Feb 16, 2022

Maryland Reporter

State Roundup: Lawmakers retooling public records law to add deleted text messages; ballot ‘curing’ bill passes Senate

The state Senate approved emergency legislation that supporters say will improve mail-in voting. Photo by Tiffany Tertipes on Unsplash

LAWMAKERS HOPE TO MAKE VANISHING MESSAGES PART OF PUBLIC RECORD: Maryland lawmakers want to make sure the quickly deleted text messages used by Gov. Larry Hogan and his staff are retained as public records. Democratic lawmakers are pushing to revise Maryland’s public records laws to more clearly include such messages — an effort that the governor’s spokesman alleges is politically motivated. Pamela Wood/The Baltimore Sun.

SENATE OKs BILL RAISING MINIMUM MARRIAGE AGE TO 17: The Senate passed legislation Monday night to raise the minimum age for marriage in Maryland from 15 to 17. With the Senate’s 45-0 vote, attention shifts to the House of Delegates where similar legislation awaits consideration. Under current law, 15-year-olds may marry if they are expectant parents and have the consent of a parent or guardian. Sixteen and 17-year-olds can get married if they are expectant parents or have a parent’s or guardian’s consent. Steve Lash/The Daily Record.

BALLOT ‘CURING’ BILL PASSES SENATE: The Maryland Senate approved emergency legislation that supporters said would improve mail-in voting in Maryland in advance of the 2022 elections. The 33-14 mostly party-line vote Tuesday — only Sen. Ed Reilly, R-Anne Arundel split from his party — sends the bill to the House of Delegates. Only Senate Republicans objected to the bill they said widens the opportunity for fraud in mail-in elections without some way to audit results. Bryan Sears/The Daily Record.

  • Montgomery County Democrat Sen. Cheryl Kagan, the lead sponsor, said the central goal of the bill is to streamline the ballot curing process. “If the ballot oath has not been signed, that ballot would not be counted. So we offer the local boards of elections the opportunity to connect with voters and have them cure their ballots so that it can be counted,” Kagan said. Callan Tansill-Suddath/WYPR-FM.

JONES CAUTIOUS AS CANNABIS LEGALIZATION DEBATED: Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore) is so cautious about legalizing marijuana in her state that she hoped to start the process this year by putting the issue to voters in November. Nothing else. The heavy lifting — deciding who should get licenses, how the program should be regulated and how to ensure it is equitable — should wait until the 2023 legislative session, she said. Ovetta Wiggins/The Washington Post.

SENATE OKs ED REFORM PANEL DESPITE CONCERNS: The Maryland Senate confirmed members of an education reform oversight panel Tuesday morning after Republicans sought to delay the appointments, citing concerns about geographic diversity. Four members of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Accountability and Implementation Board reside in Montgomery County, three in Baltimore City, one in Baltimore County and one in Anne Arundel County. Elizabeth Shwe and Bennette Leckrone/Maryland Matters.

MAKERSPACE BILL RETURNS: A bill that aims to support the development of new makerspaces across the state is back in Annapolis for the third time in three years, this time with a higher price tag attached. SB435, also known as the Maryland Makerspace Initiative Program, aims to distribute money to organizations and local governments that want to open and operate makerspaces — spaces in which community members can use a variety of crafting and manufacturing tools, as well as take classes on how to use those tools. Johanna Alonso/The Daily Record.


OPINION: HEALTHIER DRINK CHOICES FOR CHILDREN: The average American child consumes enough sugary drinks to fill a bathtub. Studies have shown this amount of sugar can put children at risk of diet-related diseases. HB 661 and SB 263, sponsored by Del. Diana Fennell, D-Prince George’s, and Sen. Pamela Beidle, D-Anne Arundel, would make healthy drink options like water, milk, and 100% fruit juices the default choice on kid’s menus when people go out to eat at any restaurant in Maryland. Laura Hale of the American Heart Association/Maryland Reporter.

GROUPS SEEK INQUIRY INTO COX’s JAN. 6 ACTIONS: Leaders of several progressive organizations urged state elections officials on Monday to consider blocking Republican gubernatorial hopeful Daniel L. Cox from the ballot, arguing that his actions on Jan. 6 might make him ineligible to run for office ever again. Bruce DePuyt/Maryland Matters.

DOD ENGINEER SEEKS GOP NOMINATION FOR ARUNDEL EXEC: After nearly 30 years of working as an engineer with the U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies, Fernando Berra has filed to run for county executive as a Republican. He joins a crowded field of GOP candidates including former County Council member John Grasso, current County Council member Jessica Haire, corporate recruiter Chris Jahn and former state Del. Herb McMillan. Incumbent Democrat Steuart Pittman is seeking a second term. The primary election is June 28. Dana Munro/The Capital Gazette.

COVID CASES IN CARROLL WANE; 3 RESIDENTS DIE: As the number of COVID-19 cases in Carroll County continue to slowly decrease since the height of the latest surge, three Carroll County residents died this past week due to the virus, according to the county health department. Madison Bateman/The Carroll County Times.

RULING EXPECTED SOON ON BA CO USING NEW COUNCIL MAPS: A federal judge said Tuesday she expects to decide “relatively soon” whether Baltimore County can use newly drawn County Council districts in the upcoming election or whether the county must hold off on implementing the redrawn map while it’s reconsidered. Taylor DeVille/The Baltimore Sun.

  • Civil rights groups oppose the council’s plan, which keeps just one majority Black Baltimore County Council district. U.S. District Court Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby heard arguments Tuesday on the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction to stop the new county council district boundaries, approved by the current council, from being implemented. Bennett Leckrone/Maryland Matters.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, the NAACP Baltimore County and others sued, saying there should be a second Black majority district, because the county’s population is nearly 30% Black. Both sides presented dueling expert witnesses to make their cases during the virtual hearing. John Lee/WYPR-FM.

B’MORE VICTIM OF PHISHING SCAM: Baltimore City fell victim to a $376,213 phishing scam last year after a hacker posed as a city vendor, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Office of the Inspector General. The payments were being sent from the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success and the report concluded that there were insufficient practices in place to prevent future fraudulent requests “as there was a lack of authentication.” McKenna Oxenden/The Baltimore Sun.