News you can use.
We start with the MARYLAND GENERAL ASSEMBLY -- because they are almost finished -- Session enters frenetic stretch BUT it ain’t over till it’s over on Sine Die, which is a week from today. Some big bills with veto potential were sent to the Guv in time last Friday. Here are Nuts and bolts from the Maryland Legislative Coalition for the final stretch week.
Down in DC, the national budget dropped $5.8 trillion and includes a wide range of pro-family, pro-worker provisions that will have to be defended in Congress. By us.
Read all about it here.
We start with the MARYLAND GENERAL ASSEMBLY -- because they are almost finished -- Session enters frenetic stretch but it ain’t over till it’s over on Sine Die, which is a week from today.
Nuts and bolts from the Maryland Legislative Coalition. for the final week.
From The Sun’s Sunday account by Bryn Stole:
“Legislation to expand access to abortions in Maryland by allowing medical professionals beyond only physicians to perform them; requiring most health insurance plans to cover abortions at no charge to patients; and spending $3.5 million per year training medical professionals to provide abortions. Hogan is opposed to abortion but has largely called it legally “settled law” in Maryland and hasn’t pushed efforts to restrict it.
“A sweeping climate change package that aims to make Maryland carbon neutral by 2045. Hogan has hinted at a potential veto, suggesting some of the bill’s measures would be too costly and prove a drag on the state’s economy. (also coverage from DCist,
“Several pieces of legislation that aim to change how Maryland’s criminal justice system treats children and teenagers accused of crimes by changing sentencing rules, limiting how often children are detained and making sure parents and a lawyer are notified before juveniles are interrogated by police.
“A bill to create a statewide paid medical and family leave insurance program that would cover nearly every worker in the state. The program would give workers up to 12 weeks — or, in some limited cases, as much as 24 weeks — to welcome a newborn, care for ailing relatives or deal with health issues themselves once benefits start being paid in 2025. The benefits would be funded by mandatory contributions from workers and most employers, although the payroll tax rate would be determined later. Hogan signed off on providing similar benefits to government employees — but he, like many other Republicans, has criticized the statewide proposal as too costly for workers and businesses. And many business groups oppose the legislation. [Progressive Maryland and allies backed this one with testimony in February ]
“In each case, Democrats appear to have enough votes to override a potential Hogan veto. But legislative politics can be full of surprises and the veto math assumes few lawmakers have belated second thoughts about their support.
“ ‘I feel very confident on all,’ said Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, when asked Friday afternoon if he could muster the override votes on all the bills sent to Hogan. “You never know — it’s the last 10 days of a General Assembly session before an election — but I feel very confident.”
The hot veto-bait potatoes that are being tossed back and forth – Time to Care Act and the climate bill – overshadow the slow roll of agreement, as Hogan and the Assembly sealed a supplemental budget that adds nearly a billion bucks to the Blueprint for school improvement and much more for other areas plus crowd-pleasing tax relief. The overall budget, fattened by federal COVID relief, tops out at $61 billion.
The line-by-line account of the supplemental budget is of course of deep interest to the county officials who watch the Maryland Association of Counties blog, Conduit Street, very carefully. Maybe activists would like that too…
The overall agreement included remedies for a prickly grievance of smaller counties left over from the bad days of the Great Recession – road repair shortfalls.
The Assembly has also moved to remedy the side effects of ending the state’s emergency measures, which included some eviction protection. The House passed and sent to Hogan a measure to aid those who have applied for renter aid but are still waiting for a slow-moving state apparatus to deliver.
The new-ish online Baltimore Banner has more: By Hallie Miller: “Only about 40% of the $753 million earmarked to help Maryland renters who got sick and lost jobs and income over the past two years has been committed, according to the latest state data. Changing federal requirements, paperwork problems and COVID-19 staffing challenges have delayed progress.
County agencies are prioritizing applicants with scheduled eviction hearings, and state lawmakers are pushing for legislation that could give renters more time. But with demand so acute and need so high, some tenants — and the activists, attorneys and lawmakers who represent them — fear the money may come too late for the most vulnerable. … Across the state, at least 77,000 applications for emergency rental assistance have been submitted, [but]] the state has assisted close to 45,000 households, data shows. [ published April 1]
[Keeping people in their homes has been an issue since last September at least, as we at the PM BlogSpace noted then – lots of available tools and resources but clumsy execution at the state and national levels.
AND THE FEDS THIS WEEK: BUDGET TIME THERE TOO
Big budget, more for everything including a lot we care about: “The President released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 last week. From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “The $5.8 trillion proposal includes a 4 percent increase in defense funding and a 14 percent increase in non-defense discretionary funding. Overall, the budget would shrink projected deficits by more than a trillion dollars over the coming decade. The budget increases funding in critical areas that would broaden opportunity and reduce inequality, including doubling the maximum award for Pell Grants and the funding for K-12 schools serving low-income students and creating an additional 200,000 Housing Choice Vouchers. The budget would take several steps to strengthen and expand mental health and substance use disorder services in Medicaid, Medicare, and the Veterans Affairs health system and expand the health care provider workforce.” The release of the budget kicks off Congress's budget and appropriations process.”
COVID – is the GOP really going to let us run out of meds and jabs as Omicron variant heads this way from the UK? “A bipartisan group of Senators “are looking to close a deal this coming week to reappropriate roughly $10 billion to pay for Covid-19 treatments and vaccines, with lawmakers saying they need to act quickly ahead of a possible resurgence of the pandemic.” Looks like a pretty self-serving move, though; they will be skipping out on providing our share of vaccines for other, poorer nations.
Other health care moves: “The [US] House voted Thursday in favor of a bill to cap out-of-pocket costs on insulin at $35 a month. The bill has been criticized for not covering the uninsured and not holding PhRMA accountable. Still, “nearly all House Democrats and a dozen Republicans voted for the measure Thursday. Yet it faces slim odds in the Senate…”
And finally -- the ultimate workers' David and Goliath story: Amazon workers make history
In a tremendous upset, the Amazon Labor Union made history on Friday when it won the election at Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse, 2,654 to 2,131, making it the first-ever union at Amazon. Bernie Sanders called the win “a shot in the arm for this country's labor movement,” while AFL-CIO president Liz Shuler said it “proves when working people unite in the fight for justice, anything is possible.” ALU president Chris Smalls demanded that Amazon “cease/desist any changes to work policies” and begin contract bargaining immediately. Read more here. Christian Smalls, the union's president, personally thanked Amazon megabillions founder Jeff Bezos for spending his time on space tourism while workers were busy building union power on Staten Island.