Happy May Day! May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day, symbolizes solidarity for working people! Here at Progressive Maryland, we'll channel the spirit of May Day as we gear up for a busy month. We have several issue campaigns and new initiatives in the works, and we're excited to continue organizing and building power for all Marylanders. You’re an important part of this work so be sure to read on for updates and the ways in which you can get involved. Thank you!
The hottest news in Maryland today (Monday) is Senator Ben Cardin’s announcement that he won’t seek re-election next year, after 58 consecutive years in elected office and three terms in the Senate. His departure enlivens Maryland’s previously sleepy electoral calendar for 2023-4 and thrusts forward a flock of potential Democratic candidates, some more likely than others. If former Gov. Larry Hogan decides to enter the GOP side of the race it could be a contest. But Cardin told the Baltimore Sun after his announcement “ ‘I am extremely confident we will hold the seat,’ he said of Democrats.”
But there is lots more to be amazed by, as true-blue Maryland still has some 'splaining to do. A two-year-old law requiring Police Accountability Boards in local and county-level jurisdictions is slow to develop. How will the federal infrastructure money flow, and can local governments avoid being sent to the back of the line? An incinerator is kept polluting by contract law. And our state's first-in-the-nation Prescription Drug Affordability Board, at nearly four years old, is only now getting prepped to actually save money for prescription customers.
Stop grinding your teeth; your dentist would not approve. And read all these just-gettin-around-to-it sagas in News You Can Use.Read more
The Charles County Commissioners must immediately stop the eviction of the Cedarville Band of Piscataway Indians off their ancestral lands, and return the land to its original stewards.
The Cedarville Band of Piscataway Indians are a band of the larger Piscataway-Conoy people, who were and still are victims of genocide, forced assimilation, dispossession, and discrimination. The Piscataway-Conoy people originally had 7 million acres of ancestral land in Maryland, and the 16 acres that the Charles County Commissioners are evicting them from holds their ancestral winter hunting grounds and cultural museum, the only Piscataway-focused museum in existence today. The 30-day eviction notice from the commissioners came at the end of a 40-year lease, during which the Cedarville Band of Piscataway Indians established services and resources for the Piscataway people, as well as hosting Pow-Wows, school trips, and events for the wider community.
Progressive Maryland stands with all Indigenous peoples of Maryland and their land sovereignty. We envision a Maryland where justice, equity, and dignity exist for all. We envision a Maryland where Indigenous nations and people have sovereignty and the ability to self-determine. That Maryland cannot exist while the government, institutions, and individuals around us continue to enact exclusions, erasure, and neo-genocide of Indigenous people. We believe that stopping the eviction and returning the land back to its original stewards is where reparations start, not end. The LANDBACK movement is essential for Maryland and the wider Turtle Island, colonially known as the United States, and is the first step to establishing Indigenous sovereignty. You can learn more about how you can specifically support the Cedarville Band at their website and Instagram.
We stand with the Cedarville Band of Piscataway Indians in their fight to stay on their unceded ancestral lands. We encourage all Marylanders to use this email tool created by the ACLU of Maryland where you can demand the Charles County Commissioners return the land to its rightful stewards.
Our organization and the spaces in which we work stand upon the unceded ancestral homelands of the Indigenous people of Maryland, including the Accohannock Indian Tribe, Assateague Peoples Tribe, Nause-Waiwash Band of Indians, Piscataway Conoy Tribe, Piscataway Indian Nation, Pocomoke Indian Nation and Youghiogheny River Band of Shawnee Indians. See the historical boundaries, languages, and treaties of the tribes in Maryland here.
We are winding down our campaign to center the community’s voice in the selection process of the new PGCPS Superintendent. We have 300 petition signatures and counting and have gained new AROS partners along the way, and established dozens of new relationships with community members and leaders all over the county that are all coming together to strengthen the school system. Thanks to everyone who knocked doors and made phone calls with us this last two months. This work has been extremely impactful and we could not have done any of it without our awesome members and allies!
Our April 22nd AROS Virtual Community forum was a success! Thanks to everyone that came out and participated in a robust community conversation. We also heard from a PM leader and full time PGCPS substitute, Nirvan Sengupta, and community leader and mother of two PGCPS public school children, Phyllis Wright, who shared powerful stories and encouraged the audience that there are practical ways to get involved, right now!
