News_You_Can_Use_graphic_(2).pngA budget shortfall requires early action to keep the cuts as close to painless as possible. Local governments don't find it painless because many budget cuts are slated for the transportation sector, meaning local roads may not get the upkeep money they are used to. Many early protests are coming from local jurisdictions already worried about the possible increasing costs on the education side of the ledger. Plus, fish with and without PFAS, juvenile justice and mental health and a free speech controversy with roots in the conflict in Gaza. It's all News You Can Use, happy or otherwise, curated for your Monday.


State Budgeting Expected To Face A Difficult Time: Gov. Wes Moore addressed controversial cuts to the state’s transportation budget Thursday, largely pointing to former Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration rather than his own for the shortfall. “Our predecessors turned away from making hard choices on what should and should not be prioritized as a state government,” Moore said as he addressed attendees of the Maryland Association of Counties winter conference Thursday.  Baltimore Sun.

  • Moore escalated his call to rein in state spending this week, telling a convention of local government leaders the “hard truth” is the state has to pick some priorities at the expense of others. WaPo.
  • Eric Luedtke, Moore’s chief legislative officer, told county officials Friday that the coming legislative session will center around “answering some really tough questions” because of an end to billions in federal aid that pumped up state coffers in recent years. Maryland Matters.

Economist Says Md. Needs To Boost Population To Grow Economy: Maryland needs to grow its population as part of an effort to grow its economy and pull itself out of a budgetary morass, according to one economist. That message comes just weeks before lawmakers head to Annapolis next month facing a series of difficult budgetary decisions as federal pandemic aid dries up. A state economy over-dependent on jobs tied to the federal government is not firing on all cylinders as some employers, including state government, struggle to fill open positions, said Daraius Irani, an economist at Towson University. Maryland Matters (12/8)


Transportation Cuts Spark Ire Of State, County Officials: County officials and legislators are lashing out at a plan to cut billions in transportation projects across the state. State Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld, in an interview Tuesday, said the department is forced to address $3.3 billion in shortfalls. To close the gap over the current six-year spending plan, the agency will impose across the board budget cuts, hiring freezes, fee and parking rate increases as well as defer hundreds of millions in projects across the state. Maryland Matters.


County Leaders Seek Ways To Avert Gutting Local Roads Priorities: A day after a public announcement to cut more than $3 billion in transportation projects, county officials are pushing for answers and a way to avert the gutting of local road and transit priorities. Leaders from the state’s 24 major political subdivisions arrived in Cambridge for the annual Maryland Association of Counties winter conference with more questions than answers and a growing sense of frustration. Maryland Matters. 12/7


I-81 Among Dozens of Projects Facing Possible Cuts: Money for Interstate 81 was in the plans of multiple governors, the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly said thanks, and the state’s new transportation secretary acknowledged both the “partnership” with local officials and their safety concerns. Yet millions of dollars, $68 million to be exact, has been scheduled by the state Department of Transportation to be reduced on the project, designed to widen a 3.5 mile stretch of the highway. Hagerstown Herald Mail. 12/7


Northern Virginia is home to almost 300 data centers, the highest concentration of these facilities in the world. But Maryland is looking to get in on the action, and the Push To Make The State A Major Hub For Data Centers Is A Top Priority of Gov. Wes Moore (D) and will be part of his legislative package in the upcoming General Assembly session. Maryland Matters.

Moore To Introduce About A Dozen Bills: Gov. Wes Moore previewed his legislative initiatives during the Maryland Association of Counties winter conference in Cambridge on Thursday night, indicating his intent to introduce around a dozen bills during legislative session that begins in January. He previewed bills on data center infrastructure, the law enforcement workforce and several on housing. Hagerstown Herald Mail.


Solutions Sought To Aid Youth In Mental Health Decline: Declining mental health among young people is an ongoing issue, as lawmakers, workplaces and even local schools look for solutions to help kids and adolescents who are struggling with anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide. But the issue is multifaceted, according to Sara DiLeonardo, behavioral clinical strategist with Cigna Healthcare, who spoke at the Maryland Association of Counties winter conference in Cambridge. Maryland Matters.


Opinion: Find A Better Way To Fill Legislative Vacancies: When lawmakers return to Annapolis next month, some are vowing to end the appointment practice of filling legislative vacancies and instead running a special election in the presidential election year if the vacancy takes place early enough in a four-year term. … They argue that ... bypassing the electorate is among the most undemocratic actions ... And it’s not a small one, given that about one in four of the current state delegates and senators got their seats through the appointment process. (Opinion) Baltimore Sun.


