News_You_Can_Use_graphic_(2).pngThe greater news sphere is full of "should he or shouldn't he" after last Thursday's presidential debate, but the news here in our sphere is that Gov. Wes Moore has firmly removed his name from The List. Closer to home, we find out (maybe) why our power bills have gone up faster than Glorious Fourth rockets; we have new Maryland laws kicking in today (July 1) and the news about cleaning up the Bay is no better. Out among the other 49 states, Florida Gov. DeSantis (remember him?) line-vetoed a $multimillion arts support bill because somebody, somewhere, might make nasty on taxpayer money. And more areas of amusement, all in News You Can Use.



Report Blames Utility Infrastructure Costs for Spike in Maryland Consumers’ Monthly Gas, Electric Bills The state’s Office of People’s Counsel’s report says much of the rise in energy prices is not from rising fuel costs, but from the construction of delivery infrastructure. What’s driving the high distribution costs, the OPC concludes, is increased spending by gas and electric companies on repairing, modernizing and replacing utility infrastructure across the state — particularly natural gas infrastructure that could tether consumers to gas energy even at a time when the state is trying to move away from fossil fuels. The report’s bottom line: “Customers of most of Maryland’s largest utilities are facing staggering levels of cost increases for the delivery of their electricity and gas,” said the OPC, which represents the interests of Maryland utility customers in state and federal regulatory proceedings. The report, released last Tuesday, focuses on what the state’s monopoly gas and electric utilities have been charging their customers for distributing energy since 2010 and found that distribution costs represent about half of an average customer’s utility bill — paying the energy supplier is the other half. Maryland Matters


Moore, Fellow Governors Seek More Say Over Grid Planning Process -- Push comes as demands increase for reliable, cleaner electricity supplies. As states scramble to find reliable sources of electric power amid ever-growing demand for energy, Gov. Wes Moore and three fellow Democratic governors are seeking more say in the regional electric grid operator’s future planning. Moore, along with New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Illinois governors, has written to PJM Interconnection, the grid operator for 13 states and the District of Columbia, seeking a “robust” planning process, that includes the states, for using more carbon-free electricity. The governors wrote that “close coordination” is necessary between PJM and the states to achieve “a collective vision.” “Transmission planning is essential to delivering economic growth, electric grid reliability, and cost savings for consumers,” the governors said in their letter earlier this month. Maryland Matters, republished in Route Fifty


Moore Says No To 2024 Presidential Run; Staunchly Defends Biden: Gov. Wes Moore said Sunday that he will not seek the Democratic nomination for president this year and he does not foresee President Biden leaving the race, making clear that the president is staying the course despite the bruising debate performance that sparked concern among some members of the party last week.  CBS News. Via Maryland Reporter


More Than 400 New Laws Take Effect Today: Inmates might get a break, magic mushrooms might get a fair shake, more data centers could be coming here and door-to-door deliveries could include beer. And while vending-machine contraceptives could soon be coming to a community college campus near you, a sharply higher vehicle registration bill will almost certainly be arriving in the mailbox. Those are just some of the more than 400 new laws set to take effect today, among more than 1,000 signed into law this year. Maryland Matters. Via Maryland Reporter


Marylanders Lose Enthusiasm for Legal Cannabis: A year after its legalization, many Maryland residents are less rosy in their outlook of cannabis use. Two-thirds of state voters approved recreational cannabis in 2022, with the understanding that, in addition to creating a new revenue stream, it would help correct social equity imbalances that led Black people in particular to be disproportionately punished for marijuana use. But a recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found that Maryland voters’ feelings have become cooled since then, with only about a third of voters now saying legalization has been a good thing. Health risks, including from high-concentration products, and the potential for driving under the influence are concerns. Baltimore Sun. via Maryland Reporter

Taxes On Cannabis Grew Slightly, Fluctuated Regionally : Cannabis taxes paid to the state for the first three months of 2024 grew by less than 1% even as collections fluctuated sharply on a regional basis. Maryland collected nearly $14.7 million in taxes on sales of recreational cannabis in the first quarter of this year, an increase of less than 0.7% compared to the fourth quarter of 2023, according to the Office of the Comptroller. Maryland Matters. Via Maryland Reporter


