Gov. Wes Moore's legislative package continues to get buy-in from not only the Dem supermajorities in the General Assembly but even from chastened GOP members. The various agendas are being distributed in legislation -- 2,100 bills and counting -- and now is not the time to let the details escape us. News You Can Use has specific moves and bills in its sights as we pass the first month of the Assembly's three-month session and deal with the new rules that accompany big federal money. Read on and find out what powers you have for change. Sometimes making change is playing defense in the back alleys of the legislative process, where big-money lobbyists can turn a good bill into a cash cow for business behind our backs. Join the mayhem...
Coming up soon in the General Assembly – our allies at the Maryland Legislative Coalition provide a list of topline hearings between now and Feb. 21, categorized by topic, plus a helpful road map on how to get your voice heard at the hearings by in-person or remote testimony. Also from MLC: highlighting Gov. Moore’s bill package and progressive bills they hope folks will attend to closely and support.
Push For More Abortion Rights In Maryland: Maryland’s top legislative leaders and Gov. Wes Moore and Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller lent their support Thursday to a slate of bills to protect abortion rights—including a constitutional amendment, which would put the issue to voters in the next statewide election in 2024. CNS via Md Reporter ; Strong Support For State Constitutional Amendment Enshrining Abortion: Dozens of members of the Maryland legislature are sponsoring a constitutional amendment that would enshrine the right to an abortion into the state constitution. WYPR and Even before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision came down, Maryland lawmakers moved last year to bolster access to reproductive care, by expanding the list of medical professionals who can provide abortion services. But then-Gov. Larry Hogan (R) vetoed the measure — which was later overridden by the legislature — and then refused to release $3.5 million in funds for training that the legislation provided. MD Matters
State Lawmakers Want Local Governments To Prepare Climate Crisis Plans As state agencies begin implementing the ambitious Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022, which confronts the effects of global warming in multiple ways, two lawmakers are back with a bill they floated last year to require counties to put together a climate crisis plan, outlining how they’d prepare for and respond to emergencies. Md Matters
Maryland, Virginia Making Final Pitches For FBI Hq: Virginia lawmakers have launched their final pitch to convince the federal government to build the FBI headquarters in their state, squaring off with Maryland power players who want it in Prince George’s County as the General Services Administration inches closer to a decision. WaPo
Pilot Four-Day Workweek Bill Finds Support: Del. Vaughn Stewart is sponsoring a bill to test a four-day workweek across Maryland through a five-year pilot program. If passed, the bill will make Maryland the first U.S. state to encourage companies to implement a shortened workweek by providing qualifying companies a tax credit in exchange for reducing work hours from 40 to 32 hours a week and leaving pay the same. WYPR via MD Reporter
Disbarred, Cassilly Nominated To Ethics Panel By Brother: Joseph Cassilly, who served as Harford County state’s attorney for 36 years but was later disbarred for his actions in a high-profile murder case, has been nominated to the county ethics board by his brother, Harford County Executive Bob Cassilly. The Aegis.
Maryland, Other States Scramble To Replace Ripped-Off SNAP Benefits All over the country, state agencies and people who receive aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, are reporting the theft of millions of dollars in benefits. And unlike regular credit or debit cards where refunds are often available when thieves poach funds, EBT cards don’t have those protections. That leaves many victims with no recourse. But some help may be coming, thanks to a new federal mandate that allows states to use federal money to reimburse SNAP recipients whose benefits were stolen through electronic card fraud. Stateline Daily via Maryland Matters
Moore Fulfilling Promise On Latino Presence In Administration: Last November, Democratic state Del. Joseline A. Peña-Melnyk that candidate Moore planned to appoint Latinos to both his transition team and his cabinet. It seems he’s delivered on that front. The Baltimore Sun.
Call For Increasing Minimum Wage To Apply To All Workers: With a push to accelerate Maryland’s increase to a $15 minimum wage, the state should also abolish the subminimum wage for tipped workers, an advocate writes. MD Matters
NATIONAL PROGRESSIVE NEWS
… is jampacked this week after the raucous State of the Union. Here’s lots of hopeful news from Megan E at People’s Action:
Last week, President Biden gave the State of the Union address. One of the most notable moments was when Biden attacked Congressional Republicans for seeking to cut Social Security and Medicare, wildly popular programs with the American public. Republicans in the audience responded vociferously with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene yelling, “Liar” (he was telling the truth). Biden responded by saying “So folks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right? They’re not to be touched?” This has put Republicans on defense on the Sunday shows to promise they won’t cut Social Security or Medicare. This does not mean that Republicans won’t try to cut other spending programs.
