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Region’s leaders: ‘Don’t go to D.C. for Biden inauguration’; Maryland sending more troops

WASHINGTON — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser are telling regional residents and visitors from across the country not to go to the nation’s capital for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

The regional discouragement comes after pro-Trump protesters overran the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, locking down Congress as it was certifying Biden’s 2020 win over President Donald Trump.

“On January 20, there will be a transition of power, and we will work together, and with our partners in the federal government, to ensure the safety of the National Capital Region. Due to the unique circumstances surrounding the 59th Presidential Inauguration, including last week’s violent insurrection as well as the ongoing and deadly COVID-19 pandemic, we are taking the extraordinary step of encouraging Americans not to come to Washington, D.C., and to instead participate virtually,” Hogan, Northam and Bowser said in joint statement issued Monday, Jan. 11.

Washington is under a state of emergency until Biden’s inauguration. Maryland and Virginia have sent National Guard troops to D.C. and have beefed up security at their own state capitals amid worries of more resistance from Trump backers.

New security fences have been built outside the U.S. Capitol, U.S. Supreme Court and other federal buildings.

Hogan said there are already 500 Maryland Guard troops in D.C., sent in there in response to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Earlier on Monday, Hogan said the state will send more Maryland National Guard troops to Washington. “I think we are going to be increasing several hundred more Guard members,” Hogan said Monday during a briefing in Annapolis.

The governor said security is also being beefed up in Annapolis for the start of the Maryland General Assembly on Wednesday, Jan. 13. Increased security is also being implemented in other state capitals across the U.S.

“We are also dealing with tons of security issues both here in-state and our nation’s capital. We’re probably going to be continuing to work on that day and night between now and probably the inauguration,” Hogan said during the Monday briefing.

The Jan. 6 unrest in Washington resulted in five deaths, including a Trump supporter who was shot by police inside the Capitol, as well as a Capitol Police officer who died after suffering injuries during the riot.

The storming of Congress came after Trump held a big rally in front of the White House, disputing Biden’s win. Twitter and Facebook have banned Trump after the D.C. unrest. Big technology firms such as Google, Apple and Amazon Web Services have sought to block the new social media platform Parler from gaining traction with conservatives and Trump supporters.

The latter technology giants cite worries about new protests and unrest being planned and communicated on alternative social media platforms.

Hogan and his regional cohorts called the Jan. 6 chaos in Washington an “insurrection” and “a dark moment for our nation,” while urging virtual attendance to Biden’s inauguration.

Talbot County sheriff, deputies vaccinated against COVID-19

EASTON — Talbot County Sheriff Joe Gamble and some of his deputies got their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine last week, and more are set to get theirs this week as the county continues its efforts to get vaccine into first responders’ arms.

Gamble said a local paramedic gave him his first shot of the Moderna vaccine last week at the Talbot County Operations Center after he signed up for a vaccine clinic organized by the county health department.

“My arm was a little sore for about 24 hours, but I feel fine,” he said.

The sheriff said he’s grateful law enforcement was included in the first priority group for coronavirus immunization locally because his deputies are regularly knowingly exposed to the virus while on duty engaging with the public.

“We’re definitely being exposed in our professional duties to it,” he said. “Some of my deputies have tested positive over the last few months, and I actually had a deputy give CPR to a man who was COVID-positive.”

Gamble said he’s not requiring his deputies to get vaccinated, but he’s asking them to at least “acknowledge that the opportunity is available should they feel they want to do it.”

For health privacy reasons, Gamble is not keeping track of how many people in his department get vaccinated against COVID-19. Though he said he knows many of his deputies opted in because they were at the clinic with him.

“I’m not going to request or get a report from the health department on who did and who didn’t (get vaccinated),” Gamble said. “I believe the deputies have taken whether they want to get vaccinated or not under serious consideration.”

Even after receiving their second dose of the vaccine, Gamble said he and his deputies will continue wearing personal protective equipment and distancing while out in the field interacting with the public.

As of Sunday, Jan. 10, the Talbot County Health Department had administered 66.5% of its allocated vaccine doses to individuals in the Phase 1A vaccination priority group, according to data released by the Maryland Department of Health.

By comparison across the Mid-Shore during the same time frame, Caroline County had administered 99.1% of its allocated vaccine; Queen Anne’s, 74%; Kent, 40.3%; and Dorchester, 45.6%. Each county was allocated a different number of doses based on population and other factors.

Talbot County is slated to get 600 more doses of the Moderna vaccine this week, the state health department said. The shipment will bring the county’s total vaccine allocation to date to 1,700 doses.

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Trial delayed for driver charged in Bay Bridge donuts stunt

CENTREVILLE — A bench trial for the Virginia man accused of doing donuts on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge last year was postponed Monday for the defense to further investigate the evidence.

