state_house_image_wikimedia_commons.jpgMaryland politics are, for a change, more exciting than those in Washington, D.C. That’s because the General Assembly has only a week to wrap a lot of business with fewer chances to kick the can down the road, compared to Congress, which would be equally exciting issues-wise if the very big stakes were not buried in the small-time, venal behavior of the near-deadlocked chambers.

New legislative districts for Maryland and overrides (maybe) of a lot of good bills vetoed by Larry Hogan after this spring’s session are on the table for this brief, intense week. Important measures to ease the lives of working people – better mass transit, more accountability for law enforcement, criminal justice and decarceration, collective bargaining, climate justice and a better response to COVID. 

And about the feds– While the MD General Assembly begins its sudden-death scuffle over redistricting and veto overrides today, the grind in DC goes on, with Build Back Better, the debt ceiling, voter rights and other critical needs holding one another hostage courtesy of rules that shouldn’t have survived the 19th Century. We’ll have a brisk summary from People’s Action in their every-Monday PA weekly forecast, plus what to do as activist individuals to make your collective voices heard. Find it all here, but don't miss the opportunities for activism in the Weekly Memo as well, coming to your inbox today.



 

Maryland politics are, for a change, more exciting than those in Washington, D.C. That’s because the General Assembly has only a week to wrap a lot of business with fewer chances to kick the can down the road, compared to Congress, which would be equally exciting issues-wise if the very big stakes were not buried in the small-time, venal behavior of the near-deadlocked chambers.

New legislative districts for Maryland and overrides (maybe) of a lot of good bills vetoed by Larry Hogan after this spring’s session are on the table for this brief, intense week. Get more below. But first, about the feds:

While the MD General Assembly begins its scuffle over redistricting and veto overrides today, the grind in DC goes on. Here is the quick picture from Megan Essaheb of People’s Action in the PA weekly forecast, plus what to do as activist individuals to make your collective voices heard:

FIRST, FROM THE FED PERSPECTIVE

Congress averted a government shutdown on Friday by passing a continuing resolution to fund the government at current funding levels. Continuing funding at current levels is not ideal since it is based on the budget of the last year of the Trump administration, but Democratic appropriators have been unable to reach a deal with Republicans on a larger package of funding bills often referred to as an “omnibus.” The funding will expire on February 18th when they hope to pass the full new package of funding bills.  

Before the end of the year, Congress must still address the expiration of the debt limit which could come as early as December 15th (the bipartisan policy center estimating between Dec. 21 and Jan. 28).  Trump is urging McConnell to block the debt ceiling increase in order to try to kill the Build Back Better Act (which will not work). If Republicans continue to hold out, Democrats can raise the debt ceiling  via budget reconciliation with Democrats only. Schumer has not wanted to do that since raising the debt ceiling has historically been bipartisan and will set a bad precedent. 

[Here is more from this Monday morning’s POLITICO Playbook: “House Democratic leaders have discussed adding a provision addressing the debt ceiling to the final National Defense Authorization Act people's_action_logo.pngand voting on it as soon as this week, according to a senior Democratic aide. That’s assuming, of course, that compromise NDAA language is ironed out between the two chambers. Senate Minority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL has privately signaled to Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER that he could go along with this idea, which would end their months-long stalemate.

BUT, BUT, BUT — There are serious questions about whether this defense-debt ceiling sandwich could pass the House. And much of that is because of one man who might typically be aligned with McConnell, but on this issue appears opposed: KEVIN MCCARTHY.” More of the dance from POLITICO here.]

More from Megan E “The Senate also seeks to pass the National Defense Authorization Act and the Build Back Better Act before going on recess for the holidays. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) blocked the defense bill from moving forward last week so negotiations continue. The parliamentarian is still combing through the Build Back Better Act and she has been somewhat delayed as she has had to take leave for cancer treatments. Senator Schumer has said that we could have a vote as early as the week of Dec. 13th but now, we are most likely looking at the bill going to the Senate floor the week of December 20th with passage on December 24th (if all goes well!). The House would have to vote on it again likely after the holidays. The impending deadline of Christmas should incentivize Republicans from delaying the process too long. Still, Republicans are expected to file many harmful amendments during the vote-a-rama on the bill, a subset of them will get a floor vote along with some amendments offered by Democrats. 

