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DOVER, Del. (AP) - Outgoing Gov. Jack Markell is proposing more than $212 million in tax increases to balance a proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.
    
The two-term Democrat on Thursday also proposed $56 million in agency and program cuts in his $4.1 billion spending plan, which surely will be revised by incoming Gov. John Carney. Markell also wants to eliminate a property tax credit for senior citizens and force state employees to pay more for their health care, two moves that would save taxpayers about $50 million.
    

Don Rush

DOVER, Del. (AP) - Democratic lawmakers have reintroduced legislation to increase Delaware's current $8.25 minimum wage by $2 over four years despite a similar measure stalling in the General Assembly last year.

A bill introduced Thursday would increase the minimum wage in four 50-cent increments starting October 1 of this year, to $10.25 an hour in October 2020.

After 2020, the minimum wage would increase by a percentage equal to the cost-of-living adjustment under the federal Social Security Act.

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam has joined a group of labor and community activists at a rally in support of raising Virginia's minimum wage and offering driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Dozens of people gathered Thursday outside the Capitol for the demonstration.

Northam, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor, said it's impossible for Virginians to support their families on the current $7.25 minimum wage.

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BALTIMORE (AP) - The findings of a federal investigation into Baltimore police practices and the court-enforceable agreement to improve policing in the city speak to much broader failures rooted in the agency's culture.

The Justice Department began investigating the Baltimore force after Freddie Gray's death in April 2015. Its report last August found that officers routinely stopped large numbers of people in poor, black neighborhoods for dubious reasons.

The city approved the agreement Thursday and submitted it to a federal judge.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Gov. Terry McAuliffe is announcing a new 20 megawatt solar project in Sussex County.

The governor's office announced Thursday that permits had been approved for the project, which is under development by a subsidiary of Dominion Resources.

The project is expected to produce enough power for 3,500 homes.

McAuliffe has made expanding the use of solar panels a priority of his administration. Virginia has lagged behind neighboring North Carolina in solar generation for years.

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Advocates in Virginia for a North Carolina-style transgender bathroom law are urging Republican lawmakers to give their full support to the measure.

Social conservatives joined with Republican Del. Bob Marshall at a Capitol news conference Thursday to promote legislation that would generally prohibit individuals from using a bathroom of the opposite sex in government-owned buildings. Marshall's bill would also require public school principals to notify parents with 24 hours if a child requests to be recognized as a member of the opposite sex.

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The Baltimore police force has committed to sweeping policy changes as part of a court-enforceable agreement with the federal government.

The improvement plan was filed in federal court Thursday.

It is meant to require an overhaul in how police officers do their jobs, mandating improvements in stops and searches as well as arrests.

The agreement resolves months of negotiations with the Justice Department, which had identified pervasive constitutional violations.

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Challenges still lie ahead.

That was the assessment of Delaware Governor Jack Markell as he prepares to exit his office next week with the inauguration of Governor-elect John Carney.

During his final press conference touted progress in education and job growth.

But the biggest challenge facing his successor will be a budget shortfall of $350 million.

Markell said that the problem lies in the kind of revenue the state collects noting that money from personal income taxes has gone up.

Marc Steiner Annapolis Summit website

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) and top Democratic Legislative Leaders spar at Marc Steiner's Annapolis Summit as the General Assembly's 90 day session got underway this week. Delmarva Public Radio's Don Rush has this report.

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A Sussex County Council member has been tapped to serve with a position on the inaugural committee.

Council member Rob Arlett will take on the position of National Municipal Governments Liaison for the festivities.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that he served as Delaware Chair of President-Elect Donald Trump’s campaign last year.

He went on to become the chief delegation Whip at the Republican National Convention.

Arlett will be handling various counties and towns as they work with inaugural officials.

MERR Institute

A seal has shown up in Coursey Pond in Felton.

And volunteers from the MERR Institute have been monitoring the seal’s condition ever since.

They’ve named her Philomena.