A special thanks to Ms. Janna Parker, CEO of PG Changemakers, and Board of Education, District 2, representative Jonathan Briggs for showing up and showing out! You’re engagement brought a wealth of lived and professional experience to the conversation. Solidarity!
Unfortunately, there are a LOT of problems involving the political establishment that has heavy influence over our school system and its leaders. Here are a few articles that take a deeper look at some of the most recent issues:
- News report Erica Berry grooming a potential appointee to vote the CE’s way on things leaked to Fox 5
- A More Perfect Union School Construction
- WaPo ethics farce 1
- WaPo ethics farce 2
Also, why did the political establishment vote to amend HB1079 to retroactively pay for Juanita Miller’s legal fees? And why did HB432, amended to be more inclusive to our elected BOE members and more community members die in the MGA at the end of session? If you want to know more and find ways to get involved, give Dev, the Prince George’s County Organizer, a call at 804-528-7756.
AROS CALLS TO ACTION
The county Executive has finally planned an in person community forum for this Wednesday night, April 26th from 6-8 p.m. at Charles Flowers High School in Springdale. Several folks signed up to testify at the forum and we are encouraging more of our members to do the same. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP TO TESTIFY
If you cannot make the Wednesday night in-person forum, please take 3 minutes to send in written testimony in the record for the CEO search to the County Executive. THIS link provides a passage template that can either be sent as is or edited to read in your own words/replaced with your own words and additional comments as suggested on the landing page. SEND AN EMAIL TO THE CEO
MGA 2023 LEGISLATIVE SESSION WRAP-UP
Progressive Maryland celebrates victories but faces setbacks in 2023 legislative session: A comprehensive review of priority bills and their outcomes.
Cannabis justice - but not for workers
The good news:
➥ unlike Maryland’s previous and largely failed attempt at medical cannabis regulations, the new law will award all 160 licenses in the first round to minority- or women-owned businesses. These “social equity” licenses will strengthen the law’s ability to direct investment back into communities most harmed by the war on drugs.
The bad news:
➥ General Assembly leaders declined to implement serious protections for workers in the cannabis industry. Progressive Maryland joined our partners in the labor movement, particularly UFCW 400, to demand Labor Peace Agreement language in the cannabis bill. Labor peace language would guarantee the right to organize to all cannabis workers, ensuring that the benefits of this new economic sector truly lift all Marylanders, rather than a handful of owners. We held many meetings with lawmakers about this issue, engaged the media, and testified in favor of this basic protection. But in the end, thanks to the opposition of Committee Chairs C.T. Wilson in the House, and Melony Griffith in the Senate, the language was not included in the final bill.
We are deeply concerned by the lack of care for workers’ rights this session and we will return to this issue next year.
Drug decriminalization - the fight continues
Under Progressive Maryland’s leadership, a broad coalition of community organizations, advocates, and former legislators joined together to reintroduce the De Minimis Quantity Decriminalization bill (HB927), which would have decriminalized possession of personal use quantities of a broad range of drugs. Even as we celebrate cannabis legalization, we remain clear that the drug war is first and foremost a war on Black people and working class people of all races, and we must continue to liberate our communities from the carceral system by dismantling all aspects of the drug war.
Despite many meetings with lawmakers, passionate testimony, and a positive hearing in the House, our bill was not put forward for a vote. We will regroup with our coalition partners and continue this work into the next session.
Marijuana odor searches
Another lingering drug policy question this session was whether police would still be able to use the claimed odor of marijuana as a pretext to search vehicles. While you might have reasonably assumed that the legalization of marijuana would automatically end this racially discriminatory practice, police interests were lobbying very hard to keep it in place, arguing without evidence that it would help them seize weapons.
Luckily, at the last minute, a broad coalition of progressive leaders, led by the Maryland ACLU and including Progressive Maryland, succeeded in passing HB1071, which formally outlaws marijuana odor searches. This law will reduce racial profiling on our streets and make it less likely that Black Marylanders will be excluded from the benefits of marijuana legalization.