 

PARTISAN PANDEMIC — An NPR analysis found that “since May 2021, people living in counties that voted heavily for DONALD TRUMP during the last presidential election have been nearly three times as likely to die from Covid-19 as those who live in areas that went for now-President Biden. …

“NPR looked at deaths per 100,000 people in roughly 3,000 counties across the U.S. from May 2021, the point at which vaccinations widely became available. People living in counties that went 60 percent or higher for Trump in November 2020 had 2.7 times the death rates of those that went for Biden. Counties with an even higher share of the vote for Trump saw higher Covid-19 mortality rates.”

And now a word from our neighbor, Senator Roadblock: Megan E writes: "In other news, Senator Manchin made clear that he would overturn the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate for large employers so Republicans may force a vote on a bill to overturn that mandate this week under the Congressional Review Act which allows Congress to overturn administrative rules (more easily) within 60 days of them becoming final. It requires a 51 vote threshold in the Senate to pass.”

So the differential death rates in Red v. Blue counties as seen in the NPR report can continue unabated.

 

STATEWIDE – THE SPECIAL SESSION AND OTHER EVENTS OF NOTE

The Assembly special session opened today, to decide on a redistricting map and possible also to override some vetoes cast by Gov. Larry Hogan after the last session.

Maryland Matters (Bruce DePuyt) reports “Members of the public will be allowed inside the state Senate and House of Delegates chambers during next week’s special session, but admission will be limited to a fraction of capacity and anyone entering the State House will be required to wear a mask at all times.”

state_house_image_wikimedia_commons.jpg(Josh Kurtz) “The General Assembly did manage to get through a full 90-day session earlier this year. But the calendar and legislative flow was dramatically different. Public access to the State House and other legislative buildings was severely restricted. All hearings were held virtually. Registered lobbyists were almost invisible in Annapolis. And advocacy groups held a handful of rallies — a fraction of the typical number.

“Several COVID restrictions will be evident still on the legislative campus next week — and during the regular 2022 session, scheduled to begin on Jan. 12. So even regular Annapolis denizens are looking ahead to next week with a degree of uncertainty.

But with several other measures up for debate as lawmakers vote on which of Hogan’s vetoes to override, other interest groups — and their lobbyists — also plan to be on hand. Criminal justice reform groups, for example, [rallied] outside the House office building Monday morning, urging legislators to override Hogan’s veto of a bill that would have given prisoners serving life sentences more opportunities to qualify for parole.

Other veto issues are raised by our progressive friends at the Maryland Legislative Coalition:

“Each time the General Assembly convenes, they are also required to take up vetoes from the previous session.  That means that we have an opportunity to advocate for veto overrides to legislation that we worked very hard to pass last year.  Here is a list of the veto overrides that we are looking for next week -

HB0016 - Dignity Not Detention 
HB0023 - Maryland Driver Privacy Act
SB0202 - Parole - Life Imprisonment
SB0420 - Drug Paraphernalia Decriminalization
SB0009 - Collective Bargaining at Universities
SB0095/HB0174 - Public Utilities - Investor Owned Utilities - Prevailing Wage
SB0097 - Purple Line Marketing Act
SB0133/HB0319 - Local Tax Relief for Working Families Act
SB0417/HB0777 - Power Plant Research Program
SB0460/HB0419 - Green Bank Funding
SB0741/HB0836 - COVID 19 Testing, Contract Tracing and Vaccination Act
SB0746/HB0894 - Community Colleges Collective Bargaining
HB0002 - Maryland Environmental Service Reform Act
HB0097 - Digital Connectivity Act
HB0719 - Commercial Tenants - Personal Liability Clauses - Enforceability

SB0199/HB0114 - Transit Safety and Investment Act -- catch up on a backlog of maintenance projects that stands now at $2 billion.

