A Maryland House committee on Feb. 5 voted to approve a bill prohibiting all retail establishments from distributing a plastic carryout bag at the point of sale.
House Bill 314, the Plastic Bag Reduction Act, cross-filled with Senate Bill 223 in the state Senate, would tackle the plastic pollution problem in the state, advocates said.
Advocates for the bill said reusable bags create less waste, reduce the state’s carbon footprint and will better the environment long term.
“Every step that we can take to reduce our society’s reliance on single-use plastics is a nod to our children’s future,” said Del. Brooke Lierman (D-Baltimore city). “We want them to be able to go to the beach where their only concern is jellyfish, not plastic bags.”
There isn’t a facility that can properly recycle plastic bags in Maryland because they damage the machines, Lierman added.
“In some of our county departments of waste they have to pay people to pull plastic bags out of the recycling machines, and if they don’t end up in our recycling they end up in our water supply,” Lierman told Capital News Service.
Mr. Trash Wheel, a solar-powered vessel, has collected more than 700,000 plastic trash bags from the Inner Harbor since 2014, according to the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore.
However, the machine’s technology can’t separate plastics from the rest of the trash, so they are incinerated to create electricity, Mr. Trash Wheel’s website states.
Kate Breimann, state director of Environment Maryland, said this ban is the first step in changing behaviors around single-use plastic.
“We need to change from single use to reuse,” Breimann said.
Montgomery, Howard and Baltimore counties and Baltimore City charge a 5 cent tax on plastic bags.
A Maryland Sierra Club survey states these fees have cut down single plastic use by more than half in some local grocery chains.
In 11 Maryland counties, 85% to 99% of customers brought their own bag or no bag at all when the store did not provide plastic carryout bags and charged for paper and reusable bags, the survey found.
Beginning July 1, 2022, all retail establishments would be prohibited from distributing any bag less than four mils thick to any customer unless the bag contains: prescription drugs or live fish, multiple plastic bags, fruits or vegetables provided by a farm or orchard, among other authorized uses, the bill states.
The change would cost about $82,000 in the first fiscal year to hire an attorney in the Maryland Department of Labor to help implement the law, according to a state fiscal analysis.
At the local level, funding is expected to increase to enforce the bill, but small businesses will be impacted the most, the bill states.
Small businesses have until the effective date to switch to non-plastic use.
Last month, the bill had hearings before the Senate Finance and the House Environment and Transportation committees.
Zachary Taylor from the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance testified in opposition to the bill during the House hearing, citing the added burden it would put on small businesses that are already struggling due to the pandemic.
“For small businesses who are hurting it’s going to take them a long time to recover,” Taylor said. “Banning plastic bags are going to have them acquire alternative, more expensive products with costs that they cannot afford.”
This bill was passed through the House and a Senate committee in the previous session, but ultimately failed after the Legislature ended early due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The bill now advances to the House of Delegates for a vote of the full chamber.
The Senate Finance committee has not yet scheduled a vote on its bill.
Signing up to speak at a bill hearing or file written testimony got harder — and for some, maybe impossible — after the coronavirus pandemic shifted how the Maryland General Assembly accepts witness testimonies.
In previous years, interested parties would trek to Annapolis the morning of a bill hearing and sign up to testify. If they needed assistance in the process, lobbyists could do it for them.
While the online system makes it accessible for people who couldn’t previously go to Annapolis in person, it has its own set of challenges.
If an individual or lobbyist wants to sign up to testify, in either the House or Senate, they have to sign up 48 business hours before the hearing date, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., on the Maryland General Assembly website. Until Monday, sign up times began at 10 a.m.
This time frame is challenging for people who work during the day or for voters with disabilities, said Joanne Antoine, executive director of Common Cause Maryland.
“It really just isn’t that simple for people who aren’t doing this on a day-to-day,” Antoine said.
For instance, if a voter is blind and they have to join a meeting at home, and their Zoom account is not identical to their sign-up name, they won’t be let into the electronic room, Antoine said.
Not only do people have a small window to sign up and must do it on their own, oral testimony is now limited in the Senate and the House.
The Senate caps oral testimonies at four in favor, four in opposition and two favorable with amendments. Out of the four chosen on the affirmative side, three are selected by the sponsor, with one selected at random, so it limits the amount of people who are able to have their voices heard in the process, Antoine said.
The House allows for up to 50 oral testimonies, but varies by committee.
A lot of controversial bills are coming down this session, such as police reform, corporate tax rates, and recycling, so what happens when more people want to weigh in on these issues, Rebecca Snyder, executive director of the MDDC Press Association, asked.
There is no limit on the number of people who can submit written testimony. However, written testimony isn’t nearly as effective as oral testimony because there’s no way to address what someone else said in the hearing, Snyder said.
This session is like no other because there is very little chance for public interaction and comment, she said.
The General Assembly really “missed the mark” for an opportunity to make public participation more accessible, especially during a pandemic where people’s voices are needed more than ever, said Cathryn Paul, research and policy analyst at CASA.