Queen Anne’s County Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Cuches said Gary Montague, Jr., 23, had recently hired an attorney and his attorney requested more time to review the case. District Judge Frank Kratovil granted the postponement.

The postponement came after more than 30 minutes of private deliberation among the counsels outside the courtroom Monday. Robin Henley, an attorney for Montague, declined to comment on his requesting the delay.

Montague is charged with three counts of disturbing the peace, one count of disorderly conduct and 23 traffic violations for allegedly stopping heavy traffic on the westbound bridge in September to do donuts in his Nissan sports car.

The four misdemeanors Montague faces each carry a penalty of up to 60 days in jail and/or $500 in fines.

The traffic charges, which include reckless driving, willfully damaging a highway and driving a motor vehicle in a manner intended to cause skidding, amount to a collective almost $3,000 in fines, court records show.

Cuches declined to say on the record whether the prosecution would recommend jail time for Montague if he is found guilty in the case.

Cuches said a new trial date will be set within 30 days. No further proceedings had been scheduled by Monday evening.

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Trump impeachment introduced in House; Maryland lawmaker leads effort

WASHINGTON — Articles of impeachment are being filed in the U.S. House of Representatives against President Donald Trump.

A Maryland lawmaker — U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.-8th — is one of the primary sponsors and architects of the effort to remove Trump before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

Another primary impeachment sponsor, U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., said the impeachment effort was being introduced Monday.

Raskin, who represents Montgomery County, said there are more than 200 cosponsors to the impeachment. Raskin and other Democrats contend Trump incited an insurrection when some of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6. He called the Trump protesters “an insurrectionist mob”.

“This is an intolerable crime against our constitution,” Raskin said in a statement.

The riot resulted in both chambers of Congress being locked down while lawmakers were debating the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s 2020 victory. Five people died during the events including a woman who was shot by police and a Capitol Police officer. Three others died due to health incidents.

The storming of Congress occurred after Trump held a large rally in front of the White House where he continued to dispute Biden’s win.

The impeachment accuses Trump of “inciting violence against the government of the United States”.

U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.-1st, opposes a late-term impeachment of Trump. Harris represents the Eastern Shore and areas north of Baltimore.

The House previously impeached Trump in late Dec. 2019 but that effort failed in the U.S. Senate.

The storming of the Capitol has also resulted in Twitter and Facebook banning Trump from their platforms. The FBI has also arrested a number of protesters who stormed the Capitol. Democrats and some anti-Trump Republicans are also pushing for the use of the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office before Jan. 20 and Biden’s inauguration.

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Hogan proposes COVID stimulus payments for low-income Marylanders

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed a new $1 billion economic relief package to help Marylanders and small businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hogan’s COVID relief effort includes offering $750 stimulus payments for lower-income families and $450 for low-income individuals who filed for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Low-income households would receive a first payment of $300 to $500 and then a second installment of $150 to $250.

According to Hogan’s office, Marylanders would qualify for these payments who annually earn:

• $50,954 (or $56,844 for married couples filing jointly) with three or more qualifying children

• $47,440 (or $53,330 for married couples filing jointly) with two qualifying children

• $41,756 (or $47,646 for married couples filing jointly) with one qualifying child

• $15,820 (or $21,710 for married couples filing jointly) with no qualifying children.

The governor estimates the state checks will help more than 400,000 Marylanders. No application is needed, Hogan said.

The governor’s program, dubbed the Relief Act, will need to be approved by the Maryland General Assembly.

The new package would also waive state and local taxes on unemployment benefits. Hogan’s proposal also offers $300 million worth of sales tax credits for as many as 55,000 small businesses and puts in safeguards for businesses, so their tax burdens do not go up because they received COVID-related grants or loans.

“Everybody generally agrees with most of the things we are talking about,” Hogan said.

The Republican governor also hopes for quick passage of the COVID relief effort because of the economic hardships faced by workers and small businesses. “We can’t waste a lot of time. This is not something that should be debated until the end of the legislative session in April,” Hogan said on Monday during a briefing in Annapolis.

“With the start of a new 2021 legislative session on Wednesday, we are now asking the legislative branch to assist by immediately passing this stimulus and tax relief package to help even more struggling families and small businesses across our state,” Hogan said. “We will be introducing the RELIEF Act of 2021 as emergency legislation on day one. We will ask both houses of the legislature to act on it immediately, so that I can immediately sign it into law, and these relief measures can take effect — all so that we can immediately get these much-needed dollars out the door and into the pockets of those who desperately need it.”

The state has already put $700 million toward helping mitigate the economic impacts of the pandemic. That includes help for small businesses, bars and restaurants, hotels, farms and other industries.

Hogan’s package does not include the $2,000 state stimulus checks proposed by Comptroller Peter Franchot.

Franchot wants state stimulus checks sent to individuals with children who make $50,000 or less and families who make $100,000 or less annually.