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Trump flies to Florida as Biden inaugurated

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WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA – In the fleeting minutes before the inauguration of his successor, Donald Trump was able to enjoy the perquisites of the presidency for a last time — an escorted motorcade moving slowly through the streets of Palm Beach, Florida, as he waved from behind the windows of an armored vehicle to hundreds of supporters waving banners, cheering his name and some urging him to run again in 2024.

Trump was accompanied home by the now-former first lady Melania Trump, a small number of still-loyal aides, and a dozen members of the White House press corps, which he had collectively during his tenure derided as “fake news” and “enemies of the people.”

Supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump hold signs and wave flags as they stand along the route of his motorcade in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Jan. 20, 2021. Photos courtesy of VOA.

The motorcade pulled through the gates of the Mar-a-Lago estate less than 30 minutes before Trump lost the powers of the presidency.

After leaving the White House for a final time, Trump arrived early Wednesday at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on the Marine One helicopter. He was greeted by the tune of “Hail to the Chief” played by a military band, a 21-gun salute, and an invited crowd of about 200 people.

There, for just under 10 minutes, he addressed supporters — a more subdued, casual, and condensed version of the stump speech from his frequent Make America Great Again rallies that he had hoped would win him reelection last year.

“I wish the new administration great luck and great success. I think they’ll have great success,” said Trump without referring to President Joe Biden by name.

Trump, who had been criticized for downplaying the coronavirus pandemic, made a rare mention of the “incredible people and families who suffered so gravely” from COVID-19, referring to it as “the China virus.”

The 45th U.S. president promised to “be back in some form” and then concluded his remarks by telling the cheering crowd, “have a good life. We will see you soon.”

The Trumps then climbed the steps to Air Force One and turned around to wave several times, before departing for Florida.

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump greet family members stand on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, Jan. 20, 2021.

Trump, as was the norm for four years, broke with tradition until the very end, not only avoiding Biden’s inauguration but still refusing to utter the name of the Democratic Party nominee who was victorious in November’s election.

At the moment Biden took the oath of office as new president just before noon at the heavily fortified U.S. Capitol building, Trump was 1,400 kilometers to the south, already inside his Mar-a-Lago mansion, a frequent warm weather retreat during his presidency.

Before he touched down in Florida, Air Force One did a low altitude flyover of the Florida coast to give the Trump family onboard an aerial view of Mar-a-Lago.

Capitol mayhem

Trump’s presidency ended in shambles. In its waning days, Trump was impeached a second time, the latter after the House of Representatives, including 10 Republicans, charged him with insurrection. Trump, even out of office, will face trial in the Senate soon.

In a January 6th speech on the Ellipse, with the White House in the background, he exhorted supporters at a Stop the Steal rally to march on the Capitol where lawmakers, led by Vice President Mike Pence, were counting the electoral votes to finalize Biden’s victory.

The mayhem caused deaths, injuries, and damage resulting in federal charges against more than 100 people — an event many Democrats and others have characterized as an attempted coup.

That event has weakened Trump’s grip on the Republican Party as many of its key politicians ask themselves whether the former president will help or hurt them in Congressional elections now less than two years away.

Approval ratings

In a Gallup poll released this week, Trump departs with a 34% approval rating, the low point of a presidency that already had the weakest average favorability rating of any since the survey began in the 1940s.

U.S. President Donald Trump is seen as his motorcade drives past supporters on Southern Boulevard on their way to Mar-a-Lago in Florida, Jan. 20, 2021.

Yet he remains popular among Republican voters, with an 82% approval rating. Despite condemnation from some of his party’s lawmakers and even members of his Cabinet who resigned in protest over his post-election rhetoric, Trump is the current front-runner should he choose to run again for president in 2024.

Trump’s business partners, from golf tournament partners to banks, are shunning him and he may struggle to remain a billionaire between now and the next presidential election. He has been silenced on social media and could face a slew of legal charges in New York and other states.

COVID-19

In his wake, he leaves behind a pandemic whose global spread he has blamed on China. The infectious disease has killed more than 400,000 people in the United States, far more than any other country has reported.

In the final year of his presidency, Trump himself was hospitalized after becoming infected by the coronavirus. Opinion polls indicate a majority of Americans believe his administration’s response made the pandemic worse.

Trump’s supporters point to positives achieved by the 45th president, including destruction of the Islamic State caliphate, normalization of the Middle East, criminal justice reform, and speeding approval of generic drugs.

