The bill pileup in the Assembly, House and Senate both, is getting kind of outrageous as "Crossover Day" approaches. Sure, the legislators are trying to hold on to their perks and power as having a Dem governor seems to make everything smoother, maybe too much smoother. If some bills are being held hostage for other purposes, well, it will be hard to get an admission on that for the record.
We are prioritizing bills on Healthcare, the minimum wage, environmental action to match the climate crisis, and others. Read more below, in News You Can Use.
Our allies at the Maryland Legislative Coalition have the latest on bills that need a boost; that is, committee votes and chamber votes by so-called “crossover day” next week to have a fighting chance to get votes in both chambers. Are there more hearings to come? MLC has that too. They say the number of bills that appear stuck in committee without a vote to get them to the floor is unprecedented.
Priority: Like most progressive organizations in Maryland, we are urging the Assembly to repair the mess they made of the original “Fight for $15” minimum wage bill, delaying its full effect over a tedious timeline. And we want to see it keep meeting the needs of Maryland working families without having to cajole legislators every year by indexing it to inflation. And then there’s the legal larceny of the tipped wage left over from slavery times. We at Progressive Maryland have said this many times in many ways, in testimony and op-eds. For instance: Testimony on Maryland Senate Bill 803 : Why Senate Bill 803 is Groundbreaking Legislation for Financial Equity; The Subminimum Wage and its Roots in Slavery; Testimony in Support of Maryland House Bill: HB549 Fair Wage Act of 2023;
Alas there was bad news on the Senate side Friday: The Senate Finance Committee on Friday night watered down Gov. Wes Moore’s bill to expedite full implementation of the state’s $15-an-hour minimum wage. The panel stripped provisions in the new governor’s legislation that would have increased the minimum wage annually and tied it to the Consumer Price Index. Senators also decided to delay boosting the state’s minimum wage to $15 wage from October, as Moore (D) had envisioned, until Jan. 1, 2024
But First, the Choice News of the Week: Next Steps On Beltway Project Uncertain: When a private consortium backed out of Maryland’s controversial, $6 billion plan to relieve Beltway congestion late Thursday, the costly and complicated problem grew even more so. The public-private partnership to rebuild the American Legion Bridge and add high occupancy toll-lanes to parts of the Capital Beltway and I-270 was billed by former Gov.Larry Hogan (R) as a solution that ultimately would come at no cost to taxpayers. WaPo
Montgomery County and Maryland officials called urgently for solutions but expressed mixed reactions to the announcement that toll road operating company Transurban had withdrawn its proposal to expand the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 in Maryland, leaving the project up in the air for now. MoCo 360
State Public Service Commission Has New Environmental Tasks -- And New, Independent Oversight? With a new governor in office and new commissioners coming to the Maryland Public Service Commission, the powerful utility regulator is about to get a significant makeover. But that’s not enough for one lawmaker and some environmentalists. They are pushing for an independent study of the PSC’s staffing and operations, arguing that doing so will help the commission fulfill its growing responsibilities — including implementing the ambitious climate law that the General Assembly passed last year. “Let’s make sure they have the resources and tools they need to be on track with [the] Climate Solutions [law] and with the transition to renewable energy,” said the House member pushing for the study. Maryland Matters
Gender Ed Bill Expands As Conservatives Push Back: At first, Democratic lawmakers in Maryland wanted to ensure gender identity was taught the way the state Board of Education intended — even in conservative counties that might have resisted. But as the opposition to that legislation grew louder, with opponents casting the measure as a state overreach into local affairs, the bill sponsors’ vision became more expansive, requiring local curriculums — everything from health to social studies — to align with state policy or face losing a major chunk of its state funding. WaP
Statute Of Limitations Would End On Child Abuse Accusations. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted 10-1 on Friday to advance a bill that would retroactively, as well as prospectively, repeal statutes of limitation on lawsuits by plaintiffs who claim they suffered child sexual abuse. Maryland Matters
Sunshine Week: Gathering School Data Online Can Be Difficult Most school systems make it easy to check in on school board meetings — all of them livestream their sessions. But in many systems, getting agenda packets the board would analyze at an upcoming meeting or figuring out ongoing expenditures for a school renovation proved more difficult. Investigative reporter Miranda S. Spivak gathered the info for the MDDC Press Association, appearing in The Baltimore Sun.
Maryland Would Put Abortion Right in Constitution: The state House on Friday approved a measure to ask voters to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution The state Senate’s version of the bill received preliminary approval Friday. If passed, voters would decide on the proposed amendment in 2024. Maryland Matters and Pluribus
What Would Biden’s Budget Offer State and Local Governments? Broadly, it would send more funds to state and local governments to tackle a range of issues from housing and health care to transportation, as well as would restore the child tax credit. Republicans suddenly worried about government spending howled. Route Fifty
Washington [State] Considers One Solution To Housing Crisis: The House of Representatives on Monday approved a bill that would allow duplexes or fourplexes in cities with more than 25,000 residents, significantly curtailing local zoning rules that limit many areas to single-family homes. The bill passed on a bipartisan vote, though its fate is uncertain in the Senate. (Seattle Times) and Pluribus Wednesday
State Tax Revenues Start To Soften Tax collections are still beating lawmakers’ expectations halfway through most states’ fiscal 2023, but revenue growth [for states around the country] is starting to slow, according to a Fitch Ratings review of 18 states. Federal Covid-19 relief aid, inflation, and a strong economy have all contributed to eye-popping revenue growth and huge state surpluses over the last two fiscal years. Although tax collections are still rising, they’re not rising as quickly as they did last year and the year before. Total tax collections in the 18 states Fitch analyzed are up almost 6% on average so far compared to last fiscal year, the credit rating agency found in a commentary published Tuesday [Maryland is not included but PA and VA were level year-over-year]. Pluribus
And Maryland is Not Exempt: Maryland appropriators warned Thursday that legislative ambitions in the first year of a new term under Democratic party rule in Annapolis might have to be constrained a bit after the state’s Board of Revenue Estimates released new figures estimating a $478 million revenue dip during the current and next fiscal year, for which lawmakers are expected to pass a budget by April 3. Maryland Matters
[From Megan Essaheb of People’s Action]
Last week, President Biden released his budget for Fiscal Year 2024. It is mainly a messaging document as House Republicans are not likely to pass it. The budget includes tax increases on corporations and high earners along with savings from some spending reductions by proposing to expand the program for Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs passed in the Inflation Reduction Act last year
The President’s budget on housing increases investments in housing vouchers and programs to increase supply such as expanding the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and increasing funding for home ownership and development. It also creates New Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) for ELI (extremely low incomes households) and includes a one-time $7.5 billion investment in funding on the mandatory side of the budget to address the capital needs of the most distressed public housing properties nationwide.
Unfortunately, After changing course on his position on DC’s autonomy by supporting a Congressional nullification of the DC Council’s rewrite of the criminal code, the NY Times reported that the administration is considering using family detention again along the Southern border.
Issue Update: Climate Congress must pass a Farm Bill this year. The bill which is passed every five years will have a significant impact on the climate. From Inside Climate News: “Farming contributes about 11 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, more if fertilizer production is included. But a new analysis projects that U.S. agriculture’s share of emissions could rise to about 30 percent of the total by 2050—more than any other sector of the economy—if farms don’t rein in emissions from fertilizer and livestock.
Issue Update: Healthcare: Serious money in the budget is going into healthcare, (up almost 12 percent) including gains in Medicaid community and home health care and $20B for mental health services, and to eliminate Hepatitis C, which is curable but expensively so and disproportionately affects poor people and especially prison populations.
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