Today is the deadline to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, but Marylanders who begin the process today will be allowed to complete it. We kick off a series on Baltimore’s vacant properties. Plus: a transgender rights bill may go before voters. And it’s Opening Day for the Orioles.
Affordable Care Act Deadline: The deadline for signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is today. But here in Maryland, some people will get a de facto extension. Anyone who's uninsured and begins enrollment by the end of the day will be allowed to enroll during this period. To make sure the process is underway, people can call a state hotline: 1-800-396-1961. Governor Martin O'Malley says more than 270,000 Marylanders have enrolled in coverage under the Affordable Care Act so far; the Annapolis Capital reports that about 50,000 of them have signed up for private plans, and the rest enrolled in an expanded Medicaid program. The governor is urging those who are uninsured to go to the Maryland Health Connection website by today’s deadline to choose a private health plan or opt for Medicaid if eligible. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun. Once this enrollment period is done, Maryland could replace its online health exchange with technology that's been used successfully in Connecticut. Sources familiar with the decision tell the Washington Post that the board of the Maryland Exchange plans to vote on the matter tomorrow. Connecticut's health exchange system is considered to be among the best in the country for enrolling people under the Affordable Care Act.
Making the Brown Track Green: Despite the efforts of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s administration, thousands of vacant houses blight block after city block in Baltimore, frequently hindering redevelopment efforts. Today, we kick off a new series: “Deconstructing Vacants: Baltimore’s Hope For A Better City.” In this installment, WYPR’s Kenneth Burns looks at the city’s efforts to make brown tracks green.
Behind The Campaign To Delay Wind Turbines In Southern Maryland: WYPR's Joel McCord and Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland talk about an effort to stall the construction of windmills in Southern Maryland and why powerful politicians might be concerned about more than the region's economy. It’s this morning’s edition of Inside Maryland Politics.
Transgender Rights Bill Could Go Before Voters: The transgender rights bill that passed the General Assembly last week could go before Maryland voters this fall. The measure is aimed at banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations and credit. Governor Martin O’Malley says he’ll sign it into law. But if that happens, the group behind the website “MDPetitions.org” could work to petition the measure to referendum. MDPetitions.org put three laws on the ballot in 2012 – including one legalizing same-sex marriage – but Maryland voters upheld all three. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun and here from the Washington Post.
House Votes To Ban Grain Alcohol Sales: The House of Delegates has approved a bill that would ban the sale of grain alcohol. The House voted Friday to outlaw the sale of 190-proof alcoholic products – that’s alcohol that’s 95 percent pure. Lawmakers in favor of the measure say highly concentrated alcohol products contribute to the culture of binge drinking, especially among college students. The State Senate has already approved its version of the measure. It would make selling 90-proof alcohol a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. The Washington Post has more.
Lawmakers To Discuss Drones: A group of Maryland lawmakers is gathering to learn more about the state's drone industry. The state legislature's Joint Information Technology and Biotechnology Committee will meet this afternoon to hear about unmanned aircraft system technology and whether it can be used by state law enforcement agencies. State Senator Jamie Raskin and Delegate Sandy Rosenberg have introduced measures which would allow that only when agents have obtained a warrant. The bills have received unfavorable committee votes.
Anne Arundel Waiver Request Denied: The snowy winter is prompting school systems around the state to request waivers from the requirement that they hold 180 days of class this year. Anne Arundel County cancelled nine days of school this year… and only had four makeup days built into their calendar. The system asked for a five day waiver – but on Friday, State Schools Superintendent Lillian Lowery denied that request. The state tells the Annapolis Capital that school systems must demonstrate that they’ve made an effort to provide additional instruction – such as operating on previously scheduled holidays – in order to get waivers. Anne Arundel school officials say they’re now hoping to hold class on April 21st, the day after Easter Sunday… but it’ll need approval from the state to do that. Anne Arundel says that if it gets that approval, it’ll ask for another single-day waiver, and plan to hold its last day of classes on June 20th. The original last day was set for June 17th.
UMD Data Breach: The University of Maryland's president has given Congress a report on the school's security breach where hackers stole information from some 300,000 students and employees. Dr. Wallace Loh told the Senate Commerce Committee last week that the February cyber breach took the university by surprise as it was facilitated through a website meant for uploading photos. The Senate is debating a bill to require minimum notification standards for future breaches, but Loh says he'd like a law passed that would prevent financial institutions from using Social Security numbers. WJZ has more.
Farmers’ Market Reopens Sunday: The Baltimore Farmers Market is coming back. Maryland's largest producers-only facility reopens this Sunday, April 6th, underneath the Jones Falls Expressway. The kickoff of the farmers’ market’s 37th season includes expert gardeners, live music, crafts and collectibles.
Baltimore Baseball: Today is Opening Day at Camden Yards. The Orioles begin their 60th season in Charm City this afternoon, taking on the Boston Red Sox. First pitch is set for 3:05pm. Several streets around Camden Yards will be shut down starting at 10 a.m. for Opening Day festivities. Closures include Washington Boulevard as well as Eutaw, Camden, Lee and Hamburg streets. Fans should either park north of the stadium or take public transportation to avoid parking hassles. Meanwhile, Camden Yards has taken the #2 spot in a new ranking of the Top Ten Ballparks in America. The travel website TripAdvisor says the list is based on the site's popularity index and traveler reviews of different Major League stadiums. Camden Yards is rated highly for its retro look and ambiance even though it opened in 1992, its convenient location and nearby attractions like Babe Ruth's birthplace.