Progressive Maryland's continuing work for our Assembly agenda

Progressive Maryland’s folks have been busy during the General Assembly session testifying on, and watching the progress of, the many bills working their way through legislative committees as the Maryland legislature moves into its last month of the 2018 session.

Here’s a roundup, with selections from testimony on bills submitted or delivered at the committees’ sessions. We’re pushing on pro-working family bills that protect local autonomy, raise wages toward a living wage and provide genuine health care coverage, help preserve net neutrality, recover revenue from an ill-conceived tax move, improve voter access and protect pregnant women’s workplace rights.


Progressive Maryland’s folks have been busy during the General Assembly session testifying on, and watching the progress of, the many bills working their way through legislative committees as the Maryland legislature moves into its last month of the 2018 session.

Here’s a roundup, with selections from testimony on bills submitted or delivered at the committees’ sessions. We’re pushing on pro-working family bills that protect local autonomy, raise wages toward a living wage and provide genuine health care coverage, help preserve net neutrality, recover revenue from an ill-conceived tax move, improve voter access and protect pregnant women’s workplace rights.


First, a matter of urgency – several bills taking away local rights on the siting of cell phone towers are coming before the Assembly. Claire Miller of Take Action Anne Arundel County, and the activist core in Sunnyside, MD, report:

Right now, there are two bills before the Maryland General Assembly. These bills will allow mini cell towers in front of our homes, remove public notice and public hearings, preempt our local zoning ordinaces AND cap the rates that governments can charge. 

  • HB 1767, sponsored by Chair Dereck Davis, filed House Economic Matters Committee. 
  • SB 1188, sponsored by Chair Thomas Middleton, filed Senate Finance Committee. 

 
*These bills are based on “model legislation” that AT&T and Verizon created with a group called ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a stealthy right-wing think tank funded by the Koch Bros.  They favor freedom – for big business, not for you.

Ask our state representatives to vote NO on SB1188 and NO on HB1767.  Tell them these bills work to take away local government rights over infrastructure and help wireless companies lease utility poles and lamp posts for high frequency cell antennas at capped rates. The Maryland Municipal League (founded in 1936 and representing 157 municipal governments) and the Maryland Association of Counties (whose membership consists of county elected officials from Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City) each oppose these bills.  The Senate Finance Committee and the House Rules & Executive Nominations Committee will consider these bills.  A hearing on SB 1188 will be held on March 20, 2018. Please call or e-mail our representatives now.  If you can, please attend this meeting.


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More at https://mdcoalition4safeneighborhoods.blogspot.com


BILLS WE ARE WATCHING:MD_state_house.jpg

The fight for a $15 minimum wage is under way in a variety of state and local arenas and is likely to be a major point of struggle in the Democratic gubernatorial primary this year. Progressive Maryland strongly backs raising the minimum wage to $15 and framed the argument this way:

HB 664 raises the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2023, eliminates the subminimum tipped wage by 2025, and adjusts wages based on changes in the Consumer Price Index thereafter. This bill would have a massive impact on the lives of close to 1 million workers in the state who make less than $15 an hour currently. According to a study by Maryland Community Action Partnership, nowhere in the entire state of Maryland can a worker earn less than $15 per hour, only $30,000 per year at 40 hours per week, and be self-supporting. This economic reality is so blatantly obvious to residents that the majority of Marylanders, including 25% of Republicans, support raising the minimum wage to $15.

HB 664 includes an important provision to eliminate the subminimum tipped wage, a system of compensation which is rooted in racism. Tipping was developed in America after the Civil War as a means for employers not to pay newly-freed slaves, leaving it up to customers in the form of a gratuity. This system has no place in modern society and tipped workers should earn wage parity. Eliminating the tipped wage also protects women, who are often forced to put up with sexual harassment from tipping customers just to ensure that they get a paycheck at the end of their work day.

States and local jurisdictions (including Seattle, California, and New York) that have passed $15 wage laws are seeing increased job growth in their retail and restaurant industries because higher wages means more disposable income among their customer base. The idea that there is no consensus among economists about the impact of raising wages is false. The most rigorous studies consistently show raising wages doesn’t hurt employment, while those showing negative effects are based on outdated or faulty data. Hundreds of economists have endorsed a federal increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Raising wages also helps small businesses to compete with larger ones, since small businesses on average already pay higher wages. The average small retailer in Maryland currently pays employees nearly $15 per hour while large retailers tend to pay significantly less ($10-11/hr). Raising wages to $15 therefore levels the playing field between small businesses and their larger competitors.

Maryland workers deserve better than to have to work in excess of forty hours per week just to meet their most basic needs. We urge a favorable report on HB 664.


In the toxic Trump environment, the complete but too-corporate Affordable Care Act is being eroded seemingly every week. States are moving to provide health care where the tattered federal system is failing, and SB1002 would provide a single-payer solution – the one that President Obama said he would have sought if the political will existed. Here is what we said about the bill:

 In the current healthcare environment, too many Marylanders go without the care they need. Faced with high deductibles, limited services, and caps on payments for care, Marylanders are unable to seek preventive care or treatment for health problems while they’re still minor, resulting in over-utilization of emergency rooms, the spread of communicable diseases (as we’ve seen in this year’s deadly flu season,) a greater financial cost, and ultimately more pain and suffering. For many, access to healthcare is dependent on their jobs, and can be lost entirely if they lose or change their jobs.

