As the import of our loss of the Key bridge – compounded by the losses to families of the workers still awaiting recovery – sinks in, the General Assembly is hoping to bring the session to a close today, even though Gov. Moore has given them an extra ten-day extension if needed. There are certainly excellent bills still in danger of staying stuck in committee that would make all our lives better if they got to the governor’s desk. This Memo has today’s details on unfinished business, plus increasing curiosity about how such big ships made their way to the Port of Baltimore despite the known dangers. And we see, too, that other states are still finishing up legislative business as well, for better or worse. Finally, we feature a blog post by People’s Action’s leader, Sulma Arias, about why the costs of groceries didn’t come down when inflation abated. Maybe you were curious about that yourself. It’s all News You Can Use for this week, so read on.



Day 83, where are you? When were you? -- Session Extension Possible as Budget Disagreements Continue: The Maryland legislative session may not end Monday night as planned. After lawmakers failed to reach an agreement over the state budget, Gov. Wes Moore issued a proclamation Monday evening extending the legislative session for up to 10 days. The state constitution requires the procedural move when the General Assembly has not finalized the budget by the end of the 83rd day of the session, which was [last] Monday. WYPR-FM via Maryland Reporter

  • Maryland’s $63 billion spending plan for next year was tangled in intraparty gridlock in Annapolis until the weekend as Democrats in the House and Senate were in a standoff over whether to pass $1.2 billion in tax and fee increases. WaPo via Maryland Reporter


House, Senate Send $63BN Budget to Governor 

The House and Senate gave final approval to a $63 billion budget and companion budget reconciliation bill Friday, a move that sends both measures to Gov. Wes Moore (D). The votes wrapped up a week of back and forth between the two chambers but ended with Republican opposition to hundreds of millions in tax and fee increases. Votes in the House highlighted the politically tricky nature of some bills as more than a half-dozen lawmakers voted on the budget but missed another on legislation containing the revenue package. Maryland Matters



BILL PUTTING GUARDRAILS ON ELECTRICITY MARKETPLACE TEETERS: As state lawmakers move closer to passing new guardrails on the state’s retail electricity marketplace, an opposition army in the form of a dozen Constellation trucks arrived on Friday. The measure has broad support in the legislature, at least among the Democrats, and has passed both chambers. But it is teetering on the final day because the House and Senate bills are different and must be reconciled in the next several hours. Maryland Matters via Maryland Reporter.

Bill Aiming To Prevent Book Bans In Md. Passes: A bill that aims to counteract book banning and protect public and school librarians passed the Maryland General Assembly Thursday, marking a bold statement from lawmakers in the face of a growing culture of book challenges locally and across the country. The Freedom to Read Act, sponsored by Montgomery County's Sen. Nancy King (D-Dist. 39) in the Senate and by Anne Arundel County's Del. Dana Jones (D-Dist. 30A) in the House, also was supported by several major organizations. MoCo360 via Maryland Reporter

 Lawmakers Pass Bill To Make Mental Health Hotline Permanent: Maryland lawmakers passed a bill to permanently fund the 988 mental health hotline in the state with a fee on residents’ cell phones. The 25-cent-a-month fee on all registered mobile phones is expected to bring in more than $25 million a year to hire staff and improve the technology at call centers. WYPR-FM via Maryland Reporter

Vehicle Registration Hike Would Fund Transportation Projects, Education, Emergency Services: Passenger car owners in Maryland will see at least a $92 increase in the cost to register a vehicle as part of a package of fees meant to shore up the Transportation Trust Fund. The House and Senate are expected to vote as early as Friday on the package, which is part of a budget compromise between the two chambers on Thursday. That compromise will pump more than $2.1 billion over the next five years into road and transit projects, education and Shock Trauma and emergency services. Maryland Matters via Maryland Reporter

Green Groups Say Budget Amendment Guts Program To Curb Pollution In Buildings: As the General Assembly moves towards a final vote on the state budget Friday, environmentalists have become alarmed over a recently inserted amendment that they believe guts and delays an innovative program to curb pollution in buildings and help ratepayers reduce their utility bills. Maryland Matters via Maryland Reporter

