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In the Media: Tax Break to Attract Baltimore Grocery Stores; Md. Considers 'Universal Voting'

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A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From The Baltimore Sun: Baltimore to Give Big Tax Break to Attract More Grocery Stores

"The Rawlings-Blake administration is banking on a new strategy to bring fresh food to disadvantaged Baltimore communities: an 80 percent break on the taxes grocery stores pay on their cash registers, freezers and other equipment.

"The City Council unanimously approved the legislation Thursday as an incentive to encourage supermarkets to open in communities that don't have such stores now, areas known as food deserts.

"Unlike corner stores or pharmacy chains, supermarkets need a large and steady stream of customers to buy the perishable foods they sell, such as meats, baked goods and dairy products. That challenge and others have kept them out of many city neighborhoods.

"At the newly opened Save-A-Lot in Park Heights this week, Lenae Queen and Shanelle Starkes stacked packages of steaks and chicken gizzards and a bottle of orange marinade in their cart. They were planning a barbecue.

"The sisters, who live in West Baltimore, said they were grateful for a nearby store where they could get all their shopping done in a single trip. They said they also liked the prices and the freshly painted walls inside the 13,000-square-foot store that opened on Cold Spring Lane in October."

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From The Baltimore Sun: Md. Leaders Consider ‘Universal’ Voting Registration

"Maryland’s top Democrats are looking at legislation that would automatically put every eligible state resident on the voting rolls, abandoning the traditional registration system.

"Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch say they are seriously considering putting their weight behind a "universal voter registration" plan. If a change were approved, Maryland would join a small number of state legislatures, all led by Democrats, that passed laws to register people who did not take the initiative to register.

"The policy would add hundreds of thousands of voters to rolls here — and faces deep objections from the Maryland Republican Party.

"'This is all about the Democrats finding new voters. This is a joke,' said Joe Cluster, executive director of the state GOP. 'God forbid they actually go out there and register people to vote.'

"In Oregon, the first state to pass such a law, any eligible voter with a driver's license will be registered and sent a ballot by mail at election time. In California, eligible voters renewing a driver's license will be asked whether they want to opt out of registering to vote. If not, they'll be put on the rolls.

"The proposal in Maryland could go further, culling information from several government databases to create a list of people who are eligible to vote and signing them up if they're not already registered. Those new voters would be notified that they could opt out if they wish."

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From The AFRO American: After Long Delay Maryland Submits HBCU Proposal — Coalition Claims ‘A Slap in the Face’

"In October 2013, years of political and legal wrangling reached a climax when District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake ruled Maryland had indeed violated the U.S. Constitution under the framework established in United States v. Fordice when it allowed traditionally White higher education institutions to unnecessarily duplicate programs already existing at HBCUs, thereby undermining those institutions’ ability to provide a diverse academic environment that could improve and insure their students’ higher education success. 

"Maryland 'has never dismantled the de jure era of duplication of programs that facilitated segregation—and it has maintained policies and practices that have even exacerbated this problem,' Blake concluded in her 60-page opinion finding that the State continues to maintain and perpetuate an unconstitutional system of higher education that is segregated by race and which violates the rights of students who attend the HBCUs. 

"The jurist further mandated that the State of Maryland and the plaintiff, the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education (the ‘Coalition’) enter into a period of mediation during which they were directed to negotiate and come up with a remedial plan that would legally address the State’s protracted violations and eliminate the inequities the HBCUs have suffered over the past 40-plus years."

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