In The News
Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport will receive a $10 million federal grant to fix up one of its runway approaches, Maryland congressional delegation officials announced Thursday. The money from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program will be used for the reconstruction of BWI’s Taxiway Z, “which has reached the end of its useful life,” according to a news release from U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, all Democrats…. Sarbanes pledged to continue working with the congressional delegation to bring federal grant money for Maryland infrastructure projects. "This federal investment will help ensure that BWI Airport remains one of Maryland’s key commercial and economic hubs,” Sarbanes said in a statement.
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Airport is getting some cash flow from a Department of Transportation grant. Three Maryland lawmakers announced $9.94 million in federal funds for the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Airport through the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration. The funds will be used to reconstruct a portion of Taxiway Z. The announcement comes from U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Rep. John Sarbanes (all D-Md). Sen. Cardin called BWI a huge asset to the state, and the nation, saying that much of the region’s commerce is dependent on the airport’s operation…. Rep. Sarbanes also said the investment will ensure that the airport remains a Maryland economic hub.
While former Special Counsel Robert Mueller has made it clear he does not intend to go beyond what is laid out in his report when he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday afternoon, he indicated one possible exception in May. The threat to U.S. election security “deserves the attention of every American,” Mueller warned in his rare public remarks on May 29, the closest he got to giving an opinion on the content of his report. He again reiterated those words in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning. “Over the course of my career, I have seen a number of challenges to our democracy,” Mueller told lawmakers. “The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious…. ” If it was prioritized, Mueller could give significant weight to election security efforts that have floundered in Congress. Several Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have indicated that they hope he will use the high-profile hearings to talk about these ongoing threats…. The hearings come as Congress remains deadlocked on legislation to counter the next attack on U.S. election infrastructure, three years after the Russian operation first came to light. Democrats are accusing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of refusing to allow the Senate to vote on bipartisan election security proposals. “Tomorrow, we’re going to hear again directly from Bob Mueller about what these attacks on our democracy were and hopefully it will spike people’s interest in making sure that we can reinforce our election security,” Rep. John Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat, said on Tuesday. “Hopefully it will get Mitch McConnell interested in this fundamental enterprise to make sure that Americans’ democracy is secure and protected.”
House and Senate Democrats on Tuesday used the pending testimony from former special counsel Robert Mueller to launch a full-scale assault on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over his ongoing efforts to block congressional efforts to pass election security legislation…. While Republicans and Democrats alike have attempted to pass a variety of legislation to improve election security over the past two years in response to Russian interference, McConnell has repeatedly stood in the way of the bills and argued against the need for a greater federal role to protect voting…. The criticism comes as the country prepares for Mueller’s long-awaited congressional testimony about his investigation into Russia’s interference into the 2016 election…. Tuesday’s press conference also coincided with testimony by FBI Director Christopher Wray, who told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Russians “are absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections…. ” Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who chairs the House Democracy Reform Task Force, said the chamber had tried to accommodate McConnell by breaking out the ballot box security provisions from a larger measure that was a grab-bag of election reform efforts. But now “that’s piling up on the Senate side against the door that Mitch McConnell has barred when it comes to protecting our democracy,” Sarbanes said, noting that last month the House passed a Democrat-backed bill that would require election systems to use voter-verified paper ballots. “The alarm bells are going off, the lights are flashing and Mitch McConnell is blithely sleepwalking through it all,” he said.
As the Trump administration prepares to move two Agriculture Department research agencies out of the nation’s capital, many of the agencies’ employees appear ready to quit their jobs rather than leave their homes. Democratic lawmakers in Maryland are scrambling to put the brakes on the administration’s plans in an effort to keep their constituents’ jobs nearby, but their attempts so far haven’t worked. The Trump administration announced plans last month to move the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture out of Washington, D.C., to a new office in the Kansas City area. The administration is pushing a tight timeline to try to relocate both agencies by the end of September. Agricultural researchers and economists faced the first deadline this week to tell the agency if they would uproot their lives and move to Kansas City or leave their jobs. The majority of the workforce has not accepted the transfer to Kansas City…. 19 House and Senate Democrats asked Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue this week to at least slow down the process to address the concerns of staff members who are fleeing the agencies. “We remain concerned that this restructuring will gut the ability of these agencies to successfully carry out their important missions,” the lawmakers wrote in a July 16 letter to Perdue. “We also remain concerned that the quality of work at ERS and NIFA has already been undermined and will continue to degrade.” The letter was signed by Maryland Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, as well as Democratic Reps. John P. Sarbanes, Steny H. Hoyer, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Anthony G. Brown, Jamie Raskin and David J. Trone.
Hours before a thunderstorm washed out Baltimore County, America’s birthday brought hundreds to Washington Avenue to the annual Fourth of July parade in Towson. With a flyover over the national anthem, the event started strong despite the threat of rain, drawing people from near and far to celebrate the country’s independence…. The parade had everything from live music to big rigs…. Local politicians also came out to celebrate the holiday. “Everybody is celebrating our patriotism today, our independence. We mark it every year very proudly and I think Baltimore does that as well as anybody,” Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) said.
Fourth of July parade spectators sought comfort Thursday from the familiar trappings of the holiday — lawn chairs strategically positioned on sidewalks, kids waving tiny American flags, horses clip-clopping down the route. But with the nation starkly divided over political and social issues, many celebrants at the parade in Towson said — some striking wistful tones — that the holiday has changed. “It’s a lot more complicated,” said businessman Eric Gee, who joined the crowds lining Towson streets on a 90-degree day to watch one of the state’s biggest Independence Day celebrations. Parades marking America’s Declaration of Independence 243 years ago were also scheduled for Annapolis, Arbutus, Bel Air, Catonsville, Dundalk and other communities across the state. Towson parade spectators offered divergent theories about the evolving feel of the day. For Gee, the tone of the day changed when President Donald Trump decided to play a particularly prominent role by planning a speech at the Lincoln Memorial during a “Salute to America” showcasing the might of the U.S. military…. Among the elected officials in the parade were U.S. Reps. John Sarbanes and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, both Baltimore County Democrats. Sarbanes told the Baltimore Sun that Independence Day was a celebration of “our nation’s freedom from foreign influence and interference in our democracy.” As such, he said the nation “must act quickly — and in bipartisan fashion” to bolster its efforts to prevent attacks on election security in 2020.
