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.
THE LATEST: MONDAY’S HAUL
Only Winners? Second Opinions May Be Needed: The General Assembly 2023 Session was largely a success -- especially if you were Gov. Wes Moore or the increasingly progressive House and Senate. One possible loser was former Gov. Larry Hogan (R), whose attitude, priorities and legacy seemed to be repudiated at every turn, despite his enormous personal popularity with the electorate. But otherwise the traditional Maryland Matters Roundup of winners and losers for 2023 was all about the winners.
Moore: State Begins Stockpiling Abortion Drug: Gov. Wes Moore announced Friday that the state has begun the process of stockpiling the drug mifepristone as the federal courts wrestle over the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s long-standing approval of the medicine, one of the pills prescribed for medication abortions. Baltimore Sun via Maryland Reporter – and a followup: Less than 90 days into his first term, Moore appeared Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” touting recent legislative victories in the General Assembly and promising that the state will take the lead in preserving women’s reproductive rights.
Where Will The Progressive Agenda Take The State Next? After a dominant election year and a hectic three-month General Assembly session, the majority party’s lawmakers poured out of the State House largely having stayed united, completed almost all of their agenda and set themselves up for another three years of progressive policymaking. It is, they said, just the beginning. Baltimore Sun.
Which Bills Passed, Which Didn't: Maryland Democrats had an ambitious agenda at the start of the first session of a Gov. Wes Moore’s brand-new term. Here’s a look at which of the hundreds of bills filed made it to Moore’s desk at the end of the 90-day legislative session — and what wasn’t ready for prime time, starting with access to abortion. Baltimore Sun.
Complaints Spike Against Gas, Electric Suppliers: Complaints have spiked against gas and electric suppliers in Maryland’s competitive energy marketplace, prompting heavy scrutiny in recent weeks from regulators looking to root out deceptive tactics. Baltimore Sun.
Marc Hopes To Extend Train Service Into Delaware, Virginia: Maryland is advancing negotiations to extend MARC commuter train service into Delaware and Virginia. The Maryland Department of Transportation said it reached an agreement with the Delaware Transit Corp. to close a gap in service between Perryville and Newark, Del. MARC’s Penn Line, which terminates in Perryville, could extend 20 miles to Newark under the plan, providing a service long sought by residents in Cecil County. [when Long Bridge gets a second span across the Potomac, MARC trains could service Alexandria]. WaPo
Md. Rents Are Still Higher Than Average: Housing rental costs in Maryland have been above the national average since at least 2018. Even as average rents started to level out in January and February of this year, rents in Maryland are still above the national average. Rents were relatively stagnant before the COVID-19 pandemic, but spiked with pandemic inflation. In 2023, rents appear to be balancing with the help of disinflation and some local legislation. Capital News Service via Maryland Reporter
Bill Calls For Building Materials To Be Salvaged Before Demolition: Baltimore City Councilwoman Odette Ramos on Thursday said she plans to introduce an ordinance that would require all city-owned properties to have a deconstruction plan in place. The plan would outline how buildings scheduled for demolition would reuse or recycle deconstructed building materials. Ramos called the REBUILD Act a first step to move the city towards more ambitious deconstruction policies. Baltimore Brew via Maryland Reporter
Commentary: Annapolis Awash In Big Lobbying Bucks: Let's talk about all the lobbying money that keeps coming into Annapolis, now seemingly at a higher rate than usual. Our new governor imagines himself a change agent, and in some obvious ways, he is. But until he is willing to confront the business-as-usual culture in Maryland politics, call us skeptical. Republican would do well to drop the MAGA bromides and attempt to shine a light on the clubby and corrosive practices that continue to define Annapolis. Maryland Matters.
Anti-Toll Lane Group Seeks Release Of 2019 'Beltway Accord:' A coalition opposed to a plan to construct toll lanes along the Capital Beltway wants a federal judge to compel the release of public documents. The Maryland Transit Opportunities Coalition said the Federal Highway Administration has violated federal sunshine laws. Specifically the group is seeking records related to the “Capital Beltway Accord,” announced at a 2019 press event by then-Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and then-Virginia Gov. Ralph S. Northam (D). Lauded by Hogan as a “historic, once-in-a-generation” agreement, the document has never been released. Maryland Matters.
Moore Taps Sanjay Rai For Higher Ed Cabinet Post: Gov. Wes Moore (D) on Wednesday announced that he has chosen Sanjay Rai to serve as acting secretary for the Maryland Higher Education Commission. It is the final Cabinet-level position to be filled in the new administration. Maryland Matters.
A Study Instead Of Health Care For Undocumented Immigrants: For a moment, it looked like Maryland was going to open up the state’s affordable care act marketplace to undocumented individuals to purchase independent health care plans. That dream is dead for now after the state Senate did not advance the Access to Care Act by the end of Sine Die on Monday. Instead, the General Assembly passed a bill requiring the state Department of Health and the health benefit exchange to study options for affordable health care and dental coverage for undocumented residents statewide. The findings need to return to the General Assembly by Oct. 31. WYPR-FM.
