NUCU_logo_new.pngIn Maryland, the General Assembly session continues to dominate the news-- reform of vacancy appointment power for local central committees; broadening health insurance. There are also things the GA might kick down the road again, like the Bay cleanup project languishing because "best practices" farming appears not to have caught on. We've also got a sampling of what other states are doing -- can you imagine, one state is considering raising the tax rate on $million-plus mansions to finance affordable housing. What a concept. And we have a report from People's Action about the dismal state of play on Capitol Hill. It's all news you can use.



Delegates Renew Effort For Undocumented To Buy Health Insurance: Thousands of undocumented immigrants live in Maryland and many of them do not have health insurance that covers regular health check ups and other needs. Some members of the House of Delegates are renewing an effort to allow Maryland’s undocumented population to buy private health insurance through the state’s insurance market place. Maryland Matters via Maryland Reporter


Vacancy Appointment Power: What Happens Now? Recent controversies illustrate why the current regimen of empowering political committees to fill legislative vacancies—which 90 years ago supplanted a system of special elections previously included in Maryland’s Constitution—has regularly spurred charges of backroom deals and lack of transparency. In turn, it has given rise to two pieces of legislation this year that call for a return to at least a limited system of special elections, along with another bill aimed at reforming the current appointment process throughout the state. MoCo 360 via Maryland Reporter


Our allies at the Maryland Legislative Coalition stay close to the events of the General Assembly session as it is unfolding; they highlight bills that are important to progressives on criminal justice, elections, health care and other issues here. And they get into the nitty-gritty of hearing dates and how to make your voice heard on these and other bills here.


State Considers Guaranteed College Admission To High Achievers: Maryland will consider joining a number of states that guarantee admission to certain first-year students at one of the state’s four-year public colleges and universities. Proposed legislation – Senate Bill 5, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Malcolm Augustine (D-Prince George’s) — would require institutions to adopt an admission policy and accept Maryland high school students, from a public or private school, who are in the top 10% of their class. Maryland Matters via Maryland Reporter


Biden Admin Offers $80m For State Infrastructure: Infrastructure in Maryland will get a big boost thanks to $80 million in funding from President Joe Biden’s “Investing in America” agenda. Biden and U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg last Wednesday announced the funding through two major discretionary grant programs, the National Infrastructure Project Assistance grant program and the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant program. Baltimore Fishbowl.


DC Suburban Fed Workers Take Note: The White House is marking the 15th anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act by taking steps to ensure equal pay of federal workers and contractors. According to an announcement Monday morning, the Office of Personnel Management will issue a final rule making sure federal agencies no longer factor in an employee’s current or past pay when determining their salary. Semafor, subhead “White House”

Agriculture Management Practices Not Keeping Up with Bay Pollution: State and federal leaders have acknowledged that the Chesapeake Bay region will not meet its most fundamental 2025 cleanup goal: reducing nutrient pollution in the Bay and its rivers. Now, many people are asking, “How did we get here?” and “What’s next?” For 40 years, the Bay region has struggled to sufficiently reduce nutrient pollution from farms. The reasons are complex. One answer has been “best management practices, or BMTs – intended to keep watersheds clean as water goes to the Bay. But it’s still a struggle. One of a series of articles in the Bay Journal.


Maine Legislator Proposes Higher Taxes on High-Priced Homes to Ease Housing Crisis: While there isn’t one solution to Maine’s affordable housing shortage, one lawmaker is hoping to chip away at the problem by leveraging tax laws. LD1454, brought by Sen. Ben Chipman (D-Cumberland) before the Legislature’s Taxation Committee Thursday, seeks to increase the real estate transfer tax rate for properties that sell for more than $1 million to raise funds for low-income housing and other initiatives. “This change in the real estate transfer tax is an effort to safeguard the interest of the majority of property owners and buyers in Maine,” Chipman said. Maine Morning Star via Stateline Daily

Pluribus -- by the Numbers: 48,596: The number of emergency room visits to treat dog bites in California in 2022, up 70% over 2005. There’s been a spike in visits since the pandemic, when many people adopted new pets. (Los Angeles Times) via Pluribus

Nonwhite People Are Drastically Underrepresented In Local Government : As in the federal and state governments, local elected officials are more likely to be white than their constituents. At times, such as with school boards, the differences are particularly stark. The researchers worked from elections data on city, county and school district elections over the last three decades from medium and large places – any city with a population of at least 50,000 people and any county with a population of at least 75,000 in 2020. Harvard Kennedy School report via The Conversation.