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LFCC once again named a Military Friendly school for 2021-2022

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LFCC has been recognized as a 2021-2022 Military Friendly ® School. Institutions earning the Military Friendly® School designation were evaluated using both public data sources and responses from a proprietary survey. This is LFCC’s 11th year of receiving the distinction.

The 2021-2022 Military Friendly® Schools list will be published in the May issue of G.I. Jobs magazine and can be found at www.militaryfriendly.com. Methodology, criteria, and weightings were determined by Viqtory with input from the Military Friendly® Advisory Council of independent leaders in the higher education and military recruitment community. Final ratings were determined by combining the institution’s survey response set and government/agency public data sources, within a logic-based scoring assessment. An institution’s ability to meet thresholds for student retention, graduation, job placement, loan repayment, persistence (degree advancement or transfer) and loan default rates for all students and, specifically, for student veterans, were measured.

“Our student veterans are resilient and focused,” said LFCC veteran academic advisor/certifying official Sharon Painter. “In this past year, our student veterans have learned to adapt to changing learning environments, maneuver through changes to Department of Veterans Affairs laws and manage pandemic constraints. They have stepped up to meet these challenges and continue to succeed in 2021.”

LFCC had particularly strong measurements when it came to the retention and graduation rates of our student veterans. According to Painter, the college had 230 veteran, active duty, reservist or National Guard students enrolled in the 2019-2020 academic year.

“Military Friendly® is committed to transparency and providing consistent data-driven standards in our designation process,” said Kayla Lopez, National Director of Military Partnerships, Military Friendly®. “This creates a competitive atmosphere that encourages colleges to consistently evolve and invest in their programs. Schools who achieve designation show true commitment and dedication in their efforts. Our standards assist schools by providing a benchmark that promotes positive educational outcomes, resources, and support services that better the educational landscape and provide opportunity for the military community.”

About Military Friendly ® Schools:

The Military Friendly ® Schools list is created each year based on extensive research using public data sources for more than 8,800 schools nationwide, input from student veterans, and responses to the proprietary, data-driven Military Friendly® Schools survey from participating institutions. The survey questions, methodology, criteria and weighting were developed with the assistance of an independent research firm and an advisory council of educators and employers. The survey is administered for free and is open to all postsecondary schools that wish to participate. Criteria for consideration can be found at www.militaryfriendly.com.

About Viqtory:

Founded in 2001, VIQTORY is a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) that connects the military community to civilian employment, educational and entrepreneurial opportunities through its G.I. Jobs® and Military Friendly® brands. VIQTORY and its brands are not a part of or endorsed by the U.S. Dept of Defense or any federal government entity. Learn more about VIQTORY at www.viqtory.com.

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Maryland’s Governor Hogan looks to new vaccine during stadium site visit

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Emergency use authorization of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine would provide a huge boost to Maryland’s efforts to fill the gulf of supply in the state’s vaccine allotment, Gov. Larry Hogan, R, said Thursday.

Hogan made the statement at a press conference after a tour of the M&T Bank Stadium vaccination site.

The governor’s comments echo those he made on Tuesday that the vaccine, produced by Emergent BioSolutions in Baltimore, could receive FDA Emergency Use Authorization as early as Friday.

Authorization by the FDA, which would make it the third vaccine in the U.S, would bolster the options states have in treating the enormous demand for vaccinations.

The single-dose vaccine would allow more people to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 quicker than the two-dose variants from Moderna and Pfizer.

Earlier in the day, Hogan took a tour of the newly operational mass vaccination facility, along with the head of the State’s Vaccine Equity Task Force, Gen. Janeen Birckhead.

The governor spoke with constituents and watched several vaccinations in progress during the walkthrough of the site, built in a large reception area in the stadium’s club level.

President and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System Dr. Mohan Suntha and Michael Frenz from the Maryland Stadium Authority were also in attendance.

Suntha called the establishment of the new mass vaccination site a step in a “big process” of ensuring Maryland Communities were vaccinated.

Birckhead said the new vaccination center was “one step closer to getting us back to normal.”

The site is expected to eventually administer 2,000 doses of the vaccine per day, and up to 10,000 per day at its peak, according to Hogan.

Sign-ups for the M&T Bank Stadium vaccination site began on Monday, with some 15,000 appointments registered before Thursday’s opening, according to the governor’s office.

