After nearly a decade of struggle, the site for a new FBI building, replacing the crumbling brutalist behemoth down in DC, has been declared as Greenbelt, Maryland, in Prince George's County. The fact that the current FBI director would have preferred Virginia has become clear, but elected officials in Maryland are confident the decision will stick. Also, the state faces some possible revenue declines (including in gas tax revenue as hybrids and e-cars take hold), so the 2024 Assembly session (an election year) is already looking fraught. All this plus news of good and bad decisions in other states and way up there in Congress, too, continues to tumble our way. Get all the news you can use here.
The Big News last week was the decision to site the new FBI building in Greenbelt (PG County)
-- Greenbelt Chosen for New FBI HQ; But Is the Search Over? Greenbelt has been selected by the General Services Administration as the site of a new FBI headquarters following more than a decade of jockeying pitting Maryland against Virginia. Baltimore Sun.
But the decision to build the massive project in Prince George’s County won’t necessarily end the debate. The FBI has raised concerns about the site-selection process in recent months, according to a person familiar with the internal discussions who declined to further describe the concerns. Washington Post.
The GSA noted that Greenbelt was determined to be the best site because it came at the lowest cost to taxpayers, provided the greatest transportation access to FBI employees and visitors, and gave the government the most certainty on a project delivery schedule. Associated Press.
The Maryland congressional delegation along with several other officials, including Gov. Wes Moore (D) and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) said in a written statement that the decision is a “historic moment” for the FBI and the country. Maryland Matters.
And No Backing Off from the Maryland Winners: State Leaders Reject Claim On FBI HQ Process: Maryland leadership – including Gov. Wes Moore, U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer and U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen – in a news conference Friday, strenuously rejected claims that the decision process choosing Greenbelt for the new FBI headquarters was tainted and called the matter a done deal. Capital News Service/Maryland Reporter.
Prince George's Revels In Its Selection: As critics of the Biden administration’s decision to award a new FBI headquarters project to Maryland attacked the process, state and local officials said the prize was long overdue for Prince George’s County, a wealthy Black enclave whose leaders have long sought to secure parity with neighbors in the Washington metropolitan region. Baltimore Sun.
CASA Statement Backing “Free Palestine” Brings Official Blowback: CASA, the biggest and most consequential immigrants’ rights group in the Mid-Atlantic, finds itself on its heels this week, and facing suggestions that it could lose a substantial amount of its political support — not to mention public and private funding. The crisis emerged after the group’s leaders released a statement and social media posts over the weekend expressing solidarity with Palestinians as war rages in Gaza, accompanied by pictures of CASA staffers at a Washington, D.C., peace demonstration. The statement decried both Hamas’s brutal initial attack and Israel’s massive military response and concluded with the line: “Free Palestine now!” The reaction was swift and angry: Critics, including prominent Maryland elected officials, said they saw antisemitic tropes and sentiments in CASA’s statement. Maryland Matters ALSO A group of Jewish “activists and organizers,” in response, joined in an open letter defending CASA and declaring “To be clear: As Jews, there was nothing in CASA’s statements that we found to be antisemitic or hateful.” The PM BlogSpace has posted the letter.
Effort To Fill Vacant State Government Positions Falling Short of Moore’s Promise: An effort to cut state worker vacancies in half is on pace to fall short of a promise made by Gov. Wes Moore, who entered office in January promising to fill 5,000 vacant state jobs. Since then, the administration has not kept pace with that goal, according to the state’s own data. Moore’s office acknowledges hiring “893 new employees” through mid-September, according to a statement provided by a Moore spokesperson, though other state data say less. In each case the number is about a fifth of the stated goal. Maryland Matters
MD School Leaders Seek Clarity On Blueprint For Their Schools: As Maryland rolls out the 2021 landmark education reform law called the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, many school administrators are unsure what the plan means for their schools. At the annual School Leaders Conference held in early November, state officials and school principals reviewed the details of the Blueprint and discussed how it will be implemented in each school district. Capital News Service/Maryland Reporter. AND Board Of Ed Redefines College, Career Readiness: The Maryland State Board of Education is trying to define what career and college readiness looks like for students. In a public hearing Thursday night, representatives from the state education department presented a new proposed pathway for students to achieve the college and career readiness status. Under the new standards, students would qualify as career and college ready by earning a 3.0 GPA in their first two years of high school, and passing either an Algebra 1 course or the state standardized MCAP test. WYPR-FM.
Flagging Revenue May Bring Tax Hikes, Lawmakers Hint: Members of the joint Spending Affordability Committee were briefed on a budget picture that sees hundreds of millions in structural deficits balloon to $2 billion by fiscal 2029. That picture raised the specter of tax increases. Some members of the committee were unperturbed by the briefing. Maryland Matters. AND MD Transportation Panel Eyes Toll Increases and Fees on Electric, Hybrid Vehicles due to falling gas tax revenues as internal combustion vehicles diminish.