“The people who are least represented in the General Assembly right now are people of color… [and] low-income folks who don’t have access to the digital tools that they need, and generally, are the marginalized communities who are being left out,” Paul said in an interview with Capital News Service.
There are barriers on many fronts for immigrants. A majority of CASA members do not have an email address, so even the first step in this process of filing testimonies is a huge issue, Paul said.
CASA has multiple immigration-related bills being introduced this session, and it’s concerning that a majority of the General Assembly’s rules for testimony aren’t in Spanish or any other language, Paul said.
The General Assembly has made sure that members of the staff are committed to working through these problems as quickly as they come up, said Jeremy Baker, senior adviser to the Maryland House of Delegates.
“There’s going to be barriers to any solution during this pandemic,” Baker said.
The new system of filing testimonies is keeping people safe, Baker said, and the General Assembly is pleased that they can still work in a way where people can see the process virtually.
Paul recommended that the General Assembly instructional videos on their website be available in languages other than English as soon as possible.
The process for accessing testimonies has changed as well. Before the pandemic, anyone could come to a committee’s office in Annapolis and ask for a copy of the bill file.
Now, digital files of written testimony for standing committees are made available through the General Assembly website only once the bill has been passed in the committee and has moved on to the chamber floor for the second time — called “second reader.”
To request it before then, anyone can call the committee and ask for a copy of the bill file, Baker said.
Following a one week hiatus to allow owners, trainers and drivers the chance to enjoy Super Bowl Sunday at home, Rosecroft Raceway offered a live racing card on St. Valentine’s Day that perhaps enabled owners, trainers and drivers to get their hearts racing in a variety of ways.
In the opening race on the Sunday card on Valentine’s Day, Precision Blue Chip (Russell Foster) notched his second straight score in the top class when he gained command soon after the start and led throughout en route to a two-length score in 1:51.2. Last year’s champion fall pacer, Precision Blue Chip appears to have returned to peak form.
Just six nights earlier on the lone Monday card, Precision Blue Chip (John Wagner) regained his winning ways when he angled out first over down the backside, surged to command entering the far turn then held safe the late bids of Dance On The Beach (Frank Milby) and Rocktavius (Luke Hanners) to score by two lengths in 1:51.3 in the $12,000 Open.
A six-year-old Bettor’s Delight gelding owned and trained by Courtney Brooks, Precision Blue Chip recorded his second win in three starts this year and ended a mild, four-race skid when he posted a 4-1 upset in the weekly feature on Feb. 8. Last year’s Rosecroft fall meet champion pacer, Precision Blue Chip had not win since taking a pair of Maryland Open events in late November for Brooks.
“He was finally able to draw inside,” Brooks said of Precision Blue Chip, who now owns 16 wins and $85,000 banked from 72 lifetime tries. “Last year he had so many outside posts. When he got the two hole for this race, I thought he could finally win again.”
One race later in the tough, non-winners of $6,001 last four starts class for older pacers looking to vault back into the Open ranks, Jack Quick (Jason Thompson) easily lived up to his role as the 3-10 choice when he brushed to command past the half and drew clear from Hickory Aloha (Timmy Offutt) to a three-length score in 1:52.3.
A six-year-old Nuclear Breeze gelding owned, bred and trained by Basil Sapienza of Greenbelt, Jack Quick notched his first win in three starts this year and now owns a 14-11-9 slate and nearly $100,000 banked from 63 career tries. His latest tally likely earned him a spot in the Open for the next several weeks.
Then one race later in the final non-winners of $4,001 last four starts split condition, R U Machin Me (John Gazzerro) altered tactics and forged an 8-1 upset in 1:54. A nine-year-old Mach Three gelding owned, trained and driven by Gazzerro, R U Machin Me recorded his first win in three starts this year and now owns 27 victories and $170,000 banked from 200 career outings.
“It felt good being able to be on the front,” said Gazzerro, who is often seen guiding R U Machin Me from well off the pace. “It was a different viewpoint tonight. But he’s been in with some tough ones for a while now.”
Several races later in another non-winners of $4,001 last four starts class for pacers, Starship (Jonathan Roberts) rallied from last early and widest of all in the lane for a two-length score in 1:53.1. A four-year-old Captaintrecherous gelding trained by Megan Roberts for owner William “Bib” Roberts, Starship notched his second win in four starts this year and now owns an 8-4-2 slate and roughly $90,000 banked from 30 lifetime outings.
Then one race later in the first non-winners of $4,001 last four starts class for older pacers, Spinout (Jonathan Roberts) returned immediate dividends for his new connections when he gained command from post six soon after the start then sprinted clear in the lane to an eight-length score as the 6-5 choice while stopping the timer in 1:54.4.
A 10-year-old Spun Out gelding trained and co-owned by Greg Trotto, Spinout recorded his first victory in two starts this year and now boasts 39 victories and nearly $375,000 lifetime from 194 career outings. At ages two and three, Spinout was the dominant force in the Maryland Sire Stakes events when he won all of his preliminaries and finals in walkover fashion.
