Debt Limit Fiasco Dodged is the headline, so we can move back into ordinary news about Maryland, states and the country that was on hold while holding our breath for a debt deal. Maryland faces a tax increase on gas at the pump for converging reasons, while traffic gurus have varied solutions and profiteering power companies are warned that the new Gov has put easy corporate profits at risk. There's more, too, about those ordinary non-apocalypic worries like textbook censorship, combating hate crimes, those dodgy URLs on our license plates and protecting medical abortion. You'd be surprised what we are worrying about now that we can start worrying about those things again without that debt limit hanging over our media-stuffed heads. It's News You Can Use.
MD Gas Price to Rise, Driven by Inflation, Cost Increase from Companies -- The [Maryland] state tax rate of a gallon of gas will increase to 47 cents per gallon, an increase of more than 10% compared to the current rate. Over the last two years, the rate has increased by 30% due to inflation and surging fuel prices. Robert J. Rehrmann, director of the Board of Revenue Estimates, said the increase was driven almost equally by inflation and the average price of a gallon of gas over the last year. Inflation rose 7.1% between May 2022 and April 2023 — just shy of the 8% limit built into a decade-old law. That increased the per gallon state surcharge by 2.1 cents per gallon. Rehrmann said high motor fuel prices — based on the average price of a gallon of gas — added another 2.2 cents to the state tax. Maryland Matters
Want Less Traffic? Don’t Just Add Lanes… A recent Thom Hartmann column headlined: “A  study of 100 US cities found that — between 1993 and 2017 — billions were spent to expand highway systems’ capacities by 42%, far faster than the cities were growing population-wise. But instead of reducing congestion, traffic delays actually went up by 144%. …Environmental groups and activists concerned with the future livability of their cities are taking notice, and Colorado is also leading the way in now requiring that environmental issues be considered in all transportation infrastructure decisions. Streetsblog
Power Elite Worried About Lower Chance for Profit-taking in State – A ratings agency that makes a living steering investors and for-profit utility companies into easy-money environments has its knickers in a twist about “the potential for a more restrictive regulatory climate in coming months, as the new governor, Wes Moore, moves forward with his energy agenda and recasts the Maryland Public Service Commission.” Without the go-along PSC of the Hogan years, the mouth-watering chances for high profit that attracted Exelon’s purchase of gas and electric power firms BG&E, Washington Gas and others might evaporate. “The turnover at the commission [PSC] is particularly concerning for investors,” the rating agency lamented. So it looks like rate-payers can be cheered by the downgrade. Get the details here. Maryland Matters
Moore Joins Dem Governors Opposing Textbook Censorship -- As lawmakers nationwide push to limit the types of books that can be found in schools, Gov. Wes Moore (D) joined nine other governors to fight censorship of textbooks in a letter released Friday. Moore, along with other Democratic governors, called on textbook publishers to “hold the line” and refuse to water down their educational materials at the behest of Republican lawmakers and conservative parents. Friday’s letter was sent to nine major publishers selling textbooks and educational materials. Maryland Matters
Attorney General’s Hate Crimes Unit to Become Permanent
With a Maryland hate crimes task force funded by a federal grant set to expire next year, legislation to make it a permanent group goes into effect Thursday. The task force, now called the Commission on Hate Crime Response and Prevention, will continue to be managed by the state attorney general’s office. [Federal Justice Department funding ends next year and the state will take over funding]. The task force, comprised of state agencies, nonprofit organizations and community leaders conducted forums, advocated for legislation and created a hate-crime tip sheet. Maryland Matters
War Of 1812 License Plates Bear URL That Links To Gambling Site: In 2010, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration unveiled a new patriotic license plate commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, complete with a website url. Those plates are still around, but the website is now gone and its URL now links to one promoting gambling in the Philippines. WBOC-TV News.
