Maryland and other legislatures buckle down to their agendas for 2023; Covid hasn't gone away and MD hospitals filling fast; new faces in state government; Federal money and how to get it, and the Bay gets straight D+ grades. News you can use even if it's not all good, here courtesy Maryland's tireless progressive watchdogs at Progressive Maryland. Read on, and give in to the urge to take organized action.
What states are doing: Many states have already kicked off 2023 legislative sessions, with Maryland’s Assembly set to open Wednesday. Pluribus News says the 18 legislative bodies under way so far show these trends:
State lawmakers began the first sessions of the year [last] Tuesday with record budget surpluses, long to-do lists and looming fears of a recession. Tax cuts, public safety overhauls and measures to increase parental control over public education are among the top priorities for Republicans. Democrats, meanwhile, zeroed in gun violence, climate change and housing costs.
Here’s what the early betting has for the Maryland General Assembly: Cannabis, Gun Control & More: Cannabis, abortion rights and gun control are expected to dominate debates by state lawmakers in the coming months as the Maryland General Assembly begins its annual legislative session Wednesday. The Baltimore Sun
Moore’s Historic Start As First Black Governor: The name Westley Watende Omari Moore has been etched into the annals of time as the first Black man in Maryland– and only the third Black man in American history– to be elected as a state governor. “I’ve been very humbled, but also just feeling very ready,” Moore told the AFRO. “It’s exciting because I think the state spoke with a collective voice. We won in urban and rural and suburban communities all throughout the state of Maryland.” AFRO, Friday
Brown breaks new ground in AG office
“It’s not lost on me that I am the first African American to hold this office and to assume this awesome responsibility,” former US Rep. Anthony Brown, 61, told a capacity crowd at his swearing-in in the Maryland House chambers. Speaker of the House Adrienne A. Jones, both the first woman and Black person to be elected to that role, said Brown’s swearing-in was the shattering of another “glass ceiling” and that she understands the pressures of being a “first.” The Baltimore Sun, Wednesday
Lots of federal money coming to states and localities via bills passed in the last Congress and signed by Joe B. Want your county or city to be competitive in seeking those dollars? Bill Lucia in Route Fifty writes “Smaller-sized cities are often at a disadvantage competing for federal grants, lacking the staff, in-house knowhow and other resources that their larger peers can depend on when going after the money [We have written about this before here ourselves].But now, with billions of dollars of the grants available to local governments in the 2021 infrastructure law, the National League of Cities is running a series of grant application “bootcamps” for 30 different infrastructure law programs. The new initiative, open to cities with fewer than 150,000 residents, kicked off late last year, with a second round about to get underway later this month.” Make sure your local officials know about this.
Public works for public goods – and couldn’t anybody anywhere do this at various scales? Ellicott City, call DNR… How California Could Save Up Its Rain to Ease Future Droughts From The Conversation – Instead of watching epic rainfalls just drain into the Pacific Ocean, the state could put it in the ground to replenish groundwater supplies.
Consultants said the demand for cannabis in Maryland likely places it among the top 15-20 percent of all states -- Maryland lawmakers working to create a system for the legalized sale of recreational marijuana had a question for researchers: What does demand look like for cannabis in Maryland? The answer: it’s high. While adult residents use marijuana in rates similar to other states, Marylanders who do use [marijuana] consume about five grams more per month on average than their counterparts, a survey of thousands of Maryland residents found. WaPo, Sunday
Covid surge puts state’s hospitals near capacity Maryland hospitals are almost at capacity with longer wait times to help patients, due in part to “another steep uptick in Marylanders needing hospitalization for COVID,” according to the Maryland Hospital Association. The Maryland Department of Health reported 896 people hospitalized with COVID on Friday; that compares to 789 hospitalizations one week ago and hospitalizations in the 500-person range early last month. The hospital association said most hospitals are more than 90% full and many are at 100% capacity. Maryland Matters, Friday
New Covid variant moving fast in DMV. XBB.1.5, pegged by the World Health Organization as “the most transmissible” descendant yet of the omicron variant, rose from barely 2 percent of U.S. cases at the start of December to more than 27 percent the first week of January, according to new estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 70 percent of cases in the Northeast are believed to be XBB.1.5. Updated in WaPo Monday
What Does The Education Blueprint Do? For this year’s average Maryland kindergartner, the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future will be in high school by the time the program is fully implemented. Here’s what it is. What it does. But most importantly, what this means for students in classrooms trying in earnest to learn despite all the world’s challenges. WYPR-FM.
Maryland 529 College Trust Says It Fixed Errors: Maryland parents said this week that they hadn’t received answers as to when they’d be able to access state accounts that contain their children’s college education funds, even as tuition payments were coming due for the spring semester. But Maryland 529, the state agency that oversees the system, said Friday evening that it had resolved errors associated with the calculation formula for the Maryland Prepaid College Trust. Baltimore Sun Sunday
Montgomery Lawmaker Takes Lead As General Assembly Majority Leader:
Del. Marc Korman (D-Dist. 16) has been tapped to serve as majority leader in the House of Delegates, succeeding another Montgomery County lawmaker, Eric Luedtke. Luedtke has been selected by Gov.-elect Wes Moore to serve as his chief legislative officer. Bethesda Beat, Friday
Commentary: Raise Minimum Wage To $15 Now: On New Year’s Day, Maryland’s minimum wage increased from $12.50 to $13.25. I am proud of the results achieved from the work that I, Del. Diana Fennell, and the Maryland General Assembly put forth back in 2019 with Senate Bill 280 /House Bill 166. As we enter the 2023 legislative session, I look forward to standing with the Moore-Miller administration in raising the minimum wage from $13.25 to $15 right now, and not in three years. Sen. Cory McCray/MarylandReporter, Thursday
BWI Concessions Agreement Delay Sought: It appears as if it will be months before the state picks a new vendor to operate the highly lucrative concessions operations at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport. Just weeks after suing the state to block the contract from being awarded to a new, politically connected company, the current operator of the airport’s concessions has reached a tentative agreement with state officials on a timetable for pausing the company’s lawsuit and the state’s consideration of a new contract. Maryland Matters, Thursday
Report: Health of Bay unchanged at a shabby D+ The health of the Chesapeake Bay remains unchanged from a D+ in 2020 and 2018, according to a biennial report from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation that showed mixed results from pollution control efforts. The State of the Bay report looks at 13 indicators including pollution, habitats and fisheries in the Bay, and compares them to what the status of the Bay would have been before European colonization in the 1600s. The Bay’s watershed, a network of rivers, streams and communities that feed into the body of water, spans 64,000 square miles, and is home to 18 million people and 3,600 species of plants and animals. Maryland Matters, Thursday
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