September. About 100 days (more or less) until the 90 days of the General Assembly kick off in January. Are we ready? Are they ready? As we see in this week's News You Can Use, our schools, our housing policy, our policy on roads vs. mass transit (Toll roads? We hoped we were done with that) and the capacity of our state workers are all less settled than we were thinking of, best-case. The brute fact that many of these issues are tangled up with one another (see: teacher availability and housing costs) makes it harder. In an election year there will be a lot for Maryland legislators to juggle, and it's not too early to let them know what's on our minds. Read on, and start making your lists.
More Money for Maryland's Schools? How About More Oversight? A number of county leaders around the state say requirements to increase spending on education need to be coupled with greater authority for them to oversee that spending. “We [county government] do not have a truly cooperative, interactive relationship, at this point, but nobody does,” Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said. “Montgomery County is not unique. You’ll find these kinds of arguments all around the state between county governments and the local school boards. We’re like a money machine but we have no power in how the money gets tapped at some point.” Maryland Matters
Why Democrats and Republicans Alike Keep Expanding Highways “A Democratic governor's controversial decision to continue a road-widening effort championed by his Republican predecessor is the latest example of leaders of both parties pushing the same old harmful highway projects — raising questions of what it will take before they just stop.” If this piece from Streetsblog sounds familiar, it’s because it starts with Maryland.
Moore, Scott Pledge To Refill Government Staffs: Surrounded by union workers in Baltimore on Saturday, Gov. Wes Moore and Mayor Brandon Scott pledged to refill the ranks of government employees. Moore and Scott, both Democrats, stood alongside Patrick Moran, the president of the Maryland chapter of the AFSCME, and Lee Saunders, the union’s national president, outside of a job fair to fill positions in state and city government. Baltimore Sun. … Moore revisited the lofty rhetoric that has been a staple of his campaign and official visits around the state. Specifics on how he intends to beef up the number of employees or hit a target set by Moore at the start of his administration have been harder to come by. Maryland state government has more than 6,000 vacant positions in executive branch departments. Maryland Matters.
Wonder Where the Teachers Went? When Affordable Housing Is Scarce, So Are Educators “Recently, as housing prices have continued to soar throughout the United States, that barrier has become insurmountable for many, with teachers and school staff moving out of the district at alarming rates, leaving students, families and the staff who stay without their lifeblood, left to pick up the pieces and rebuild until another crop of employees decides next year that it is time for them, too, to move on.” EdSurge.com, tipped by People’s Action
Rockville Property Manager Agrees To Return Nearly $150,000 To Tenants: A Rockville-based property management company and its owner have agreed to return nearly $150,000 to tenants in a settlement with the Maryland’s attorney general’s office. 786 Property Management Inc. and its owner were accused of “unfair and deceptive trade practices” by charging tenants illegal fees, failing to properly maintain and return tenants’ security deposits and acting as an unlicensed debt collector. MoCo360 via Maryland Reporter
Climate Protesters Interrupt Hoyer's Annual Bull Roast: Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-5th) enjoys his annual bull roast in Prince George’s County because he gets to hug, shake hands and nibble on hot food alongside fellow Democrats and other friends. It's a public event and this year climate change protesters joined the throng demanding that the congressman help to end the use of fossil fuels. Maryland Matters.
After the Public Service Commission says Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. cannot require gas regulators outside homes, plucky residents from across the city are taking a cautious victory lap. Baltimore Brew
Millions Enrolled In New Student Loan Repayment Program More than 4 million federal student loan borrowers [including 0ver 76,000 in Maryland] are enrolled in the Biden administration’s new repayment program, according to figures released Tuesday [Sept. 5] by the Department of Education. With the pause of more than three years on federal student loan repayments coming to an end in October, and the Supreme Court’s summer decision striking down the White House’s one-time debt relief program, the Department of Education has rolled out several repayment and loan forgiveness programs, including the Saving on A Valuable Education, or SAVE, plan that for some borrowers could result in no monthly payments. The new income-driven repayment plan calculates payments based on a borrower’s income and family size and forgives balances after a set number of years. The Department of Education has estimated that most borrowers will save about $1,000 per year under the new plan. States Newsroom via Maryland Matters
Environmentalists Demand Answers About Pennsylvania Governor’s Secretive Committee on Cap-and-Trade Program As the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative stalls in the Pennsylvania courts, front-line communities ask the Josh Shapiro administration to prioritize their input – and want the governor to forthrightly back the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative along with neighboring states. Capital and Main
Federal Effort To Help Surgery Patients Avoid Addiction: In an effort to help surgery patients avoid addiction to opioids during recovery, the NOPAIN Act — which Congress passed in an end-of-year spending package — will take effect in 2025, setting up a separate Medicare payment for certain non-opioid pain management approaches in outpatient and ambulatory surgical settings. Baltimore Sun.
