The 2019 Maryland General Assembly enjoyed another successful session.
Be sure to check out the low-down on which bills passed and which didn’t,
and just what to expect looking forward.
Michael Erin Busch, Maryland’s longest serving Speaker of the House, always exemplified what it meant to be a leader, particularly when it came to the environment. As a lifelong coach, mentor, and collaborator, he knew the value of teamwork and built coalitions with skill and ease to accomplish a number of environmental victories during his more than three decades in office.
In 2010, Speaker Busch was awarded our prestigious John V. Kabler award for environmental organizing. At the time, our then Board Chair Fred Hoover had this to say, “Speaker Busch’s many accomplishments include protection of our waterways, oyster restoration, protection of critical areas and allowing citizens the ability to have their voices heard through changes in Environmental Standing Laws. He is willing to tackle complex budget issues that benefit all of us and under his efforts have made Maryland a national leader in the fight against climate change and air pollution.”
Speaker Busch’s district was one of the most forward thinking and environmentally sensitive in the state. He was influential in the creation and funding of the Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund that encourages restoration of our waters, supported legislation updating the state’s Critical Areas law, and broadened environmental standing rights to give citizens a voice in furthering environmental protection in the state. One of his final acts as a state legislator was pushing through landmark oyster protection laws just days ago, book ending his legacy as a champion of the Chesapeake Bay.
We mourn the loss of this leader, environmental hero, and friend.
March 18, 2019
by Annie Amrhein
As I passed through security heading into Longworth, one of the three House office buildings located on the Hill, I was immediately engulfed by the buzz of activity. From Capitol police officers escorting protesters down the hallway, to congressional staffers hustling about to various interest groups gathered together in the cafeteria, it was clear the day was already in full swing at 8:30am. Peter Marx of the Choose Clean Water Coalition, and my supervisor at Maryland LCV Ben Alexandro, discussed our strategy and overall game plan for the day, and before I knew it, we were heading to the Rayburn building via the underground tunnel to meet with Maryland Congressman Andy Harris. And so it began, we were off to the races!
This experience of attending a lobby day on Capitol Hill was one of a kind. Over a hundred people from dozens of nonprofit organizations descended on the Hill last week to punctuate the necessity of increased funding for clean water initiatives. It was an extremely rewarding experience being in these meetings with staffers and members of Congress. Not only did we represent and voice the
Choose Clean Water Coalition’s concern as a unit, but each group was made up of different types of professionals to illustrate the diversity in success stories surrounding clean water initiatives.
I now know how crucial these meetings are. They help establish a genuine working relationship and encourage an open dialogue between the dozens of environmental organizations and Congress. I quickly learned this type of transparency is needed when working on environmental issues, namely clean water efforts. Even with our champion elected officials in Maryland, I learned how important it is to keep all groups informed and aware of the situation at large. We provided context to help staffers and members alike understand how prior funding was distributed, how instrumental this money was in maintaining clean water programs across their district.
The Hill has always been a term I hear in conversation without any real understanding of what it looks and feels like on the ground. Walking through the House and Senate buildings and having Senator Ben Cardin and other congressional members speak at our luncheon was truly enjoyable. One of my biggest takeaways from the day was how the Choose Clean Water Coalition membership really came together as a unit. Ben Alexandro from the MDLCV is the state lead within the Coalition and it was impressive to note the amount of pre-planning this day required. I met many people from different states and organizations, all working on a variety of water issues.
This multi-faceted group afforded us with numerous opportunities to showcase how inter-related and connected these environmental issues are. We experienced this while meeting with Congressman Harris’s staffer, who immediately connected with the hunting and recreational programs described by our Ducks Unlimited counterpart. The storyline developed further with the anecdotes from the Interfaith Partners and Shorerivers executives. I believe this provided the staffers and members with an opportunity to better understand how their individual efforts positively affect so many others. From farms to religion to duck hunting, these varied perspectives are so important in helping outside parties truly internalize and see the value of their work as it pertains to clean water funding.
I was always a bit intimidated by the prospect of lobbying, but it is clear how effective these meetings are and will continue to be in the future. There was definitely a strong sense of camaraderie among all of the parties involved. Between the countless handshakes and smiles exchanged, it was hard not to feel connected even being a recent addition to this group. This experience reminded me that at the end of the day, we’re all human and trying to make a difference in a way that feels important to us. This was definitely an experience I will never forget and one that makes me very excited to continue working on these types of environmental issues here at the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.
