse tweet early Monday morning, but provided no details.

@NOPDNews/Twitter

In barely 24 hours, Baltimore lost its lead on one new police commissioner, but gained another. Joel Fitzgerald, the chief of police in Fort Worth, Texas, was out and Michael Harrison, Police Superintendent from New Orleans was in.

After confirming Monday that Fitzgerald had withdrawn from consideration, Mayor Catherine Pugh announced Tuesday that Harrison will be Baltimore’s Acting Commissioner in a few weeks. She said he will then begin meeting with community groups and others before the City Council holds confirmation hearings.

It all happened with dizzying speed and a few contradictions.

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