On July 4, Americans of all political stripes join together to celebrate our nation’s independence from overseas monarchs, from foreign influence, from interference in our democracy.... This is the moment to apply the lessons of 2016, when our election infrastructure — the core of American democracy — was attacked by a foreign adversary in a choreographed and coordinated effort. State and local election systems across the country were probed and, in some cases, breached. Outsiders exploited digital platforms to wage a full-scale disinformation campaign. And secret foreign money was deployed to influence the electoral outcome.... As elected officials, we swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and guard against foreign interference in our domestic affairs. Each and every one of us at the federal, state and local levels has a duty to safeguard our election systems. The alarming findings of the Mueller Report, along with several assessments from our nation’s intelligence community, warn that we are woefully unprepared for similar attacks that will be coming in 2020.... We must spring into action.... In Maryland, we continue to take steps to secure our election system. Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 743, legislation empowering the state administrator of elections to terminate any vendor upon a determination that a foreign national has the ability to control, influence or direct the vendor in a manner that could compromise or influence the independence and integrity of our elections. But we need the federal government to step up and do its part.... Democrats in the House of Representatives are taking this responsibility seriously. As our first order of business, we introduced and passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which provides billions of dollars in assistance to states to help improve their election system security. H.R. 1 also requires the Department of Homeland Security and director of national intelligence to share threat data and best practices for security with state election officials and requires the president to develop a national strategy to defend our democratic institutions.... Inexplicably, no House Republicans chose to join Democrats in voting for H.R. 1, and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to even allow a vote on it in his chamber. Recently, Republicans were afforded yet another opportunity to show their patriotism when Democrats introduced a standalone election security bill, the Safeguarding America’s Federal Elections (SAFE) Act. Focused exclusively on protecting the integrity of the ballot box, the SAFE Act would modernize our election systems by providing new resources to states to improve election infrastructure, increasing the adoption of paper ballots and ensuring the accuracy of the vote tallies. But Leader McConnell has yet again barred the door, indicating that he will refuse to hold a vote on or debate this commonsense legislation in the Senate.... The American people deserve to have confidence that our elections are fair and free from foreign intrusion. As we mark Independence Day and celebrate our country’s freedom from influence abroad, we must join together in this patriotic undertaking to protect our country from foreign attacks. It is time for congressional Republicans to take seriously the threats to our democracy and help give states like Maryland the tools and resources they urgently need to protect our elections. Anything less is an abdication of their constitutional duty.
June 28 marks exactly one year since the deadly shooting at The Capital Gazette newsroom…. On June 28, 2018, a gunman entered the newsroom and killed five employees: editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, assistant editor Rob Hiaasen, editor/reporter John McNamara, sales assistant Rebecca Smith and community correspondent Wendi Winters…. The remaining staff pushed through and continued to put out a paper the next day, reporting on the very tragedy that took their co-workers lives. They put out a paper every day since, in an impressive show of resolve and responsibility to not let the shooting stop them from doing their jobs…. The community gathered along the waterfront at Acton Cove Park — not far from the Maryland State House — to dedicate a memorial garden to the five victims…. The garden dedication included Representative John Sarbanes and Senator Chris Van Hollen. Both lawmakers praised the paper for its service to the community—and for the determination to keep going and “putting out the damn paper” even the day after the murders…. The emotional day also continued into the night with the City of Annapolis holding a special remembrance concert at Maryland Hall…. The night ended with candlelight illumination, showing that even though times go on, these faces and their work will never be forgotten.
When particularly juicy news broke, Capital Gazette editor Rick Hutzell would burst out of his office to share it with his assistant editor, Rob Hiaasen. One day, he wasn’t there. Likely, Hutzell told a crowd gathered Friday morning at Acton’s Cove Waterfront Park, Hiaasen had slipped out of the newsroom to come here. Under the shade of the trees, with boats bobbing nearby in the water, he found the solitude to think about his next column, or how to help one of the reporters he edited and mentored. Now, the park is home to a rose garden planted in the memory of Hiaasen; Gerald Fischman, an editorial writer; John McNamara, a sports and news writer and editor; Rebecca Smith, an advertising assistant; and Wendi Winters, a community features writer. The garden was dedicated on the first anniversary of the day they were killed by a mass shooter in their Annapolis office…. The dedication of the memorial garden launched a day of remembrance of the deadliest attack on a newspaper in U.S. history. A Laurel man, Jarrod Ramos, awaits trial on murder and other charges in the shooting for which he’s pleaded not criminally responsible…. The five died “senselessly” while doing jobs that made them a vital part of a close-knit community, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said…. U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen and U.S. Rep John Sarbanes, Maryland Democrats, also spoke at the dedication…. Sarbanes recalled rushing to Annapolis after learning of the shooting. “By the time I got here, there were already two things happening which were awe-inspiring,” he said. “The first was that you could feel the defiance on the part of the Capital Gazette, already beginning to think about how to resist that attack and make sure that that newspaper went out the next morning. “The other thing that you could feel was that the healing was beginning,” Sarbanes said. “People were rushing from around Annapolis to put their arms around the families of those victims.”