Mobile Homes’ Flexible Climate Response Makes Them a Solution, Not a Problem A report by the Niskanen Center, a nonprofit public policy organization found that mobile homes have consistently been an affordable and underutilized solution that meets the housing needs of low- and moderate-income people. Newer models can also be a low-carbon solution as these prefabricated homes, which are built in large pieces for easy assembly, can include things like heat pumps and solar panels, More in this report from Grist via Route Fifty.
There’s a Struggle Here, All Right, But Who Exactly is Punching Down? An Appalachian native wonders how everybody got Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond” so wrong. “As both liberal and conservative politicians fell all over themselves to be on the right side of this story, Anthony himself finally intervened saying, ‘It’s aggravating seeing people on conservative news try to identify with me like I’m one of them,’ asserting his emphatic political agnosticism and disgust with ‘corporate-owned D.C. politicians on both sides.’ This assertion sent both of those sides scrambling, backpedaling their hot takes and trying, belatedly, to add some nuance to the conversation.” From the Daily Yonder
THE FOUNDERING FEDERAL GOVERNMENT: SHUTDOWN LOOKS PROBABLE
Knives Out along Pennsylvania Avenue, from the Capitol to the White House It’s looking more likely than not that the federal government will shut down at the end of this month, we hear from People’s Action federal affairs director Megan Essaheb in her Monday blast.
" Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) wants his caucus to pass a short term continuing resolution until December 30th that would extend government spending at current levels while Congress negotiates a deal. Many far right MAGA extremist Republicans in the House Freedom caucus are vowing not to vote on the measure with varying demands. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA) has said she will not vote for it, if House Republicans don’t vote to open an impeachment inquiry against Biden (McCarthy does not yet have the votes to do that). House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) is calling on Congress to defund the Department of Justice investigations into elected officials, political candidates and their families until a new policy for how they [the DOJ investigators] are managed is developed. And others want to surge border patrol funding at the southern border. McCarthy could likely pass a continuing resolution with moderate Democrats and face the wrath of the party but he seems unlikely to do that until after the manufactured crisis of a shutdown happens.
"Further complicating the situation, McCarthy would like to add a disaster relief package that the White House has requested but not the supplemental funding for Ukraine [bundled with it].. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leaders Mitch McConnell (R-KY) both want the Ukraine military spending attached to funding bill and are likely to add it when it goes through the Senate, sending it back to the House.
"Once the stopgap funding bill passes, Congress will still face the central government funding fight over what funding caps to set for federal government agencies. The Senate, including Republican leadership is poised to honor the agreement that Congressional leadership negotiated with the White House during the debt limit negotiations, while the House Freedom caucus is demanding massive cuts to domestic spending such as education, labor and health care," Essaheb concludes.
Environmental moves: Last week, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced that the government would cancel the remaining 7 leases in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge and create a new wildlife protection area of 13 million acres in the western arctic National Petroleum Reserve. The creation of a protection area is a proposed rule opening for comments and is subject to change. The Department of the Interior has set a goal of conserving or restoring at least 30% of US lands & waters by 2030. Earlier in the summer, it protected new lands in the Grand Canyon.
Last week, USA Today ran a piece, “Rent control laws on the national level? Biden administration offers a not-so-subtle push,” which Essaheb says she would argue is a "narrative victory for People’s Action’s Homes Guarantee campaign (bolstered by many state and local campaigns on the issue). The campaign has pushed the conversation of federal rent regulation from one that was outside the Overton window to an issue that is seriously being debated. The article references the economists’ letter and the Senators’ letter that the campaign organized and quotes a member of our policy committee. It also spends a little too much time on the opposition’s arguments, including the false idea that older mom and pop landlords would be targeted. If we do win rent regulation through FHFA regulated properties, it would apply to multi-family properties, which is at least 5 units (but they may use a higher definition)."
And the slippery landlords: The Wall Street Journal published an article [may be paywalled] on all various fees that landlords are charging tenants both to sign leases and throughout the lease. The Biden administration is going after so-called “junk fees” across industries and is looking into what they can do on these landlord fees.
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