However, the Baltimore Sun reported that the sign-up page for appointments was overwhelmed as Marylanders rushed to schedule an appointment.

M&T Bank Stadium is the third Mass Vaccination site to open in Maryland, joining the Baltimore Convention Center and Six Flags America in Bowie.

A fourth mass vaccination site is slated to open in Southern Maryland in March at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf with support from FEMA.

Maryland has administered 1.18 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at a seven-day average of 31,050, according to the Maryland COVID-19 vaccination dashboard.

Maryland is in Phases 1A, 1B, and 1C of its vaccination plan, which allows residents 65 and older, teachers, health care workers, the developmentally disabled, nursing home staff and residents, and others to get the vaccine.

Eligible Maryland residents can call 1-855-MDGOVAX(1-855-634-6829) to schedule an appointment from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

By DARRYL KINSEY JR.
Capital News Service Annapolis Bureau

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What’s next for the struggling U.S. Postal Service?

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Almost two months into the new year, the U.S. Postal Service is still juggling massive delays, budget issues, and operational challenges, compounded by the many obstacles of 2020.
Under fire from congressional critics and the public, Postmaster General and CEO Louis DeJoy were defensive at a Feb. 9 meeting of the Postal Service’s Board of Governors. And some lawmakers want him gone.

“Unlike many who care to offer suggestions about the Postal Service, I offer that the future of the Postal Service must not be about assigning blame,” DeJoy told the board. “It must be about finding solutions and implementing them –and that is what our Board, our management team and I plan to do.”

During the holiday season, notably the peak season for post offices, the USPS processed and delivered a record number of packages – more than 1.1 billion – despite the challenge of operating in a global pandemic.

When FedEx and UPS increased shipping restrictions because of the pandemic, the Postal Service says it never turned away a package.

“As Americans are urged to stay home, the importance of the mail will only grow as people, including those in rural areas and senior citizens, will need access to vital communications, essential packages, and other necessities,” Postal Service spokeswoman Martha Johnson said in a statement.

But in many communities across the nation, postal deliveries have been – and remain – abysmal. First-Class letters have taken weeks to cross a single state. Packages have taken months to travel distances as short as a three-hour car ride.

Seemingly everyone has been impacted on some level by the Postal Service’s struggles.

Yadira Keen Santos of Annapolis said in a direct message on Twitter that she experienced mail delays impacting her mortgage payments. Santos did not receive her December mortgage statement until the end of January.

“I still have not gotten Jan. and Feb. will probably get to me by April at the speed this is going,” she said. “Of course it goes the other way too. They did not receive my Dec. payment that was sent 12/9 until 1/27.”

During the week of Dec. 26, only 64 percent of First Class mail was delivered on time, while the rate was just 45 percent for periodicals, according to a Feb. 17 letter to DeJoy from 34 Democratic senators.

“Our constituents have experienced missed paychecks and court notices, delayed critical prescriptions, an inability to reach small business customers and suppliers, lost rent payments and delayed credit card payments resulting in late fees, breakdowns in service to their communities, late personal mail such as holiday packages and more,” the senators wrote.

“It is your duty, first and foremost, to protect service and ensure timely mail delivery for every person in this nation,” the letter said. “We demand that you not make additional changes that will harm service for the American people.”

One of the senators on the letter, Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen, thinks DeJoy, a donor to former President Donald Trump, is “still wreaking havoc” and needs to be removed.

In a campaign fundraising email Friday, Van Hollen charged that “DeJoy is now planning to slow down delivery times even further while raising postage rates.”

Other congressional Democrats also have called on President Joe Biden to fill vacancies on the board of governors to ultimately oust DeJoy.

While the 11-member board appoints the postmaster general, the president has the authority to appoint nine of the board’s members. Currently, there are three vacancies on the board, along with the deputy postmaster position.

Eighty House Democrats, including Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes of Towson, wrote Biden a week ago urging him to give those vacancies his immediate attention.

“We do not doubt that the Postal Service requires some thoughtful reforms in order to continue to provide excellent service to the American people in the years to come; however, there is a plethora of evidence that Postmaster General DeJoy is not equipped to meet the rigors of these challenges,” the lawmakers told the president.

DeJoy generated a furor last summer when he announced a slowdown in mail deliveries, canceled overtime, and dismantled automated mail sorting machines. Critics feared the moves would affect the vast volume of mail-in ballots in the November presidential election. DeJoy suspended further changes in October.

