Senate President Bill Ferguson warned senators to be realistic about what the House can accomplish in the 90-day legislative session, after state lawmakers filed a record number of bill requests just days before a key drafting deadline.
To ensure the text of the bill is drafted before the Senate’s introduction deadline, lawmakers must submit requests to write possible laws by a deadline known as “guarantee day,” which this year is Jan. 20. The Legislative Service, which is responsible for writing the bill, confirmed it had received more than 700 requests in the last two days before the deadline – a new record.
“because it [a bill] If it comes on the guaranteed date, there will be hearings, every bill will have hearings, it will be reviewed, it may be amended, and that’s one thing we can’t get back, that’s time,” Ferguson told Monday’s meeting senator.
Lawmakers can continue to submit bill requests during the 90-day sprint, but standing committees are unlikely to consider them.
At a news conference on Friday, Ferguson thanked the Legislative Service for the “tremendous” amount of work it does each year and praised the “talented professionals” who he said “always deliver a fantastic job.”
The record for the most bills requested during the 2018 session was 3,946, according to the Legislative Branch.
Baltimore County still hasn’t promoted acting public works director
Baltimore County still does not have a permanent public works director, two months after voters approved a bylaw change that removed the county’s infrastructure director from being a licensed engineer.
The County Council proposed bipartisan legislation to bring the issue of the County Bylaws Amendment to voters, paving the way for D’Andrea Walker, the current Acting Director of the Department of Public Works and Transportation, to assume the position permanently.
Walker worked in local and state transportation executive offices for more than a decade, overseeing the “technical management” of one of the county’s largest agencies — with an operating budget of more than $400 million and roughly 900 employees, according to the countyNews release. The agency maintains county roads, utilities, engineering and construction services, solid waste management, and transportation.
But Walker was ruled out this month for the reappointment of county council department heads – a fact not lost on council chairman Julian Jones.
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“Ms. Walker, when do we send you up?” Jones asked at a Jan. 17 council meeting at which several agency officials suggested reassignment.
So far, the administration of County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. has not provided answers, despite backing a legal change that could make Walker a permanent leader. Walker’s continuing as acting director is itself a violation of the bylaws — the county should be barred from keeping interim agency directors for more than 60 days.
In November, 86.6 percent of Baltimore County voters approved the bylaw amendments, but the bylaws have still not been updated to reflect the new qualifications for public works directors. The county charter still refers to the director of public works as the county’s “chief engineer.”
However, the agency’s new name, “Public Works and Transportation,” was updated in the code, although the editor supposedly said the name had been changed by a 2021 parliamentary bill before also asking voters. The code, which was last updated in May 2022, provides an electronic copy of the local bylaw, according to Municode.
When asked why the code had not been changed, Olszewski’s spokeswoman said an update was expected “next week.”
County councils must approve directors who lead high-level agencies, including public works. The hindrance, it seems, was that Olszewski did not ask for Walker’s appointment.
Olszewski, now a second-term Democrat, named her acting director in 2020 to manage the county’s transportation priorities after hiring her to serve as the county’s public works department’s first deputy transportation director — Especially transit projects like the Towson Circulator.
Walker succeeds Thomas Keifer, Acting Director of Public Works, who retired in October 2020. Keifer, who previously led the county’s Department of Construction and Utilities, took over the department in May 2020, just months after the retirement of former superintendent Steve Walsh, who began working with the department in 1990.
Walker participated in reports from the Office of Inspector General, including an investigation in November that found she approved the use of funds from an alley resurfacing program intended to benefit homeowners and thus benefit commercial properties. Last May, Baltimore Brew reported that “all five directors, four division chiefs and five section chiefs” of the public works department had resigned or retired under Walker’s leadership.
Walker earned $198,115 last fiscal year, according to county payroll records. The bylaw amendment does not change the qualifications of the deputy director of public works — he must still be a licensed engineer.
new job for old hogan hands
Steve Crim, the architect of former Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s improbable first election victory in 2014, has a new campaign called “Common Sense Maryland.” project.
Common Sense Maryland is a nonprofit advocacy group that Crim said will “fight for common sense over the failed status quo institutions that hold our state back.”
Kerim said his team will lobby state lawmakers this year on issues such as “reining in taxes and government spending,” supporting businesses, promoting “energy diversification,” improving education and fighting crime.
Back in 2011, Crim was a co-founder of Hogan’s Change Maryland, an organization that gave Hogan a platform to speak out on political issues and ultimately led to his first run for governor in 2014. Crim presided over the first campaign, seen by many as a political campaign unhappy with Democratic candidate Anthony Brown, now the state’s attorney general.
Kerim also served twice in Hogan’s statehouse office and has been a strategist and advisor to various candidates.
Council members weigh vacancies in mayor’s cabinet
On Monday, a Baltimore congresswoman spoke directly about a series of vacancies in Mayor Brandon Scott’s cabinet, demanding a formal explanation from the administration.
Councilwoman Phylicia Porter of the 11th District, who represents South Baltimore, called for a hearing on the matter at a council meeting.
The Democrat said she intends to “be aware of the administrative vacancies that exist in the city of Baltimore … and make sure our agency operates as effectively and efficiently as possible.”
City councilors have little control over the executive, who controls much of City Hall through Baltimore’s strong mayoral system. Porter’s hearing was notable for its tacit questioning of Scott’s staff operations.
The mayor and representatives of various city agencies must now directly answer questions about the number of temporary workers and their plans to fill vacant positions.
Gov. Wes Moore and Lieutenant Gov. Aruna Miller shared lunch at the Annapolis landmark Chick & Ruth’s Delly on Monday, kicking off the first full week of the Democrats’ inauguration.
The bright orange and yellow restaurant names sandwiches after politicians and adorns the walls with their pictures. A framed photo of Moore and Miller hung above the governor’s booth, a seat reserved for the state’s top executive.
As the hungry politicians waited for their toasted sandwiches, they shook hands and posed for photos with customers and employees, before sitting at a table and toasting each other in milkshake glasses.
When Moore sips a “Shake Rattle & Roll”—a concoction of banana milkshake, vanilla peanut butter ice cream, and chocolate syrup, garnished with sliced bacon, whipped cream, and a peanut butter rim—he recommends a combo platter as His signature meal instead of a sandwich.
“I want to make crab cakes and waffles,” Moore told reporters. “Because I don’t see anything like that on it.”
Throughout his campaign, Moore asserted that he would do things differently than other politicians. He said the salty-sweet combination will reflect his approach: “We’re not afraid to do something different.”
As for Miller, she’ll settle for her favorite comfort food — grilled cheese on rye bread stuffed with pickles.
But before the executive’s menu banners are plastered on the walls of Main Street restaurants, owner Spencer Jones may have to make some room to clear menu items named after long-departed politicians.
Jones doesn’t get too involved with politicians and their dietary choices, he said. He did suggest that Moore should just pick his favorites, because in politics “there will always be people who support what you do and some who don’t. So you just do what you think is right.”