The Border, However You See It: Republican governors in 25 states said Thursday they support Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) as he refused to abide by a U.S. Supreme Court decision ordering the state to allow Border Patrol agents access to a part of the Rio Grande River. Abbott declared his state is being invaded by undocumented immigrants. (Texas Tribune) via Pluribus

Workin’ On The Railroad --  An Iowa Senate subcommittee approved legislation requiring railroads to deploy train defect detectors every 15 miles along branch lines. The bill comes as rail traffic in Eastern Iowa has increased since a merger between two freight rail companies last year. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Serious Moonlight:  A bill allowing the personal production of moonshine narrowly passed the West Virginia House of Delegates and is now headed to the Senate, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports. The bill would allow a person at least 21 years of age to manufacture alcoholic liquor for personal or family use. Selling homemade liquor would be prohibited under the proposed law. Stateline Daily


Rent Growth Cools, But Affordability Is Still Out Of Reach

Even though rents aren’t rising as quickly as they were last year, they’re still too damn high for an increasing number of households. There’s some good news for renters in 2024: Rent growth is slowing significantly, meaning fewer tenants are seeing large increases in their housing costs. Rent increases reached historic highs in 2021 and 2022, but began to decrease rapidly in the latter half of 2023, according to a new report on rental housing from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Route Fifty

The Cost of Overdrawing Your Bank Account Could Ease Considerably under a rule proposed earlier this month by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The proposed regulation is in line with a larger effort that the Biden administration has championed the past few years to crack down on “junk fees,” which are tacked onto everything from ticket prices to hotel bills. The agency says roughly 23 million households use overdraft fees each year and while most consumers’ overdrafts on debit cards are less than $26, they usually have to pay overdraft fees around $35. National coverage from Maryland Matters.

Deflation indicators: Cluck! Chicken prices are falling in the U.S. — Bloomberg via Semafor

Bag Bans Work Single-use plastic bag bans are an effective way to reduce their use by the billions per year and cut plastic bag litter, according to a report released Thursday by a consortium of environmental groups, including public interest advocacy organization PIRG.

As of last year, 10 states had some form of statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. Bans in Rhode Island and Colorado went into effect at the beginning of this year. More than 500 cities and towns across 28 states had a plastic bag ordinance in effect as of 2021. About 12 million people are covered and the report found that the policies have cut single-use plastic bag consumption by about 6 billion bags per year. That’s enough bags to circle the earth 42 times. Pluribus (paywalled) but here

As for the US House and Senate, those endlessly frustrating wells of inactivity, here is what our regular correspondent Megan E, fed affairs director for People’s Action, reports:

"Last week, when the news broke that a deal was reached to make harmful changes to immigration law and add funds for the border in exchange for funding for Ukraine and Israel emerged, Trump came out against it. He apparently doesn’t want to give Biden a “win” on immigration.Senate GOP leader McConnell has expressed doubts that it can get through both chambers and the House has not made any indication that they will take it up anytime soon. That’s good news for immigration and asylum advocates on policy, however, the deal could be revived in the next round of government funding talks (or sooner but that’s less likely). No bill text has been released yet. 

"The House is moving forward in an effort to impeach Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in a political game intended to stir up white nationalist and anti-immigrant sentiment and anger at the Biden administration. The articles of impeachment will move through committee this week and are expected to go to the floor next week. Speaker Johnson can only lose two Republicans and still get the vote out of the House so it’s likely to be tough as a couple of House Republicans have already expressed doubts about the votes. There is zero evidence that Mayorkas has done anything illegal or even unethical. If the vote is successful, there will be a hearing in the Senate, which will waste a lot of time for everyone involved and is unlikely to result in his removal from office. 

"It’s unclear whether the House will take up the bipartisan tax deal that expands the child tax credit, or CTC. There is opposition by both the freedom caucus and the blue state Republicans (NY, NJ, CA) that want to get  the SALT tax credit back (though the latter could cave). Speaker Johnson seems to have lost control of the important rules committee (because former Speaker McCarthy put some far right-wing freedom caucus members on it) so he may have to pass all significant legislation under “suspension of the rules,” which requires a 2/3 majority giving Democrats some significant leverage. House progressives who are unhappy that the CTC is not fully refundable (again, not because of cost - it’s low- but because of Republican ideology) and due to the extension of the corporate tax breaks may hold their votes for leverage to improve the bill if Johnson can’t deliver Republican votes. 

"In great news out of the administration, the NYTimes reported that the Energy Department will delay a decision on the approval of the largest natural gas export terminal. This appears to be a response to the climate movement’s demand that the country stop investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure. “The Biden administration is pausing a decision on whether to approve what would be the largest natural gas export terminal in the United States, a delay that could stretch past the November election and spell trouble for that project and 16 other proposed terminals, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. The White House is directing the Energy Department to expand its evaluation of the project to consider its impact on climate change, as well as the economy and national security, said these people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss internal deliberations. The Energy Department has never rejected a proposed natural gas project because of its expected environmental impact.”


What you can do this week:

TAKE ACTION: The healthcare lobby is telling Senators to sign-on to an industry letter in support of Medicare Advantage (privatized Medicaid). Use our toolkit to send emails to your Senators telling them not to sign. Send our take action portal to your email list asking people to contact their Senators. 

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...