March 5 - March 11, 2015
Hundreds of Individuals with Developmental Disabilities and
Advocates Urged Legislators to Fund Needed Services
By Grace Toohey
Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS -- Hundreds of Marylanders with developmental
disabilities, their families and advocates flocked to Annapolis Wednesday and
Thursday asking legislators to provide adequate funds for direct support staff
wages, services for thousands on the state’s waiting list and youth
transitional support services.
Despite funding gains for disability services in the past
few years -- including a 3.5 percent increase mandated last year to The
Developmental Disabilities Administration’s funding for community-based
developmental disability services -- Executive Director of the Arc of Maryland
Cristy Marchand said this year’s budget has taken a backward step.
The 3.5 percent increase would have ensured wages for
individuals with developmental disabilities’ support staff would receive above
minimum wage beginning this June, but Gov. Larry Hogan’s budget cut that
increase in half, Marchand said on behalf of the Arc, a statewide advocacy
group for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Restoring $9
million for those wages is a top priority, she said.
Marchand also said providing services for the more than
8,000 people waiting to receive state services from the Developmental
Disabilities Administration -- and most importantly for the 125 people on the group’s
Crisis Resolution waitlist -- is another top priority. Marchand and other
advocates are proposing a needed $3 million to support those in crisis, who are
defined as homeless, a danger to themselves or others, or living with someone
unable to provide care.
“I want them to do something about the waitlist because
8,300 people on the waiting list is just shameful,” Laura Carr, board member
for Arc of Central Chesapeake Region. “I want them to really take a close look
at the wages.”
Without money to fairly compensate providers, Carr said,
it’s impossible to support people with disabilities in the ways they deserve.
Mat Rice, of Towson, specializes in public policy for People
on the Go Maryland, a group of advocates with intellectual and developmental challenges.
He testified before the state Senate Finance subcommittee on Health and Human
Services to show how important his direct support staff is -- and therefore
“We know that Maryland is in a fiscal crisis, but we also
know that if the revenue is not restored...we will be in a major community
crisis,” said Rice, who has cerebral palsy and is legally blind.
Direct support staff should be paid more than minimum wage,
Rice said, because it is a valuable job that requires lots of training and skills. Last year’s mandated increase would have
raised the wages for direct support staff about 30 percent above the minimum
wage -- but that boost has since been cut in half.
Damon Briggs, who also has cerebral palsy, explained the
importance of his direct support staff, helping him shower, eat, brush teeth,
and even acting friend and mentor.
“If you cut their pay, we can’t do the things in society and
community that we need to do,” said Briggs, of Silver Spring. “Such as work,
such as going to our friend’s house, such as just living a normal life.”
But for Fort Washington mother Stephanie Peterson, getting
her son off the waitlist to receive services will enhance both their lives.
Peterson’s 32-year-old son has intellectual and learning disabilities, and has
been increasingly difficult to care for.
He originally missed the chance to receive services after
high school because he had plans to live with his dad in another state, but
when plans changed, Peterson said, he went straight to the waitlist. Each time
she asks for services, she said she is told there is no money.
“Families like mine have been champions most of our lives,”
Peterson said. “Now we need champions to help us.”
The department’s program for transitioning youth services,
which serves about 600 students each year once they leave the public school
system at age 21, could also see cuts.
Mary Ann Kane Breschi, of Baltimore County, has a daughter
with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. With transitional services,
23-year-old Maggie is now living and working with support staff, and finding
purpose and happiness in her life.
“We recognize that none of this could be possible if not for
the transitional youth funding,” Breschi said. “While Maggie is fortunate,
students graduating in June this year might not be if the budget is reduced.”
Advocates said they also worry about funding for public
schools, which provide special programs and specific staff for students with
disabilities, as well as the discrimination against people with disabilities when
it comes to organ donations.
Chair of the subcommittee, state Senator Richard Madaleno
Jr., D-Montgomery, said he appreciated everyone advocating for those with
developmental disabilities, but, unfortunately, no one can create money.
“I think there’s a strong desire to keep the
promise that we made in last year’s minimum wage bill,” he said. “The governor
is seeking to get out of the mandate, (but) we can reject that and keep it in
place. We have to find money elsewhere to fund it, but it gives us some
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Confirmed Measles Cases in PG County
By Press Officer
PG County Government
LARGO, MD — As of today, we have no confirmed cases of
measles in Prince George’s County or the state of Maryland, but we want our
residents to take precautionary measures. Immunizing against the measles is
vital to protecting not only our children, but our community as a whole.
Vaccination is highly effective at preventing measles and is required for all
Prince George’s County school children who are not exempt due to religious
“Measles is a serious respiratory disease caused by a virus
and is highly contagious,” said Pamela B. Creekmur, Health Officer. “All
persons who are susceptible to measles need to be vaccinated now.”
