Congress is out this week, though individual members are no doubt committing significant mischief back in their districts. We'll have to see how that goes down. But while the feds are idle (except Joe Biden, having a Camp David summit with Japanese and South Korean leaders this week) the states are busy. The National Conference of State Legislatures is meeting for their annual talkfest in Indianapolis.
All that federal money is running out now, so suddenly states are typically more interested in regulating (low cost) than in appropriating (high price tag); therefore they will be happy to pay attention to Route Fifty's focus on what to do about Artificial Intelligence, which we have all learned to call AI for short. If, instead, they have a look at the Pew Center's report on what they might spend some money on, they'll see a big take on tax policy justice (watch Maryland legislators looking carefully at their shoes) and other good ideas.
We'll check out what's going on in Maryland first, but pay attention to what other states are doing and the problems they are solving (or not solving). Those are issues that will probably come home to roost in our own state eventually. That's why we call this News You Can Use.
First, though, about Maryland...
B’more Housing Authority Deluged By Waiting List Applications: For the first time in four years, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City opened preliminary applications to get onto a waiting list for public housing, drawing 17,000 applications on the first day, Aug. 1, and 26,000 in the first 10 days. Baltimore Sun.
Metro DC Labor Council has told our flagship university campus to put up -- or shut up and diminish to plantation status: “For months, the University System of Maryland (USM) has continued to be difficult at the bargaining table while telling prospective students, parents, the media, and the general public that they are prioritizing their work to "Do Good." It's time to tell the USM to DO BETTER! Join AFSCME Council 3 on Wednesday at 12:15pm to rally for fair pay, better telework policies, sustainable workloads, and more at the University of Maryland.
AARP Official Is Sole Person To Testify At BGE Public Hearing: Only one person showed up to testify at Wednesday’s virtual public hearing on Baltimore Gas and Electric’s rate case. The utility that services more than 3.1 million people in Central Maryland is looking to increase rates for the next three years, effective January 1, 2024. Tammy Bresnahan, the associate director of advocacy for AARP Maryland, said its 350,000 members will have difficulty paying their bills if the Public Service Commission approves BGE’s multi-year rate plan. … Under BGE’s proposal, bills for residential customers will rise over $10 a month each of the three years, meaning it total bills will go up more than $31 a month over the three-year term. WYPR-FM The next scheduled PSC hearing: Wednesday, August 23, 2023 at 7 p.m. — Virtual public hearings for Baltimore Gas and Electric Company’s multi-year rate case (Case No. 9692).
Written comments deadline: September 29, 2023 People’s Counsel rate case analysis … Access help from state People’s Counsel
Jobless Rate Hits 33-Year Low In MoCo; 1.7% Statewide: The unemployment rate hit a 33-year low of 1.5 percent in Montgomery County in June, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Preliminary numbers show unemployment reached 1.7 percent in Maryland, 2.5 percent in the Washington metro area and 3.6 percent nationally in June, significantly lower than the peaks experienced in spring 2020 as the pandemic upended the economy and cost millions of workers their jobs. WaPo.
Uptick In Covid Cases: Reported Wed, Aug. 9 -- Maryland and many other parts of the country are experiencing a slight, but significant increase in Covid-19 cases – the first since the federal government ended the public health emergency in May. In contrast to previous summer upticks, this one, experts say, does not necessarily herald a winter surge and there is no immediate cause for alarm. Baltimore Brew.
WHAT STATES ARE UP TO, OR NOT…
The National Conference of State Legislatures meets this week in Indianapolis with, as you might expect, a lot on its plate. Everybody has ideas, including the Pew Center – about wildfire safety and AI regulation (maybe not that far apart). Pew has put out a big report starting with tax policy justice (note Maryland legislators looking intently at their shoes) ahead of the NCSL meeting.
States, despite near-uniform problems with affordable housing, health care (with many newly dumped from the Medicaid rolls) and general lack of support for struggling low-income households, are much less likely to appropriate than they are to regulate. Luckily, there’s AI to worry about, as Route Fifty writes.
Note: Maryland has expanded Medicaid, but after pandemic-era fed funding lapsed the state requires updating of information for enrollees: “Medicaid Check-In campaign goal is to help Marylanders avoid disruptions in health insurance coverage. The statewide effort will encourage Marylanders enrolled in Medicaid and the Maryland Children’s Health Insurance Program (MCHP) to update their contact information and to generate awareness for the resumption of renewals.” Here’s more info.
Education -- Connecticut will spend $16 million in federal funds to expand free school meals to students who qualify for reduced-price meals, though the free lunches will not extend to all students. Legislators did not advance a $90 million plan to extend meals to all students. (Hartford Courant) via Pluribus…
And more costs of school… “$41.5 billion: The amount K-12 students and their families are expected to spend during back-to-school shopping season, according to the National Retail Federation. The average family is expected to spend $890.07 on back-to-school items. (Los Angeles Times) via Pluribus
Corn in the Courts -- Attorneys general in Iowa and Nebraska are suing the Environmental Protection Agency to try to force it to issue final rules allowing the year-round sale of gasoline blended with ethanol. The EPA has proposed allowing year-round sales in eight states beginning in 2024. (Des Moines Register) via pluribus
“Corrections”-- West Virginia’s legislature approved $21 million in pay increases for corrections officers. Gov. Jim Justice (R) last year declared a state of emergency and deployed the National Guard to stem worker attrition at state jails and prisons, where 30% of jobs are vacant. (Associated Press) Earlier this year, “Union leaders representing Maryland’s correctional officers on Thursday urged the state to hire more than 3,400 officers to address shortages at the state’s correctional institutions, which have endangered officers and inmates alike. In 2022, the state hired about 400 correctional officers, according to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. The department has about 5,100 total positions.” From the Daily Record, Baltimore.
Repro Rights Politics—Ohio voters last week emphatically turned down a ballot measure that would have raised the threshold for passing future ballot measures, such as the state’s upcoming vote to inscribe abortion rights in the state constitution. The seismic effect of a “pro-abortion” vote in a largely red state has boosted sentiments in other states where repro rights sentiment is at odds with the state’s other politics. Pluribus reports “Abortion rights advocates in Arizona will begin collecting signatures for a proposed constitutional amendment to protect reproductive rights. The proposed amendment would guarantee abortion rights until fetal viability, or about 24 weeks. They need to collect 384,000 signatures by July to make the 2024 ballot. (Arizona Republic, Associated Press)
And more… Maryland included among states eyeing 2024 abortion rights ballot measure: “Advocates are backing abortion-rights measures with the intention of securing ballot access in 2024 in Arizona [see above],, Florida, Maryland, Missouri, New York and South Dakota. The pro-abortion rights side has won every ballot measure that has gone before voters since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade. (Bloomberg) via Pluribus
Food on the table: states struggle to normalize cruelty. “Sixteen states, led by Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird (R), are urging Congress to pass legislation prohibiting states from banning animal products that don’t meet certain confinement standards, a response to a measure that regulates living conditions for livestock whose products are sold in California [as you might guess, a big food consumer]. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to California’s Proposition 12 earlier this year. (Cedar Rapids Gazette) via Pluribus
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