NUCU_logo_new.pngWe hope you had a restful, productive holiday. We did. Now we are back with news of the Maryland General Assembly session, where opinions about what ought to happen there are emerging. Several states, including our neighbors in Pennsylvania, are starting their sessions today, but Maryland more calmly will see the gavel fall on the 2024 madness Wednesday, January 10. That gives everyone two full working days to find Annapolis and the State House. Lots happening in other states too, as we outline for you -- plus Congress will be in session next week with an almost impossible agenda. It's all News You Can Use.

MARYLAND

Affordable Housing A Priority On Moore's Legislative Agenda: About a quarter of the bills that Gov. Wes Moore plans to introduce next year relate to one topic: housing. The first-term Democratic executive’s emphasis on “making housing more affordable,” as he said this month when previewing his legislative initiatives, mirrors one of the top listed priorities of the Maryland Association of Counties in the year ahead. Hagerstown Herald Mail./Md reporter

 

What It Will Take To Create Maryland's Education Miracle: Interim Maryland School Superintendent Carey Wright’s task will be to replicate a version of what she executed in her last stop, in Mississippi, where rapid improvement came only after policymakers there fundamentally shifted the state’s approach to instruction and accountability, with a particular focus on reading. Teachers and administrators were provided with special, evidence-based training; literacy coaches were dispatched to schools that struggled with the subject; and in many instances, kids who couldn’t pass a reading test at the end of the third grade had to repeat the year in school. Maryland Matters – opinion.

 

PSC Criticized For Giving BGE Rate Hikes, Aggressive Spending: In the end, Baltimore Gas and Electric got most of what it wanted from state regulators. Even though its original, three-year rate request was trimmed back, the company’s enormous spending on future gas infrastructure was left largely untouched by the Maryland Public Service Commission – a decision that critics say will lead to decades of steeply rising rates that will hit low-income families and renters hardest. Baltimore Brew. Note: activists in DC are fighting the same proposal (from the same conglomerate owner, Exelon) for excessive spending on gas line upgrades, which ratepayers will still be paying off even as they switch away from gas to electric. It's a way of making the switch harder and hanging on to the gas business despite climate change..

School Systems To Receive More Time to Develop Next Blueprint Plan Submissions Maryland public school officials will receive more time to submit a second set of Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education reform documents, and it will be done in two phases. The original date to submit responses by March 15 remains, but local school officials will only have to answer questions and prompts on one page labeled “Systemwide Blueprint Implementation.” Officials in all 24 school systems can turn in the remaining documents by May 1, answering 23 questions and prompts in the Blueprint Implementation Plan Development Guide created by staff with the Maryland State Department of Education and the Blueprint Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB). Maryland Matters

Maryland Among National Leaders in Smoothing Transition from Community College to Four-year Institutions, Supporting transfer students: Community colleges and four-year universities can do more to work together to improve the transfer student experience, a new report from the U.S. Department of Education suggests. The department released data about the institutions where transfer students have the highest graduation rates in each state, with New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Maryland and Virginia doing the best. In Maryland, the community college with the highest transfer-out rate for Title IV students is Montgomery College, at 43%. The University of Maryland College Park has the highest rate of bachelor’s degree completion among community college transfer students, with 76% earning a degree within eight years. Maryland Matters

By The Numbers: $460 million: The amount Maryland has saved in health care costs after expanding Medicaid, both before and under the Affordable Care Act. In the last 15 years, Maryland’s uninsured rate has dropped from 13% to 6%. (WYPR) (noted by Pluribus News)

Lawmakers Target Tweaks To Juvenile Justice Reform Laws: Some lawmakers, state’s attorneys and law enforcement officials want tweaks made to the new juvenile justice law when the next legislative session begins Jan. 10. Among the proposals are changes to the Child Interrogation Protection Act that went into effect Oct. 1, 2022. Maryland Matters.

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.

