Gov picks Terps all the way

It’s not in the Maryland Constitution, but it seems that Maryland governors are obligated to support the University of Maryland Terrapins sports teams, and Gov. Wes Moore is following tradition.

Moore picked the Terps teams to win both the women’s and men’s NCAA basketball tournaments. He posted a video showing him filling out his brackets in his State House office with his family and Maryland mascot Testudo helping him along.

“It’s that time of year when the whole country is going to learn to fear the turtle,” Moore said, palming a basketball and high-fiving with Testudo.

He added: “We are going to start showing the entire country just how ready our Terps are.” He name-checked top Terps, including Diamond Miller from the women’s team and Jahmir Young and Julian Reese from the men’s team.

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The Democratic governor couldn’t help but take a dig at his Republican counterpart in Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin: “Because Gov. Youngkin has still not taken me up on my offer to play him in one-on-one for the FBI headquarters, I think this is going to be a bad year for Virginia.”

Moore proved to be right: No. 13 seed Furman University upset No. 4 seed University of Virginia, 68-67, on Thursday.

The $2 million question

The state of Maryland has a budget that’s more than $63 billion, but one of the biggest questions in Annapolis right now is about $2 million worth of funding.

Gov. Wes Moore intends to phase out a program that pays private school tuition for certain students. It’s known as BOOST, for “Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today.” Supporters often call it a “scholarship” program, while opponents refer to it as a “voucher” program.

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Last year, the program had $10 million in funding for about 3,200 students. Moore proposed dropping that funding down to $8 million, allowing the program to continue for current students and their siblings, but not letting any other children join the program.

But the BOOST program is a favorite of some lawmakers, particularly Republicans. BOOST backers say it provides an opportunity for families in struggling schools to have another option, one that’s usually only available to wealthier families that can afford private school tuition.

The House of Delegates stuck with Moore’s plan of $8 million in funding for BOOST in their version of the budget. Del. Stephanie Smith, a Baltimore Democrat, pushed back against a Republican attempt to add $2 million, saying that public tax dollars should be focused on public schools.

The Senate, however, has shown more willingness to put the money back in. Their plans will be made clear when the Senate debates its version of the state budget next week.

Senate President Bill Ferguson told reporters on Friday that while public school funding is the top priority, there could be room for BOOST to remain if there’s enough funding. “We’re in a fortunate position to be able to also maintain, I think, the BOOST program. ... We want to make sure that if we have the ability and the resources to keep that opportunity open, we will,” said Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat.

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The matter ultimately is likely to be decided in a joint House-Senate conference committee on the budget.

Jason Perkins-Cohen to become first City Hall official to depart for Moore administration

Jason Perkins-Cohen, the director of the Baltimore City office tasked with connecting city residents to jobs, is set to become the first Baltimore City Hall official to join Gov. Wes Moore’s administration. He told The Banner he will begin serving as the deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor next week.

Perkins-Cohen first joined the Baltimore City Mayor’s Office of Employment Development in the spring of 2015. His tenure, which spanned seven years and four mayors, included leading partnerships with community-based organizations that administer occupational training and managing YouthWorks, Baltimore’s youth summer jobs program that serves thousands of adolescents.

“When I took the job in 2015, I said to then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake, ‘I’m not the right guy if you just want someone to run the job centers. What I want to do is make them work in partnership,’” Perkins-Cohen recalled.

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The “sexy stories” in employment development, he said, are those about workplace training programs that allow 50 residents “here and there” to get jobs. But in order to move the needle in Baltimore, “we need to think about it differently and work together in creating a network.”

Prior to joining the city’s employment development office, Perkins-Cohen led the Job Opportunities Task Force, a nonprofit that connects those with barriers to employment to workforce training programs. He also led employment programs for the city of Washington, D.C.

In a statement announcing Perkins-Cohen’s resignation, Scott said it has been an honor and privilege to watch the transformation of the employment office.

“For almost a decade, Jason Perkins-Cohen dedicated himself to serving Baltimoreans by connecting them to economic opportunities that set them on the path to financial freedom,” the Democrat said.

Mackenzie Garvin will serve as interim director of the city employment development office. Scott called her a valuable member of his administration.

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After Moore cruised to victory in the November election, Baltimore officials and political analysts were eager for an administration they believe will seek greater partnership with a city left in the lurch by his predecessor, Gov. Larry Hogan.

Some observers also wondered whether the new Democratic leadership in Annapolis would lure any City Hall talent, particularly as Scott’s administration has struggled with departures of major cabinet officials.

In the fall, the mayor told The Baltimore Banner he did not expect any higher rates of turnover due to Moore.

“We’re going to continue to work to make sure that we have the highest-quality team here, but also know that we have to support our governor in order to have the best results for us as a city,” Scott said in November.

Another lawmaker leaves

Del. Kirill Reznik, a Montgomery County Democrat, is leaving the General Assembly to join Gov. Wes Moore’s administration.

Reznik will become an assistant secretary in the Department of Human Services. He brings expertise to the role, having chaired a subcommittee that reviewed the department’s budget and operations.

Reznik was born in Kyiv and said he’s the first Ukrainian-born state legislator in the U.S. He was appointed to the House of Delegates in 2007 and later reelected multiple times.

Other state lawmakers who previously left for the Moore team include former Del. Eric Luedtke (chief legislative officer), former Sen. Paul Pinsky (director of the Maryland Energy Administration) and former Sen. Susan Lee (secretary of state).