In Maryland, energy and environment news stands out; around the states, there is occasional sane behavior among the tales of Red-State lunacy (sue a big-box store for selling popular Pride merch?). And Congress is back with much to do and a short schedule to fritter away before blind panic actually brings low-information votes. But you knew that. Still, we have details that might be helpful.
HERE IN MARYLAND:
Environmental Group Grades Governor: The Maryland League of Conservation Voters was the first environmental organization to endorse Gov. Wes Moore during the 2022 Democratic primary campaign, and now it’s the first to release an evaluation of his first six months in office. The group’s overall analysis of the Moore administration’s performance on climate change, environmental justice and environmental stewardship in general was positive. But the group warned that Moore must move with dispatch to fulfill important statewide climate and clean energy goals. Maryland Matters
Bay 'Dead Zone' Smallest Ever: The Chesapeake Bay’s annual “dead zone” is expected to be the smallest ever recorded this summer, providing an unexpected boon to the estuary’s vulnerable ecosystem. Scientists forecast that the mass of oxygen-starved water will be one-third smaller than its historic average. The tracking began in 1985. Bay Journal/ MarylandReporter.com.
Arundel Schools Flag Ban Proposal Likely Dead: As a vote on a proposed Anne Arundel County schools ban on flags that don’t “promote national, state, and local government pride” approaches, at least four school board members have expressed opposition to the measure, meaning it’s likely to fail. At least five of eight members must vote yes for a proposal to be approved. Capital Gazette.
New PSC Chair Vows To 'Leave No Marylander Behind:' Fredrick H. Hoover, the new chair of the Maryland Public Service Commission, vowed to follow the lead of the man who appointed him, Gov. Wes Moore, and “leave no Marylander behind” as he takes over a powerful regulatory agency that will increasingly have more say over how the state confronts climate change. Maryland Matters.
Legal Cannabis Also Brings Changes In Related Laws: Big change came to the state Saturday — not only with the legalization of adult-use recreational cannabis, but also with shifting criminal justice policies that have disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income Marylanders including laws to aid people with the process of expunging cannabis charges and convictions from their records and limiting the circumstances for police to execute traffic stops based on the odor of cannabis. Baltimore Sun.
A NATION OF STATES
This one is really nerdy, but… “As state and local governments prepare for the gush of federal funds to jumpstart their backlogged infrastructure projects, experts have warned that they will need more technology to manage the programs’ permits, funding, scheduling and compliance. Previously, project managers would rely on paper-based permitting and track funding and expenses on spreadsheets. Now though, many governments are turning to cloud solutions to streamline their project management.” So is your city or county prepared to keep your Inflation Reduction Act kayak afloat in this digital rapids? Without digital project management, cities will be ‘out of the race’ Route Fifty
Uncivil war roils Texas Houston sues Texas over “Death Star” law. Houston officials sued the state of Texas on Monday to stop a sweeping law aimed at gutting all kinds of local ordinances and sapping the power of the state’s bluer urban areas. The law—dubbed the “Death Star” bill by opponents—was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott in June, marking Texas Republicans’ biggest attempt yet to constrain local governments in a yearslong campaign aimed at Texas’ major metropolitan areas, often governed by Democrats. The law prevents cities and counties from creating local ordinances that go further than what’s allowed under broad areas of state law, an attempt to overturn cities’ progressive policies. Route Fifty
Are state laws leading to a “brain drain” in Florida? The answer remains elusive, but some signs of an exodus are emerging. The Tampa Bay Times reviewed records showing an upward tick in staff departures at some of Florida’s largest universities. And, as the Board of Governors discovered this spring, doubts about the state’s academic workplace are spreading fast. A music professor at Florida State University, for example, told board members that candidates were turning down positions in his college “because of the perceived anti-higher education atmosphere in the state.” Route Fifty
Reach of the week: Seven Republican attorneys general have written to Target warning the company that clothes and merchandise sold as part of Pride month celebrations might violate state child protection laws. (CBS News) via Pluribus
It’s Hard to Build Transmission Lines In The Northeast, So Eight States Are Asking The Feds For Help – “Many states in the Northeast have ambitious clean energy goals to help fight climate change. … But right now, the electrical transmission system — the web of big power lines that move high voltage electricity over long distances — isn’t robust enough to make these plans a reality.” And existing regulation makes strengthening the grid really, really hard. Here’s what states are doing. WBUR via Pluribus