With State's New AI Advisor At Work, Legislators Call For Privacy Law: With applications of generative artificial intelligence like ChatGPT having gobbled up data, at least one state legislative leader is calling for Maryland to join a dozen other states with laws to protect citizens’ data and personal information The state’s new senior adviser for responsible AI nodded toward privacy, but stopped short of explicitly calling for a new law. “Privacy will have to be one of the key values that we center a lot of this work around,” said Nishant Shah, hired in August from a position at Facebook’s parent company, Meta. Hagerstown Herald-Mail.


Climate Shifts Bring Winners, Losers in Potomac Watershed: Dozens of experts gathered recently to compare notes on the health of a river that’s a major tributary to the Chesapeake Bay and supplies drinking water to nearly 6 million people. Much of the discussion during the one-day conference in September focused on the impact that more erratic weather patterns — namely, heavier rains with longer dry spells in between — is having on the river. Scientists predict that more extreme flows in the river will increase the populations of “opportunistic” [fish] species that adapt well to such changes and find food in a variety of environments. That includes blue catfish and other “live fast, die young” species, as one fish biologist puts it. Bay Journal


Md. Issuing More Expansive Advisory About Fish Contaminated With PFAS About two years after issuing its first-ever fish consumption advisory associated with PFAS contamination, Maryland is issuing a slew of new warnings. This round is far more comprehensive, following years of testing of different fish species for PFAS — so-called “forever chemicals” known to cause cancer and other health problems — at locations frequented by recreational anglers in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The dozens of new advisories to be released Friday by the Maryland Department of the Environment are spread across Maryland waterways, and cover a variety of fish species.  Baltimore Sun (12/8)


Problems Persist in State’s Juvenile Services Schooling: Not all incarcerated young people can continue their education, much less attain a diploma. Two years after the Maryland General Assembly transferred responsibility for incarcerated students’ education from the state Education Department to an independent school board within the Juvenile Services Department, students confined in Maryland’s secure youth facilities continue to face multiple long-standing challenges, according to experts and state audit reports. Capital News Service/Maryland Reporter. (12/8)


Juvenile Justice Reform Act Consequences, Changes Mulled: Attending the MACo winter conference, local officials discussed how new state laws, specifically Juvenile Justice Reform and Child Interrogation Protection Act bills passed last year, are working. Laurel Police Chief Russell Hamill said the reform has created “unintended consequences.” Part of the law states an officer “cannot conduct a custodial interrogation” of a child until an attorney has been consulted. Prior to the law, Hamill said, officers were allowed to talk with youth after an alleged crime occurred and could find out more information such as whether that child is physically abused, homeless or just hungry. Maryland Matters. 12/7


Chaudry Reinstated To Hate Crimes Commission: The Maryland Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday reinstated a member of the state’s Commission on Hate Crime Response and Prevention who had been suspended over social media posts about the Israeli government’s military actions in Gaza, saying in a statement that the office lacked the authority to remove her. WaPo

  • Zainab Chaudry, the director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Maryland, was reinstated two weeks after she was suspended. According to a press release from Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown, The Law “Does Not Provide The Attorney General The Authority To Remove A Commissioner Before The Expiration Of Their Term nor the authority to suspend a Commissioner during their term of service.” MoCo 360
  • Bill To Allow Attorney General To Remove Hate-Crime Commission Members: Even though a member was suspended from Maryland’s Commission on Hate Crime Response and Prevention for posting messages criticizing Israel’s response to the Hamas attack was reinstated, there is still talk about whether Zainab Chaudry should have remained on the panel. Maryland House Delegate Joe Vogel (D-District 17), who is running for Congress, has proposed a bill for the upcoming General Assembly session that would grant the State Attorney General the authority to permanently remove commission members. Chaudry, director of the Maryland chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is one of 20 members on the panel. WBAL-AM


Howard Bus Drivers To Vote On Union: Howard County Public School bus drivers, aides, and monitors employed by Zum Transportation Services plan to vote on union representation next week, following widespread issues at the start of the school year and problems that have persisted since then. Baltimore Fishbowl.



Emerging Tech: Generative AI Could Save Governments Nearly $1.8T Annually: A report says that U.S. governments could see more than $500 billion in productivity gains. Those with a “fast technology adoption curve” stand to benefit the most. Route Fifty

Illinois Gov OKs New Nuclear Power Plants: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) has signed legislation lifting a moratorium on new nuclear energy projects. The bill will require state safety agencies to develop rules for regulating small modular reactors, new technology that generate about a third of the power of a traditional reactor. (Pluribus News) Why does this matter to Maryland? Exelon, which owns power companies in DC and Maryland, has lots of ageing nuclear plants that will be expensive to decommission or replace. It has HQ in Chicago.


