News_You_Can_Use_graphic_(2).pngStates are busy on projects in carbon reduction (and research, go Terps!), schools improvement, collective bargaining opportunities, fighting book banning and returning citizen improvements. Maryland, we see, is at the heart of all these activities. Good thing. Just a short Metro ride away, the GOP's razor-thin majority in the US House is unable to check the box (elect a new Speaker -- will anyone do?) that would allow the US government to function. It might not all be pretty, but it's all News You Can Use.



Wright Begins Role As Interim Superintendent Of Maryland Public Schools, But Wants To Remain In Job. Before newly-appointed Carey Wright begins her work as interim superintendent of Maryland’s public schools Oct. 23, she plans to meet with state Department of Education staff and members of the education community. Wright hasn’t been able to get “into the weeds, yet” on the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education reform plan, but she knows the essence of it. “I think this is a golden moment in public education and we really need to take advantage of it and make sure that what we’re doing is in the best interest of our children,” Wright told a news conference last week.

A gun-safety advocacy group, Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, rounds up some new measures passed in the 2023 Assembly Session that took effect at the beginning of October. They  include:  Safer storage & child access prevention measures under Jaelynn's Law; Prohibition on the open carrying of firearms;  Stricter requirements for a concealed carrying permit; and prohibitions on  concealed carry in sensitive locations including: schools at all levels, healthcare facilities, government buildings and polling places. However,  Courts have temporarily halted aspects of the new law, including restrictions on public carry in places serving alcohol and cannabis and the presumption that carrying a firearm was not allowed in privately held businesses unless permission was given. Business owners should now post a sign if they want to keep firearms out of their establishments.


Will Md. Lawmakers Give State Workers More Power To Collectively Bargain? Senate Finance Committee Weighs the Options -- Amid strikes across the United States in industries ranging from health care to entertainment to automotive manufacturing, members of the Maryland Senate’s Finance Committee met last week  to review the landscape of collective bargaining powers for Maryland’s state employees and to discuss where opportunities may expand in the upcoming 2024 legislative session. In 2024, lawmakers may again consider extending collective bargaining powers to university faculty, part-time faculty and graduate assistants, Smulski said. A similar bill was filed for the 2023 legislative session, but was unsuccessful. Maryland Matters reports.

Climate Glimmers I --A New U-Md. Research Center Will Study Fairer, Greener Transportation Networks -- The Center for Multi-Modal Mobility in Urban, Rural, and Tribal Areas is backed by funding from the federal infrastructure law. WaPo

But: Transmission Line Buildout Is Essential:  As Chesapeake Bay drainage states and the nation move to fulfill bold commitments to convert to renewable energy in the next few decades, an inconvenient truth has become apparent: It can’t be done without many more transmission lines. Through neighborhoods, along roads and across mountains, the nation’s network of power lines needs to double or triple in the next decade. Bay Journal

UB Holds First Graduation For Jessup Inmates: As University of Baltimore faculty sang the praises of the five men in caps and gown, large loops of barbed wire were just visible through windows bookending the podium. It was graduation day. Time to celebrate earning bachelor’s degrees in what their valedictorian called the “worst environment possible”: prison. The Oct. 6 commencement was the first held by the university at Jessup Correctional Institution.  Baltimore Sun.

Most Books Banned In Carroll Co. Schools Have Female Authors: Last month, Carroll County’s Board of Education temporarily removed 56 books from the district’s school libraries after complaints about inappropriate content. An analysis by Capital News Service found that a high proportion of the titles being reviewed were written by female, LGBTQIA+ and non-binary authors, and featured LGBTQIA+ characters and characters of color. Capital News Service via Maryland Reporter

Maryland’s Three-Step Program To Reduce Transportation’s Carbon Footprint– it includes getting more electric vehicles on the roads plus alternatives (mass transit etc.) to cut down on miles driven, even electrically. The third? Be transparent, keep a record, preserve winning strategies to share with other states. Read about Maryland’s and other states’ efforts under a broad federal transportation decarbonization program in this Route Fifty roundup.