Here’s the word from People’s Action fed affairs chief Megan E. – House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) announced plans over the weekend to fund the government, which faces a looming shutdown Friday. He plans to pass two continuing resolutions. One will extend four appropriations bills at current levels until January 19th and the rest of the government will be funded until February 2nd at current levels. Other than dividing the bills in two, this is essentially what Speaker McCarthy would have done and appears to be acceptable to Democrats and Senate leadership as it has no funding cuts for agencies and no poison pill policy riders. It also leaves out the controversial funding package for Ukraine and Israel.
Last week, Republicans fast tracked a new resolution to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), the only Palestinian American serving in Congress, for her words and social media posts in support of a ceasefire and protecting Palestinian civilians. “The chamber approved the reprimand in a 234-188-4 vote, with 22 Democrats bucking party leadership to support the resolution, and four Republicans voting against it.” The vote is largely symbolic. Rep. Tlaib responded to the censure saying that she will not be silenced. Rep. Jamie Raskin published an oped in the Nation on why he thinks the censure was wrong and voted against it despite disagreeing with Tlaib’s use of the phrase, “from the river to the sea.” Here the NY Times explains the history of the phrase. People’s Action has endorsed calls for a ceasefire in Gaza and has this take action tool calling on Members of Congress to support a ceasefire and immediate access to humanitarian efforts in Gaza and the West Bank.
Leveraging federal funds – the Inflation Reduction Act (Joe Manchin’s term for cutting billions out of the Build Back Better infrastructure proposal from the Biden folks) still has money for state and local governments to access. But how? State and local govs often lack the expertise to get in line for infrastructure money. Community Change has published a new roadmap for leveraging funding provided by the IRA, enabling those of us on the ground to push our electeds not to miss that train.
Housing -- People’s Action’s Homes Guarantee director Tara Raghuveer and One Northside’s Anthony Perkins are quoted in this In These Times article about Bring Chicago Home a real estate transfer tax to fund housing and services for unhoused people that will be put to the ballot initiative in Chicago in March.
MORE FED NEWS
Maryland Delegation Split Over Hamas-Israel War: The Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that killed more than 1,400 people and Israel’s continuing response in Gaza, where officials said Friday the Palestinian death toll has surpassed 11,000 people, have generated passionate responses among Marylanders and put the state’s congressional delegation on the spot. Baltimore Sun. AND see the articles on CASA’s troubles, in the Maryland section above.
Pandemic Relaxation on SNAP Online Purchases Eased Hunger -- Letting low-income Americans buy groceries online in 2020 with SNAP benefits decreased the share of people without enough food. Few people with SNAP benefits could use them for online purchases before the COVID-19 pandemic, a scholarly journal reports. The share of low-income U.S. families experiencing food insufficiency–sometimes or often not having enough food to eat–fell from 24.5% to 22.5% at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the scholars found in a new study published in the November 2023 issue of Food Policy..The Conversation
Proposal for Big Cuts to Amtrak Stalls GOP House Bill -- House Republicans this week hit an unexpected roadblock when members of their party refused to support a government funding bill that would significantly cut transportation and housing dollars for state and local governments. A vote on the bill was abandoned Tuesday when a group of Republicans from the Northeast said they would not support the measure, which called for reducing federal funding to operate Amtrak nationwide by nearly two-thirds. Under the proposal, funding to run the rail service in the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C., would be cut by 85%. Republicans representing New York and other states affected by the cuts ultimately refused to go along. Route Fifty
State lawmakers’ efforts to pass legislation to keep Americans from the semiannual clock switching plateaued in 2023 after years of momentum. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 29 states considered or are considering 75 pieces of legislation related to daylight saving time this year. However, none of the bills passed. Nineteen states have enacted legislation or passed resolutions to provide for year-round daylight saving time since 2018. The latest to enact measures were Colorado, Kentucky and Mississippi, which did so in 2022. Pluribus
Three cities in Michigan voted [last] Tuesday to adopt ranked-choice voting, adding to a winning streak supporters of the electoral reform movement have built in recent years. The proposals to change the way city elections are conducted won 71% of the vote in Kalamazoo, 52% in East Lansing and 51% in Royal Oak, according to election results tabulated as of Wednesday morning. According to FairVote, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for ranked-choice voting, the system has been approved in 27 straight city ballot measure elections. Voters in 11 cities across six states used ranked-choice voting to elect their local officials, and ten more cities in Utah will elect candidates the same way later this month. Pluribus
Momentum is building in multiple states to establish early regulations for artificial intelligence, as lawmakers scramble to respond to the fast-emerging technology with so far little consequence for misuse. State legislators introduced more than three dozen AI-related bills in a dozen or more states over the past four months, according to Bill Track 50 and other sources. This week, President Biden issued a sweeping AI executive order, and state lawmakers in Georgia and Illinois held hearings on AI. Pluribus
Reproductive Rights: Abortion rights advocates are aiming to secure ballot access for initiatives and constitutional amendments in next year’s presidential contests. Potential ballot measures are collecting signatures or navigating the legal process in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Washington. (Pluribus News)
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