A susceptible individual is a person who has not received
two doses of the measles vaccine and/or Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) either
on or after his or her first birthday, or who does not have documented history
of disease. In general, a person can be considered immune to measles if they:
• Have received two measles containing vaccines;
• Have had a past measles infection, diagnosed by a
• Were born before 1957; or,
• Have laboratory evidence of measles immunity
A measles infection typically begins with a high fever,
cough, runny nose, red/watery eyes and a rash that usually starts behinds the
ears or on the face and spreads to the neck, trunk, arms and legs 2-7 days
later. Measles can cause severe health complications, including pneumonia,
encephalitis and death. Measles is transmitted by contact with an infected
person through coughing or sneezing and can remain in the air for up to 2
hours. Infected people are contagious
from four days before their rash begins through four days after the rash
If you suspect that you may have measles, please notify your
primary care physician and let them know you think you or your child may have
measles. If you must go to an emergency room or urgent care center, let them
know immediately that you have measles. It is important that you do not sit in
the waiting room and expose others.
Contact the Prince George's County Health Department as soon
as possible at 301-
583-3750, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.,
or 240-508-5774 during after hours, holidays, and weekends, to report the
illness and to ask any questions regarding measles.
For more information, contact:
Dellia Hawthorne-Williams, Public Information Officer,
Prince George's County Health Department 301-883-7835 / 240-417-8443. For more information visit http://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/sites/Health/Services/DiseaseControlServices/
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Lady Hawks Storm to Top Tier in Day 2
Team Scores 29 Points to Earn Third-place Tie
By PRESS OFFICER
LANDOVER, MD — The halfway point in the MEAC championships
is complete, and both the men’s and women’s track teams from the University of
Maryland Eastern Shore are within reach of a conference championship. While the
men’s team set themselves up with their efforts on Thursday, the Lady Hawks
earned 29 points as a team, moving them from sixth to third.
It all started with the women’s indoor pentathlon and Hawks
sophomore Shelasia Leitch (Newark, N.J.). Through five events, Leitch racked up
3,123 points, good for seventh place and two points for the Hawks. This would
prove to be just the beginning for the Lady Hawks.
The 800 meter run would serve as the backbone for the Lady
Hawks’ comeback, much like the 5000 meter run served as the men’s surge to the
top. Junior Jheniel Kelly (Edgewood, Md.) finished second overall and first
among UMES competitors, with a time of 2:13.80 that earned eight points.
Sophomore Rachel Halmon (Waldorf, Md.) took home fourth place and five points
with her time of 2:14.50, and junior Shantol Hemley (St. Catherine’s, Jamaica)
finished fifth with a time of 2:16.20, good for four points. This race alone made
up 17 of the team’s 29 total points.
With Leitch’s two points in the pentathlon and 17 points in
the 800 meter, the Lady Hawks earned their final ten points by winning the
distance medley. The team of Kelly, Hemley, Halmon and sophomore Barbora
Blahutova (Slavkov, Czech Republic) finished with a time of 12:10.36, edging
Florida A&M for the victory.
The surge places the UMES women in a tie for third with
Morgan State at 35 points, 12 ½ points behind Bethune-Cookman.
On the men’s side the Hawks claimed two victories to secure
a two-day total of 50 points. Their first win came in the weight throw with
senior Dillon Simon (Roseau, Dominica), who threw for a distance of 18.70
meters, beating his second place competitor by more than two meters and his
third place challenger by almost four.
Their second win was in the men’s distance medley. The team
of freshman Oussama Chouati (Manresa, Spain) and sophomores Taj Showalter
(Anchorage, Ak.), Sodiq Amusat (Lanham, Md.) and Khalil Rmidi Kinini (Malaga,
Spain) crossed the line a few seconds ahead of Howard with a time of 10:11.81.
Although the Hawks claimed two victories, the
North Carolina A&T Aggies and Bethune-Cookman Wildcats raced past UMES to
take first and second, respectively. However, the Hawks are by no means out of
it, remaining just six points out of first.
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Ronald Leizear Sr. Celebrates 50 Years of Active Service and
Patriarch of Leizear Legacy
By Mark Brady
Branchville Volunteer Fire Co.
College Park, MD — It has been a really long time since the
Leizear family has not had a family member as a part of the Branchville
Volunteer Fire Company. Their presence in the all-volunteer department located
in north College Park has never been stronger. A Leizear currently holds the
position of Chief, President and Board Member.