The USPS has been included in various COVID-19 legislation from Congress, including December’s relief bill that converted $10 billion in an additional borrowing authority loan into direct emergency relief. Previously, the Postal Service would have been required to repay this loan.

The American Postal Workers Union has been grateful.

“Together with the efforts of our national, state and local leaders and activists,” said union President Mark Dimondstein, “our retirees and the APWU auxiliary, as well as many friends in both sides of the aisle in Congress, there was never a moment that Congress could ignore the APWU’s priorities in the relief debate.”

As Congress negotiates the contents of the next COVID relief bill, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, hopes will be passed by the end of the month, the USPS said retiree health insurance is of utmost importance to its 664,000 workers.

“Medicare integration continues to be the top priority proposal we are advancing to improve coverage and cost and to align our retiree health funding practices with other government entities and the private sector,” Johnson said.

The change would provide much-needed financial stability for the USPS, according to officials.

At the Board of Governors meeting, DeJoy apologized to all Americans who “felt the impact of our delays.”

But he promised three critical components to his 10-year plan: keeping six-days-a-week delivery, providing employees with the tools and training to ensure long-term careers, and investing in vehicles, technology, and equipment.

By JENNIFER MANDATO
Capital News Service Washington Bureau

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Fauquier Health Wound Healing Center raises awareness about the impact of heart health on wound healing

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An alarming 48 percent of Americans currently suffer from cardiovascular disease, that’s 121.5 million adults. Throughout Heart Health Awareness Month, Fauquier Health Wound Healing Center, a member of the Healogics network, will work to spread awareness about how cardiovascular diseases can affect the wound healing process. Chronic wounds affect approximately 8 million people in the United States. If left untreated, an unhealed wound on the foot or leg can lead to a diminished quality of life and possible amputation. As many as 82 percent of leg amputations are due to poor circulation of the affected limb.

Cardiovascular diseases such as coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease, strokes, arrhythmia, vascular disease and other issues with the heart and vessels can causes blockages that obstruct the flow of blood needed for proper wound healing. Differentiating between arterial and venous ulcers  may be challenging, but a correct diagnosis can result in optimal treatment options. Careful vascular assessment is key when a patient presents with a lower extremity ulcer as arterial disease is generally contraindicative to compression therapy, the cornerstone of venous ulcer management.

Dr. Lynn Samuel, MD, Medical Director at the Fauquier Health Wound Healing Center commented, “Cardiovascular health is a priority for wound healing. Many patients suffering from lower extremity ulcers also suffer from some form of blood vessel disease. At the Wound Healing Center, we identify these problems and work with the patients to correct them through Interventional Radiology and ongoing education.”

Fauquier Health Wound Healing Center, offers the following tips to live a heart healthy life:

  • Eat Heathy. Low-fat, high-fiber food are good for your heart. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains every day.
  • Be Active. Walk, run, dance, swim… find a way to get moving for at least 30 minutes every day. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight.
  • Take Care. Be kind to yourself. Practice positive self-talk. Make sleep a priority. Reduce stress with fun hobbies. Stop smoking and all use of nicotine.
  • Get Screened. See your healthcare provider at least twice a year. Ask about screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.

If you or someone you know is living with a cardiovascular disease, it is especially important to detect wounds early. Seek specialized wound care to prevent possibly infection, hospitalization and amputation due to poor circulation. For more information, contact the Fauquier Health Wound Healing Center at 540-316-HEAL (4325).


About Fauquier Health

Fauquier Health is a community health system dedicated to high-quality, patient-centered care in a unique environment that considers the multiple facets of healing and respects the individuality of each and every patient. Located at 500 Hospital Drive in Warrenton, Virginia, Fauquier Health serves the residents of Fauquier and several surrounding counties. It comprises: Fauquier Hospital, a fully-accredited, 97-bed hospital; Fauquier Health Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a 113-bed long-term care and rehabilitation facility; the Villa at Suffield Meadows, an assisted living facility; the Wound Health Center and a medically supervised Wellness Center offering health and wellness programs.  Fauquier Health also operates nine physician’s offices, including primary care and specialties. More information on Fauquier Health is available online at FauquierHealth.org or by calling 540-316-5000.


