NUCU_logo_new.pngLots of news from Maryland, other states and the Feds this week. Maryland's in the national news because some of the Assembly's work,  along with collaboration from the Governor's office, is providing models for other states. Even so, some of our state-level advocates are grumbling that the Assembly could have done a lot more. In the other states, we can see soime models growing there, too -- some progressive, some not so. And a flurry of international news over the weekend is deftly analyzed by People's Action's Megan E, who shows how the brakes can be put on dangerous conflict when legislators actually do their job instead of threatening those of others. It's all News You Can Use, sometimes abbreviated as NUCU



The General Assembly has finished its work. How did they do? Here’s an assessment from our allies at the Maryland Legislative Coalition.

Penalties for Election Worker Interference, Threats are Enhanced: Gov. Wes Moore (D) has signed legislation creating stiffer penalties for threatening an election worker ahead of the May 14 primary. Oral, written or emailed threats will be punishable by up to three years in prison and fines of up to $2,500. (WYPR) via Pluribus

Baltimore Port Closure Affects Small, Large Businesses The March 26 collapse of the Key Bridge left six dead and left much of Baltimore’s port blocked for imports and exports. Some 51,000 people rely on the port, either directly or indirectly, for their jobs. Because of this threat to the economy, Governor Wes Moore has approved $60 million in temporary assistance to workers and businesses. Capital News Service


Maryland Creates a Model for Data Privacy -- Comprehensive data privacy legislation Maryland lawmakers approved in the final days of the session could serve as a model for other states seeking a more consumer-protective alternative to privacy laws already enacted in more than a dozen states. Consumer advocates are celebrating what they describe as a major win. But business interests say it will disrupt a regulatory equilibrium that has developed over the past three years in the states. The Maryland legislation goes further than other states by restricting the data that companies can collect from consumers to “what is reasonably necessary and proportionate” to provide the service the consumer is requesting. In the case of sensitive personal data, the standard is “strictly necessary.” (From Pluribus/The Hill’s Tech Friday; the rest is paywalled) We presume the lawyers are already circling…


States, White House Gear Up To Bring Prescription Costs Down

Maryland’s prescription drug affordability board will evaluate eight drugs for potential cost reduction. The federal government could help move the process along, one expert says. Route Fifty

 And More About Maryland’s Affordability Board: Drug Affordability Board Nears Naming 8 Price-Capped Drugs: Maryland’s Prescription Drug Affordability Board is moving closer to putting price caps on as many as eight drugs. The board selected a handful of drugs it thinks fit the criteria of being cost prohibitive to Marylanders who are on state-run health insurance plans. Those include the diabetes and weight loss medication Ozempic, ADHD drug Vyvance and Dupixent, a medication that’s used to treat asthma. WYPR-FM


 State Inmates Could Soon Get College Classes: People incarcerated in Maryland could soon begin to receive higher education instruction from the state’s university system. The state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services announced a memorandum of understand last week with the University System of Maryland to offer courses and classes for incarcerated individuals to receive a bachelor’s degree and credit-based certificates. Maryland Matters


Enviro-Advocates Lukewarm On General Assembly Results: For advocates and environmentalists, the General Assembly session was at best mediocre for the state’s lofty climate aspirations. Some fear late backroom interventions and compromises could upend the state’s ability to meet its statutory emissions-reduction and clean-energy targets. Baltimore Banner (paywalled)




Bike lane backoff is catching

 D.C. Nixes Plan For Connecticut Avenue Bike Lane : A controversial plan to bring a bike lane to the busy Connecticut Avenue corridor in Northwest Washington has been abandoned, a District official said Thursday. In 2021, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced plans for a 2.7-mile bike lane that would run from Calvert Street NW in Woodley Park to Legation Street NW in Chevy Chase. The plan — intended to boost bike safety at the expense of vehicle lanes and parking — was estimated to cost $7.7 million, would have eliminated more than 300 parking spaces and cut lane capacity for vehicles in half. The plan quickly divided bicycling advocates, who pushed for creating the bike route, and business owners, who claimed the lane would impact their customers. WaPo

And In Houston: Bike lanes and pedestrian improvements might be popping up in cities across the country, but in Houston, they could be on their way out. Pedestrian and cyclist advocates in the country’s fourth-largest city are worried that Houston’s new mayor, 74-year-old John Whitmire, is set to reverse course from his predecessor on transportation policy. Since taking office in January, Whitmire ordered the removal of medians that served as pedestrian islands along one major thoroughfare. He halted construction and planning on other bike- and pedestrian-friendly improvements throughout the city. He saw two top city transportation officials leave, and called cyclist and pedestrian advocates “anti-car activists.” Route Fifty


Look Out Librarians: Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) has signed legislation subjecting libraries to lawsuits if minors are allowed to access harmful material. Parents will be allowed to ask libraries or schools to relocate materials deemed harmful within 60 days, subject to a $2,500 fine if the libraries do not comply. (Idaho Reports) [via Pluribus, which on the following day corrected an error – the fine was $250 not $2,500]


High Speed Police Chases Back in Vogue? Restricting police chases was one of the remedies to bad law enforcement outcomes. “Now, state legislators and some local and state agencies are turning back the dial, moving to relax the rules on high-speed vehicular pursuits largely because of concerns about crime. A handful of jurisdictions have rolled back restrictions over the past year, including Florida, the District of Columbia, San Francisco and Washington state. Route Fifty/Stateline

CRIME: Homicides in American cities are dropping at the fastest pace in decades. Homicides in 133 cities are down about 20% over the first quarter of the year compared with 2023. (Wall Street Journal (paywalled), via Pluribus

 Tax Man In Pursuit Next Door: Gov. Jim Justice (R) says his family will pay millions in unpaid taxes on his Greenbrier Resort properties, including $3.5 million in state sales taxes and $2.5 million in local taxes. (WVNews) Justice, West Virginia’s richest man, has a long history of conflicts with tax authorities both in his home state and in Kentucky. (Pluribus). NUCU notes Justice is running for the open Senate seat being vacated by Sen Joe Manchin.