Value Added: New Mexico’s Legislative Council Service will begin studying proposals to allow legislators to hire full-time staff in district or regional offices. New Mexico remains the only state in the nation that does not pay legislators a salary. (Santa Fe New Mexican) Pluribus
Energy: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) is expected to sign legislation lifting the state’s 40-year ban on new nuclear power plant construction. The bill sailed through the legislature this year, though environmentalists raised objections. Pritzker has said he’s interested in small modular reactors. (Chicago Tribune) Fun fact: Illinois has more nuclear power plants than any other state. Pluribus
Numbers Game: 45%: The share of tap water in the United States likely contaminated by PFAS forever chemicals, according to a new study released by the U.S. Geological Survey. PFAS contamination is most likely in urban areas along the East Coast and the Midwest. (Pluribus News)
At $27 million, it may not be much, but for the first time the state of Georgia has a dedicated funding source for transit. (Georgia Public Broadcasting) via Streetsblog
A Different Kind Of Green Bank—One That Targets Affordable Housing Last week, the [Commonwealth (of Massachusetts, not Virginia)] launched the Massachusetts Community Climate Bank in an effort to create more climate-friendly, affordable housing. Seeded with $50 million from the state Department of Environmental Protection, officials are hoping the “green bank” will attract private sector capital to retrofit existing buildings and support new construction of sustainable and efficient buildings. Route Fifty – but also note this from the same source: Boosting Affordable Housing By Reclaiming Investor-Owned Properties At a time when affordable housing is already scarce, some are worried that the problem could be further exacerbated by private equity firms and other investors managing real estate portfolios for maximum profit. It’s a trend that took hold following the Great Recession, when vacant single-family homes were snatched up by investors who flipped them to sell or rented them out—today at a staggering profit.
AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL
POLITICO Playbook quotes the Wall Street Journal: SETTING THE TABLE — “Congress Dives Back Into Fights on Spending Cuts, Military as Deadline Draws Near,” by WSJ’s David Harrison: “Top of mind on Capitol Hill as lawmakers return from recess this week are the annual spending bills to keep the government open, which must be enacted by the time the new fiscal year starts on Oct. 1. Other priorities include legislation authorizing military programs, updating agriculture and food-aid policy and keeping the country’s airports running, all of which must also be enacted by the new fiscal year, although Congress can also agree to temporarily extend current programs.”
From Megan Essaheb at People’s Action, more on who’s standing up for working families under fire:
ISSUE UPDATE: HEALTHCARE
The Biden Administration released a factsheet on new federal policies aimed at cracking down on junk health insurance, predatory health care debt credit cards and surprise billing from health care providers." On the other hand, here comes Big Pharma -- “PhRMA, the National Infusion Center Association and the Global Colon Cancer Association have filed a lawsuit in federal court over what they call the price setting provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act.”
From Politico: “Pharmaceutical giant Merck sued the federal government on Tuesday to block Medicare drug price negotiations, calling the program unconstitutional.”
ISSUE UPDATE: HOUSING
A surge in evictions in some cities and states is returning rates to pre-pandemic levels and highlighting how renters of color and renters with children are facing the brunt of America’s housing crisis.
“A dozen national real estate groups have joined the fray in New York landlords' legal fight against the state's 2019 rent stabilization laws, filing briefs asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the landmark legislation. If the groups are successful with the Supreme Court and its 6-3 conservative majority, the case could torpedo rent stabilization laws across the U.S, experts told Bisnow.”
From Vox: “One of the most staggering [survey] findings, even to experts on homelessness, was just how little notice most people said they had before they lost their housing, and precisely how low their incomes were at that point. In the six months prior to their homelessness, the median monthly household income of respondents was just $960. Leaseholders — meaning those who had a rental lease or a mortgage — reported a median of just 10 days notice that they were going to lose their housing. Non-leaseholders — referring to those living with family or friends — reported a median notice of just one day.
Most respondents said they believed a monthly rental subsidy of $300 to $500 would have prevented their homelessness for a sustained period, or a one-time payment of $5,000 to $10,000. Nine in 10 respondents believed a housing voucher would also have staved off their slide into homelessness.”
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