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Pugh pleads guilty to four of 11 counts

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Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh exits the U.S. District Court in Baltimore on Nov. 21, 2019, after pleading guilty to four counts — one each of conspiracy and fraud and two counts of tax evasion. (Ian Round/Capital News Service).

By Ian Round
Capital News Service

Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh pleaded guilty Thursday to four of the 11 counts against her related to the sales of “Healthy Holly” children’s books.

At the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Pugh pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and two counts of tax evasion. She pleaded not guilty to seven counts of wire fraud.

Comptroller announces largest tobacco bust in agency history

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Boxes of contraband tobacco products recovered in a bust crowd a storage room in the Louis L. Goldstein Treasury Building in Annapolis on Nov. 20, 2019. (Capital News Service photo by Eric Myers.)

By Eric Myers
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) on Wednesday announced the agency’s largest tobacco bust ever, resulting in over $450,000 worth of seized contraband tobacco products.

The raid, which took place on Nov. 5, recovered 521 packs of untaxed cigarettes, 1,246 untaxed premium cigars and 7,866 packages of untaxed loose and hookah tobacco products. Combined, those products represent a tax loss of over $286,000 for the state.

Immigrants, led by Jamaicans, slow Baltimore’s population loss

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St. Mary’s Restaurant and Bar is known as one of Baltimore’s best Jamaican restaurants. Jamaicans are the largest immigrant group in the city, where population loss is being slowed by growth in the immigrant community. Ian Round/Capital News Service.

By Ian Round
Capital News Service

Steve McMurray was not long out of high school when he moved to the United States.

He left St. Mary Parish, a rural area in northeastern Jamaica, for trade school in Miami. He spent about a year and a half there, met a Jamaican girl with family in Maryland, and they moved to Baltimore.

Their relationship didn’t last, but he stayed. Now, more than 30 years later, McMurray owns what some say is the best Jamaican restaurant in Baltimore, doubling as an informal cultural center for what the U.S. Census reported as the city’s largest immigrant group.

Deadline nears for Maryland uninsured-motorist debt amnesty

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Uninsured Maryland drivers have until Dec. 31 to have 80 percent of unpaid debts for driving uninsured waived and get back on the road legally. Capital News Service photo by Eric Myers.

By Eric Myers
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS — Time is running out for uninsured motorists in Maryland to take advantage of a program that forgives 80 percent of uninsured-driving debts that became delinquent before 2017.

Debtors have until Dec. 31 to register for the program and begin repaying the remaining 20 percent of their total fines. If an individual registers and pays at least one-sixth of their remaining 20 percent of debt by the end of the year, they have until June 2020 to finish paying.

MD lawmakers announce $2.2 billion school construction plan

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Maryland Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr., D-Calvert, Charles and Prince George’s, speaks at a news conference at Forest Heights Elementary School on Nov. 6, 2019 announcing a $2.2 billion school construction and renovation plan for the state. Capital News Service photo by Elliott Davis.

By Elliott Davis
Capital News Service

FOREST HEIGHTS — Sen. Bill Ferguson, likely Maryland’s next Senate president, stood in Forest Heights Elementary—a school shut down temporarily for safety reasons—on Wednesday, and said the building “tells its own story” when it comes to education in the state.

“We can, we must and we will do better,” Ferguson (D-Baltimore) said during a news conference.

Ferguson, along with other Democratic leaders from both the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates, and other officials, announced Wednesday a $2.2 billion plan to build and renovate schools across the state that will be taken up during the 2020 legislative session.

Cardin, Van Hollen call for reauthorization of HBCU funds

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Morgan State University.

By Dan Novak
Capital News Service

WASHINGTON– Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Maryland may lose more than $4 million in federal funding if Congress does not reauthorize mandatory spending for those institutions beyond the current academic year.

Maryland’s HBCUs “face a funding cliff due to congressional inaction,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

Board approves $9 million for five wrongly convicted men

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Photo by Martin Falbisoner, via Wikimedia Commons

By Teresa Johnson
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Board of Public Works on Wednesday approved compensation of approximately $9 million for five men wrongly convicted and later exonerated.

The exonerees are set to receive different award amounts based on the amount of time they spent in prison.

Comptroller Peter Franchot said that they will receive approximately $78,000 for every year they spent in incarceration.

Orioles, Ravens groundskeepers challenged by climate change

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Baltimore Ravens groundskeeper Don Follett brushes rye grass seed into the turf at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore in September 2019. The head groundskeeper for the Baltimore Ravens said extreme weather is something he grapples with. (Andy Kostka/Capital News Service)

By Nora Eckert and Andy Kostka
Capital News Service

During the baseball season, the weather radar is Nicole Sherry’s steadfast companion. It’s the last thing the Baltimore Orioles head groundskeeper checks before bed. When she wakes up, she reviews it to be sure nothing has drastically changed overnight.

“I have a plan A, B, C, D, E, F, you know?” Sherry said. “We’re always willing to adjust and ready to adjust at a moment’s notice.”

Those plans aren’t just for the next game. They’re for the coming years.

A not-so Happy Halloween for Maryland’s struggling bat population

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A big brown bat with a healthy muzzle in Round Top Mines. (Daniel Feller/ Maryland Department of Natural Resources)

By Emily Top
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS — Halloween is known as one of the spookiest times of the year, filled with witches, ghosts and scattering bats. But Maryland’s flapping, black creatures may be less prevalent this year, like years in the recent past.

Maryland’s bats have been getting annihilated due to a variety of causes, including a cold-loving fungus and high-powered wind turbines.

Miller to step down as Senate president, Baltimore Sen. Ferguson tapped to replace him

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Maryland Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr. at a news conference in Annapolis. Photo by Elliott Davis/Capital News Service.

By Elliott Davis
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland—Maryland Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr. announced Thursday that he is stepping down from the position he’s held for more than three decades as he continues to battle cancer.

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