Ronald Leizear, Sr., a Branchville Life Member, is the
President and Chairman of the Board of Directors and is in his 50th active year
of service. His sons, also both Branchville Life Members, Richard Leizear is
the Departments Chief and Ron Jr. is a member on the Board of
Directors. Both sons remain active in response on emergency
incidents and keeping the department running on a daily basis. Ron Sr. niece
Dawn Daily is also a member of the Department. These Leizears are just part of
a long legacy of family in the fire service. Ron Sr. has had his father, Uncle
James Melton (Branchville’s only Line of Duty Death), Cousin Richard Melton
(Past Chief), Uncle Lownes Leizear (Past Chief and President), Brother Charles
Leizear (member and retired Prince George’s County Career Firefighter).
Additionally his two brothers, James Collins and John Leizear, are members at
the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department.
Leizear Sr., soon to be 67 years of age, was bestowed with
many accolades and awards for his landmark 50 years of active service at the
Local and State level. In addition to running the business operations of the
Department he remains active in operations and will drive the engine whenever
needed. He has held every position within the Department with the exception of
Treasurer and Secretary. When asked which position he enjoyed the most, he
responded, “Serving as President and Chief are and were exciting positions.”
Ron Sr. finds the time to work a full time job for transportation and trucking
company while not volunteering his time at Branchville.
When asked about the Leizear legacy at Branchville, Sr.,
said, “I am very proud following in my dad’s footsteps,” which is that exact
answer sons Richard and Ron Jr. responded to the same question. Chief Ricky
Leizear added, “Not many sons get to work side by side with their father and
their brother as we have. I relish in the fact we have had a long line of
Leizears that are a part of the Departments history.” Richard Leizear is a
career firefighter with the District of Columbia.
Ron Jr., has been a fixture around the firehouse since he
was very young. He also is very proud of the Leizear legacy and following in
his dad’s footsteps. Ron serves as an Emergency Medical Technician for a
private ambulance service.
In addition to operating the business end of the Branchville
Volunteer Fire Company and Rescue Squad, Inc. Ron Sr. enjoys activities outside
of the Department as well. He is President of the Red Knights Maryland Chapter
#1 in addition to being Treasurer for the Red Knights State Association. The
Red Knights are a motorcycle club for members of the fire service. Ron is also
Past President of Hogs and Heroes Foundations Maryland Chapter 1 and a member
of the Son’s of AMVETS Post #2 in Frederick, Maryland.
“I really have had a great life,” stated Leizear Sr., “being
a volunteer firefighter and member of a Department that is rich in tradition of
helping others and a mainstay of our community is rewarding.” He concluded,
“Being a part of a family legacy has made my journey even more enjoyable and
When asked about his future plans Ronnie Leizear stated, “I
hope to be part of Branchville for many more years and do whatever I can to
The Branchville Volunteer Fire Company and
Rescue Squad, Inc. and Ladies Auxiliary will hold their 91st Annual Award
Banquet and Installation of Officers on Saturday, February 21, 2015, 6:00 pm at
the Firehouse Heroes Hall.
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Maryland Retains Triple AAA Bond Rating
By PRESS OFFICER
Maryland State Treasurer
ANNAPOLIS (February 19, 2015) – Maryland State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp
announced today that all three major national bond rating agencies have
re-affirmed the State's strong AAA bond rating, all with stable outlooks, in
preparation for the upcoming competitive sale of State General Obligation Bonds
on Wednesday, March 4, 2015.
Maryland is one of ten states* to hold the coveted AAA rating, the
highest possible rating, from all three major bond rating agencies. Standard
and Poor’s has rated the bonds AAA since 1961. Moody’s Investors has assigned
the bonds a rating of Aaa since 1973, and Fitch Ratings has rated the bonds AAA
Treasurer Kopp said, “Today’s news of Maryland receiving AAA ratings from
the three major bond rating agencies is an acknowledgement of Maryland’s
prudent financial management and overall fiscal strength. We are pleased the
rating analysts recognize the contribution of Maryland’s diverse economy, our
well-educated workforce, and above-average wealth and income levels to the
overall quality of an investment in Maryland.”
“Retention of the AAA ratings affirms the strength and stability of
Maryland bonds during difficult and volatile times. This achievement allows us
to continue to invest in our communities’ schools, libraries, and hospitals while
saving taxpayers millions of dollars thanks to the lower interest rates that
follow from these ratings,” Treasurer Kopp said.
Fitch, in assigning its AAA rating and stable outlook, said: “Debt
oversight is strong and centralized, and the debt burden is moderate. The state
has policies to maintain debt affordability, and the constitution requires GO
[General Obligation] and transportation bonds to amortize within 15 years.”
Fitch Ratings further noted: “Financial operations are conservatively
maintained, with the state consistently demonstrating a strong commitment to
budgetary balance through the downturn and the slow recovery that has followed.