They say that she appears to be happy and in healthy.

WBOC reports that she was detected in the deeper water of the pond after she tried to get away from a storm.

So far the Institute does not want to capture the seal since that can be a traumatic experience for the animal.

But if the volunteers see any significant change in her condition they say they have a plan.

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BALTIMORE (AP) - Nearly two years after the death of Freddie Gray while in Baltimore police custody exposed systemic failures within the department that included excessive force, racial discrimination and illegal arrests, city officials are expected to agree with federal officials on court-enforceable reforms.

A consent decree, which will be announced at a joint news conference with Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, will be filed in U.S. District Court after it's approved by the city's spending panel Thursday.

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Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is touting his record of a growing and diversifying state's economy.

But he warned lawmakers that progress could be undermined by socially conservative legislation on abortion and transgender issues.

McAuliffe's remarks came last night evening at the annual State of the Commonwealth, kicking off the start of the 2017 legislative session.

The Democratic governor asked lawmakers to work with him on helping the state become less dependent on federal defense spending.

Don Rush

BALTIMORE (AP) - A coalition is releasing a report on the impact of a Maryland initiative to increase energy efficiency.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy is releasing the report Thursday in Baltimore on EmPOWER Maryland.

It is expected to include details about the cost savings on consumer electric bills and their impact on electricity consumption, pollution reduction and economic growth in Maryland.

Under the initiative, the state has worked to reduce energy consumption by 15 percent.

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DOVER, Del. (AP) - Democratic and Republican lawmakers have joined together in calling for the House and Senate to reject a state panel's recommendations of higher salaries for legislators, judges and high-ranking state officials.

Fifty of the 62 lawmakers in the General Assembly signed on as co-sponsors to a resolution introduced Wednesday to reject the recommendations of the Delaware Compensation Commission.

Lawmakers say the pay raises are ill-advised at a time when the state officials have said Delaware is facing a budget shortfall of about $350 million.

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NEW CASTLE, Del. (AP) - The house of a Delaware colonial-era figure whose father signed both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution has been added to the list of national historic landmarks.

The designation announced this week makes the George Read II House in New Castle the 14th National Historic Landmark in Delaware and one of approximately 2,500 landmarks nationwide.

Delaware's congressional delegation wrote a letter to National Park Service officials last fall in support of the designation.

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DOVER, Del. (AP) - A federal judge has approved a $1.5 million settlement between the city of Wilmington and the family of a black man shot to death by police while sitting in his wheelchair.

The judge approved the settlement Tuesday, ending a lawsuit over the September 2015 shooting of 28-year-old Jeremy McDole.

Police confronted McDole, who had been paralyzed in a 2005 shooting, after receiving a 911 call about an armed man who had fired a gun.

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This week the Seigel Jewish Community Center in Wilmington was evacuated after it received a bomb threat that was part of a nationwide set of threats on Jewish sites.

The Wilmington News Journal reports that the call came in just before noon on Monday and that the threat was just one of at least 15 in 9 states.

A search was conducted of the facility that also included the Jewish Federation of Delaware, the K-5 Albert Einstein Academy and Jewish Family Services of Delaware.

No explosives were found at the Wilmington facility or other sites.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Maryland lawmakers are gathering for the start of their annual 90-day legislative session.

They will convene at noon on Wednesday at the Capitol in Annapolis.

Lawmakers will be working to fill a budget gap of about $544 million for the next fiscal year.

They also will be weighing proposals to require paid sick leave and to either extend a moratorium on the hydraulic oil and gas drilling process known as fracking in western Maryland or ban it.

Lawmakers also will consider legislation to address the rising costs of prescription drugs.

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is pledging millions of dollars in tuition and student loan debt relief.

The Republican governor told a news conference Tuesday at the University of Maryland in College Park that he's proposing a $17.5 million investment to enable the state's 14 colleges and universities to cap tuition increases at 2 percent.