This Land Is Our Land: States Crack Down On Foreign-Owned Farm Fields  A growing group of states is seeking to ban or further restrict foreign ownership of farmland. Lawmakers are targeting nations considered hostile to U.S. interests, such as China and Russia, and looking for new enforcement measures. Route Fifty

Will Some States Fail to Get Broadband Funding? A conflict between state and federal laws may delay the first distribution of funds to the states from the $42.5 billion program to expand internet access. Sixteen states bar or restrict municipally owned broadband, and nearly all of those states, according to an analysis by Route Fifty, appear unwilling to amend their laws as they finalize plans for how they will use their share of Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment, or BEAD, funds. Stateline Daily

Are You Ready for The Holidays? 7.5 million: The number of Americans expected to fly between December 23 and January 1, making it the busiest holiday travel season since AAA began tracking flight data in 2000. The number of fliers will top the previous record of 7.3 million set in 2019, back in those happy days when none of us knew what Covid-19 was. (Bloomberg) via Pluribus





From Megan Essaheb, federal affairs director at People’s Action, our national affiliate.

The US House and Senate are struggling to pass bills that will fund major priorities before the year-end clock runs out. It doesn’t look good, because the House (where a lot of this money stuff has to start) is busy with other priorities, like trying to mousetrap Democrats on cultural issues.

Last week House Republicans held a vote on a resolution seeking to drive a wedge between Jewish Americans and the Democratic party, which condemned all forms of antisemitism and stating “that anti-Zionism is antisemitism.” “Thirteen Democrats voted no, including Israel’s fiercest critics in Congress, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Ninety-five voted yes, but 92 Democrats voted “present,” among them prominent Jews like Jerrold Nadler of New York, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.” The NY Times explained the complicated nature of the issue. 

This week, the House will vote on a resolution to open an impeachment inquiry into impeaching President Biden.

Along with all this, Congress will try to pass the National Defense Authorization Act and reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  Wish them good luck.

Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy will visit President Biden and Congress to try to persuade them of the need to pass tens of billions of dollars of aid to Ukraine. The Ukraine aid along with aid for Israel is held up by Congressional Republicans insistence that harmful changes to immigration law, including by limiting access to asylum and parole be attached to the package. They seek to reduce the number of migrants allowed in the US and given access to status or work authorization. 

Senate Democrats and the White House have already agreed to harmful changes to asylum law (which advocates are pushing back on) but are resistant to making changes to parole, which Republicans are demanding. From the Immigration Hub: “Among the concessions would be a heightened standard for asylum screenings, a transit ban denying asylum to migrants who pass through another country en route to the U.S., and the expansion of a cruel fast track deportation process known as "expedited removal." The policies, if enacted, would reinstate Trump-era policies and put millions of immigrants settled throughout the U.S. at risk of deportation.”


What we're doing; what we can do


Congratulations to the Health Care for All campaign for winning a step forward in the fight to lower prescription drug prices through executive action! The Biden administration released a proposed framework on march-in rights for the administration to grant licenses for lower-cost generic versions of certain drugs before a patent expires when taxpayer funding was used in the development of the drug and the drug is priced unreasonably high. People’s Action’s press statement is available here. The White House fact sheet also announced that the Department of Health and Human Services would be taking steps in the new year to provide increased data transparency in Medicare Advantage (privatized MedIcare), which is a demand of the Care Over Cost campaign. 

CVS plans to overhaul how drugs are priced

The pharmacy giant says its new pricing formulas will better represent the “true net cost” of medications.

Sen. Warren pushes for more data on Medicare Advantage coverage hurdles, denials

Senators are pushing the Biden administration to collect more data on #MedicareAdvantage coverage hurdles & claim denials.

Senators launch bipartisan probe of private equity's growing role in U.S. health care

“When it comes to our nation’s hospitals, a business model that prioritizes profits over patient care and safety is unacceptable,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley.



From In These Times: “How a Trailblazing Tenants Union Forced a Mega-Landlord to the Bargaining Table:

In less than two weeks, the Blake Street 16 went from facing eviction court to pioneering the first landlord-tenant negotiations in Connecticut’s history.”

“One thing Democrats and Republicans can agree on: The rent is too high” — CNN

Public support is building for changes to housing zoning codes and other laws that dominated American housing policy for decades.

And In the housing debate, a NYT columnist revives an old remedy that is currently hampered by today’s restrictive zoning codes

What is RealPage — and why is it being blamed for raising everyone's rent?

Texas-based RealPage has been sued in Washington, D.C. for a product that, among other things, helps landlords big and small to set [that is, price-fix] rents [rather than competing] It also has been on the other end of more than 20 class action lawsuits, and more recently, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has weighed in against it.

The racial homeownership gap is widening. New rules might make it worse.

Banks are facing tougher capital requirements, which will probably make mortgages pricier for cash-poor home buyers and hurt minority borrowers.

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...