 Nebraska’s Returning Citizens Get the Vote: The Nebraska legislature approved a bill Thursday to restore voting rights to those convicted of felonies upon completion of their sentences. About half the states allow former felons to regain their right to vote. (Associated Press) via Pluribus



Insight from Megan E, federal affairs director at our national affiliate, People’s Action


Over the weekend, Iran fired drones and missiles at Israel in retaliation against Israel 's attack in Syria that killed several of Iran’s senior military leaders in Syria. Iran issued a warning before the attack giving Israel and time to defend against it. Little damage was caused by the attack as Iran seemed to be sending a message that it would directly attack Israel when provoked. Biden told Netanyahu that the U.S. will not support a counterattack on Iran.

Speaker Mike Johnson has promised to pass aid funding to Israel. The House could take up the Senate-passed bill which contains $14.1 billion in military aid to Israel, including $10 billion for offensive weapons as well as funding for Ukraine and Taiwan and send it to the President’s desk. But Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has threatened to call a vote to strip Johnson of his Speakership if he passes Ukraine aid. Other packages are being floated such as a loan to Ukraine or a smaller package with border security funding attached. If the House passes anything different from the Senate package, there will be an opportunity to pressure Majority Leader Schumer and Senate Democrats to oppose Israel funding or add conditions to it. The last package only lost three Democratic Senators - Sanders, Welch & Merkley.

Last week, Senators Sanders, Van Hollen & Merkley led a letter to President Biden signed by Van Hollen, cosigned by Senators Welch, Warren, Lujan, Hirono and Smith that argues that “by continuing to arm Israel, Mr. Biden was violating the Foreign Assistance Act, which bars military support from going to any nation that restricts the delivery of humanitarian aid.”  Fifty House members including Nancy Pelosi sent an earlier letter to the President urging him to stop weapons transfers pending an investigation into the killing of Central Kitchen workers and until Israel stops blocking humanitarian assistance into Gaza. These numbers are not yet enough to block the passage of military funding to Israel.

Also last week, the Biden Administration finalized a rule to close the gun show loophole and expand background checks for firearms.


Biden also announced a new student loan debt relief effort that would “reduce the amount that 25 million borrowers still owe on their undergraduate and graduate loans. It would wipe away the entire amount for more than four million Americans. Altogether, White House officials said, 10 million borrowers would see debt relief of $5,000 or more.” People should go to the website for more information. I’m told that the SAVE plan is good and being underutilized.


HEALTHCARE: WHAT'S HAPPENING: NEW RESOURCES Join us for a virtual workshop Dollars & Sense: Navigating the Federal Budget to Advance Policy Goals on April 23, 2024, at 1:00 - 3:00 PM ET! The Federal budget may feel far away and hard to make sense of but is a critical opportunity to engage on key issues like the Child Tax Credit, Childcare, Paid Leave, Healthcare, Housing, Weatherization, and more! Hosted by Community Change and Workshop, and cosponsored by People’s Action Institute and the Roosevelt Institute this session will delve into the art of the federal budget process and how advocates can engage in a strategic way to deliver concrete local, state, and federal wins. You will gain a comprehensive understanding of when and how things happen, discover opportunities for advocates to make impactful requests, and learn how requests can evolve into policy and policy can evolve into tangible benefits, even if they don’t make it into the final budget. REGISTER THROUGH THIS LINK



Utilities Can Meet Growing Power Demand Without Fossil Fuels

Several of America's utilities are warning that red lights are flashing across America's power grids. But, as Sonia Aggrawal writes in Newsweek, “It's simply no longer true that we need fossil fuels to meet growing energy demand. Clean-energy technologies that are as effective and cheaper than fossil fuel-burning facilities are already available. Defaulting to gas or coal is outdated and ignores affordable solutions like increasing efficiency, renewable energy sources like solar or wind, and batteries.”

Glossary of Inflation Reduction Act technical terms.


UPDATE: HEALTHCARE “Crisis”: Half of Rural Hospitals Are Operating at a Loss, Hundreds Could Close

A new report paints a grim picture for small-town health care—especially in states that have not expanded Medicaid. "Medicare Advantage net reimbursement right now is terrible for hospitals — our clients average about 85 cents on the dollar, and it's only getting worse,” said one hospital official. "MA is a race to the bottom and I would argue that we've hit that bottom. Payers are going to struggle with this too, but no one wants to be the first to blink."  Medicare Advantage denials increased almost 56% for the average hospital from January 2022 to July 2023, according to data from a joint American Hospital Association and Syntellis report. The denials and inconsistent reimbursement led to a 28% drop in hospital cash reserves.

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...