About Healogics

Headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., Healogics is the nation’s wound healing expert. Last year over 300,000 patients received advanced wound care through a nationwide network of over 600 Wound Care Centers. The Healogics team is made up of almost 3,000 employees, 4,000 affiliated physicians and a Healogics Specialty Physician practice group of nearly 300. In addition to the company’s network of outpatient Centers, Healogics partners with over 300 skilled nursing facilities to care for patients with chronic wounds, and provides inpatient consults at more than 60 partner hospitals. As the industry leader, Healogics has the largest repository of chronic wound-specific patient data in the country. The Healogics Wound Science Initiative, an effort launched in 2017 to provide peer-reviewed research, recognizes the value and relevance of big data and advanced analytics to drive continuous, collaborative learning towards a better understanding of how to efficiently utilize healthcare resources for patients with wounds. For additional information, please visit Healogics.com.

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As WMATA struggles amid COVID-19 crisis, VA & MD Senators announce bill to renew federal funding for next ten years

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U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) along with Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-MD) announced, on February 19, 2021,  a bill to renew the federal funding commitment to Metro for the next ten years – legislation that comes at a critical time for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which continues to provide critical service to the essential frontline and federal workers despite the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis.

“Last year, I was proud to help negotiate the December COVID-19 relief bill that provided critical emergency relief funding to help WMATA stay afloat and avoid drastic service and staffing cuts,” said Sen. Warner, a member of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, which has oversight over our nation’s urban transit systems. “With this legislation, we have the opportunity to ensure that WMATA can continue to support our federal workforce in the long term, as well as provide reliable and timely service for individuals – including many essential workers – commuting in and out of Virginia, DC, and Maryland.”

“It’s critical Congress provide this necessary funding to help people, especially frontline workers, get around the DMV amid the pandemic,” Sen. Kaine said. “I urge our colleagues to support this vital legislation that will help prevent significant cuts, and allow individuals to rely on safe and efficient travel.”

“Maintaining a safe and reliable public transit system for the seat of the federal government is a clear national priority. We recognized 10 years ago – as we do now – that providing dedicated funding for WMATA will help keep Metro on track for everyday use and during national and regional emergencies. Metro and its workers have been on the front lines as essential workers providing vital service to others who also are keeping our communities, our health system, and our economy running during this challenging time,” said Sen. Cardin, Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. “Our bill helps put Metro on solid footing into the future as our region emerges from the COVID-10 pandemic.”

“WMATA provides a vital network that keeps our region connected and moving — getting federal employees to their jobs, essential workers to the front lines of the fight against the pandemic, and getting area residents and visitors where they need to go,” said Sen. Van Hollen. “As we continue to weather the COVID-19 storm, this bill helps WMATA not only meet the current needs in this crisis, but also makes the long-term improvements necessary to enhance safety, efficiency, and reliability for riders for years to come.”

Recognizing that the Metro system is integral to the functioning of the federal government, for the past decade, Congress has provided Metro with $150 million annually for capital expenses, with Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia each providing $50 million in matching funds. The Metro Safety, Accountability, and Investment Act of 2021 will ensure that WMATA can continue to count on this full federal funding for an additional ten years by reauthorizing funding levels from the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 through the fiscal year 2030, at an annual level of $150 million, matched by funding from Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Additionally, this legislation would help bring about a series of key safety, oversight, and governance reforms at WMATA by including an additional $50 million per year in federal funding that is not subject to local match, bringing the annual federal commitment to Metro to $200 million. In order to access the additional $50 million, WMATA will be required to: further empower Metro’s Inspector General; establish task forces on-track safety and bus safety; implement policy and procedures to improve WMATA’s capital planning process; improve the transit asset management planning process; continue to reinforce restrictions on the activities of alternate WMATA Board members to provide more effective Board management and oversight, and prioritize the implementation of new cybersecurity protections and the integration of wireless services and emergency communications networks.

The bill also restricts WMATA from using federal funds on a contract for rolling stock from any country that meets certain criteria related to illegal subsidies for state-owned enterprises. Sens. Warner, Kaine, Cardin, and Van Hollen have previously raised concerns regarding the possibility of Metro awarding a contract to build its newest 8000-series rail cars to a Chinese manufacturing company.

This legislation has the support of a number of groups and organizations, including 2030 Group, Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, Arlington Chamber of Commerce, Coalition for Smarter Growth, Connected DMV, DC Sustainable Transportation, Federal City Council, Georgetown Business Improvement District, Greater Washington Board of Trade, Greater Washington Partnership, Loudoun Chamber, MetroNow Coalition, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce, Tysons Partnership, and Virginia Transit Association.