The state has maintained flexibility in the form of its rainy day fund (RDF),
which remained funded at or near
5% of general fund revenues through the downturn, as well as its practice
of responding quickly to changing budgetary circumstances through repeated
spending cuts, fund balance transfers and revenue increases.”
Moody’s, in explaining its Aaa rating and stable outlook said “The
highest quality rating reflects Maryland’s strong financial management policies
and stable economy with high personal income levels.” While Moody’s
acknowledged “…the state’s economic exposure to constrained federal spending, its
above average debt burden and large unfunded pension liabilities relative to
the size of its economy,” they also noted “[c]onsistent with its history of
strong financial management, the state has been appropriately addressing its
structural budget gap and pension funding concerns even under pressure from
federal budget reductions.”
In assigning its AAA long-term rating and stable outlook, Standard &
Poor’s said: “The rating reflects what we view as the state’s: Broad and
diverse economy, which has experienced tepid overall growth in 2013 and 2014
due to sequestration and federal budget uncertainty; Strong wealth and income
levels; Long history of proactive financial and budget management, including
implementation of frequent and timely budget adjustments to align revenues and
expenditures; Well-developed financial and debt management policies including
long-term financial planning that should be helpful in addressing future budget
challenges; and Still-moderate debt burden across all measures, despite increasing
issuance. Although some growth in debt levels is likely based on planned
issuance and the potential for public-private partnership (P3) projects, we
expect the debt burden will remain moderate for most measures due to a clearly
defined debt affordability process that limits annual issuance, coupled with a
rapid 15-year debt maturity schedule as required by the Maryland Constitution.”
Standard and Poor’s further stated: “The stable outlook on Maryland
reflects our view of the state’s proactive midyear adjustments to align the
budget with slower-than-anticipated revenue growth and a proposed fiscal 2016
budget that maintains current reserve levels and limits reliance on one-time
measures for budgetary balance.”
All three rating agencies praised Maryland’s history of strong, sound
financial management. Moody’s recognized “Maryland’s financial practices and
flexibility are very strong. For example, the state has a binding consensus
revenue forecast, multi-year financial planning, and the Board of Public Works
is able to respond swiftly to mid-year budget challenges. The state also has no
tax and spending limitations or supermajority requirements limiting its
flexibility.” Standard & Poor’s assigned a rating of “strong” to Maryland’s
management practices, noting that “…Maryland has made continuing efforts to
institute sound financial management practices. The state’s use of a five-year
financial plan, which is updated annually with the adopted budget, provides the
basis for future fiscal decisions and recognizes future fiscal year gaps.
Monthly monitoring and reporting of key revenues allows the state to make
midyear financial adjustments, if necessary, to maintain balance. Maryland has
consistently maintained its statutory RSA (Revenue Stabilization Account) [at]
or above its legal minimum of 5% of revenues.”
Each rating agency recognized the impact of federal budget cuts on
Maryland’s economy. S&P noted “Although federal fiscal policy remains a
challenge to the state’s budget and long-term financial plan, we believe that
Maryland has demonstrated strong revenue and budget monitoring practices with a
track record of making expenditure adjustments midyear when required.” Fitch
indicated “Sound fiscal management practices and the consistent maintenance of
fiscal flexibility (including budgetary reserves) provide the state with
significant ability to respond to near-term economic or fiscal conditions, such
as federal budget reductions, in a manner consistent with the ‘AAA’ rating.”
Each of the rating agencies recognized significant pension funding
challenges as well as reforms enacted over the past three years. Moody’s
indicated “[l]ow retirement system funded levels” represent a credit challenge
for the state and “[f]ailure to adhere to plans to address low pension funded
ratios” could make the rating go down. Fitch Ratings noted “Despite pensions
being a comparative credit weakness, the state has taken multiple steps to
reduce their burden and improve sustainability over time.” While acknowledging
“implementation of various reforms and some improvements in funded ratios,”
S&P indicated “the state’s below-average pension funded ratios and annual
contributions that do not meet the full ARC also continue to represent downside
risk to the rating.”
The bond sale will include two competitive bids which are expected to be
sold to institutions. The sale will include $518 million of tax-exempt bonds
and up to $750 million of tax-exempt refunding bonds.
As has always been the case with the issuance of Maryland’s tax-exempt General
Obligation Bonds, the State uses the proceeds to finance necessary capital
projects, such as schools, community colleges, university projects and
The Maryland Board of Public Works, composed of Governor Lawrence J.
Hogan, Jr., Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, will
preside over the competitive bond sale on Wednesday, March 4, 2015 in the
Assembly Room in the Goldstein Treasury Building in Annapolis.
Maryland State Treasurer’s Office expects to conduct another bond sale in July
or August 2015.
The other nine states with AAA ratings from all
three rating agencies are Alaska, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, North
Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.
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