News you can Use -- schools, inflation, environment and more

not_bluffing.jpgNews you can use.

  • Gas tax holiday sought to reduce bite of pump prices, which survey shows would reduce driving across nation;
  • police records still hard to get despite new transparency law;
  • climate bill struggles but gets passed while Hogan agencies found slack on pollution enforcement;
  • bills tackle auto insurance costs and bad roads;
  • housing is unaffordable but evictions are down;
  • reproductive health in two versions;
  • Maryland schools improvement program delayed/community schools

– all Maryland news that affects you and your family, plus what's going on in D.C.

Read on...

News you can use.

  • Gas tax holiday sought to reduce bite of pump prices, which survey shows would reduce driving across nation;
  • police records still hard to get despite new transparency law;
  • climate bill struggles but gets passed while Hogan agencies found slack on pollution enforcement;
  • bills tackle auto insurance costs and bad roads;
  • housing is unaffordable but evictions are down;
  • reproductive health in two versions;
  • Maryland schools improvement program delayed/community schools

– all Maryland news that affects you and your family, plus what's going on in D.C.

The bite of inflation

Yes it’s a real thing. [from the WaPo] State revenue estimate boost brings very bipartisan move for gas tax holiday in Maryland.

[from StreetsBlog] Higher gas prices: more drain on your wallet or more time at home?

In a new AAA survey released on Thursday, a staggering 59 percent of motorists said they would “make changes to their driving habits or lifestyle if the cost of gas rose to $4 per gallon” — a benchmark that has already been smashed in the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine. A further 80 percent of respondents said they’d drive less if fuel costs reached an average of $5 per gallon in their area, which it already has in California, and which experts expect will happen nationwide soon. Streetsblog story here.

 

Police Records Still Elusive, Expensive

Anton’s Law, in effect since Oct. 1, aimed to “open up information about police conduct, discipline, complaints and work history.

“While some Maryland law enforcement agencies are now providing, upon request, documents that Anton’s Law says are now public records, many departments are struggling to comply with the law. Advocates for police transparency, defense lawyers and journalists say their requests for documents and data have been met with a wide range of responses — and many have not even been acknowledged.” This report written for the Maryland/Delaware/DC Press Association takes a deep dive into compliance issues statewide.

 

Environment and climate – bills struggle, agencies found lax

[from Maryland Matters] SENATE PASSES SWEEPING CLIMATE CHANGE BILL: After four hours of debate and a series of failed attempts by Republicans to amend it, a sweeping climate change bill won preliminary approval in the Maryland Senate on Thursday. And Monday night it got passed... but not to everyone's satisfaction. The bill would set the state on track to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2045, partly by requiring large buildings to reduce their energy usage. But the chamber has abandoned environmentalists’ most aggressive proposal for reducing dependence on fossil fuels — one that would have outlawed fossil fuel-based heating systems in new buildings. That change came even though a state climate change commission, including three members of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s cabinet, overwhelmingly endorsed such a ban. /The Baltimore Sun.

[from Maryland Reporter] – Baltimore Brew March 9 reported “Water pollution enforcement took a nosedive under Hogan, study finds” -- and the pollution report has taken a Hogan minion’s scalp … A Senate committee grilled officials about poor staffing and enforcement that allowed sewer plants to continue polluting with “zombie permits” as this report from ShoreRivers outlines.

Housing and evictions

[from Maryland Matters] Realtors hear from customers about affordability but local governments in MD fret about tiny homes – “accessory units.” And Megan Essaheb at People’s Action passes along this jolter “The Wall Street Journal reported that “U.S. Housing Wealth Skewed Even More Toward Affluent Over Past Decade: From 2010 to 2020, about 71% of increase in housing wealth was gained by high-income households, says National Association of Realtors.” BUT she adds “  A new analysis by Princeton University’s Eviction Lab finds that millions of renters avoided the threat of eviction last year due to the federal government’s serious and unprecedented interventions, in significant part through the American Rescue Plan. The analysis also finds that low-income and majority-Black neighborhoods that typically see a disproportionate share of eviction cases experienced the largest absolute reduction in filings.”

More from Megan in the Fed section, below.

Auto insurance and credit scores clash

[from Maryland Matters] A measure intended to help consumers by prohibiting the use of credit history by auto insurance companies cleared the House of Delegates on Friday, but not before being significantly amended in committee after a fierce defense of the practice by insurance company lobbyists.

And fix the roads while you’re at it, hey?

[from Maryland Matters] A bipartisan coalition of local officials from every region of the state urged a House committee on Thursday to reverse steep recession-era (2009) cuts in road repair aid to the counties.

Education – delayed Blueprint, Community Schools and student numbers dwindle

Bill Would Push Back Blueprint Deadlines, AG Says Governor Was Required to Fund Adjustment

[from Maryland Matters] Following delays in rolling out the state’s sweeping education reform plan, known as the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, lawmakers are considering legislation that would push back key dates to give state and local officials more time to work on critical plans.

The multi-billion dollar Blueprint seeks to overhaul the state’s educational system over the next decade. The reform plan was delayed by a year after Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) vetoed the legislation in 2020, but the General Assembly overrode his veto last year. Without full staff and funding, a board appointed to execute the plan has struggled to meet its deadlines outlined in statute.

Last month, the AIB proposed a new timeline that accounts for its late start and gives the board, the Maryland State Department of Education and local school systems time this summer to develop implementation plans. House Bill 1450, heard in the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday, reflects the proposed time adjustments

As the Blueprint inches forward, many want to know more about Community Schools, an umbrella term for schools and communities that are and have been disadvantaged and will get extra resources in the Blueprint funding plan. Find out more about them in Jeff Bryant’s article in The Progressive, reposted by permission on the Progressive Maryland BlogSpace.

Meanwhile, a Capital News Service study finds state public schools, rocked by COVID and uncertain returns to in-school sessions, are losing students to home schooling and private schools.

And as schools find their way back to “normal,” what forms of classroom management and discipline will be needed – or tolerated?

Reproductive Health

[from The Sun] Legislation to expand access to abortions in Maryland and mandate that most health insurance plans cover the procedure cost-free for patients easily passed the House of Delegates on Friday, a step toward broadening access in Maryland even as the U.S. Supreme Court mulls allowing severe restrictions on abortion in other states.

Delegates also backed enshrining the right to abortion — as part of “the fundamental right to reproductive liberty” alongside contraception and prenatal care — in the state’s constitution, something that would require the approval of voters in November.


Many of the news articles featured in this roundup appear in the invaluable services Maryland Matters and Maryland Reporter; our readers can subscribe to them at those links.


News of the Feds Aaaand at the two ends of Pennsylvania Avenue – you know, downtown DC –

Megan Essaheb of People’s Action reports: “Congress finally passed a new government funding package [woo hoo no shutdown] after the federal government has been operating on the Trump budget for over a year. The package included $14 billion in aid to Ukraine. From Politico: “Leaders in both parties have declared the legislation a win” with Dems liking their 7 percent hike for non-defense and the GOP loving their 6 percent boost on defense. As you have heard, $15b for Covid relief was wrung out of the bill just as the new Omicron variant picks up steam, go figure.

The House will try to pass the Covid relief package this week reallocated from different accounts.