It's Crossover Day -- today -- in the Maryland General Assembly. Just like many Assembly events and practices, it is totally made up to make legislating for the benefit of working people look more complicated than it really is, and to give lobbyists and the legislators that they have a piece of more chances to cripple good bills. It is the way of the world, and keeps corporate power IN power unless everyday folks take a hand. We'll keep trying.
Meanwhile see what hard-working reporters are doing to make sense out of this. It's News You Can Use.
CROSSOVER DAY is today, Monday, in the Maryland General Assembly.
Some bills are getting held up even though they are popular and well supported in the Assembly because, well, it’s unclear. Here is the Maryland Legislative Coalition’s Sunday roundup of holdups, with their appeals for support for endangered progressive bills. We will update this blog post after the dust settles.
Push Toward Crossover Day, Lawmakers Rush Through Bills: Maryland lawmakers will hit a key deadline Monday that kicks off the final stretch of their annual 90-day session and makes much clearer which bills are likely to pass — or fail — before time runs out. Baltimore Sun.
Facing looming deadlines and with heaps of legislation up in the air, Maryland delegates convened Saturday in Annapolis for a weekend bill-passing session. The 141-member House met for several hours to cram through a slew of bills before Monday’s “crossover day.” Lawmakers erupted in applause after the passage of the Trans Health Equity Act, which stirred up controversy among House Republicans, on a 93-37 vote. The Baltimore Sun. Republicans in the chamber introduced a couple of amendments to attempt to curtail the legislation, but those were voted down. While the bill generated significant debate, it changes state policy only modestly. Maryland Matters.
Millions More For Ed Reform Plan: Maryland’s landmark education reform plan would get hundreds of millions of dollars more than anticipated, while reserves for future unspecified transportation projects would diminish under a state budget plan advanced by lawmakers Friday. Baltimore Sun. The House of Delegates passed a nearly $62.5 billion budget plan Friday, with nearly $1 billion in additional funding directed to state education reform efforts. The House version of the budget bill would shift $400 million from the transportation column and direct it to the Blueprint, for a $900 million influx. Maryland Matters.
But Voucher Program’s Reduction Raises Friction Among Supposed Allies
A voucher program that was championed by former Maryland governor Larry Hogan (R) that allows low-income students in the state to attend private schools using state money is quietly causing friction among Democrats in Annapolis. On one side is Hogan’s successor, Gov. Wes Moore (D), who, backed by top leaders of the House of Delegates, moved to slash 20 percent of the $10 million in state-funded scholarships from his first budget, with the goal of phasing the program out, saying public dollars should go to public schools. On the other side are some top Senate leaders who see the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today, or BOOST, program as a vehicle for equity that affords choices to students living in poverty and attending failing school systems. One holdout is Senate President Bill Ferguson, who cites student improvement in his Baltimore district. WaPo
Moore Continues Push For Year Of Service: More than halfway through his first 90-day legislative session as governor, Wes Moore is doubling down on starting a program this year that he wants to become “as common an option and as common a part of the vernacular as any other option” that someone finishing their high school education would consider. Baltimore Sun.
Maryland Public Service Commission Investigates Retail Energy Suppliers After Record Complaints: The Maryland Public Service Commission is investigating a number of retail energy suppliers following a record-high number of consumer complaints about questionable practices. Tori Leonard, communications director of the Public Service Commission, the agency that regulates electric and gas utilities and looks after ratepayers’ interests, confirmed that the commission officially launched the enforcement action on Feb. 1 “to investigate and, if necessary, prosecute retail energy suppliers who are failing to abide by the state’s laws and regulations” and, if necessary, “revoke supplier licenses.” Inside Climate News
Energy: Pennsylvania Gov. Includes Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Membership In Budget: “New Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro’s first budget proposal plans for the state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative… and increases staffing for the state’s environmental watchdog agency. Shapiro’s fellow Democratic predecessor, Tom Wolf, unilaterally started the process to join RGGI, the [cap-and-trade] compact of currently 11 other states that tax emissions of carbon dioxide from the power sector, with revenue plowed back into energy and consumer benefit programs.” (from Bay Journal) Maryland is a longtime RGGI member, though the Hogan administration at one point threatened to leave it if no concessions were offered on emissions. Virginia joined RGGI under former Democratic Governor Ralph Northam; current Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has tried to leave RGGI but the slim Dem majority in the Virginia Senate earlier this year killed the attempt in committee, reported The Hill, which noted that “Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont are also members of the initiative.”
House Passes Bill Restricting Spam Calls: The Stop the Spam Calls Act of 2023, which would prohibit certain telephone solicitations in Maryland, unanimously passed the House, and the Senate is expected to follow suit this week. The bill is so popular that the Senate put a final vote on hold until the names of 19 other lawmakers can be added as co-sponsors. WBAL TV (NBC)
Officials Seek To Restore Stability To Elections: Maryland elections in the past few years — amid a pandemic and a once-in-a-decade redistricting — have faced near-constant turbulence. State lawmakers are considering dozens of proposals this year to bring some stability back into the process and to make other improvements for voters and election administrators. Baltimore Sun
A Third Of MoCo Legislators Were Appointed: In recent months, more than 20 members of Montgomery County’s Democratic Central Committee have been busy appointing members to fill three legislative vacancies in Maryland’s State House. The openings have been the result of elected legislators being named to Gov. Wes Moore’s administration, and those selected by the committee for those openings will not face voters for nearly four years. The appointment process is a common way for contenders to enter the state House or Senate. The county’s Central Committee members vote on who to fill the legislative vacancies, and send their recommendations to the governor to approve. Twelve of the current 34 state delegates and senators in Montgomery County applied through the appointment process to get to their post (roughly 35%), according to our analysis. MCo 360
AROUND THE STATES
Public Safety: Legislatures in several states have advanced measures this year allowing judges or lawmakers to keep their home addresses private, after a spike in threats and attacks on public officials. Bills have passed at least one chamber in Missouri, New Mexico and Georgia, and lawmakers in Oregon and Connecticut have introduced their own versions. (Associated Press) via Pluribus
Transportation: In Illinois, the state House has approved legislation to treat ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft as “common carriers,” opening them to the same type of liability as taxis and public transportation. (Capitol News Illinois) and Pluribus (NOTE the Associated Press stylebook recommends “ride-hailing” as the right adjective for these third-party commercial enterprises because “ride-sharing” assumes that driver and passenger have a carpool-type common destination).
FEDERAL DOINGS IN D.C.
House Republicans introduced an anti-Green New Deal bill last week, H.R. 1. The bill would cut down environmental regulations, expand oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters and repeal parts of the Inflation Reduction Act. Leader Schumer has been clear that it won’t get a vote in the senate. H.R. 1 is symbolically used by Congress to identify their top priority bill. So, apparently padding the pockets of big oil is Republicans’ top priority. Last Congress, Democrats assigned H.R.1 to democracy reform legislation.
Signature Bank, one of the reckless banks that were taken over by the Fed last week, has long been in the sights of reformers because of lending practices that benefited some of New York’s most notorious landlords. You can read more about it here, thanks to the heads-up from Megan Essaheb, federal affairs director for our national affiliate People’s Action.
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