Oh yes, and the continuing saga of the FBI building. Is it the whirlpool baths at Quantico? Surely Maryland can match them. Plus, transportation money woes, some student tests up a bit; unintended pregnancies due to lack of contraceptive access, and the story from around the states that can provide ideas for Marylanders (and headaches for the Assembly members). And then there's COP 28. It's all here in News You Can Use for this week.
GSA’s Watchdog To Probe Selection Process For New FBI HQ: The watchdog for the General Services Administration will investigate the process that led the federal agency to choose a Maryland site over two others for the new FBI headquarters. Acting Inspector General Robert Erickson wrote in a letter released Thursday that the “objective will be to assess the agency’s process and procedures for the site selection to relocate the FBI Headquarters.” Eleven members of Virginia’s congressional delegation cheered the decision in a joint statement and called for the GSA to “pause all activities related to the relocation until the IG’s investigation is complete.” Maryland Matters
Maryland officials who backed the Greenbelt bid immediately expressed confidence that the inspector general’s review will find that the process was sound and the pick was fair. AP
Maryland’s Governor Is Proposing $2 Billion In Cuts to Transportation Projects. Why? The state faces a multibillion-dollar, long-term budget shortfall. Democrat Wes Moore’s six-year plan, expected this week, calls for an 8% cut in the annual budgets of state transportation agencies. What’s affected? The cuts would slow highway construction, reduce transit service and increase the cost of airport parking, according to a summary of the plans. WaPo (7DMV newsletter) And….
MD Transportation Dept Faces 8% Cuts Due To Shortfalls: Maryland’s Department of Transportation is facing billions in cuts to address shortfalls that will squeeze operations and construction budgets. State officials spent the better part of this past week briefing lawmakers and local leaders on an 8% across-the-board cut to all the agencies within the department. Maryland Matters. Sooo…
Transportation Commission to Consider Recommendations on Tolls, Vehicle Fees: New fees for electric vehicle owners and increases in tolls are on the table as part of a set of interim recommendations due later this year from a blue-ribbon transportation panel. A transportation revenue and infrastructure panel meets one more time this year and may consider new ways to get the transportation revenue that (see previous story) may be lacking. Maryland Matters
State Board Works to Train Election Officials On Threats Before 2024 Election: Elections officials in Maryland will participate in a series of safety trainings in advance of primary and general elections scheduled for next year. Maryland Elections Administrator Jared DeMarinis said that the series of live trainings with federal, state, and local law enforcement officials is an effort to be proactive. “It’s not one of those things that you wait and see before you react,” said DeMarinis. Maryland Matters
New MCAP Results Show Signs Of Recovery From Pandemic Learning Loss In English And Math, While Science Declines Student proficiency in English Language Arts has surpassed the level it was at before the pandemic. Math scores have improved, but have yet to fully rebound from the pandemic, while science scores have declined, according to the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). MCAP tests are administered annually in public schools; students in grades three to eight take tests in English and math, while students in grades five and eight are given an additional science test. Capital News Service
Opinion: Asbestos Exposure Still Impacts Md. Veterans’ Health: Through most of the 20th century, the U.S. armed forces applied asbestos-containing products to benefit fully from the material’s unique properties. With the Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard utilizing contaminated products, many veterans were exposed to asbestos while on duty. Today’s growing number of toxic exposure cases among these brave men and women underlines the health risks they have taken, barring the challenges of service. As veterans embrace civilian life after service, they now face developing life-altering asbestos diseases stemming from their military years. Maryland Reporter
Opinion: Dems Panicking About The Wrong Thing: Polls that show Joe Biden trailing other candidates aren’t worth much at this point. What voters are saying about the economy is what Democrats need to be alarmed about, says Mileah Kromer, who leads the Goucher College polling. She draws on her own polling about Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to make a case for a change in strategy. Politico magazine
Moore Administration Partners With Nonprofit To Reduce Unintended Pregnancies In Md. Approximately 285,000 women in Maryland live in contraceptive deserts, meaning that it is a challenge for women in those areas to obtain the means to prevent pregnancy such as intrauterine devices (IUDs), implants, pills and other FDA-approved methods of birth control, according to private advocacy group Power to Decide. Gov. Wes Moore (D) and Secretary of Health Laura Herrera Scott hope to expand access to contraceptives and reduce unintended pregnancies in the state with a newly announced collaboration with nonprofit Upstream USA. Maryland Matters
WITH THE STATES
Child Care Programs See Closures, Resignations And Tuition Hikes After Federal Funding Expires Two months after the pandemic-fueled federal child care boost expired, in [right next door] West Virginia, providers and parents are feeling the impact on the other side of the "child care cliff." Route Fifty
Lead Persists as Problem In Gifts And Environment: Lead poisoning has hit the news recently with pollution from leaded aviation gasoline, poisoning from applesauce pouches, and federal lead pipe replacement projects. But some lead poisoning threats come during the holiday gift-giving season from jewelry, toys, makeup, and other gifts. Capital News Service/Maryland Reporter
Housing And Care Costs Leave Aging Americans with Limited Options: Assisted living and in-home care are increasingly out of reach for many low- and middle-income seniors. For older adults who need care as well as safe housing, finding affordable living arrangements can be a herculean task, and one that will only become more challenging as demand for care grows with the aging population, which is already at 18 percent of the US population. This may become a state-by-state action issue. Route Fifty
Former Coal Towns Get Extra Benefit from Federal Clean Energy Projects Funding: Over the last year, investments have increasingly been going to projects designed to bring clean energy jobs to former coal communities. More than 36% of those investments have gone to such communities to expand clean energy, an academic survey finds. Only 18.6% of the nation lives in these former coal, oil and gas communities, but 56% of investments in wind power and 42% in solar power have gone to these places. Route Fifty
Who Was That Who Said Voting Doesn’t Matter, Again? Damion Green lost his bid for a seat on the Rainier City Council, a small town in Washington State, by a single vote, 247 to 246. The kicker: Green didn’t bother to vote for himself. Green’s opponent, Ryan Roth, said he almost didn’t vote either, but his wife talked him into sending in his ballot. (Seattle Times) via Pluribus.