ACTION IN THE STATES (sometimes more than one)

Climate Glimmers II -- That $7,500 Tax Credit For Electric Vehicles Is Getting A Makeover: Starting in January, buyers can apply the credit upfront at the dealership instead of getting the money back when they file their tax returns with the IRS. The goal is to boost sales of EVs, which are still a pretty small share of cars on the road — and more expensive than gas-powered vehicles. (more at Marketplace) via Streetsblog

Health Care: The Michigan Senate’s Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee approved a measure that would allow residents to bring lawsuits against drug manufacturers, overturning a 30-year old prohibition. The bill won unanimous, bipartisan approval. (Michigan Advance) via Pluribus

Artificial Intelligence Is Changing How Non-Emergency Calls Are Managed In 911 Call Centers, helping alleviate the strain on emergency services. Some AI-powered systems can triage and respond to non-emergency queries — allowing human dispatchers to focus on emergencies. However, there are concerns about potential bias and system errors. Stateline Daily

Criminal Justice: Hawaii officials report catalytic converter thefts have fallen dramatically under a new state law that requires anyone who sells a catalytic converter to show identification and sign a form swearing the item wasn’t stolen. Auto shops must keep catalytic converters in stock for 60 days and maintain a paper trail. (KHON) Ohio is considering a similar bill. Expect other states to jump on board this coming year. Pluribus

Climate Glimmers III: A Vermont electric aviation startup has unveiled the first aircraft charging station at Marshfield Municipal Airport in Massachusetts. The company, Beta, is building 60 charging stations at airports along the East Coast and Gulf Coast as it races to win commercial approval for battery-powered planes. (Boston Globe) via Pluribus



People’s Action federal affairs director Megan E reminds us of the news we can’t avoid: bottleneck in the US “government” b/c no business (much of which starts in the US House of Representatives) can be done because the tiny-majority GOP caucus can’t agree on a Speaker.

Last week, House GOPers tried to elect Steve Scalise (R-LA) as the establishment candidate – but he couldn’t count to 218 so he withdrew his candidacy. Now Jim Jordan, a founding member and first Chair of the House Freedom Caucus (members include Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz), is headed for a vote on the House floor this week. Media reports indicate that there are around 10 - 40 Republican members seeking to block his nomination. Any candidate can only lose around 6 Republican votes and still win the nomination. The House can not pass any legislation until there is an elected Speaker, unless there are changes to the current rules. The Speaker battle does not appear to be resolved any time soon. 


Health Care

People's Action’s Care Over Cost campaign held actions last week at the offices of private insurance companies demanding an end to private health insurance industry greed so people can get the care they need, when they need it. Private insurance companies deny well over 248 million health care claims or pre-authorization requests annually, leaving people sicker and in debt. Our press release is available here and our press roundup is available here. Progressive Maryland was among the groups making their voices heard at the mega-corps' offices; see our blog post here.


Issue Update: Climate

From Utility Dive: “The U.S. Department of Energy on Thursday announced an “Earthshot” research and development initiative to reduce energy intensity and utility bills in affordable housing. The effort comes at a time of rising electricity prices and growing interest in energy efficiency as a climate solution. Overall inflation is slowing but electricity prices continue to rise faster than other goods, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS. DOE said its Affordable Home Energy Shot aims to halve the cost of decarbonization in affordable homes and decrease residents’ energy costs by at least 20% within a decade.”

From Inside Climate News: “Biden Announces Huge Hydrogen Investment. How Much Will It Help the Climate? The Energy Department awarded up to $7 billion in grants for clean hydrogen “hubs,” but environmentalists warn some of the money could prop up fossil fuels and fail to cut emissions.” … There are sectors of the economy without good low-carbon alternatives, like steel making, fertilizer production and aviation. But keeping the hydrogen “green” (a process powered by renewable sources) rather than “blue” (hydrogen made by burning fossil fuels) needs careful watching and guardrails.


woody woodruff


M.A. and Ph.d. from University of Maryland Merrill College of Journalism, would-be radical, sci-fi fan... retired to a life of keyboard radicalism...