Overdose and Infectious Disease Prevention Services Program
It is unfortunate that SB618 did not pass this session. This bill aimed to establish an important program to address the opioid epidemic in related infectious diseases in the state. By authorizing community-based organizations to establish overdose and infectious disease prevention services programs, the bill would have provided the location for:
- the consumption of pre obtained drugs
- access to sterile needles
- the ability to be administered first aid and other related services
The bill also would have allowed the program to bill the insurance carrier of the individual who uses the services, making it financially sustainable and viable. The failure to pass this bill is a missed opportunity to provide much-needed resources and support to individuals, struggling with substance abuse, and related infectious diseases.
To get involved, contact SirJames Weaver, Environmental Justice Task Force organizer
Democratic leaders commit to continuing to pollute communities in South Baltimore
Among our greatest disappointments this session was Democratic leaders’ continued refusal to listen to South Baltimore’s demand to halt trash incineration at the Covanta facility. For decades, this smokestack has polluted the air and water of these working class, majority Black communities, leading to elevated rates of cancer and asthma, and some of the worst air quality in the entire state.
Progressive Maryland has begun organizing these neighborhoods to fight back, leading many budding community leaders to testify in favor of reforming Maryland’s renewable energy portfolio to withdraw state subsidies from trash incineration (HB718/SB590). We know that incineration continues because it is profitable, and our goal is to make it unprofitable in order to shut it down.
Despite our efforts, House and Senate leaders, including Senate President Bill Ferguson – whose own district is home to the Covanta facility – refused to move the bill forward. Our work in South Baltimore continues and we are committed to building the power needed to win this fight.
To get involved, contact Patty Snee, Healthcare Task Force organizer
Prescription drug affordability
One of the most exciting developments in healthcare policy in the past few years in Maryland has been the creation of the Prescription Drug Affordability Board. The PDAB is a regulatory body, the first of its kind in the US, that is empowered to set drug upper payment limits in the state on a range of common drugs, provided that the purchaser is a Maryland state entity, such as a public university, prison, etc.
This year, a broad coalition, including Progressive Maryland, successfully got the Board fully funded and extended after previous resistance from the Hogan administration (HB279). We will continue to work to grow this Board’s power and scope, by increasing the number and kinds of drugs it regulates, and expanding its regulatory authority to include more Marylanders. The high cost of medicines has a disproportionate impact on communities of color so the work of the Board is another way the state can address the racial inequities in healthcare.
Access to Care
The Access to Care Act, HB588, which opens the Maryland Health Exchange to immigrants by removing immigration status as a barrier, passed in the House by a vote of 100-34 in March. This measure would enable about 300,000 residents to purchase healthcare policies on the Maryland Health Exchange which was created when the ACA went into effect. Dozens of organizations, including PMD, community and labor groups, and people who would benefit from the bill testified before the HGO in favor of the legislation. We joined 1199, CASA and other members of the End Medical Debt Maryland Campaign to stage a Rally on March 13 on Lawyer’s Mall in support of Access to Care and other bills that would expand healthcare. About sixty folks gathered and another 30 watched on live stream as people shared stories, waved signs and urged action on a health justice agenda. Read about the event here: Article 1 | Article 2.
Unfortunately, despite the successful Rally, the hundreds of calls and emails that reached the Senate Finance Committee, and the strong pres ence of CASA members at the State House in the final days of the session the Senate President refused to bring the bill up for a vote.This is the second year in a row that the Access to Care legislation didn’t advance despite repeated pledges from leadership to take bold action to ensure no Marylander is left behind. The fight will continue
Hospital Reimbursements (HB333)
The End Medical Debt Campaign Maryland (we’re a core member group) was created to address the burden that medical debt is placing on thousands of families around the state. This bill solidifies and kicks off the process to reimburse low-income patients robbed by hospitals who wrongfully charged people eligible for free care. Much more remains to be done to reimburse everyone due a refund and to make sure patients know their rights.
