It's news you can use... since we last communicated, a big federal budget bill has been wrestled to the Floor and signed by the Prez, with long-running consequences. Congress is back and its leadership is being decided as we write (but maybe not quickly) and Maryland has a new "Trifecta" status and big plans to make the most of it. A lot has happened over the holiday hiatus, so sit back and soak it up, right here.
ON THE NATIONAL SCENE
While we were cautiously enjoying the holiday season, Congress almost ruined its own chance to gather under the tree back home but pulled it off. Since there are places around the globe where what happens in the US Congress is not the lead headline, we pluck the best short account of how all our members cleared the decks for 2023 from UK’s The Guardian:
Government funding bill
Days before Christmas, with the threat of a shutdown looming, Congress hastily approved a 4,155-page, $1.7tn spending bill to fund the federal government and its various agencies through the remainder of the 2023 fiscal year. The product of a chaotic round of 11th-hour negotiations, led by two retiring appropriators [Sens. Leahy and Shelby] determined to cement their legacy with one final deal, the funding measure includes more than $858bn in defense spending.
Other big-ticket items in the measure included nearly $45bn in aid for Ukraine, a provision banning the use of TikTok on all government devices, a rewrite of the Electoral Count Act that was at the heart of Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, $40bn in disaster relief for communities struck by hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other environmental calamities this year.
After an agreement was reached, the bill was rushed through both chambers of Congress with unusual speed. It was approved with strong bipartisan support in the Senate but passed on a mostly party-line vote in the House, foreshadowing the brinksmanship to come when Republicans control the chamber next year. [Biden signed the bill during his family holiday break in the US Virgin Islands; White House functionaries assure us the bill was sent to him on a regular commercial flight].
What we progressives follow especially: a huge victory with the passage of the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act, which was attached to the spending bill! People’s Action says “bipartisan support for the bill [came from] organizing people to educate their members of Congress…Read about the impact of the MAT Act in People’s Action’s press statement on its passage available here and join us in celebrating this victory…The expanded Child Tax Credit was [however] notably left out of the bill
Congress goes back to work this week, House leadership a TBA cliffhanger. “There are far more members here who are engaged in performance art and performance art only now, and they really have no interest in governing,” said Representative John Yarmuth of Kentucky, the retiring Democratic chairman of the House Budget Committee” in NYT commenting on the new alignment in the House.
POLITICO Playbook includes a familiar speaker in its “Sunday [Christmas Day] Best” -- — Rep. JAMIE RASKIN (D-Md.) on Electoral Count Act reform and abolishing the Electoral College, on CBS’ “Face the Nation”: “It’s [electoral count reform] necessary, but it’s not remotely sufficient. You know, we spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year exporting American democracy to other countries, and the one thing they never come back to us with is the idea that, ‘Oh, that Electoral College that you have, that’s so great, we think we’ll adopt that too.’”
STATES AND LOCALITIES Poised to Gain New Flexibility with ARPA Funds States and local governments stand to gain even greater flexibility with how they can spend federal coronavirus relief dollars, with new leeway to use the money on infrastructure projects and natural disaster relief, under a provision the U.S. Senate added Thursday to the massive year-end spending bill that Biden signed over the New Year.
Meanwhile FINANCES: States ended the 2022 fiscal year with cash balances of nearly $343 billion, a record high. Now, rising interest rates mean states are earning even more money on their investments. (Pluribus News, from AP)
One way to spend it: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed a bill allocating $575 million for teacher recruitment and retention programs. The bill includes $175 million to certify support staff as fully authorized teachers, and $305 million for a fellowship and scholarship program to pay tuition costs for new teachers. (Center Square) via Pluribus. Local note: Maryland is a net importer of trained teachers; the state’s higher-ed education programs cannot turn out enough teachers, let alone teachers trained to meet Maryland standards. This deficit was noted in the Blueprint (Kirwan Commission) report but there was no proposal to address it.
Maryland is one of four states to gain or regain a Democratic “trifecta” – control of both legislative chambers and the executive – with the victory of Wes Moore. Route Fifty, a states newsletter, notes in Maryland’s case Goucher College professor Mileah Kromer (who just published a book on Hogan), said “Moore and legislative Democrats might be hesitant to go too far raising taxes or imposing burdens on businesses.
“If there’s one thing that the Hogan years probably have taught Democrats, it’s that you’ve got to take a moderate stance on economic issues. This is an electorate who was willing to vote for Republicans, twice even, if [they] avoid social issues and hold the line on economic ones,” she said.
Here in Maryland
For government nerds only (you know who you are) Maryland Matters’s Josh Kurtz delivers musings on who might be entering the Moore administration and why his guesses, or anybody’s guesses, are mebbe a little less reliable this time around https://www.marylandmatters.org/2022/12/14/josh-kurtz-speculating-on-wes-moores-team-and-keeping-an-eye-on-the-senate/
Preliminary voter turnout numbers from the Election Project show Maryland’s percentage of eligible voters who voted at 46.2 percent, just a few notches below the national average of 46.8 percent. Oregon (all mail voting) and Maine (ranked-choice voting) were tied for tops at 61.5 percent turnout. States with hotly contested senatorial races (Pennsylvania, 57.8 percent; Wisconsin, 60.1 percent) were up there too. Neighboring West Virginia, as well as Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, all hovered in the thirties percentagewise, helping keep Maryland from drifting further below average. A Baltimore Sun article confirms that turnout was well below the state’s historical average.
New laws taking effect with 2023 include: Low-income Marylanders will get access to free dental care. Also in Maryland, the minimum wage for employers with 15 or more workers will rise from $12.50 an hour to $13.25 an hour. It is scheduled to rise again, to $14 an hour, on Jan. 1, 2024. WaPo
Maryland received about $750 million in emergency rental assistance funds, and some say it successfully prevented a wave of evictions predicted early in the pandemic. As of June 30, more than 82,000 Maryland households had received emergency rental assistance, according to state data. Now, as in other states, that money is running out, and there’s no indication the federal government will be doling out more. Baltimore Sun.
It's January and that means the General Assembly session begins soon (sooner than usual, actually, on January 11. Here is more information than any reasonable person would want, but you may have an issue special to you that requires a close-up. Here is a solid look at some of the most pressing issues from the Maryland Association of Counties (MACO) and a set of issue papers for 2023 prepared by the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) as well as DLS’s major-dates calendar for the 90-day session.
Hogan to Unions: Drop Dead. Hogan Admin, AFSCME Reach Deal: Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration reached a deal Saturday night on a contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Maryland Council 3 — the largest state workers’ union in Maryland — just before an end-of-year deadline. Baltimore Sun.
Last Laugh: Revenge of the lawn (fails) https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2022/12/17/smr-end-of-manicured-lawn.cnn TX Maryland Reporter
Do you like this page?