“This bill once again demonstrates our Congressional delegation’s leadership supporting critically needed funding to maintain a safe and reliable transportation system, and it will be critical to the region’s recovery for years to come,” said Paul J. Wiedefeld, Metro General Manager and CEO. “We welcome provisions that will increase transparency and ensure taxpayer funds are well-spent to continue to earn the public’s confidence. We thank the authors of this bill for understanding the importance of Metro to the entire region.”

“The Metro system is one of the nation’s great public assets that millions of people rely on every year – from federal workers to visitors from around the world,” said Paul C. Smedberg, WMATA Board of Directors Chair. “We’re deeply thankful for the work of our region’s Congressional delegation to establish a long-term source of funding, so we can continue to serve the public and bolster the independent oversight that is critical to maintaining trust with our customers.”

“Sustainable, federal PRIIA funding for WMATA is an investment in one of our country’s most important mass transit systems — connecting Virginia, Maryland, and DC and serving our nation’s capital,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “With the safety and accountability, this legislation requires, our federal delegation is providing a lifeline for essential workers and a commitment to the region’s economic future.”

“As we recover from the pandemic and move our economy forward, it is crucial that Metro delivers safe, reliable, efficient and equitable services to millions of riders including federal employees,” said Jack McDougle, President & CEO of the Board of Trade and a founding member of the MetroNow Coalition. “The reauthorization is needed to ensure access to opportunities for all our residents and keep the region competitive. The second-largest public transit system in the country, Metro requires sufficient resources to make the right investments as well as keep up with the latest technology.”

“A safe, reliable and affordable Metrorail and Metrobus is critical to our region’s economic recovery,” said Julie Coons, President, and CEO of the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and a founding member of the MetroNow Coalition. “The WMATA Authorization’s Federal investment now will keep Congress’ commitment to our transit system – the same system the Federal government and its employees rely upon – and help get the region fully running again.”

“Metro is the backbone of our region, critical for our government, private-sector, and essential workforce, and a lynchpin in our efforts to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth and a founding member of the MetroNow Coalition.

Bill text is available here. A one-page summary is available here. The legislation is expected to be formally introduced when the Senate returns to session next week following the President’s Day work period.

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Maryland Bill allows for more local restrictions on tobacco products

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Maryland’s legislators introduced a bill that would allow localities throughout the state to place more stringent restrictions on the sale and distribution of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

SB0410 and its cross-file, HB1011, sponsored by Sen. Benjamin F. Kramer, D-Montgomery, and Del. Samuel L. Rosenberg, D-Baltimore, authorizes a county or municipality to enact and enforce local laws that are at least as stringent as state laws that regulate the sale and distribution of cigarettes, according to a state legislative analysis.

“Tobacco kills our kids and what this bill would do is give local jurisdictions the authority to take action if they feel that the specific needs of their communities were not met by state law,” Rosenberg said at a Thursday press conference Capital News Service viewed.

That rule also applies to other tobacco products and electronic smoking devices.

If passed, this legislation would allow local jurisdictions to pose tougher restrictions on the age limit to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Under this bill, localities would also have the authority to limit some kinds of tobacco-related products that are sold, including vapes and their associated flavors.

“There is a myriad of reasons to support giving local jurisdictions this control, all of which relate to the health and welfare of the public,” Kramer said at a Thursday Senate Finance Committee bill hearing.

However, it doesn’t apply to the issuance of licenses for cigarettes, other tobacco products, and electronic smoking devices as well as the taxation of cigarettes and other tobacco products, according to a state legislative analysis.

All issues related to the monitoring and enforcement of tobacco taxes would still remain under the purview of the Comptroller’s Office.

An electronic smoking device is defined as a device that can be used to deliver aerosolized or vaporized nicotine to an individual inhaling from the device, according to a state legislative analysis.

This describes a wide variety of products, including an electronic cigarette, cigar, cigarillo, pipe, hookah, a vape pen, and vaping liquid.

“The tobacco industry, unfortunately, has been very skilled at advancing its products into new markets, and vaping is part of that, so it’s essential we address that as well in this legislation,” Rosenberg said.

It also includes any part or accessory of these products, even if it’s sold separately.

Other tobacco products are defined as any cigar or roll outside a cigarette that’s made in whole or in part of tobacco, according to a state legislative analysis.

