This week you can read about stronger labor protections in state-funded projects, safety for workers fixing our highways, the replanting of streetside trees in Baltimore County (hope the impulse catches on) and more enviro news including a big boost for Sparrow's Point, which will build offshore wind capacity, a thumbs down on gas-powered leaf blowers (very well timed) and a decision to send reading help to elementary schools to help all grades catch up on that skill (aren't you reading this on a screen? Of course you are). Plus good and bad ideas and proposals from around the states, and People's Action chimes in with the D.C. report, which is still dismal even though most of our, um, courageous legislators are home for the holidays. It's all News You Can Use.
Have a good holiday yourselves, eat well, feed others.
HERE IN MARYLAND
Exec Order Strengthens Labor Role in State-funded Projects
Governor Wes Moore signed an executive order on Friday to promote workforce development in state public works projects, including apprenticeships and project labor agreements.
“We are going to be Maryland strong because we are going to be union strong," Moore said in a statement. "This order will promote apprenticeship training programs and local hiring in high unemployment areas. We’re going to support our businesses and our workers. We can and must do both." The order authorizes executive branch units under the control of the governor to consider the requirement for or voluntary use of project labor agreements and community benefits agreements. Union City, [Metro DC Council AFL-CIO]
Moore Announces Work Zone Safety Efforts: Following months of meetings, Gov. Wes Moore announced Friday afternoon that the state would immediately implement several punitive and safety recommendations given by the Governor’s Work Zone Safety Work Group. Baltimore Sun. Moore announced the increased presence of both state and local police on the same day the state Work Zone Safety Work Group released more than a dozen recommendations, which include increased fines for motorists to reduce crashes and fatalities [as well as more speed cameras]. Maryland Matters.
Aiming to reverse the loss of trees lining its streets, Baltimore County has stepped up its replanting efforts. The county’s urban foresters are planting 512 new trees in four neighborhoods this fall as part of an effort to install at least 1,000 new street trees a year, officials announced on Nov. 13. Since 2014, more than 4,300 street trees were removed for various reasons and not replaced, county officials said. Those removals are just a portion of the overall decline of tree cover in Baltimore County, which lost more than 1,100 acres from 2013 to 2018, according to aerial surveys. Bay Journal
Study: Gas Powered Yard Equipment Generates Much Pollution: Leaf blowers — along with gas-powered lawn mowers, string trimmers, chainsaws and other garden equipment, generate an alarming amount of air pollution. Some machines emit as much pollution in an hour as driving hundreds of miles in a car. A recently released report by the Maryland PIRG Foundation attempts to quantify the public health risks and potential damage. Maryland Matters.
Sparrows Point Steel Wins $47 Million U.S. Grant To Build Offshore Wind Farm Facility: A federal grant will help grow wind farms in Maryland. Sparrows Point Steel in Baltimore County won a $47 million grant from the U.S. Maritime Administration for its offshore wind manufacturing facility. Sparrows Point Steel is owned and operated by Baltimore-based US Wind and sits on nearly 100 waterfront acres at Tradepoint Atlantic, a 3,300-acre industrial center and logistics hub in Sparrows Point that is the former home of Bethlehem Steel, which was once the largest steel production facility in the world. Baltimore Sun
Blueprint Board OKs Plan To Send Literacy Experts To Elementary Schools: To help boost literacy achievement in Maryland’s elementary schools, the Blueprint Accountability and Implementation Board approved a proposal Thursday that will send literacy experts to schools in each of Maryland’s counties and the city of Baltimore by the end of this school year. Before these teams arrive at the schools, Rachel Hise, executive director of the Blueprint board, said school leaders must complete a draft literacy plan for elementary students by Jan. 15. The goal for the initiative, which the state Board of Education also unanimously approved last week, is to ensure students in third grade are reading at a proficient level. Maryland Matters
PG Public Schools Contractors Sued for Wage Theft: As if the endless wait for the Purple Line weren’t enough, the wild west money landscape of the Public-Private Partnership keeps raising its unpleasant head. Here the UMCP Diamondback reports on more shenanigans
Feds Urged To Ease Up On Ex-Con Marijuana Business Owners: The federal government unfairly penalizes state-legal marijuana businesses whose owners have been convicted of marijuana-related crimes, restricting them from loans and other banking tools, a group of U.S. Senate and House Democrats wrote to the Treasury Department asking for a change in policy. The group of 20 lawmakers, including Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), said in Tuesday's letter that 2014 guidance from the department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to put “red flags” on marijuana businesses hurts the businesses’ chances of securing banking services or loans. States Newsroom via Maryland Matters
AROUND THE STATES
With $1 collected from every electric and gas bill each month, Minneapolis plans to weatherize residents' homes, install rooftop solar on commercial buildings and build electric vehicle charging stations. Route Fifty
Gun Politics: Maine lawmakers have introduced seven new measures aimed at restricting gun access in the wake of the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston that left 18 people dead. Some proposals would create red flag laws, and one would allow people to sue if they are harmed at a business or facility where they are not allowed to carry firearms for their own protection. (Portland Press Herald) >Both Senate President Troy Jackson (D) and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross (D) have submitted bills to address the shooting, a sign that Maine Democrats — who aren’t the most anti-gun legislators in America — are serious about acting next year. Pluribus