A theme in Biden’s speech was to fix the unfair economy, which the Hill reports resonates with Americans: “Fifty-two percent of Americans believe the government should “redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich,” according to one such poll published by Gallup in August, while 47 percent feel the opposite. Prior to the 2008 financial crisis, those preferences were by and large flipped, with more Americans disagreeing with the idea of redistributing rich people’s wealth with taxes than agreeing. A 2020 poll by Reuters and Ipsos found that nearly two-thirds of respondents believed “the very rich should contribute an extra share of their total wealth each year to support public programs.” Support for that position was stronger among Democrats, at 77 percent, but 53 percent of Republicans also stood behind it.”
The Congressional Progressive Caucus published a 2022 year in review, stating:
“The totality of Democrats' legislative and executive accomplishments this year underscores the most consequential progressive success: the President’s agenda is a progressive agenda. Decades of organizing and advocacy by movements, paradigm-shifting political campaigns from progressive candidates unafraid to run bold, transformative platforms, and tireless advocacy from members of Congress have set a new standard for people-centered policymaking. Loudly advocating for workers’ rights and higher wages, embracing the fight for abortion access, taking on corporate greed, climate action, and student debt cancellation — these would not be central parts of the Biden legacy without progressive influence.”
RAIL SAFETY: According to Common Dreams, “An inter-union alliance of rail workers argued Tuesday that the massive freight train crash in East Palestine, Ohio late last week was a predictable consequence of Wall Street-backed policy decisions that have hollowed out the industry's workforce, pushed remaining employees to chronic exhaustion, and sacrificed safety for profits.” It’s been just a few months short of ten years since the horror of Lac Megantic in Canada showed how hollowed-out rail staffing and lack of regulation could leave a whole community a wasteland. Best we not forget.
The Washington Post reports that “Days after a train carrying hazardous materials went off the tracks in northeastern Ohio, burst into flames and stoked fears of a ‘potential explosion,’ authorities assured evacuated residents that it was safe to return to town.” Residents still have not seen a full list of the chemicals that were on the train and there are questions about the quality of EPA’s air monitoring devices.
CLIMATE: From Politico: “Natural disasters worsened by a changing climate are displacing millions of people in the U.S. That’s according to a new Census Bureau report, which found that more than 3 million adults were forced to evacuate their homes in the past year because of hurricanes, floods and other events… That amounted to 1.4 percent of the U.S. adult population — and included 11 percent of adults in Louisiana.”
HEALTHCARE: From Politico: “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chair of the Senate HELP Committee, announced plans for a “historic” expansion of community health centers. The American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress in 2021 provided $7.6 billion in direct funding for community health centers. “I talked to the president a couple of weeks ago. He didn’t mention it last night, but I think his budget will reflect the need to significantly expand funding to the community health centers,” Sanders told reporters. Sanders also called for a “major expansion” of the National Health Service Corps, which provides scholarships and debt forgiveness for health care professionals working in underserved communities.”
As part of President Biden’s historic Inflation Reduction Act, the nation’s new prescription drug law, for the first time ever drug companies will pay rebates to Medicare when their prescription drug prices increase faster than the rate of inflation for certain drugs dispensed to people with Medicare.
HOUSING: The Homes Guarantee campaign is profiled in the American Prospect!
The Wall Street Journal reports on rising homelessness in New England states: “where several states face a rising number of homeless people that is outpacing the national trend, federal data from local counts show. The region’s fast-rising rents have inflamed the problem” sometimes due to remote workers fleeing major cities.
Localities are increasingly looking to invest in social housing, including in Maryland -- Montgomery County recently broke ground on new “deeply affordable” housing. Seattle has a social housing initiative on the ballot this month and Maine lawmakers are arguing for social housing investments.
OVERDOSE: We continued to celebrate the passage of the MAT Act with the President’s State of the Union remarks and cringed at his rhetoric on fentanyl. The Guardian said “Measures to combat overdose crisis include stiffer penalties but some worry it may signal a turn away from harm reduction.” Respected advocates such as the Drug Policy Alliance gently pushed back on applying Schedule One status, which would preclude testing.
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