Ex-Senator Who Testified For Catholic Church Now Seeks Victims As Clients -- Former Maryland state Sen. Bobby Zirkin, a personal injury lawyer, has joined the growing and pervasive number of law firms advertising services to abuse survivors under the Child Victims Act. Zirkin once testified in opposition to the law on behalf of the Catholic Church, but now finds himself in a position to bring in business because of it. Baltimore Sun.
As Pride Month Kicks Off, State Focuses On STD Prevention: LGBTQ+ Marylanders and others will be participating in Pride-related events throughout June, including parades, block parties and festivals across the state. But state officials want Marylanders to be protected from sexually transmitted infections and be mindful of sexual health during the festivities so they are reminding folks through an informational campaign. Maryland Matters.
MD Health Dept. Seeks State Funds To Stockpile Abortion Pill: The Maryland Department of Health will turn to the state for capital to stockpile one of the most-prescribed medication abortion pills as the case to revoke its approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues its way through the courts. Hannah Gaskill/The Baltimore Sun
“By The Numbers” – preventive incentive of a different sort -- $266,000 is the amount Missouri will spend on a social media campaign aimed at steering women away from abortions. The state Department of Social Services has hired a Columbia-based advertising agency to market the state’s Alternatives to Abortion program. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) via Pluribus
AND ON THE D.C. FRONT –
The hurry-up newsletters that blossom in our email inbox between 5:30 and 7 every morning are preoccupied with the platoon of GOP prez hopefuls entering the lists this week and on whether or not Kevin McCarthy’s debt-limit compromise has strengthened his grip on his teetery House speakership. Opinions on the latter question tumble all over the place. Punchbowl, earliest, says he is “undeniably stronger” (a poll result from the lobbyists on K Street) but still faces brushfire pushback from the Freedom Caucus, which is raising money in tandem with the narrative that he got rolled by Joe Biden. Next comes the WaPo’s Early 202, which agrees he has survived but for how long? – his right flank is still sorting out how many promises (made to get votes for Speaker) he may have broken… Next, Politico Playbook (starry-eyed about media celebs and political candidates) goes very long on the GOP prez hopefuls and their drawbacks, intoning “just three lanes on the primary highway for now: (1) DONALD TRUMP, (2) RON DeSANTIS and (3) everyone else. And the more crowded the race is, the thinner that last lane gets.” And Playbook sees the sudden Saudi move to reduce production as, yes, a disadvantage for Biden as gas-pump prices likely go up; they’ll be checking the phone logs of the MBS-whisperer Jared K.
Semafor (still getting used to that one) is all worldly in its first morning appearance but gets more nitty-gritty in Round 2, called “Principals,” with asides on Disney’s poke at Gov. DeSantis with a big pro-LGBTQ+ fest at D-World and Ukraine’s expressed worries about what a GOP prez would mean to their support. And a recycled, still juicy, joke from a newly nominated ambassador to the OECD, which the Brit Economist likes to call “a club of mostly rich countries.” “Now I’ll have a boss,” said the ex-congressman (and ex-subject of Nancy Pelosi!). And “when the President wants my opinion – he’ll give it to me.”
Well, what about the debt ceiling deal? Is it as bad as you have heard? People's Action, national affiliate of Progressive Maryland, passes along this explainer from the Congressional Progressive Caucus .
Megan Essaheb, PA's federal affairs chief, adds "The Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), Make the Road New York/States, and People’s Action Institute and their affiliate organizations released their largest Medicaid Survey to date. The report, “Strengthening Medicaid: Challenges States Must Address as the Public Health Emergency Ends,” surveyed 2,937 Medicaid recipients and found that almost half were unaware they needed to renew their Medicaid when the COVID-19 public health emergency ended, putting them at risk of losing coverage. Although many people reported some level of satisfaction with the quality of care they received, enrollees continue to have challenges accessing healthcare services through Medicaid. These problems will only be exacerbated as states reevaluate enrollment and emergency federal funding expires." As several other accounts have made clear, the new work requirements for Medicaid will probably knock thousands of eligible people off the Medicaid coverage they had because the paperwork is so confusing.
Here’s the latest KFF report on people being dis-enrolled in Medicaid by state.
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