If You’ve Ever Tuned Into Your Local Zoning Board Meetings, it may look like there’s strong opposition to policies that spur housing development, often fueled by concerns around environmental impacts, gentrification and changed neighborhood character. But new data shows that most people—Democrats and Republicans, urbanites and suburbanites, homeowners and renters—support policies that add homes to communities and lead to lower housing costs. Route Fifty
NATIONWIDE AND THE FEDS
Why Drugs Are Disappearing From Your Insurance Coverage Powerful companies are removing hundreds of medicines from insurance plans — and they’re spending millions to stop attempts at reform. The Lever via Portside
58% Of US Workers Have On-Site Jobs For all that talk about working from home, a majority of U.S. workers — 58% — are actually strictly onsite and cannot perform their jobs remotely, according to a new survey out today (Dec. 4) from Gallup. Only a third of frontline workers — employees dealing directly with customers or products — would change employers in order to have a remote work option, down from 38% last year. Semafor News
Car Dealers Say They Can’t Sell EVs, Tell Biden to Slow Their Rollout: The US already lags far behind China and Europe, but we're going too fast, dealers say. Almost 4,000 dealers from around the United States have sent an open letter to President Joe Biden calling for the government to slow down its plan to increase EV adoption between now and 2032. Streetsblog, our source here from original in ARS TECHNICA, was skeptical.
And here’s a look at the coming week and COP28 from Megan E, federal affairs chief for People’s Action, our national affiliate:
Hello People's Action!
COP28 and overseas action: From Politico, we hear “Leading scientists worldwide delivered a striking dose of reality to the United Nations on Sunday: it’s ‘becoming inevitable’ that countries will miss the ambitious target they set eight years ago for limiting the warming of the Earth.” Biden did not attend the COP28 Summit but Vice President Kamala Harris joined climate envoy John Kerry and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Dubai. Harris gave a speech announcing an additional $3 billion U.S. commitment to the global Green Climate Fund on top of the $2 billion already pledged. John Kerry said coal plants should no longer be permitted anywhere in the world.
OUR ACTION IMPERATIVE: Check out the Environmental Protection Network’s latest update on new EPA grant opportunities and other resources on their webpage. Make sure your local officials know about these and get the help they need so they don’t miss the boat.
Stopping the slaughter: ‘The main focus of Harris’s trip was to meet with leaders in Egypt and the Middle East about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She made the following comments to press after her meetings. “As Israel defends itself, it matters how. The United States is unequivocal: International humanitarian law must be respected. Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed. Frankly, the scale of civilian suffering and the images and videos coming from Gaza are devastating.’’ Harris further outlined the U.S.’s principles for a post-conflict Gaza: “No forcible displacement, no reoccupation, no siege or blockade, no reduction in territory, and no use of Gaza as a platform for terrorism.” ‘
About those legislators: “Congress still hasn’t figured out how to pass the supplemental funding bill. The White House told Congress that the US has no more money to give to Ukraine for its war to defend itself against Russia. Speaker Johnson and Minority Leader McConnell agree on tying Ukraine aid to border security language but negotiations with Senate Democrats have stalled. This is likely due to opposition by advocates. Last week, People’s Action and some members of our network joined 188 organizations in a statement to Congress expressing extreme concern over proposals that would threaten the integrity of the U.S. asylum system & harm vulnerable migrants. However, some far-right members of Congress and Heritage Action are calling to reject any deal that doesn’t have all of HR2 attached. HR2 is House Republicans’ dream list of racist and anti-immigrant changes to immigration law and border policy.
Issue Update: Healthcare RAD’s member-leader Jenn Coffey shares her experience of being trapped on privatized Medicare in this American Prospect article on “the Medicare Advantage Trap: In 46 states, once you choose Medicare Advantage at 65, you can almost never leave.” And the NYTimes and KFF Health News are collaborating on a series called Dying Broke, examining the long-term care industry.
Blast from the past: ICYMI, over the Thanksgiving break, Trump revived calls to repeal Obamacare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act. Republicans’ decade long failed effort to repeal President Obama’s signature healthcare law is widely unpopular.
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