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Maryland Briefing

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

ST. MARY'S COUNTY

Credit Union Suspends No-Hat Policy

Navy Federal Credit Union has told employees to stop enforcing its "no hats, hoods or sunglasses" security policy while officials decide how it can be applied fairly, according to an internal memo obtained by The Washington Post.

The memo tells employees not to approach anyone wearing a hat, hood or sunglasses, but also not to take down the signs prohibiting such items. Tom Lyons, senior vice president of security for Navy Federal, said the new instructions will give credit union officials time to determine what additional training is needed to ensure the policy is enforced consistently. He said the memo is not an indication that the policy, implemented in December to stem robbery and identity theft, will be abandoned.

The memo was issued days after employees at a Navy Federal in St. Mary's County asked a Muslim wearing a head scarf to leave the line and conduct her business in a back room. Lyons said those employees' actions were inappropriate because the woman was clearly identifiable.

-- Matt Zapotosky

PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY

Hospital Authority Reports Buyer Interest

The Prince George's Hospital Authority reported yesterday that nine health-care companies have expressed interest in buying one or more of the facilities that make up the county's hospital system. The authority was created by the legislature last year to sell the system, now owned by the county and operated by the not-for-profit Dimensions Health.

The authority is asking the legislature to approve a bill that would give it more time to complete its work and allow it to break up the system and sell it to more than one entity, but complete the sales simultaneously.

The county and state have each pledged $12 million this year to prop up the system during its sale and to offer as much as $174 million in capital and operating costs to new owners. The system, which serves about 180,000 patients a year, includes the Prince George's Hospital Center in Cheverly, Laurel Regional Hospital, the Bowie Health Campus and two nursing facilities.

-- Rosalind S. Helderman

GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Lawmakers Aim to Boost Alcohol Taxes

A senator and delegate from Montgomery County are urging the General Assembly to increase alcohol taxes by five cents a drink to pay for improved services for the developmentally disabled and those battling drug and alcohol addictions. Maryland has the second-lowest alcohol tax in the nation; the excise on distilled spirits was last raised in 1955 and the tax on beer and wine in 1972.

There are 19,000 Maryland residents on waiting lists for state-funded services for the developmentally disabled. Del. William A. Bronrott (D-Montgomery) was joined in Annapolis by some of the people waiting for services and their families, as well as recovering addicts, to push for the legislation. He and Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery) estimate that the tax increase would raise $80 million a year.

-- Rosalind S. Helderman

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