Larry Hogan has for now ruled himself out of the contest to take the seat of departing Sen. Ben Cardin. Even in a state where he remained inexplicably popular despite his many policies that disadvantage working families and the poor, he may have realized that the data would catchup to him, as we see in the first story below about the Bay's decline on his watch.
We'll see if he continues to resist the temptation.
Meanwhile, see our whole News You Can Use roundup for this week, including People's Action fed watcher Megan E.'s thorough take on the stakes in the MAGA GOP's playing around with a default on the national debt.
Report: Water Monitoring & Enforcement, Bay Quality Declined During Hogan Admin. The Maryland Department of the Environment’s water-related enforcement actions and identification of major polluters plummeted during former Gov. Larry Hogan’s time in office. During this same period, water quality standards in the Chesapeake Bay declined significantly, falling to the same levels as those observed in the early 1990s, according to data from Chesapeake Progress. Capital News Service
A union official in Prince George’s says in the WaPo that Project Labor Agreements in new school construction are a big factor in ensuring equity in job placement and apprentice programs as well as keeping costs level. Some Prince George’s school construction projects are public-private partnerships and the private side of the partnership sees their lucrative, guaranteed profits threatened by such agreements.
Recreational Cannabis, What To Know: State officials are scrambling to not just ensure that recreational cannabis sales start July 1 — the date voters approved in the November referendum — but that the entire next year goes as planned to build a robust and equitable market. It’s a quick turnaround, but officials say they’ve been preparing for since the referendum passed. It helps that they’re tapping the resources of the medical cannabis program that began in 2017 and grew to around half a billion dollars in annual revenue. Baltimore Sun
Cannabis consumption may be legal throughout the Washington region, but your employer may not be as tolerant as your local government. Whether using marijuana in your free time gets you in trouble at the office largely depends on where you work, and even what type of work you do. WaPo.
State Digital Tax Before Court Even As Some Firms Voluntarily Pay: Attorneys debated the proper jurisdiction for settling a legal challenge to the first-in-the-nation tax on digital advertising during arguments before Maryland’s highest court on Friday. Meanwhile, an attorney for the state appeared to surprise judges when she said Maryland has already collected some taxes from companies that voluntarily submitted revenues to the state under the tax aimed at Big Tech. AP
Food Insecurity Continues In Maryland: With the federal health emergency nearing its end in mid-May, low-income Marylanders are still struggling with food insecurity and the costs of everyday household items, according to the Maryland Food Bank, the statewide hunger-relief non-profit. “Between inflation and the end of government pandemic emergency aid, the need for food assistance in Maryland remains high as the rates of food affordability, financial hardship, and food insufficiency continue to trend upward across all income groups,” it said in a press release. Maryland Matters.
Exelon, a big Midwestern firm that owns most of Central Maryland’s power companies, is facing big penalties and losses due to a bribery case; who will wind up paying for all this? https://www.utilitydive.com/news/exelon-comed-bribery-lawsuit-sec-ferc-earnings-offshore-wind/649400/ (The article also includes some details about how Gov. Wes Moore’s expanded goals on offshore wind will (or may not) fit into the potential for state grid expansion).
AROUND THE STATES
Crime: The Alabama legislature has approved a bill outlawing exhibition driving — intentionally creating tire skids, doing donuts and burnouts and street racing. (Yellowhammer News) via Pluribus
Environment: A widening clash over gas stoves and other fossil fuel appliances has ignited in statehouses across the country as Democratic lawmakers pursue more aggressive climate policies. On one side, environmentalists and left-leaning legislators have championed new construction rules that require homes and other buildings to run off electricity only, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On the other side, fossil fuel companies, business groups and Republican legislators have moved quickly to pass laws that bar local governments from establishing such regulations, [often in states that are fossil-dependent for income.] New York just banned the use of natural gas in new buildings; Maryland came close but a vigorous building and development lobby managed to ward that off for now.
Elections: Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) has signed legislation creating automatic voter registration and a permanent absentee ballot list. The bill will also allow 16- and 17-year olds to pre-register to vote. (Minnesota Reformer, MPR News) via Pluribus
NATIONAL NEWS – Sad ‘n Bad Behavior on the Fed side [From People's Action fed watcher Megan Essaheb]
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are meeting President Biden to discuss the debt ceiling Tuesday. As a reminder, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says that the U.S. will default on its debt obligations around June 1st if Congress doesn’t act to raise the government’s borrowing limit. If the U.S. finds itself unable to pay its debt obligations, it is likely to send a negative shock through the economy. The U.S. could also be forced to close government offices and stop making social security payments.
So yes, it’s a really big deal, a big risk and scary behavior by the worst elements of the House GOP caucus.
In recent days, there have been two other options discussed for unilateral action by the President, if House Republicans continue to insist on holding the economy hostage in order to make massive spending cuts to climate and social programs. The first option, to mint a trillion dollar coin, sounds like it's off the table. However, the administration does seem to be (quietly) seriously looking at the argument increasingly made by constitutional scholars that the debt limit is unconstitutional as threatening the “full faith and credit” of the US and, therefore; the President should ignore it and continue to borrow the money the U.S. needs. However, that action would certainly open the President up to endless attacks that he is usurping Congress’s power. For now, they are trying to get to a deal.
One deal that has been floated has been a short term debt ceiling hike through to the end of the fiscal year with a promise to negotiate flat spending caps. Democrats control the White House and the Senate, so if they are going to negotiate they should get a tax hike on the rich as well. Some House Republicans have already said that [not tying the debt ceiling to spending cuts NOW] is not enough. However, the most extreme MAGA Republicans won’t vote for any deal that McCarthy agrees to. [Note: that makes McCarthy’s speakership even shakier].
There was also news that House Democrats have filed a discharge petition to address the debt ceiling. A discharge petition would allow Democrats to force a House floor vote if they get 118 signatures (all Democrats plus four Republicans). However, the details have been left open because the petition allows for a substitute amendment of any kind. That means that Members of Congress don’t really know what they are signing on to if they sign it.
Side note: Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su is fighting to get confirmed as the permanent Secretary of Labor and Senator Feinstein’s absence from the Senate is not helping.
Actions To Take: Asks: What You Can Do This Week
Endorse Medicare for All! Medicare for All is being reintroduced in both the House and the Senate on May 16th! Please see details on changes to the bills here and watch for opportunities to support the bill in both houses.
ISSUE UPDATE: CLIMATE
Congratulations to New Yorkers for the huge victory of the passage of the Build Public Renewables Act. “New York state has passed legislation that will scale up the state’s renewable energy production and signals a major step toward moving utilities out of private hands to become publicly owned. See also Green New Deal Advocates Just Won Big in New York. Here’s How They Did It.
And in our own state: Maryland Governor Wes Moore broke ground on a new construction facility for the offshore wind energy industry in Maryland and then signed three climate bills into law: a bill to expand the offshore wind industry in the state, another to provide incentives for businesses and individuals to purchase electric trucks and install electric vehicle chargers, and a third that lays out strict standards for the sale of electric trucks in the state. The law on transitioning trucks and buses to electric models aligns with CA’s transition standards.
ISSUE UPDATE: HOUSING
Housing Choice Vouchers Not Keeping Up Rising U.S. Rents “Based on Zillow's latest research, Housing Choice Vouchers are failing to keep up with rising rents, exposing rent-burdened households to economic uncertainty or homelessness. Zillow found nearly 10 times more qualified voucher recipients than vouchers in most large U.S. metros. The analysis also found voucher values grew at less than half the pace of typical rent during the pandemic.”
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