In The News

October 29, 2020

This week, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen led members of the Maryland delegation, including Senator Ben Cardin and Congressmen Steny H. Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, Anthony Brown, Jamie Raskin, and David Trone (all D-Md.) in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue urging him to immediately implement fixes to the Farmers to Families Food Box program, as recent changes to the program are leaving Maryland families and food vendors behind.

October 29, 2020

Maryland members of Congress are putting the full court press on Gov. Larry Hogan regarding the Purple Line project, which appears to be at a near standstill after Purple Line Transit Partners gave notice it was leaving the jobsite. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin along with Reps. Steny Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, Anthony Brown, Jamie Raskin and David Trone signed a joint letter to Hogan urging him to find a way to complete the Purple Line. “We are writing today to express our deep concern about the future of the Purple Line project....  Now that it is clear that the Purple Line Transit Partners (PLTP) intend to leave the project and began to demobilize and secure the construction sites.... our concerns about the fate of the project have grown exponentially,” said the letter. PLTP is packing up due to delays that have resulted in $800 million in cost overruns. Maryland has taken control of a few of the Purple Line subcontractors, but has not announced how the project will be executed moving forward. The lawmakers want to know how many contracts the state has taken over, their dollar amount and whether or not the state has the ability to manage the contracts effectively.

October 29, 2020

Baltimore County released two proposed routes and operating hours for the Towson Circulator pilot program, a free bus that would offer travel in and out of downtown Towson. The county also submitted an order for a fleet of 12 buses, Americans with Disabilities Act accessible, expected to be delivered in 2021, County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said during a Wednesday news conference. The buses would hold up to 25 people with space for wheelchairs and bikes.... Olszewski’s fiscal 2020 budget included $100,000 in planning money for a Towson Circulator, and the project was granted $1,651,720 from a competitive U.S. Department of Transportation grant process in November of last year, supported by U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, and Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes. The federal money helped pay for the purchase of buses and other costs related to the Circulator, along with county funding that also funded a contract with Columbia-based engineering firm Sabra & Associates to determine the feasibility of the bus system.

October 28, 2020

The democratic members of Maryland’s congressional delegation are pressing Gov. Larry Hogan to find a way to complete the Purple Line, after the private partner building the light rail project began packing up work sites. In a letter to the Republican governor, the members wrote, “We are writing today to express our deep concern about the future of the Purple Line project… Now that it is clear that the Purple Line Transit Partner (PLTP) intend to leave the project and began to demobilize and secure the construction sites… our concerns are about the fate of the project have grown exponentially.” PLTP left the project because of $800 million in cost overruns and several delays. Both parties are suing each other in court. Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin signed the letter asking with Democratic Reps. Steny Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, Anthony Brown, Jamie Raskin, and David Trone. Republican Rep. Andy Harris did not sign the letter.

October 28, 2020

Members of Maryland’s congressional delegation wrote to Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Wednesday, saying that their “deep” concerns about the fate of the Purple Line “have grown exponentially” since the consortium managing the project terminated its contract. In a letter to Hogan, the nine Democratic lawmakers urged the Maryland Department of Transportation to negotiate with the private consortium, Purple Line Transit Partners, over hundreds of millions in unpaid cost overruns. Meanwhile, they said, the state should simultaneously continue to make “the necessary arrangements to transition the project to MDOT if a settlement is not reached.” “It is imperative to find a path forward as these delays mean that Maryland residents are the ones that suffer,” the letter said.... The letter is signed by Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, and Reps. Steny H. Hoyer, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, John P. Sarbanes, Anthony G. Brown, Jamie B. Raskin, Kweisi Mfume and David Trone.

October 27, 2020

Maryland’s congressional delegation sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue this week, imploring the agency to alter its Farmers to Families Food Box Program to include more Maryland families and vendors. “We are disappointed to learn that multiple Maryland vendors and municipalities did not receive sufficient support from the program’s third round,” the letter reads. “We urge the Department take immediate action to remedy this as it impacts the food sources of thousands of Marylanders.” The letter, led by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) and signed also by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) and Reps. Steny H. Hoyer (D), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D), John P. Sarbanes (D), Kweisi Mfume (D), Anthony G. Brown (D), Jamie B. Raskin (D) and David J. Trone (D), asks Purdue to provide more information about: the process used to determine the total number of boxes to be received by the state in the third round; how jurisdictions are chosen to receive food boxes; and how the USDA decides to move forward with vendor contracts. The Maryland delegation wrote that data from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service shows a 74% decrease in the number of food boxes invoiced during the program’s third round of purchases.