He says they would otherwise have had to raise tuition by as much as 5 percent.

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WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) - A judge is holding a final case review in the prosecution of a man charged in a 2007 killing at a Newark-area mobile home park.

Wednesday's court hearing involves murder charges against Jason Slaughter in the death of 22-year-old Christopher Masters.

Slaughter was found outside Masters' home with a gunshot wound but was never charged. He told police he had been shot in a home invasion.

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A federal judge has refused to halt the execution of a man convicted of killing a family of four in Virginia.

Ricky Gray's attorneys had asked U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson for a delay to enable him to challenge the state's plan to use lethal injection drugs from a secret compounding pharmacy. Gray's attorneys say the state risks "chemically torturing" the man.

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe says he'll be actively promoting legislation aimed at strengthening the state's ethics rules and making it easier to vote.

McAuliffe, a Democrat, said Tuesday he'll be pushing legislation that would prohibit lawmakers from using their campaign accounts for personal use, saying the move is necessary to accompany a $100 gift cap lawmakers approved earlier in his term.

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CRISFIELD, Md. (AP) - With the ice building around Smith Island and Crisfield, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources dispatched its ice cutter to help.

Media outlets report the ice cutter, named J. Millard Tawes, cut a path Monday through the thickening ice in the Chesapeake Bay. State officials say the ice was between 2-3 inches thick, making it dangerous for the ferry and mail boats that run in the area.

Since Smith Island is only accessible by boat or air, the ice cutter was essential to make travel easier for those who live on the island.

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AUBURN, N.Y. (AP) - Federal parks officials have formally established the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in upstate New York.

Members of the state's congressional delegation joined U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in Washington, D.C., for the official signing ceremony Tuesday that makes the park part of the National Park Service system. It encompasses the site of Tubman's old home on the outskirts of Auburn, about 25 miles west of Syracuse, and a nearby church where she worshipped.

Hayden Donnelly

It might be called “The Big Snow.”

For Sussex County it came with some 13.5 inches in Ocean View overtaking the 12 inch average.

The Delaware Coastal Airport saw the temperature drop to 2 degrees matching a 1970 record low.

The Salisbury Daily Times reports that the temperature in Georgetown only rose to 24 degrees on Sunday as the snow began to melt.

The  paper reports that the Salisbury-Ocean City: Wicomico Regional Airport saw of record of zero degrees.

Roads were icy and snowy with Governor Jack Markell urging motorists to drive cautiously.

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The Chesapeake Bay is filled with ghost pots. These are crab traps. And there are an estimated 600,000 in the waters of the estuary. Pamela D'Angelo with Chesapeake: A Journalism Collaborative prepared this report.

Chesapeake: A Journalism Collaborative is funded by the participating stations with grant support from the Clayton Baker Trust, the Bancroft Foundation, Michael and Anne Hankin, the Jim and Patty Rouse Foundation, the Rob and Elizabeth Tyler Foundation and the Mid-Shore Community Foundation.

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DOVER, Del. (AP) - Delaware lawmakers are poised to begin this year's legislative session by rejecting pay raises for themselves and other state officials.

Senate and House members convene Tuesday for the start of the 149th session of the General Assembly.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Gov. Larry Hogan has appointed Lourdes Padilla as secretary of the Maryland Department of Human Resources.

The governor announced the appointment Monday.

Padilla has more than 28 years of experience in the human services field. She now serves as deputy secretary for income maintenance at the Pennsylvania Department of Human Resources. She has overseen operations in five bureaus under that agency. They include child support enforcement, program support and program evaluation.

Silverback Distillery website

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Distillery owner Denver Riggleman says he will seek the republican nomination for governor.

Riggleman said in a news release late Monday that he wants to break up the "good ole boys system" in Richmond.

Riggleman and his wife, Christine, own Silverback Distillery, a craft distillery in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Three candidates other candidates are running on the Republican side.

Riggleman will host a campaign kickoff at Silverback Distillery on Saturday.

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