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MD legislators ponder several bills that if enacted could offer more protections for renters

Housing issues have taken on new urgency in Maryland during the COVID-19 pandemic, with unemployment threatening stable housing at the same time as people are being told to stay home. As the pandemic drags on to its second year, Maryland lawmakers are faced with moving beyond coronavirus stopgap measures as well as addressing pre-existing issues such as affordability, safety, and evictions.

Howard launches commission to look at historical namesakes of county-owned streets, buildings, statues

For the past year, cities and states across the country have reckoned with racist and historically ignorant namesakes on buildings, street signs and statues. Howard County is now among the jurisdictions intentionally examining whose name gets used and where. Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced the inception of the Public Facilities and Spaces Commission on Thursday. The 12-person commission is set to examine the names of buildings, streets and statues in the county and decide whether or not to rename them.

Read More: Baltimore Sun
Gov. Hogan announces $123.2M in state support for local health departments

Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday announced more than $123.2 million in state funding to local health departments. The money is aimed at supporting COVID-19 vaccination efforts and addressing budget shortfalls. “As the state begins mass vaccination, and continues to expand the distribution network of vaccinators, county health departments will play a critical role in our focus on hard-to-reach areas and underserved populations,” Hogan said in a statement. “I want to thank and extend my appreciation to all of the vaccinators who are working around the clock to serve the community.”

Read More: WBAL
Republican state senators introduce suite of voting law proposals

Maryland Senate Republicans on Thursday introduced a suite of proposed changes to voting laws, including a voter ID bill. “Whether you believe there was minuscule or massive amounts of voter fraud, the 2020 elections have undeniably shaken the public’s confidence in Maryland’s election process,” Senate Minority Leader Bryan Simonaire said in a statement. “Make no mistake, we support and encourage every Marylander to exercise their right to vote, but before we consider expanding mail-in voting programs and making pandemic-year measures permanent, we must also put in the appropriate safeguards.”

Read More: WBAL
Feldman Pushes Cannabis Legalization, Ferguson Co-Signs

Senate Finance Committee Vice-Chair Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery) has filed legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis and pump funding into communities that have been adversely impacted by its current criminalization. The bill has a powerful set of cosponsors, including Senate Majority Leader Nancy J. King (D-Montgomery), Budget and Taxation Chair Guy J. Guzzone (D-Howard), Judicial Proceedings Committee Chair William C. Smith Jr (D-Montgomery) and Vice-Chair Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher (D-Montgomery).

$1.3 billion COVID-19 relief plan, HBCU settlement advance in Maryland Senate

Maryland senators gave initial approval Wednesday for a $1.3 billion COVID-19 economic relief bill and for a major financial settlement with the state’s historically Black colleges and universities. The COVID-19 bill, which Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has named the RELIEF Act, would provide stimulus payments for some working Marylanders, eliminate state and local income taxes on unemployment benefits and offer tax breaks to businesses.

Read More: Delmarva Now
Md. Senate panel hears bill to strip governor of parole decision

Maryland governors would be stripped of the final say in parole decisions for inmates sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after having served at least 17 years in prison under legislation being considered by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Senate Bill 202 is designed to ensure these inmates have a meaningful opportunity for parole by obviating the political risk a governor would run by releasing a convicted killer, the measure’s supporters told the committee Wednesday. Politicians’ fear of making a career-killing move makes denial of parole virtually certain in all cases, the backers added.

Baltimore’s Board Of Estimates Ends Agreement With Company Running Aerial Surveillance Program

The Baltimore City Board of Estimates on Wednesday unanimously approved ending the city’s agreement with the company undertaking the controversial aerial surveillance program. Officials said despite the program’s aim to reduce crime, there’s no proof it was effective in doing so. An independent study showed the program did help solve an extra 11 serious crimes, but the report could not draw a conclusion on its effectiveness.

Read More: WJZ
Frustration Over Vaccinations As Lawmakers Demand Governor Take Action to Fix ‘Failing’ Maryland System

Outrage is growing over Maryland’s patchwork vaccination system with all Democrats in Maryland’s Congressional delegation demanding a centralized website and telephone hotline where people can make appointments. They wrote a letter to Governor Hogan saying the vaccination program “is failing Marylanders.”

Read More: WJZ
Bill Would Require State Agencies, Local Boards of Elections To Live-Stream Meetings

After a lengthy battle to get the State Board of Elections to broadcast its meetings online, Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery) wants to require all executive branch agencies and local boards of elections to live-stream their meetings. In addition to the live-streaming requirement, Kagan’s Senate Bill 72 would require those agencies to post all of their meeting materials and agendas online at least 48 hours before each open meeting, and allow public access to archived meeting recordings and minutes.

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