AROUND THE STATES

From the Economic Policy Institute, excerpts from their broader article on the minimum wage:

“In January, the minimum wages in Maryland, New Jersey, and upstate New York will reach or exceed $15 an hour for the first time, joining California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington, and the rest of New York as states at or above $15 an hour.” Delaware and Virginia, the article notes, are among states “that have passed legislation or ballot measures to reach or surpass $15 an hour in the coming years.” All together, 22 states will see some statutory increase in the minimum wage in 2024. “West Virginia…  last increased its minimum wage to $8.75 in 2015” and 20 states still use the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

POLITICO Playbook: MEGATREND: After Rise in Murders During the Pandemic, a Sharp Decline in 2023 by NYT’s Tim Arango and Campbell Robertson: “As 2023 comes to a close, the country is likely to see one of the largest — if not the largest — yearly declines in homicides, according to recent F.B.I. data and statistics collected by independent criminologists and researchers. The rapid decline in homicides isn’t the only story. Among nine violent and property crime categories tracked by the F.B.I., the only figure that is up over the first three quarters of this year is motor vehicle theft.”

12/29 “Numbers” from Pluribus News:

By the Numbers: 6.61%: The average rate of a 30-year mortgage, the lowest level since May and the ninth straight week mortgage rates have declined. The higher rates have slowed sales of existing homes by 19.3% over the first 11 months of the year. (Associated Press) via Pluribus

 

Drugmakers are slow-walking products to market to get around provisions of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act aimed at lowering prices Medicare pays for medication. Bloomberg

 

Must Be The Water: You know what’s worse than a lump of coal in your stocking? Sewage teeming with COVID-19, just in time for the holidays! Wastewater testing sites across the country have reported increasing levels of the virus, with “very high” viral activity in at least a dozen states. Which is, apparently, an expected part of our post-pandemic reality, per VT Digger. Passed along by News From The States/States Newsroom.

Mental Health Funding Is Fast Becoming “The Bipartisan Issue of Our Time” States are starting to recognize that mental health care can help to reduce the homeless population. States from California to Texas are increasingly investing in mental health as a recognition takes hold that the status quo isn’t working. It’s widely acknowledged that there’s a desperate need for improved and expanded mental health services across the country—so much so that this is one of the few issues that appears to be gaining traction in both red and blue states. Significant investments have been made in recent months in bright red Montana and Texas and in deep blue California and New York. “We’re seeing record breaking investments across multiple states. Mental health is the bipartisan issue of our time,” says Stephanie Pasternak, the director of state affairs at the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “We review mental health legislation each year and the majority of them are bipartisan.” Route Fifty

5 Southern States Had Most Of The Nation’s Population Growth

Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina added almost 1.2 million people among them this year. Stateline Daily

 

THE FEDS (GROAN)

 

Megan E of People’s Action sends this quick roundup (along with her New Year’s greeting) as Congress won’t return till next week:

 

Congress did not reach a deal on the trade for Ukraine funding in exchange for harmful changes to immigration law over the break. The reporting today indicates that after immigrant rights groups and progressives put pressure on the White House over the deal, the White House is saying that restricting the executive’s parole authority that allows the U.S. admit classes of migrants into the U.S. on an emergency basis is off the table. Changing the parole program is a top priority for House Republicans meaning that the parties are still far away from a deal. However, the White House already caved on making harmful changes to the asylum program and expanding expedited removal in the interior, which means rapidly deporting people throughout the country with less due process. Both would be harmful changes and exchanging them for 6 months of military funding would set a terrible precedent. It’s still worth waying in with your Members of Congress in opposition to these changes. Here is our toolkit

 

Aid to Israel is also tied up with Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY) refusing to pass it without aid to Ukraine and Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) demanding cuts to IRS funding (pegged to go after rich tax cheats) to offset the funding to Israel. 

 

Last year, Congress pushed the federal government funding deadline to 2024 and created two deadlines. Some federal agencies face a funding expiration of January 19th and the rest of the agencies are funded through February 2nd. That gives two opportunities to attach harmful immigration and other policy changes into the must-pass legislation.  


Congress returns to Washington next week giving them two weeks to reach a deal by the first deadline.

woody woodruff

About

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...