General Assembly Getting More Diverse, Mirroring State: The 2023 session saw a group of legislators in the Maryland General Assembly that was more representative of the state in terms of race, gender, party affiliation and age than a decade ago, according to a Capital News Service analysis. But underrepresented groups still face challenges in the state capital when it comes to getting their legislative priorities through. Capital News Service via Maryland Reporter.
AROUND THE STATES
Social Media: The Montana legislature gave final approval Friday to a bill banning TikTok throughout the state. The bill would ban the Apple and Google app stores from allowing it to be downloaded. Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) has not said whether he will sign the bill, the first of its kind passed this year. (Missoulian) via Pluribus
Do Zoning Reforms Benefit Renters? A new study suggests that updated land-use regulations are slow to help low-income households. A common line of logic suggests that when zoning reforms allow for higher-density housing, they increase stock and affordability. But while zoning reforms in many cities have indeed increased housing stock, a new report finds they’re slow to help low income-renters who are most affected by the housing shortage. Route Fifty
Reproductive Rights: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed bills barring state agencies from cooperating with out-of-state investigations into reproductive health care, outlawing deceptive practices by pregnancy resource centers and requiring large employers to over coverage for the cost of abortions. (CPR) via Pluribus In Ohio, the newly created House Constitutional Resolutions Committee will vote on whether to raise the bar for adoption of constitutional amendments to 60%. Voters would have to approve the measure in an August special election. (Cleveland Plain Dealer) Republicans are racing to adopt the measure ahead of a likely November vote on enshrining abortion rights into the state constitution. Via Pluribus
Legislative Pay: In Vermont, the state Senate on Friday approved a bill to double pay for state lawmakers by 2027. Lawmaker pay would rise from $812 a week, or about $15,000 for the legislative year, to $29,766 annually. The bill would also give lawmakers access to the same health insurance coverage as state employees. (VTDigger) via Pluribus [If you were wondering, the Vermont legislature meets this year from Jan. 4 to May 19].
How’re We Doing? 40th: The global ranking the United States scores in life expectancy, which is now at its lowest level since 1996. Life expectancy is highest in Hawaii, Minnesota, Vermont, Washington and New Hampshire. (Tribune News Service) via Pluribus
From People’s Action policy analyst Megan Essaheb: Issue Update: Housing
Axios reports that new rent prices are leveling off and “property values on multifamily apartments are falling at the same time that interest rates are soaring and landlords' ability to push rents up even higher is weakening. That's an issue for anyone who bought buildings in 2021, when rates were rock-bottom, using a floating rate mortgage, as the WSJ explains. The market's already seeing some foreclosures. [This is bad for tenants as well as tenants won’t see needed upkeep and repairs in buildings that are underwater.] The bottom line: Rents are still pretty high, but the astronomical increases we've seen are likely going away.”
Issue Update: Health and Work
From Politico: Gop Eyes New Work Requirements For Medicaid — Amid a standoff over the federal budget and negotiations over an increase to the federal debt limit, “House Republicans are eyeing new work requirements for millions of low-income Americans who receive health insurance, money to buy food and other financial aid from the federal government,” report WaPo’s Tony Romm and Rachel Roubein. They’re focusing their attention on “Medicaid, which enrolls the poorest families in health insurance, and food stamps, which provide grocery benefits to those in need. Top lawmakers including House Speaker KEVIN McCARTHY (R-Calif.) have publicly endorsed rules that could force some enrollees to find a job and work longer hours — or risk losing the government’s help entirely.”
Issue Update: Climate
The EPA proposed tighter emissions standards that will force the auto industry to make a faster transition to electric vehicles than previously announced. “These rules are limits on the emissions each auto company’s fleet of sold vehicles will produce. So while the rule changes wouldn’t order or require auto companies to sell a certain number of electric vehicles, it would set emissions limits so tightly that the only way to comply would be to sell large percentages of EVs — or some other type of zero-emissions vehicle.” Instead of the previous goal that 50% of vehicles sold would be zero emissions in 2030, the new target is 60%. And also from the EPA, administratively: “For the First Time in Nearly Two Decades, the EPA Announces New Rules to Limit Toxic Air Pollutants From Chemical and Plastics Plants - Inside Climate News: The administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency used the smokestacks of Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley” as the backdrop on Thursday to announce new rules aimed at reducing harmful, toxic emissions from chemical and plastics plants across the country.”
And the Digital Divide persists
(from Route Fifty): Most households around the country have internet service, but about 2 out of 10 adults still lack access at home. And many of those—about 970,000 households—live in public housing units run by local housing agencies. The disparity is significant in several ways, according to a report released earlier this week by The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Broadband is no longer a luxury that only a few people need; it is a critical service that supports Americans’ economic opportunity, health, education, recreation and well-being.” This gap could change with the bipartisan infrastructure act’s $42.45 billion in broadband funding set to be sent to the states in the coming months. The funding is a “unique opportunity” to finally address the disparity for people living in public housing, which has its roots in the racist practice of redlining, according to Kathryn de Wit, director of Pew’s broadband access initiative and the report’s author. [But states need to prepare now to make good use of the funds when allocations are finalized in May].
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