Several races later in a non-winners of $2,501 last four starts class for older pacers, Son Of A Lynx (Jason Thompson) easily lived up to his role as the 3-5 favorite when he gained command soon after the start, carved out honest fractions and edged clear late to a three-length score in 1:53. A five-year-old Southwind Lynx gelding and half-brother to Slick Tony, Son Of A Lynx now owns a 7-9-13 slate and over $90,000 banked from 71 lifetime tries.
Maryland State Police are seeking the public’s assistance in investigating several unsolved fatal hit-and-run crashes that have been reported over the past year.
These crashes occurred between Feb. 29, 2020 and Sept. 27, 2020 in Howard, Baltimore and Prince George’s counties. None of these cases are believed to be connected.
The most recent case occurred between 9:15 and 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 27, 2020, in Howard County. According to investigators, the suspect vehicle struck three people who had been involved in two other crashes moments prior to the fatal incident.
The series of three crashes occurred on southbound Interstate-95 near Route 100. The first crash occurred when a 2020 Nissan Armada struck a deer, then traveled onto the left shoulder and struck the guardrail. A portion of the vehicle remained in the fast lane of I-95. The driver activated the hazard lamps on the car.
The second crash occurred when a southbound 2018 Chrysler Pacifica struck the Nissan on the passenger side. The driver of the Chrysler, later identified as Russell Eggleton, 40, of Virginia, pulled to the left shoulder in front of the Nissan and stopped.
The hit-and-run crash occurred when an unidentified vehicle traveling southbound struck Kazeem Afolabi, 44, and Khadija Aremu, 40, both of California, the two occupants of the Nissan, who were believed to be standing behind their car. That same vehicle then struck Eggleton, who was standing at the front of the Nissan. The driver did not stop and fled the scene. All three were transported to Shock Trauma in Baltimore for treatment of their injuries. Eggleton died at the hospital.
Anyone with information on this case is asked to call the Maryland State Police Waterloo Barrack at 410-799-2101.
Troopers are also continuing to investigate a fatal hit-and-run crash that killed one person and injured another early in the morning on Aug. 12, 2020 in Baltimore County.
Shortly after 4:20 a.m., the Maryland State Police Golden Ring Barrack received two calls regarding a disabled vehicle in the center lane of the inner loop on Interstate 695 between I-95 and Philadelphia Road in Rosedale. According to a preliminary investigation, when troopers arrived at the scene they found two pedestrians who were struck by the disabled vehicle, a grey Ford Taurus.
One of the victims, Amira Geovoni Jennings, 17, of Baltimore, was declared deceased at the scene. The other victim, an 18-year-old male, was transported by ambulance to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center for treatment of his injuries.
According to a preliminary investigation, the suspect vehicle, which is possibly a dark grey Infiniti G37. Infinity G25 or Infiniti Q40, swerved around the Ford and struck the victims, who were standing in front of their vehicle. The suspect vehicle fled the scene after the crash.
Anyone with information on this case is asked to contact the Maryland State Police Golden Ring Barrack at 410-780-2700.
On March 1, 2020, Earl Rogers Sr., 74, of Largo, Maryland was fatally struck on southbound Route 4 at Old Marlboro Pike in Forestville.
Shortly after 8:30 p.m. on March 1, 9-1-1 callers to the Forestville Barrack reported seeing a pedestrian struck by at least one and possibly two vehicles on southbound Rt. 4 at Old Marlboro Pike, Forestville. Troopers responding to the scene found the victim, later identified as Rogers, lying in the grass off the right shoulder of the roadway. Emergency medical services personnel pronounced the victim dead at the scene.
A description of either of the striking vehicles is not known at this time. Anyone who may have witnessed this fatal hit and run is urged to contact the Maryland State Police Forestville Barrack at at 301-568-8101.
Finally, troopers are still searching for the driver 2018/19 silver Nissan Altima, wanted in connection with a fatal hit-and-run involving a pedestrian that occurred early in the morning on Feb. 29, 2020 along I-495 at northbound I-95 in College Park.
Shortly before 5:30 a.m. on Feb. 29, 2020, the Maryland State Police College Park Barracks received a 911 call from a motorist reporting what appeared to be a body lying in the gore area between the inner loop of I-495 and the ramp for northbound I-95.
Troopers responded and found the unidentified victim, later identified as Henry Washington, 60, of Washington, D.C. Responding emergency medical services personnel pronounced the victim dead at the scene.
The preliminary investigation indicates Washington was walking when he was struck by the unknown vehicle. Maryland State Police crime scene technicians have recovered vehicle debris that indicates the striking vehicle may have been a silver Nissan Altima.
Anyone with information on this case is asked to call the Maryland State Police College Park Barrack at 301-345-3101.
Callers may remain anonymous in all four of these cases.