Universal healthcare means guaranteed healthcare for everyone, period. It provides one level of comprehensive care, no matter what size your wallet. 

Universal healthcare also means putting Marylanders back in control of their own healthcare. While most private plans restrict what doctors, other caregivers, or hospital you can use, the Healthy Maryland program would allow patients to choose their doctors, and providers would be assured a fair reimbursement. The program would also end insurance industry interference with care, allowing caregivers and patients with the autonomy to make decisions according to what’s best for a patient’s health, not what’s dictated by the billing department or the for-profit insurance industry.

The Healthy Maryland program will also produce savings that can go toward covering everyone by using the state’s clout to negotiate volume discounts for prescription drugs and medical equipment, and cutting administrative waste.


SB287 seeks to push back against the Federal Communications Commission’s reversal of the FCC’s previous net neutrality policy. In testimony, Progressive Maryland said

In December of 2017, the FCC repealed the 2015 decision that regulated high speed internet delivery. Under the new standard, internet service providers (ISPs) can position their own content at an advantage over competitors, block websites or deliberately speed up or slow down traffic from specific websites, or charge customers special fees for improved access. Essentially, access to information will be available to the highest bidder.

SB 287 prohibits ISPs who do not abide by “net neutrality” principles from bidding on state contracts. The internet belongs to everyone, and it is crucial that Maryland takes steps to provide an open internet to the millions of people who rely on it.


Better and more convenient access to voting – a fundamental right – is critical to having a thriving democracy. PM backs a bill that makes registration and voting easier. Here’s what we said:

SB 1048 would automatically register eligible Marylanders to vote as well as automatically update their voter registrations whenever they go to the MVA, the MTA, local social service agencies, and the Maryland healthcare exchange. This method of registering voters not only saves the above agencies and Maryland residents time and money, but also increases voter roll accuracy and boosts efficiency at the polls on Election Day and with the State Board of Elections by spreading out voter registrations more evenly throughout each year.

SARA would also increase voter participation.  Oregon, the first state to implement a similar registration system, experienced the highest increase in voter turnout in the country between 2012 and 2016. By adopting SARA, Maryland would be joining a diverse array of states across that country that have already implemented automatic voter registration, including Alaska, Georgia, Colorado, and Illinois, where the legislature adopted the program unanimously.


In 2014 the Assembly cut state revenues severely with an ill-considered move on the state’s estate tax. A repeal bill is in the works this year, SB 561, about which we testified:

A bill passed in 2014 enacted significant changes to the State estate tax by conforming the Maryland estate tax to the value of the unified credit under the federal estate tax in 2019. Passage of this measure was a grave injustice to the residents of the state of Maryland—essentially a tax cut for the top 3% of Marylanders at the expense of the remaining 97%. Reducing taxes for the wealthy while robbing the state budget of funds that support programs that all Maryland residents depend upon is wrong. With so much uncertainty about the future of the federal estate tax, passage of SB 561 ensures that Maryland’s estate tax, which in part funds essential public services, is not also thrown into doubt.

Progressive Maryland believes that a fair tax system asks all citizens to contribute to the cost of government services based on their ability to pay. The estate tax is a useful addition to Maryland’s tax structure as it ensures that the structure is progressive and helps to offset regressive property and sales taxes. Estate and inheritance taxes play an important role in helping states to adequately fund public services. This is an especially vital role at the state level because most of the taxes levied by state and local governments fall most heavily on low-income families.

Enacting SB 561 will be a big step toward insuring that everyone pays their fair share and that the necessary services provided by our state are adequately funded. We urge a favorable report.


Maryland’s existing law helping pregnant women in the workplace is in need of a technical fix, and HB 1109 would provide it. In testimony, we explained it this way:

Too often, pregnancy and motherhood become grounds for discrimination in the workplace. HB1109 requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees who have limitations due to conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth. This bill serves as a technical fix to the existing pregnancy accommodation law 2013 law, clarifying that limitations from normal pregnancy are also covered, and that all pregnant workers with a medical need for an accommodation are entitled to reasonable accommodations, unless it would pose an undue hardship on the employer.

This bill also ensures that a pregnant employee won’t be forced onto leave when a reasonable accommodation would allow her to continue to work and support her family. When a pregnant worker is unnecessarily forced to use her limited leave time, this leave will no longer be available when she needs it most—to recover from childbirth and bond with her new baby. And if the leave is unpaid, she loses income at the moment her family can least afford it. Some women will continue working without the accommodations they need because they can’t afford to follow their doctor’s advice if it means losing their income—these women and their babies can be put at risk of serious health consequences.

No woman should have to choose between her job and a healthy pregnancy. We urge a favorable report.