Prior to 2013, cities and counties in Maryland were able to pass tobacco control and regulate the sale of associated products.

However, in 2013, based on the case of Altadis vs. Prince George’s County, which established that state law preempts local tobacco regulation, it has become much more difficult for cities and counties to impose these regulations.

“The legislation that Del. Rosenberg and Sen. Kramer are pushing here today really clarifies for the state that cities and counties can go further than the state, they can address these issues,” Laura Hale, state government relations director, Maryland, American Heart Association said at a Thursday press conference.

Advocates of the bill said it would allow for more control in local communities and can also help improve health in these communities as well.

“We want to be the voices for exacting strategies to inspire people to see that they can control their own communities,” Willie Flowers, president of the NAACP Maryland State Conference said at the Thursday press conference.

Proponents of the bill also pointed out that allowing local jurisdictions the authority to place their own restrictions is beneficial considering the demographic, socioeconomic, and varying differences throughout the state.

“We can’t move as if we are monolithic because some problems that are prevalent in Anne Arundel County aren’t prevalent in Harford County,” Harold Lloyd, a youth advocate with the NAACP Anne Arundel County Branch, said at the Thursday press conference.

However, those testifying in opposition to the bill voiced two main concerns.

When localities have different laws regarding tobacco, that could confuse businesses, consumers, and regulators, opponents said.

“The process of 24 different regulatory systems for tobacco is simply unworkable for these Maryland small businesses,” attorney Matthew Bohle said on behalf of the Premium Cigar Retailers Association of Maryland at the hearing.

Opponents also said that because legislation the General Assembly passed last year ruled the taxation of tobacco should fall under the state’s purview, regulation of tobacco should as well.

The House version of the bill is scheduled to be heard in the Economic Matters Committee on Feb. 24 at 1:30 p.m.

“Let’s pass this bill and elevate the health and welfare of our residents above the profits of an industry whose business model is predicated on addiction, disease, and eventually the death of its customers just to start the process all over again with new victims,” Kramer said at the hearing.

By JACOB STEINBERG
Capital News Service

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Mar 3 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free tax preparation will be available again this year through the AARP Tax Aide at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Front Royal, Monday and Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 15th. To make an appointment, please call[...]
Mar
9
Tue
6:30 pm Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Mar 9 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
This class is for all fitness levels and anyone who is looking to have fun dancing to a variety of music styles from hip hop to swing to salsa, all while EXERCISING! This class will[...]
Mar
13
Sat
10:00 am HSWC Polar Plunge @ Culpeper Lake at the 4-H Center
HSWC Polar Plunge @ Culpeper Lake at the 4-H Center
Mar 13 @ 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
HSWC Polar Plunge @ Culpeper Lake at the 4-H Center
The Humane Society of Warren County “Polar Plunge” delayed from February 20 due to “too-polar” weather here in northwestern Virginia has been rescheduled to Saturday, March 13 – Don’t worry, it will still be a[...]
Mar
16
Tue
6:30 pm Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Mar 16 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
This class is for all fitness levels and anyone who is looking to have fun dancing to a variety of music styles from hip hop to swing to salsa, all while EXERCISING! This class will[...]
Mar
23
Tue
6:30 pm Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Mar 23 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
This class is for all fitness levels and anyone who is looking to have fun dancing to a variety of music styles from hip hop to swing to salsa, all while EXERCISING! This class will[...]
Mar
28
Sun
2:00 pm Pictures with the Easter Bunny @ Warren County Community Center
Pictures with the Easter Bunny @ Warren County Community Center
Mar 28 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Pictures with the Easter Bunny @ Warren County Community Center
Come join the staff of Warren County Parks and Recreation and get your picture taken with the Easter Bunny! Pictures will be taken and printed on site; upon departure you will be given an Easter[...]
Mar
30
Tue
6:30 pm Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Mar 30 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
This class is for all fitness levels and anyone who is looking to have fun dancing to a variety of music styles from hip hop to swing to salsa, all while EXERCISING! This class will[...]
Apr
17
Sat
all-day Shenandoah Epic @ Caroline Furnace
Shenandoah Epic @ Caroline Furnace
Apr 17 all-day
Shenandoah Epic @ Caroline Furnace
This tried and true Epic 24-hour AR will test your biking, paddling, trekking, and navigation skills as you explore two state parks (one of them brand new!) and national forest lands. Join soloists and teams[...]