Joe Biden, in full campaign mode, brought a new word -- phrase, actually -- into the state last week in Rockville, "like semi-fascism." It appears to have offered headline writers huge misspelling opportunities. Also, Maryland is among other states taking active steps to reduce the burden of medical debt on families, as well as the related issues of better hearing and clean water. And the gubernatorial candidates are juking and shuffling over debates like opposing linemen just before the snap. Fun stuff, so read on...
MATTERS OF INTEREST ON THE FEDERAL SIDE (WITH STATE AND LOCAL IMPLICATIONS)
Joe Biden made a foray into midterm politics last week that brought out the worst in headline writers. Going full campaigner at Rockville’s Richard Montgomery High School, he tagged the MAGA/Trumpista GOP as “like semi-fascism,” inevitably meaning it could be misspelled “facism” in numerous heavy-breathing headlines. In fact Biden took so much off his sinker with the simile “like” and prefix “semi-“ that he in effect reduced “Mussolini” to “Mmmm
Medical cost news – the price of staying healthy slowly whittled down on several fed fronts
Millions of consumers across the country will be able to get a hearing aid more easily and affordably under new federal rules that will make some devices available without a prescription at local retailers and online. In Maryland, many of the 1.2 million residents with some hearing loss could benefit. More from the Baltimore Sun.
And also: A unique agreement Maryland made with federal regulators that affects how much everyone in the state pays for medical care, and how they get that care in the hospital or a doctor’s office, has been extended through 2026. Again, from the Sun
And an innovative approach to crippling medical debt (for which Progressive Maryland fought in the Assembly for years before passage: From States Newsroom via Maryland Matters: “Moved by stories of residents losing homes, savings and credit as a consequence of medical debt, nearly a dozen states [including Maryland] have enacted laws in the past two years to provide protections for consumers. Some legislators say they began focusing on the issue of medical debt after a related issue, surprise medical billing [often from out of network providers], spurred legislative action in many states and in Congress in the past few years.
The debt laws passed in the past two years have required better financial screening to try to ensure hospitals provide more free and discounted care to eligible patients. The laws also mandated medical providers to offer payment plans to eligible patients and created more safeguards in the collections process to, in some instances, prevent liens on homes or garnishment of wages. The Maryland laws impose requirements on hospitals to ensure free or discounted care for those who qualify, to limit collection actions, and to repay those who paid for medical services that should have been free or discounted.
MORE FROM THE FED WATCHERS
Megan E at People’s Action reports that with Congress out until after Labor Day “The big news last week was President Biden announcing student debt cancellation. The administration announced $10,000 for most people with federal loans and another $10,000 for people who had received Pell grants for low-income families. The administration also extended the pause on repayment for the rest of the year.
Other news focused on Trump’s stolen government documents.
Also from Megan E: “Bloomberg reported on corporate price gouging as “US profit margins [ ] reached its widest since 1950, suggesting that the prices charged by businesses are outpacing their increased costs for production and labor,” while the Federal Reserve continues to [appear to try] to create a recession.” If there is a cause for inflation, it is not workers getting more.
Speaking of inflation: What can the Inflation Reduction Act do for you, your business (or your bosses’ biz), your kids’ future? Find out in detail with Blue-Green Alliance Fact Sheets:
- Clean Manufacturing Fact Sheet: This fact sheet offers a synopsis of the IRA’s investments to expand clean energy manufacturing, transform the industrial sector to reduce emissions, and decouple climate action from dependency on exploitative imports.
- Clean Energy Tax Credit Fact Sheet: This fact sheet describes the IRA's new and expanded tax credits for clean energy and the likely impacts for reducing emissions and creating high-quality jobs.
- Clean Vehicles Fact Sheet: This fact sheet details the IRA's clean vehicle policies and the implications for cutting emissions, creating good jobs, and supporting mobility and air quality in our neighborhoods.
But some people never learn, in part because it keeps the money coming in. People’s Action also highlights this NYT article about a coordinated effort by Red-state treasurers to punish environmentally conscious businesses. Yes, coordinated, as in conspiracy. “Nearly two dozen Republican state treasurers around the country are working to thwart climate action on state and federal levels, fighting regulations that would make clear the economic risks posed by a warming world, lobbying against climate-minded nominees to key federal posts and using the tax dollars they control to punish companies that want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This Medium column points out that these state treasurers are financed by some of the same big banks that also are hyping their own environmental, social and governmental (ESG) investment filters in order to rope in investors looking for that quality. Sleight of hand.