About the Key Bridge – Workers Affected are Various, Some Behind the Wheel

Like thousands of workers who depend on the port, now closed to ship traffic, truckers have found themselves sidelined and facing uncertainty. Roughly 3,000 trucks a day come into the state-owned terminal alone. The drivers are counted among a daily workforce of 8,000 people, including terminal, rail and tugboat operators and pilots, who have been affected directly. Many of the truckers, who take jobs as they come up, negotiating rates for cargo as varied as diapers and tires, are independent contractors who fear they won’t be able to tap into unemployment or other help. Baltimore Sun

Why the Bigger Ships? Gov. Hogan Lobbied for Them

The Lever reported April 2: Last week, Maryland U.S. Senate candidate Larry Hogan said the federal government should pay for the bridge’s reconstruction — after the Republican had worked to lure outsized cargo ships to Baltimore’s port while serving as Maryland’s governor, despite safety warnings. More details come from Jacobin: his efforts as Maryland’s governor to attract such outsize cargo vessels to Baltimore’s port in the first place [came] despite safety warnings from an insurance giant and transportation experts. Regardless of those concerns, Hogan’s gubernatorial administration pledged that bringing ever-larger cargo ships to Baltimore would strengthen the economy — and even improve safety.

Dozens of Major Bridges Lack Shields to Buffer Against Wayward Ships

Barriers to protect structural elements of major bridges against impacts from mega-freighters are deteriorating or just missing, as with the Key bridge over Baltimore’s heavily trafficked Patapsco River. Bridges across the country carry similar deficiencies. At 309 major bridges on navigable waterways in the United States, inspections in recent years have found protection systems around bridge foundations that were deteriorating, potentially outdated or nonexistent, leaving the structures perilously exposed to ship strikes. NYT

 Poll: More Marylanders Worried About Cost of Housing

In a survey conducted before the Key Bridge collapse, Maryland voters overall grew more pessimistic about the state’s direction and cite rising concerns on crime and affordable housing. Maryland voters are increasingly concerned with the cost of housing, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll finds. Nearly 1 in 5 registered voters cite affordable housing as the state’s top problem, up from 13 percent in 2019 to 19 percent in March. Roughly 3 in 4 voters say Maryland housing is “extremely expensive” or “very expensive,” including most voters in every region of the state. In Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore region of the state, affordable housing outpaces crime as voters’ top worry. WaPo



Fossil Companies Must Pay Into Vermont Climate Mitigation Kitty: The Vermont Senate is expected to give final approval this week to a bill that will create a state program that fossil fuel companies must pay into for climate change adaptation projects across the state. Maryland, Massachusetts and New York are considering similar measures. (Associated Press) via Pluribus 4/2

Effort To Divert Maine Youth from Criminal Justice System Gains Support of Legislature The Maine Legislature has approved a bill meant to divert youth from the criminal legal system by strengthening access to behavioral health and other support services. The state Department of Health and Human Services first assesses juvenile offenders to determine the support services the juvenile may need. The bill also calls for prosecutors and law enforcement to screen young people who have gone through the needs assessment process for possible diversion programs that could help them avoid incarceration. Pluribus


Alabama Goes Full Force on Anti-Union Measure: Alabama’s Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee approved legislation to withhold economic incentives from companies that voluntarily recognize unions. The measure comes as workers at auto plants in Vance and Montgomery consider joining the UAW. ( via Pluribus We’ve seen similar bills pop up in Georgia and Tennessee this year, as organized labor tries to gain a foothold in the South.


Direct quote: “Get ready to hear my recipes, my movie synopses and on and on.” — Nebraska Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, threatening to filibuster legislation that would restrict transgender students’ access to bathrooms and sports teams that conform to their gender identity. (Associated Press) via Pluribus


Missouri Voters Asked to Vote Less Power for Themselves: Two bills seeking to make it more difficult to amend the state constitution through the initiative petition process advanced through the Missouri House. If either version is approved by both chambers, the question would go on the statewide ballot in either August or November, the Missouri Independent reports. 




 End Of Internet Subsidies for Low-Income Households Threatens Telehealth Access:   Telehealth enables preventative care and keeps people out of emergency rooms, so loss of the subsidy will have real impacts on health outcomes, experts warn. KFF Health  News via Route Fifty



Special Report from People’s Action – grocery prices are high because BIG grocery corporations want more money – that’s their game. When their costs went down, they kept prices high. Because they can.

And we ask:  Why Do My Groceries Cost So Much?

Giant corporations and billionaires want to keep their taxes low and the prices we pay high. That's why they want Trump back in office.