The Sun’s Pamela Wood has a program for the override jamboree here.

As does Maryland Matters.

And Wood also updated herself mid-day Monday: NEW: @SenBillFerg says that lawmakers WILL NOT take a vote this week to decriminalize paraphernalia used to inject drugs. That means @GovLarryHogan's veto of the bill will stand. Issue to be revisited in January, Ferguson tells me.https://www.baltimoresun.com/politics/bs-md-pol-ga-no-paraphernalia-20211206-3pjybemx7ffexi6c4lcxr4zvpq-story.html


The Legislative Coalition writes: “We urge you to call or send an email to your legislators and ask them to vote to override the vetoes.  To find your legislators, use this link and click on the Lookup tab right under Find My Representatives text - https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Members/District.  You can then click on each of your Legislative Representatives at the bottom of the page to get their phone and email address.

“To urge your legislators to vote for the overrides, you simply have to tell them the bill numbers and names.  You do not need to tell them what each bill does.  However, if you want more information about each bill, you can look at the summary of a bill by typing in the bill number under the heading Search and Archives on the Maryland General Assembly Website here - https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/.

“As far as the redistricting portion of the special session, you can see the final map here - https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/Other/Redistricting/Final/webpage-final.pdf.  There will be many groups arguing for and against the map, but other than the General Assembly making their determination, the most important thing you can do is to ensure that the bills that we have worked so very hard on will make it into law.”

* * *

Meanwhile Gov. Larry Hogan has his own priorities for the Special Session (From WBFF Fox Five) “Hogan said he plans to introduce the Violent Firearm Offender Act as an emergency piece of legislation when lawmakers converge in Annapolis on Dec. 6 to approve Congressional Redistricting maps and debate overriding various vetoes from Hogan.

“…The governor said he “stressed the importance” of getting the firearm bill done during the session as well during a Wednesday meeting with Senate President Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore City.”

 

No legislation is needed to fully staff state agencies, but “Understaffing Threatens Drinking Water”-- Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh today (Thursday) sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan warning that the Maryland Department of the Environment’s (MDE) Water Supply Program (WSP) is dramatically understaffed – potentially risking the safety of Maryland’s drinking water and the health and welfare of Marylanders.”

Feds and states togetherEPA announced it has tabbed ·  Baltimore City Department of Public Works (Md.): $36 million for the Water Infrastructure Advancement 2021 project – one of 39 projects the EPA is greenlighting by approving partial funding. 

Economic justice on the march, er, strollUSM REGENTS OK $15 MINIMUM FOR UNIONIZED EMPLOYEES: The University System of Maryland Board of Regents finance committee recommended Thursday that the system raise the minimum wage for union-represented system employees to $15 an hour. From the student newspaper, The Diamondback. MoCo Del. David Moon reported in his newsletter he will push to override some related Hogan vetoes this week: “MARYLAND WORKER RIGHTS (SB 9, SB 746 & HB 894) - These bills would facilitate bargaining and contract rights for workers at University of Maryland and community colleges.”

 

Legislative shuffle: Plenty of progressive organizations in Maryland wonder why all kinds of elected offices in the state, when vacated, have special elections to fill them. Except the General Assembly. When delegates move up to the other chamber, or leave office voluntarily or otherwise, who picks their successors? Certainly not the voters. Who knows what they might do?

Instead, a cozy insider process fills those vacancies – the district Central Committee, of whatever party, chooses a new instant incumbent with all the advantages going into the next regular election. The Central Committee often chooses one of their own number to fill the seat. The parties, whoever is in power in the district, choose their trusted insiders to make sure the House or Senate leadership gets a cooperative new member.

This is not democratic, big D or small. And Progressive Maryland and allied organizations have fought it in the past and won’t quit. Our allies at Our Revolution are ginning up such an effort and say “We will need a lot of hands on deck from around the state to formulate and carry our this campaign.   Please fill out this form if you would like to help with the effort.” A discussion meeting will follow, so stay tuned.

woody woodruff

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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...