Progressive Maryland approached the 2016 General Assembly session with a distinct list of priorities. How are those priorities faring as we approach the mid-point of the session?
/PM BlogSpace Report/ As the legislative session in Maryland reaches its midpoint, we check in on how Progressive Maryland’s legislative priorities are faring. Here's what we know so far.
Progressive Maryland’s legislative priorities for the 2016 session:
- Clean Energy Jobs: We will support legislation to raise Maryland’s clan energy use standard to 25% and help to train Marylanders for the clean energy jobs of the future.
UPDATE: The Clean Energy Jobs Act, HB1106 in the House and SB0921 in the Senate, provides serious funding to the tune of around $40 million for training and minority small business support for renewable energy such as rooftop solar power. A hearing was held in the House Economic Matters Committee March 3 and one is scheduled in Senate Finance this week (March 8). The money involved is producing popularity for the bill but also a scramble to spread the benefits to as many constituencies as possible. A recent ruling by the Public Service Commission requiring power companies to allow community solar projects (using one big institutional roof like a warehouse or church for solar panels to provide power to a neighborhood or consortium) equal discounts compared with individual homeowners make this even more promising. Environmentalists find the proceeding bittersweet as the funds are described in the Fiscal Note as coming from a settlement allowing the building of a natural gas export facility at Cove Point on the Chesapeake – a project that environmental organizations have fought bitterly for years as an incentive for fracking in Maryland, but a battle that appears to be lost (though there remains a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the state).
- Ending Police Brutality: Progressive Maryland will support efforts to ensure that we end police brutality in Maryland by supporting legislation that will restore trust between communities and law enforcement and assure that corrupt police are held accountable for their actions.
UPDATE Marathon hearings on the police reform package began in late February The bill appeared to steer down the middle of the controversy and drew criticism both from police and reform activists. It’s a start, said some advocates. “I’m really hoping this is a start for changing the culture of law enforcement in Maryland and ending police brutality and police misconduct,” said Larry Stafford Jr., executive director of the advocacy group Progressive Maryland. “We have an opportunity to lead the nation in taking on police misconduct and abuse.” This year’s bill is an omnibus bill with all reforms wrapped into an up-or-down package. At the hearing, one of the bill’s proponents was asked by a bill opponent why it was not broken up into numerous separate bills as it had been in the 2015 session. Because you opponents picked them off one by one, was the answer.
- EITC: In 2016 we hope to put more money in the pockets of working Marylanders by expanding the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit to include more working adults and young people.
UPDATE The more far-reaching bill is (SB 0294) filed by Sen. Rich Madaleno, which would add single adults and young people. As Madaleno’s bill and a more conservative one that has the backing of both the Republican governor and the Democratic Assembly leadership move through the session, it appears that at least some benefits will be increased.
- Retirement Security: We support making a secure retirement possible for all Marylanders with legislation that will create a public option for retirement plans for residents of our state.
- Paid Sick Leave: We will continue our efforts to push for legislation that requires employers to offer an opportunity for their employees to earn paid sick leave.
UPDATE Wednesday, Feb. 3 the Healthy Working Families Act, SB 472 in the Senate and HB 580 in the House of Delegates was introduced with solid majorities in both the House and Senate. The bills have survived hearings in the two committees where the effort has been stalled in the past, the House Economic Matters Committee and Senate Finance Committee. Our BlogSpace recently updated the details.
- Fighting for a Fair Budget: We support stopping corporate tax giveaways and creating a state budget that prioritizes the lives of working Marylanders.
- Fair Scheduling: Ensuring that employers in our state offer workers consistent and fair schedules.
- Voting Rights for Returning Citizens: Allowing formerly incarcerated people who have served their time to have their right to vote restored.
Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed this bill after the 2015 session but the House, and then the Senate more narrowly, overrode the veto early in the session.