By Sulma Arias

In 2004, I was a single mom raising three daughters on my own. I worked three jobs, including an overnight shift as a translator at our local hospital, to make ends meet.  Every time I stood in line at the supermarket, I worried about what I would have to put back on the shelf to stay within our weekly budget of $100 for food.

My daughters are all grown now, yet whenever I’m buying groceries, I still get that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach as I remember not knowing if we would have enough to eat, and how much - or how little - I could provide for my family with $100.

Prices for all of us have gone way up since COVID, and $100 now buys about $65 worth of groceries, compared to five years ago. This puts a huge bite on working families, because we spend most of our income every month - as much as 90 percent - on food and other necessities. So when prices rise, we hurt the most.

Big corporations and their Republican allies tell us President Biden is to blame for rising costs, but there’s a big part of the story they don’t want you to know: it’s that these giant corporations are, themselves, largely responsible for higher prices.

According to a new report by the Federal Trade Commission, the largest grocery retailers - which include Walmart, Kroger and Amazon, which owns Whole Foods - used the pandemic as an excuse to raise prices across the board. The same is true for big agribusinesses like Tyson Foods and DuPont, which sell the lion’s share of meat products and seeds. These giant companies wrote themselves a blank check during COVID, which they now expect us to pay for.

What all of these corporations have in common is they always want to get bigger. Why? Because when consumers have fewer choices, corporations can force us to pay higher prices. This is especially true with food, which none of us can live without. And according to the FTC, a big reason for these higher prices is corporate greed.

Time and again, big companies tell us that if they could only get bigger, they will pass savings on to consumers. This is almost never true. Instead, they give money back to their investors and reward executives, like Walmart’s Doug McMillon, who takes home over $25 million a year, and Kroger’s Rodney McMullen, who makes more than $19 million. That’s 671 times more than the amount an average Kroger’s worker makes.

Corporate consolidation can have deadly consequences. In health care, which People’s Action tracks closely through our Care Over Cost campaign,  we see that the domination of private insurance by a handful of companies - Aetna, United Healthcare and Cigna - leads to bigger bills, worse health outcomes, and lost lives.

The profits of retailers and agribusinesses have risen to record levels, by as much as five times the rate of inflation. How do companies like Tyson Foods, Kroger and Walmart boost profits? The way they always do: by raising prices, while 65 percent of Americans still live paycheck to paycheck.

This is a problem for President Biden, who wants working-class voters to feel the benefits of his efforts to reduce inflation, and the steps he has taken to defend workers and create good jobs in local communities, with $2 trillion of investments in manufacturing, infrastructure, and green energy to revive the economy.

Yet for working families, as long as we feel inflation’s grip, it is hard to feel anything else. And while unemployment has fallen to record lows under President Biden, we can’t keep up with the higher prices these giant corporations force us to pay.

Biden’s opponents know this, and that’s why a campaign funded by conservative mega-donors like Charles Koch is putting flyers in supermarkets blaming Biden for increases in the price of eggs, milk and sugar. While they’re at it, they say Biden’s efforts to protect workers hurt small businesses and entrepreneurs.

What Koch and other ultra-rich conservatives don’t want you to know is that their own corporate greed is what’s really behind these higher prices.

Giant corporations want less competition and regulations so they can pay their workers less and raise their prices at will. And they want Trump, who cut their taxes by more than $2 trillion in 2017, back in office. They know Trump will rubber-stamp their mergers and acquisitions, which means more for them and less for us. This is why they are spending big to put Trump back in. Because if Trump wins, they get another big payday!

We appreciate the Biden administration’s efforts to block big mergers in food and agriculture, like Kroger’s recent bid to buy the Albertsons supermarket chain. Yet Biden must follow through on his promises to make life easier for everyday Americans, especially my daughters’ generation, who also face the crippling burden of student debt.

If Trump wins, we all lose. Because Trump and his allies bend over backwards to help the giant corporations who drive up what we pay at the supermarket, and everywhere else.

No American should ever have to work three or more jobs just to survive: not in 2004, 2024, or 2044. We want a world in which every one of us has what we need not only to live, but also to dream. So when we vote in November, we must remember what we’re really voting for: a healthy and hopeful future for ourselves and our families. And to achieve this, we need real partners in government who will organize with us to create a society and communities in which every one of us can thrive.

If we want a better future, we must build it with our votes.

Sulma Arias is executive director of People's Action, the national affiliate of Progressive Maryland.


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...