Other key bills and issues this session
Democratic leaders ignore housing affordability crisis
One of the General Assembly’s most successful Covid-era interventions was the Emergency Rental Assistance program, which provided direct support to thousands of families facing eviction due to job loss, medical emergency, or other unforeseen crises. Despite the program’s proven success, Assembly leaders and the Governor have all chosen to walk away, at first defunding the program entirely, and then adding only a paltry $2 million after rapid response advocacy from Progressive Maryland and many of our allies.
This funding will not be nearly enough to provide desperately needed support to the more than 100,000 Maryland households behind on rent. A proposed voucher program that some Democratic leaders want to replace ERA with is woefully inadequate, providing less relief to fewer people with a more convoluted process. Governor Moore’s promise to end child poverty in Maryland rings particularly hollow given that more than 90% of households most likely to face eviction have children in the home, according to census data.
Fully funding ERA is aligned with the Governor’s stated priorities, saves the state money by addressing social problems before they spiral out of control, and protects the most vulnerable. It should have been a no-brainer this session, and we are appalled by this lack of commitment.
Right to Reproductive Freedom
The passing of the Right to Reproductive Freedom Act (SB798) was a significant step forward for recommitting to reproductive rights in our state following the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade.. This bill ensures that all individuals have the right to reproductive healthcare such as birth control and abortion services. As a proposed constitutional amendment, Marylanders will vote on this bill in the 2024 election and the passing of this bill will guarantee it remains incontestable.
As we near the end of another month filled with capricious weather, it's important to take stock of what's been happening in Maryland, especially when it comes to the issues that matter most to progressives. From drug policy and health justice to environmental justice and grassroots organizing, there's always a lot to keep up with in our communities at the local and state level. That's why we're excited to share our new legislative session wrap-up, which provides a comprehensive look at the wins, losses, and disappointments of the 2023 session. A full wrap-up of the session is available on our blog and we hope you will take the time to check it out and stay informed! But our work doesn't stop there. Stay tuned for more exciting announcements of new initiatives we’re launching. Please get involved in our efforts and be sure to check out our chapter and taskforce work, upcoming events, and actions you can take later on in the memo.
News You Can Use: Gov. Moore signs some big bills; US House GOP looks to claw back Biden climate money
Governor Moore is ceremoniously signing some of his topline bills and the Assembly is taking a deep breath and realizing they don't have to wait for a Larry Hogan bombing run to see what vetoes they need to override next session. Some progressive allies are cheering how many of their bills made it. The rent is too damn high everywhere but even higher here, if you were wondering. And just when you think one school board story has quieted down, another one heats up. And more progressive news you can use.
Happy Earth Week! As we come together this week to celebrate our planet, we’re given the opportunity to highlight the intersectionality of environmental issues and social justice. It's important to recognize that the fight for a sustainable future goes beyond just planting trees and reducing plastic waste. It also encompasses the need for equitable and inclusive environmental policies and practices that address the disproportionate impacts of environmental degradation on marginalized communities. While the legislature failed to pass some critically important environmental laws for our state this year, our work in environmental justice is not done. So, as we commemorate Earth Week, let's not only celebrate the beauty of our planet, but let’s also raise awareness, take action, and promote environmental justice as an integral part of our commitment to protecting our precious planet. Check out our Earth Day events section of the memo for ways to get involved!
Now that the legislative session has come to an end, we’re pivoting to focus on organization building, launching new initiatives, expanding our task force work, and building more chapters and coalitions across the state. Look out for more announcements as we continue to advocate for progressive policies and create positive change in our state.
Don’t forget to check out the Blog section of our memo each week to check out news you can use! This week’s piece is loaded with plenty of updates from our state and other parts of the country!
Bottom line: What did the General Assembly accomplish (and what are other state's legislatures doing as they wrap their sessions)
Maryland, like many states, has a springtime legislative session -- and, like ours, many are wrapping up now and seeking governors's signatures on their hard-forged bills. We feature several takes on what the Assembly accomplished as well as some tidbits from other states legislative bodies that echo Maryland's concerns but may well show opposite tendencies. And Congress is back at work with the GOP caucus in the House still trying to leverage the potential for a US debt default to slash social services and roll back some of Joe Biden's accomplishments. For all of these consequential issues, we can only say,stay tuned. But our legislative session is a wrap and the next metric is what the Moore administration makes of the results. We'll be watching; you should too.