October 22, 2020

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and FBI Director Christopher Wray gave an unexpected press briefing on Wednesday—13 days out from the election—in which they said that Iran and Russia obtained voter registration information in attempts to meddle in U.S. elections. They said that voting remains secure, but House lawmakers renewed the call for the Senate to take up their “2019 For the People Act,” which the chamber passed in March 2019 and has specific provisions to beef up the Election Assistance Commission.... The bill “eliminates the existing funding cap, requires each state to comply with any EAC request for post-election survey results following any regularly scheduled general election for federal office beginning in November 2020, directs the [EAC] to assess the security, cybersecurity and effectiveness of the commission’s information technology systems and to review the effectiveness and efficiency of the state-based Help America Vote Act administrative complaint procedures,” according to a summary of the bill. It also, “establishes standards for election vendors based on cybersecurity and company ownership and expands the [EAC’s] ability to issue grants to harden our nation’s election infrastructure [and] directs the [EAC] to make available grants for states to replace voting machines that are not compliant [with] paper ballot voting systems and carry out voting system security improvements.” The legislation also addresses campaign finance transparency, voting rights, redistricting and government ethics. Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., who introduced the bill in January 2019, told Government Executive on Thursday that the House also passed the "Securing America’s Federal Elections Act” and the "Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy Act” which would “further protect our elections and safeguard our democracy.” He said he is “deeply alarmed that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans continue to block these critical national security efforts and repeatedly fail to protect our country from foreign attacks.”

October 21, 2020

Another coronavirus relief bill isn't looking promising, at least not right now. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned the White House not to make a deal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before the November election. U.S. Representative for Maryland's 3rd congressional district, Congressman John Sarbanes, joins us to explain the holdup, and talk about the second and final presidential debate.

October 19, 2020

Ari Shapiro, Host: A teacher, a small-business owner and a retiree who complained they paid more in federal income taxes than President Trump are now gracing campaign billboards in swing states around the country. The ads follow reporting by The New York Times that Trump paid little or no federal income tax in most of the last 20 years. Trump has denied that report, but as NPR's Scott Horsley reports, the wealthy are getting less scrutiny from the tax collector with each passing year.... Horsley: The IRS is particularly aggressive about auditing people who claim the earned income tax credit. While that tax break for working families has been plagued by reporting problems, the IRS says it accounts for just 6% of all unpaid taxes. Nevertheless, people claiming the credit were more than 10 times as likely to be audited last year as multimillionaires. Over the last decade, the IRS enforcement budget has been cut by 25%. Democratic Congressman John Sarbanes says that's made it harder for the agency to keep tabs on wealthy people who try to avoid paying taxes. John Sarbanes: The rich get richer. High-end tax cheats get away with not paying their taxes. Meanwhile, those average Americans out there who play by the rules - they're the ones that are getting short shrift here. Horsley: University of Pennsylvania law professor Natasha Sarin says it's hard for ordinary wage-earners to cheat the government because their taxes are automatically deducted from their paychecks. Rich people, on the other hand, have more ways to hide their income and lowball their tax bill.

October 8, 2020

Iwant to voice my support and congratulations to Rep. John Sarbanes, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and everyone who worked tirelessly to pass America’s Conservation Enhancement Act (“U.S. House passes up to $92 million in Chesapeake Bay cleanup funding; advocates expect Trump to sign," Oct. 1). The passage of this bipartisan legislation is exciting news for the future of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and is cause for celebration. Growing up in Federal Hill, my life has been full of waterfront memories — passing runners on scenic morning jogs and watching the sunset from a bench at the park. However, I also have memories of sweltering afternoons where the lack of shade-providing trees (and the occasional smell of dead fish due to algae blooms) made the four-block walk to my best friend’s house almost unbearable. Over time, I learned that experiences like mine are all too common and not evenly distributed. Volunteering in Sandtown-Winchester, a historically under-resourced part of Baltimore, I learned how systematic forms of discrimination have contributed to higher asthma rates in red-lined communities. To me, restoring the Chesapeake Bay means ensuring every resident of Baltimore has the right to clean water and healthy air, to explore and enjoy green spaces, and to thrive within their neighborhoods. Restoring the environment restores us. The ACE Act will help us do just that through the increased funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program, reauthorization of the Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails Network, and the establishment of the Chesapeake WILD program. I especially want to thank Mr. Sarbanes for his leadership on the reauthorization of the Chesapeake Bay Program. He has worked for several years on this important issue and I am grateful for his commitment to the health of the nation’s largest estuary.