As the year draws to a close, the Progressive Maryland Weekly Memo will go on hiatus till January but the News You Can Use blog may pop up now and then in the interim -- if Maryland produces real news beyond awards ceremonies. Let's all resolve not to be ambushed when the General Assembly fires up its engines in early January, while we are recovering from the holidays. What they do affects our lives.
Today, some stories are coalescing around health care, energy concerns and the economics of living in Maryland. Plus there's what happens in D.C. It's all connected, and so must we be to survive. Read on, and take action when you can. That's why we are here and what we do, and we'll still be at it in the New Year. Join us.
Here comes the General Assembly Session -- we warned you. They will convene January 11. If you just can't wait, you can get a look at what the Assembly has on its plate, to work with and to accomplish -- the 2023 session Issue Papers, a mere several hundred pages from the Division of Legislative Services but with a great table of contents to help you find the issues closest to your heart.
Black caucus makes it official: The Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland made it official this week, announcing that Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery) will become the new caucus chair, moving up from first vice-chair as Del. Darryl Barnes (D-Prince George’s) stepped down last week as he had announced he would earlier in fall. Wilkins, 34, has been in the legislature for the past six years. She serves as House Parliamentarian and has played a key role in expanding voting rights in the state as chair of the Election Law Subcommittee — including leading mail-in ballot expansion and legislation to increase early voting sites. In her day job, she’s director of State and Local Government Affairs at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Maryland Matters
Our Revolution Maryland hosted progressive state legislators last Wednesday evening to lay out the prospects and pitfalls for progressive legislation in the upcoming 2023 General Assembly session. Here’s the Maryland Matters account, including MoCo delegates a-plenty. Veteran Sen. Paul Pinsky of Prince George’s joined the others in urging citizen pressure for change: “You have to create street heat … You have to mobilize from the ground up …” A recording of the webinar is here.
New Report Predicts $5 Million In Savings To Rate Payers With Offshore Wind: A new report is laying out the economic and environmental benefits of expanding offshore wind energy production in Maryland — before a single wind turbine has been placed in the Atlantic off the coast of Ocean City. /Maryland Matters
Virginia Pulling Out of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam had brought Virginia into RGGI, joining Maryland in the decarbonizing multistate compact that stretches up into New England. But the Trump-oid new GOP Gov. Youngkin has moved to leave the deal and last week the GOP appointees on the state air board narrowly agreed. Some Dem members thought it was an illegal move. Here’s the account from the Virginia Mercury.
Health Advocates Getting Ready For Session: Maryland health care advocates are lining up a list of priorities for the upcoming General Assembly session, which they hope will bring the state closer to their goal of ensuring that all residents have health insurance. Maryland Matters
How One State is Curbing Growth in Health Care Costs Massachusetts is known for high medical expenses. But a unique initiative there is helping to dramatically slow increases and has other states taking notice. Here’s how it works. Route Fifty
Md Senator Proposes Reform Of Medical Debt Practices: Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, hopes to reform medical debt practices with the introduction of legislation that would curb unfair policies and protect consumers. Capital News Service
UMD Won’t Require Standardized Tests For Admission: The University of Maryland will remain standardized test-optional through the fall 2025 admissions cycle, according to an email from undergraduate admissions director Shannon Gundy. The Diamondback
Tenants strike in Bladensburg Bladensburg, like Laurel, shelters many low-income renters who are exploited by corporate landlords for affordable housing and tenants are striking for better maintenance and services. Prince George’s law provides tenants first refusal if their building is up for sale but the county has historically done little to help renters purchase buildings – as the law allows – and the tenants struggle in a county with some of the lowest wage levels in the state. WaPo
NATIONAL/FEDERAL GOVERNMENT NEWS
Megan Essaheb of our national affiliate People’s Action has a roundup of what’s moving and what’s standing still on the Hill:
Last week, Democratic leadership tried to attach Senator Manchin’s dirty permitting deal to the National Defense Authorization Act and progressives managed to stop it (with a little help from Republicans). Leadership may try again to attach it to the end of year government funding bill but that will prove hard given its current lack of support.
The defense bill passed by the House authorizing $858 billion next year, $45 billion more than proposed by President Joe Biden. The bill included many wins for conservatives including rescinding the military vaccine mandate. It is expected to pass in the Senate this week.
Congress also passed the Respect for Marriage Act, a historic bill that codifies federal protections for marriage equality. Vox’s report indicates how drastically Congress has shifted on the issue in the past few decades.
House Democrats elected their new leadership. Hakeem Jeffries was elected the minority leader of House Democrats, making him the first Black leader of either party in Congress. Katherine Clark will serve in the number two spot and Pete Aguilar will serve in the number 3 spot. Aguilar's win also presents an historic first, it's the highest level of Congressional leadership that a Latino American has been elected to serve in.
House Republicans have not yet elected a new Speaker of the House. Minority leader Kevin McCarthy does not yet have the votes to secure the position and is negotiating with far right members of his party.
Senator Warnock easily won the runoff Senate election in Georgia, which means the Democrats will have a 51 person majority and therefore control over the Senate committees meaning it should be easier to move nominations out of committee more quickly next year. During this Congress there has been a power sharing agreement due to the 50:50 split in the Senate.
Congress still hasn’t announced a bipartisan deal on the government funding bill called the omnibus, though news reports indicate that progress was made over the weekend. They will probably pass a short term extension of existing funding by the deadline of Dec. 16th to buy them more time.
People’s Action’s Overdose Crisis cohort is pushing for the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act to be attached to the omnibus spending bill. Use this link to prod your members of Congress on the MAT Act: ppls.ac/MATActNow - sends an email to your members of congress and here is a one-page briefing on the MAT Act. We don’t need to look far to see that the overdose crisis is killing Marylanders in our communities.
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