Ag Runoff, Climate Change Continue To Impede Bay Cleanup: Agriculture and stormwater runoff from developed land — key reasons the Chesapeake Bay is not on target to meet 2025 cleanup goals — will continue to limit pollution reduction efforts until federal and state agencies come up with new approaches to tackle these longstanding problems. That’s according to a recently published paper in the Environmental Law Reporter, which also warns that climate change makes cleanup efforts harder as increased rainfall and floods overwhelm stormwater systems and supercharge runoff pollution. Inside Climate News via Baltimore Banner



Kinship care getting closer look: Maryland is one of several states moving their foster care programs toward kinship care, where children are placed with relatives or, in some cases, close family associates. Maryland’s embrace includes loosening regulations and training requirements, though. Maryland Matters


CULTURE: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has vetoed $32 million in arts funding included in the state budget, a blow to the more than 600 groups that stood to receive state grants. DeSantis said at a press conference last week that some of the money would have gone to create objectionable content. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel) via Pluribus

Law Seeks to Change Minnesotans' Relationship With Cars In The Wake Of A Climate Crisis: The Minnesota Department of Transportation leads effort to offer more choices so people drive less. A law hailed by climate change activists calls for major state highway projects in Minnesota to curb greenhouse gas emissions. And if they don’t, a road expansion, an interchange, an E-ZPass lane and other projects could be defunded or even abandoned. Star Tribune via Stateline




Survey Shows Consistent Concern About Bias:  A new Gallup poll finds high levels of Americans worrying about antisemitism and Islamophobia: Eighty-one percent say prejudice against Jews is a very or somewhat serious problem in the U.S., and 74 percent say so for prejudice against Muslims. Thirty-six percent of Jewish adults say they’ve frequently or occasionally been treated poorly for their religion in the past year, as do 21 percent of Mormons. Politico Playbook


Out of Pocket Home Coverage on Upswing: The price of homeowners insurance has been skyrocketing. The average U.S. homeowners insurance premium rose over 11% in 2023, more than three times the overall inflation rate. And as climate change leads to more costly hurricanes, fires and floods, prices are likely to rise further. It’s enough to make some people give up on insurance entirely. In fact, millions of American homeowners have done just that, going without insurance and saving up to pay the full costs of any disaster that may befall their home. To the risk-averse among us, it may sound terrifying. But one expert says so-called “self-insurance” can be a sound strategy for some homeowners. And it’s likely to become even more common. The Conversation


SCOTUS Gives Social Media Companies Room to Moderate Content: — On the last day of its term, and in a closely watched pair of cases over Florida’s and Texas’ attempts to block social media platforms from moderating content online, the justices returned the lawsuits to lower courts, per Josh and Rebecca Kern. Justice ELENA KAGAN made the crucial finding for a 6-3 majority that even Big Tech behemoths have First Amendment rights and the ability to conduct content moderation on their platforms — a loss for conservatives who’d claimed censorship — though the opinion did not preclude the outcome that parts of the state laws could be upheld. Politico Playbook


A Swing Constituency Could Help Allow More Homes: A housing shortage estimated at 4 million to 7 million homes is driving up rents, prices, and homelessness nationwide, spurring cities, towns, and increasingly states to consider passing laws to allow more housing. Many of these efforts are gaining broad acceptance, but others face more resistance. Why? A survey conducted for The Pew Charitable Trusts provides some insights. A sizeable group supports allowing more apartments in commercial or transit areas but only small changes—such as accessory dwelling units—in single-family areas rather than allowing several homes on each lot. The survey results help to illuminate which changes allowing more homes are more popular with this swing group of respondents than others. Stateline Daily


And a couple of “by the numbers entries… a Pluribus specialty


48 percent. That’s the share of online influencers who made less than $15,000 last year. Although some have struck wealth by promoting products online, the vast majority of influencers in the US make less than the average median wage from their online activities, with only 13% making more than $100,000. With the number of creator-earners expected to rise rapidly for several years, many are seeing their revenue per views plummet. Others, meanwhile, say the impending ban or sale of TikTok could further jeopardize their shrinking earnings. “To lose TikTok would be kind of devastating,” an influencer told The Wall Street Journal. paywalled.


9,700: The number of Americans treated in emergency rooms for fireworks incidents across the nation in 2023, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Two-thirds of those injuries happened in the weeks surrounding July 4. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)


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...