Stories about Maryland

New Maryland Commissioner of Insurance takes office

Newest Maryland Commissioner of Insurance Kathleen Birrane assumed office May 18. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) appointed Birrane May 1 to replace former commissioner Alfred Redmer Jr. Redmer left the Maryland Insurance Administration to become executive director of the Maryland Auto Insurance Fund starting May 18. He had served as commissioner since 2015 after previously holding the position from 2003 to 2005.

The Maryland Commissioner of Insurance serves as head of the Maryland Insurance Administration, an independent agency within the state executive branch created in 1993. The commissioner oversees the department’s efforts to regulate the state’s insurance companies and producers and investigate complaints consumers have about their insurance coverage. Commissioners are appointed by the governor with advice and consent from the Maryland State Senate and serve four-year terms.

Ballotpedia covers 12 state executive offices in Maryland. Seven of those offices are nonpartisan, including the Commissioner of Insurance. Three offices–Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Secretary of State–are held by Republican officials. Democratic officials hold the offices of Attorney General and Comptroller.

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Maryland Sports Betting Expansion Measure will appear on November ballots

The Maryland Sports Betting Expansion Measure, a legislatively referred state statute, was certified for the ballot on May 7. The ballot measure would authorize sports and events wagering at certain licensed facilities. The state revenue generated by such activities would be primarily dedicated to funding public education.

On May 14, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Murphy v. NCAA that the federal government could not require states to prohibit sports betting, thereby overturning the federal ban and allowing states to legalize sports betting. As of March 2020, 16 states had active sports betting industries, three of which legalized sports betting by approving a statewide ballot measure. South Dakota voters will vote on a legislatively referred constitutional amendment in November that would legalize sports betting within the city limits of Deadwood, South Dakota.

The Maryland Constitution requires that the Maryland General Assembly refer laws expanding commercial wagering to voters at a general election. In Maryland, a simple majority vote is needed in each chamber of the Maryland General Assembly to refer a state statute to the ballot. The governor is able to veto bills proposing legislatively referred state statutes. The governor has 30 days to sign or veto the bills after they are presented to him. If the governor does not sign a bill by the deadline, the bill is enacted without his signature.

On March 14, 2020, the Maryland House of Representatives voted 129-3 in favor of the measure. On March 18, the Maryland State Senate voted 45-0. Governor Larry Hogan (R) did not sign or veto the bill by the May 7 deadline. Therefore, the sports betting measure was certified for the ballot on May 7 without his signature.

During the 2020 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly also referred to the 2020 ballot the Legislative Authority over State Budget Amendment, which would authorize the Maryland General Assembly to increase, decrease, or add items to the state budget as long as such measures do not exceed the total proposed budget submitted by the governor.

Since 1996, 34 measures appeared on Maryland ballots. Of that total, 31 were approved, and three were defeated. One legislatively referred state statute appeared on Maryland ballots between 1996 and 2019, and it was approved.

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Maryland courts set tentative reopen date

On May 7, Chief Justice for the Maryland Court of Appeals Ellen Barbera announced that courts in the state could begin to reopen on June 8. Barbera told lawmakers during a Maryland State Senate hearing, per an article from, “Even if that day holds, I can assure you, this does not mean that Monday, June 8, will be business as usual for the Maryland judiciary.”

The Chief Justice said that reopening would come in phases and courthouses would require restructuring to incorporate social distancing measures. Since mid-March, when courts were first ordered closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Maryland courts have moved using remote technology, such as video or phone conferences, for some hearings.

Ballotpedia is tracking how state courts are responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

So far, 34 states suspended in-person proceedings statewide, and 16 states suspended in-person proceedings on the local level.

Maryland closes schools to in-person instruction for the remainder of the year

On Wednesday, Maryland Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon announced that schools in Maryland would be closed to in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Online and distance learning will continue for students, however. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) first ordered schools closed on March 12.

Maryland has a divided government. The Republican Party holds the governorship. The Democratic Party holds a majority of the state senate and a majority of the state house.

Forty-eight states have closed schools to in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. Those states account for 99% of the 50.6 million public school students in the country. The two states that have not are Montana and Wyoming. Montana has a divided government, and Wyoming has a Republican trifecta.

Mfume (D) defeats Klacik (R) in special general election for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District

Kweisi Mfume (D) defeated Kimberly Klacik (R) in the special general election for Mayland’s 7th Congressional District. He will fill the vacancy left by Elijah Cummings (D), who died in October 2019. As of Wednesday morning, Mfume led with 72.5% of the vote to Klacik’s 26.5%. Mfume cannot be sworn into office until after results are certified by the Maryland Board of Elections, which could happen as early as May 8.

Four special elections have been held during the 116th U.S. Congress—the current meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives. Three such elections were held in 2019, and five more are scheduled during the rest of this year.

Voters decided 136 congressional special elections between 1985 and 2012—19 in the Senate and 117 in the House of Representatives. In those elections, nine seats changed partisan hands, with Republicans gaining six seats and Democrats gaining three.

Hogan appoints Jones to Maryland House of Delegates

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) appointed Dana Jones to the Maryland House of Delegates on April 23 to fill a vacancy in the state’s legislature. Jones replaces Alice Cain (D), who retired at the end of the March legislative session for family reasons.

Jones received the Democratic Central Committee’s nomination for the District 30A seat and will serve the remainder of Cain’s term, which ends in January 2023. This is Jones’ first time holding public office.

After Jones’ appointment, the partisan composition of the Maryland House of Delegates is 99 Democrats and 42 Republicans. Maryland is one of 14 states with a divided government as it has a Republican governor and Democratic majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.

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Maryland General Assembly
Alice Cain

In Maryland’s special 7th Congressional District election, ballots cast in person to be quarantined for 24 hours

On April 28, 2020, Maryland is conducting a special election for its 7th Congressional District. At the order of Governor Larry Hogan (R), the election is proceeding largely by mail. Three in-person voting sites are open. According to a report by NBC Washington, ballots cast in person will be quarantined for a period of about 24 hours before being tallied.

Maryland is one of 23 states that have temporarily modified absentee/mail-in voting procedures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is one of five states sending mail-in ballots automatically to all eligible voters in advance of select upcoming elections. The other states are California, Montana, Nevada, and New Jersey.

Special election for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District to be held April 28

The special general election for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District is on April 28, 2020. The election will be conducted primarily via mail. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Maryland Board of Elections sent mail-in ballots to all eligible active voters. Three polling places will be open on April 28 for those who cannot vote by mail.

Kim Klacik (R) and Kweisi Mfume (D) are competing in the special election. The filing deadline to run passed on November 20, 2019. The Democratic and Republican primaries were held on February 4, 2020.

The special election was called after Elijah Cummings (D) died on October 17, 2019. Cummings served from 1996 until his death.

As of April 23, 2020, nine special elections have been called during the 116th Congress. Seven of those were called for seats in the U.S. House, and two were called for seats in the U.S. Senate. From the 113th Congress to the 115th Congress, 40 special elections were held.

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