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Headlines: Speed Tickets, Health Insurance Rates, and Planning Upgrades For Baltimore City Schools

Baltimore City is throwing out some 6,000 tickets issued by its speed and red light cameras. Many Maryland health insurers are looking to impose steep rate increases for the health insurance plans that'll be offered through the state's health benefit exchange next year. A report on plans to rebuild and renovate dozens of Baltimore city school buildings. Plus: a new legislative audit reveals problems with the electronic servers that maintain Internet communications for 30 different state agencies. The State Board of Education approves new emergency planning guidelines aimed at helping school systems prepare for disasters. A look at yesterday's indictments in an alleged Baltimore jail smuggling operation. And more.

Ticket Amnesty: Thousands of motorists who got tickets issued by Baltimore city's speed cameras and red light cameras will not have to pay them. City officials announced yesterday that they're throwing out more than 6-thousand of the tickets; that means that the city will miss out on a chance to collect some 300-thousand dollars in fines. The move comes after the city's former camera contractor stopped defending tickets in court; officials tell the Baltimore Sun that they don't have enough evidence to fight the appeals without the contractor's help... but that contractor says has turned over all necessary information to the city. The news comes after Baltimore stopped issuing any new tickets its cameras last week; the Baltimore Brew reports that move came after new problems with the cameras came to light

Proposed Rate Increases For Health Insurance Plans: Many Maryland health insurers are looking to impose steep rate increases for the health insurance plans that'll be offered through the state's health benefit exchange next year. The insurers say they need to charge more for insurance, to compensate for the requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act. For example, the region's largest insurer -- CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield -- is proposing a 25 percent rate increase for many of its plans. Governor Martin O'Malley's office notes that the Maryland Insurance Administration would have to approve the rate increases for them to take effect... and tells the Baltimore Business Journal "it is premature to reach any judgment or conclusion based on the rates as proposed."

Problems At The State Archives: A new legislative audit has revealed problems with the electronic servers that maintain Internet communications for 30 different state agencies. Those servers are operated by the State Archives, and the Baltimore Sun reports that the agency hasn't updated their operating system in about six years... leaving its computer systems vulnerable to security exploits. A representative of State Archives says the agency plans to replace the servers within the next six months. The audit also showed that the Archives don't currently have adequate procedures to prevent the loss or theft of the 31 million dollars worth of art in its collection. notes that there's no indication that such theft has yet occurred, nor does the audit indicate that the server security issues have had any impact on state e-mail accounts or websites

School Upgrades In Baltimore: Earlier this month, the General Assembly approved a financing plan for the first phase of a 10-year, 2.4-billion dollar project to upgrade Baltimore City's deteriorating schools. Now, officials at some of those schools are telling district administrators how they want their new schools to look. City Schools CEO Dr. Andrés Alonso says that agreements still have to be hammered out with city and state officials, but once that's done, work can begin on 15 of the district's worst schools. Last week, WYPR Education Reporter Gwendolyn Glenn visited one of those schools, and brings us this report.

Upgrade Funds For Frederick County Schools: The Frederick County Board of Commissioners is sending 1 and a half million dollars to the county's school system, money that'll be used for upgrades in infrastructure, security, and technology. The one-time cash payment is being welcomed by the Frederick County School board, but the Gazette notes that the Board has requested about millions of dollars more in funding, which the Commissioners have said they don't have the cash to provide.

Disaster Planning Guidelines For MD Schools: The State Board of Education yesterday approved a series of new emergency planning guidelines designed to help school systems prepare for disasters. The document recommends that schools conduct a series of preparedness drills every year, for events such as severe weather, lockdowns, and evacuations. The State Education Department tells the Baltimore Sun that new regulations requiring schools to put those plans in place will likely go before the Board next month.

Inside Maryland Politics: WYPR's Fraser Smith and Steve Lash of the Daily Record talk about why some cases at the Maryland Court of Appeals are decided years after arguments are heard.

Baltimore Jail Smuggling Case: More than two dozen people are under federal indictment in connection with an alleged Baltimore jail smuggling operation. The Baltimore Sun reports that twenty-five people are named in the indictment, including 13 correctional officers and suspected members of the Black Guerilla Family gang. The jail guards are accused of helping gang members smuggle cellphones, drugs and other contraband into the Baltimore City Detention Center, Central Booking and other prison facilities.

An Investigation Of Anne Arundel County's Police Chief: Anne Arundel County's police chief is under investigation for allegedly retaliating against officers for testifying against former County Executive John Leopold. Current County Executive Laura Neuman is also investigating whether Chief Larry Tolliver used homophobic slurs.The Baltimore Sun reports that Tolliver is denying the allegations, and says personnel changes he made were designed to reform the department after years of Leopold misusing his security detail

A "Roadmap" For Baltimore's Minority Business Enterprise Program: Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's minority business council is set to put forth a plan today to get more minority- and women-owned businesses working on city contracts. The Baltimore Business Journal reports that the "roadmap" will call on the city to re-think how contracts are administered.

In Sports News: the Orioles took down out the Toronto Blue Jays 4 to 3 in last night's game. The O's complete their 3-game series with the Blue Jays this afternoon; the game starts at 12:35 at Camden Yards. 

And: the Mayor of San Francisco plans to make good on a Super Bowl bet he made with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake this Friday. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee will be in town to clean up a parking lot, help fix and paint a police station, and tutor city kids.