And it goes without saying that most of these Red states also are net recipients of federal tax money. They get more federal tax money back to furnish crumbs to their working and poor families than they ever send to the US treasury in the first place. We in Maryland pay these states (and their so-called treasurers) to wreck the planet for us. Thanks again to Megan E for highlighting this outrage.
MEANWHILE IN MARYLAND
The Maryland State Board of Elections voted in mid-August to file an emergency petition in court that seeks an earlier count of mail-in ballots for the general election in November.
The board voted 4-0 to seek a legal remedy in hopes of speeding up the vote count for mail-in ballots, which have become much more popular with voters in the state.
Sen. Cheryl Kagan spoke to the board about a bill she sponsored that was passed by the General Assembly this year. The measure would have enabled mail-in ballots to begin to be counted before Election Day, but Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed the bill.
"It [Hogan's veto] was unfortunate and avoidable, but really big kudos to the four of you for just voting unanimously to bring a legal initiative, and we hope that that will be approved by the circuit court, and we can make sure that votes are counted in a timely manner," Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat, said
In a statement after the vote, the board said that the continued expansion of mail-in balloting and the inability of the local boards of elections to count mail-in ballots before Election Day could have significant implications.
"It could leave local, statewide, and even federal contests without certified results until late December 2022 or early January 2023," the board said. "Maryland is currently the only state in the union that forbids any kind of processing of mail-in ballots until after Election Day."
If approved, the petition would require any results tallied prior to Election Day be withheld until polls close on November 8.
Getting violent folks off the streets by any means necessary is the new-ish US Attorney’s mantra: Maryland’s U.S. Attorney Erek Barron announced Wednesday what he called a series of “exceptional actions” that his office will undertake to quell violence in the city of Baltimore, including vetting those suspected of violent crime for white-collar offenses and using a little-utilized federal statute to prosecute gun crimes near schools.
“Violence has been at extraordinary rates for way too long. And exceptional times call for exceptional actions,” said Barron, a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates who is nearing completion of his first year in office as the state’s top federal prosecutor.
According to Maryland Matters, Barron said his office’s new strategy relies on three main prongs:
- Expanding a new violent and organized crime section with 30 new state-funded positions including prosecutors, investigators and analysts.
- Actively reviewing firearms cases — alongside the Baltimore Police Department and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — for violations of the federal school zone statute.
- Directing his staff to investigate and prosecute repeat violent offenders “for any and all wrongdoing that meets our priorities, especially fraud.”
“This Al Capone model of prosecution is designed to take violent people off the streets by any appropriate legal means necessary,” Barron said.
Water torture – “Across the state [of Maryland], residents regularly face service shutoffs and worse due to their inability to pay their water bills.
“But Maryland lawmakers aim to do something about it. Armed with a new report on spiking water costs in Maryland and across the U.S., and the threat those skyrocketing prices pose to state residents having access to clean, affordable water, lawmakers on Wednesday called for legislative remedies and help from Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and the federal government to protect what they call a fundamental human right, Maryland Matters reports..
“ ‘If one does not have access to clean water or affordable water, one is considered homeless,’said state Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City). ‘It’s accelerated the decline of urban, minority neighborhoods, and stands as an impediment to community revitalization.’ ”
More hope in dope – CNN reports “For the first time in Gallup polling, more Americans (16%) said they smoke marijuana than had smoked a tobacco cigarette (11%) in the past week. The CNN report goes on to note that “Marijuana legalization is on the ballot in a number of states, including Arkansas, Maryland and Missouri.
“The chance for voters to decide whether weed should be legal comes at a time when newly released polling suggests cannabis is more popular than ever.”
Debates before midterms – (How often) will Moore and Cox Debate? As Marylanders prepare to make their choice for the next governor, Democrat Wes Moore and Republican Dan Cox both say they’re prepared to go on TV to debate the key issues. But it’s still not clear how many times the two will face off. Moore may agree to only a limited number of debates with Cox. Pamela Wood/Baltimore Banner – but Moore insisted he’s ready to meet his Republican opponent on a gubernatorial race debate stage. Reporters asked Moore about his debate plans following an event Friday.” Hannah Gaskill/The Baltimore Sun.
Back to school - MORE STUDENT SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS WILL GO FOR THE VOTE: A ruling by Maryland’s highest court this week is likely to spur student school board members to seek equal authority with their board peers — and full voting rights. Baltimore Banner
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