More Gun Politics: The Ohio House is preparing to take up legislation that would bar state and local authorities from helping to enforce federal gun or ammunition laws. House Speaker Jason Stephens (R) said he expects his chamber to pass the bill before the end of the year. (Cleveland Plain Dealer) All from Pluribus
Health Care: Georgia Republican lawmakers held hearings Thursday on a proposal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Legislators heard a proposal to expand coverage in exchange for rolling back Certificate of Need rules. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) > Forty states have expanded Medicaid under the ACA. The red-state holdouts are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Pluribus
Cities and states are enacting paid leave policies (in Maryland we finally passed ours a few years ago) that prevent low-wage workers from choosing between rest and recovery or work and a paycheck. Route Fifty
Ohio: Pre-emptive Ban On Local Flavored Tobacco Products Regulation Kerfuffle : Ohio Republicans are considering whether to override Gov. Mike DeWine’s (R) veto of a measure barring cities from banning flavored tobacco sales. Speaker Stephens says he wants a vote on the preemption legislation, which came up after Columbus voted to ban the products. (Columbus Dispatch) via Pluribus
Property Tax Relief a Colorado Goal: Colorado’s state House has approved measures redirecting $185 million in tax refunds to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit aimed at low-income taxpayers. It’s their latest attempt at property tax relief, after Proposition HH — backed by Gov. Jared Polis (D) — lost at the ballot box this month. (Colorado Sun) via Pluribus
Efforts on the housing crisis beginning to pay off, as Megan E of People’s Action reports in her Monday blast:
Last week, People’s Action’s Homes Guarantee campaign wrapped up a Tenant Takeover, where they brought 100 tenants to D.C. who experienced rent hikes, evictions, or live in buildings whose corporate landlords receive federal financing from the government. The tenants are demanding the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) protect tenants and regulate rents over a series of events including a congressional briefing, press conference, meeting with FHFA leadership, and a direct action a corporate landlord Starwood Capital Group. “If there’s no strategy on rent, there’s no strategy on the economy,” said People’s Action Homes Guarantee campaign director Tara Raghuveer.
Our press release is available here. As part of their commitments to a White House tenant protections initiative, FHFA is considering attaching tenant protections to federal financing, potentially benefiting 12.4 million rental homes in the country. Rent continues to be the most enduring and significant factor in overall inflation. View photos from the Tenant Takeover here and live-streams here. Media coverage includes this Truthout Article, Marketwatch and NC News.
While Israel’s war on Gaza’s civilians grinds on, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a longtime pro-Israel PAC, “is raising money to support primary challenges against most outspoken Members of Congress in support of a cease fire,” People’s Action’s Megan E observes. From the New Republic: “One of the biggest political operations in Washington is gearing up to take down the Squad, the Democratic cohort that has heralded progressive policies from the Green New Deal to tuition-free college, throwing major dollars behind primary challengers they believe can unseat them in their 2024 reelection campaigns. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, is expected to spend at least $100 million in the Democratic primaries in an effort to knock out the seven “Squad” members, reported Slate. They include Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, and Summer Lee—all Black and brown members of Congress who have been vocal critics of Israel’s war on Gaza,” said People’s Action.
Meanwhile, progressives have kept pressure on senators like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to move the White House to curb the Israeli Defense Force (IDF)’s one-sided assault on Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, which as of Monday had killed a reported 13,000 civilians in both enclaves. Sanders has been resisting calling for a cease-fire in the conflict --which was set off by a brutal Hamas terrorist incursion Oct. 7 that killed 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians -- but did call for future conditions on the $3.8 billion annual US military aid to Israel. “Netanyahu’s right-wing extremist government does not have the right to wage almost total warfare against the Palestinian people,” Sanders said in a press release Saturday. “That is morally unacceptable and in violation of international law. Displacing 1.6 million people from their homes, cutting off food, water, medical supplies, and fuel, and killing some 12,000 Palestinians – nearly half of whom are children – is in violation of every code of human decency. It must stop,” the Sanders release said
And, as if we haven’t been harping on this for a year on the PM BlogSpace, Issue Update: Climate/Leveraging Federal Resources (again from Megan E,) quoting From Politico: "Some small states are missing out on millions of federal dollars to build resilience to climate change because they lack the staff to fill out the paperwork... An E&E News analysis found that half of that money has gone to just five states: California, Florida, New York, North Carolina and Washington. In contrast, 24 smaller states together have been awarded less than 5 percent of the money allocated through the program known as Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities." Maryland has to hustle to get its share, and help its counties and cities get in line for the subsidies that can make the state the kind of green example that Wes Moore loves to talk about.
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