Annie, pictured in red, is with Maryland LCV’s Ben Alexandro and other Clean Water activists on Capitol Hill.
By Craig Auster, PAC & Advocacy Partnerships Director
The 2018 midterm elections were historic: women, people of color and LGBTQ+ candidates ran for office – and won up and down the ballot – in record numbers. From the very beginning, it was clear that this new group of diverse candidates emerged, in part, because they were concerned by President Trump’s attacks on our democracy, health, equal rights and the environment, and running for office was an effective way to make change and fight for their communities.
We at LCV were determined to help translate this energy to success on the 2018 ballot. So, early in the cycle, we joined EMILY’s List, Rachel’s Network, and many of our partners in the climate and environmental
justice movement to support and help prepare pro-environment women candidates to run for office. And given its success, we’re at it again, training women candidates to run for office in 2020.
In 2017, the day after the Peoples Climate March, which thousands of people attended, nearly 100 pro-environment women who were considering running for office attended our candidate training. Of the women who joined us that day, 20 were on the ballot last cycle, running for offices ranging from city and town councils to county commissions to state legislatures to the U.S. House. And in the end, eight won their races.
One of these eight successful women is Sarah Elfreth, the new state senator for Maryland’s 30th District. At the age of 29, she’s made history as the youngest woman in the state Senate, one of the first two women to represent Anne Arundel County in the Senate and has been called a “rising star in Maryland politics.” She got to know our colleagues at Maryland LCV when she worked in government affairs for the National Aquarium. At the state House, Elfreth worked to help pass legislation that banned shark finning and toxic microbeads. Maryland LCV endorsed Elfreth in her Senate race and encouraged her to attend our candidate training.
We recently asked Elfreth what attending the training and having Maryland LCV’s support meant to her campaign. “I’m fortunate to represent a district where protecting the Chesapeake Bay and standing up for the environment is the most important issue to our community.
LCV and other environmental volunteers came out week after week to knock on doors and talk to voters on behalf of the campaign. I wouldn’t be in the Senate or about to take my seat on the Chesapeake Bay Commission without the help of LCV and its members.”
Pro-environment women like Elfreth are the future of our country. Elfreth campaigned on a strong environmental platform, stating “The Chesapeake Bay is our greatest natural resource, an economic engine, and a key to our way of life. As your senator, I will work hard to increase oyster populations and sustain marine life, create clean energy jobs, commit Maryland to 50 percent renewable energy use by 2030, and fight to protect our forests and critical areas.”
Analysis has shown that when women are elected to office, it bodes well for the environment. The “When Women Lead” report on LCV’s National Environmental Scorecard by our friends at Rachel’s Network shows that between 2006 and 2017, “the average LCV score of women in the House…was 71 compared to 40 among men… The average LCV score of women Senators…was 73 compared to 42 from their male counterparts.” Two of the states at the leading edge of environment protection, Rhode Island and Oregon, are led by women. Governor Gina Raimondo has worked to bring clean energy jobs to the Ocean State, especially expanding offshore wind. Under Governor Kate Brown, Oregon passed the nation’s first “coal-to-clean” law, which will completely phase out dirty coal power by 2030 and double the state’s reliance on renewable energy by 2040.
Furthermore, if we are to achieve just climate solutions that benefit all communities and address environmental inequities that disproportionately impact communities of color, we need to keep building a bench of pro-environment leaders of diverse backgrounds at the state and local level – currently, much of our progress on climate is occurring at the state and local level, and this is our pipeline of future governors and members of Congress. And this pipeline needs to include people from communities and backgrounds that are underrepresented as decision makers for this country – that includes women, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, young people, and people of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds.
This is a winning strategy. In the midterm elections, we witnessed the power of a field of congressional candidates who reflected the values and diversity of our country: We now have a pro-environment majority in the House and the most diverse caucus in history. We need to continue this trend in the 2020 cycle.
LCV and our state partners are committed to helping recruit and train this next generation of diverse pro-environment elected officials. We are dedicated to helping build a truly representative democracy where our leaders share the pro-environmental values of the vast majority of this country. That’s why we are excited to partner again with EMILY’s List, this time for a training the day after the Women’s March. And we are going to work more closely than ever before with our state LCV partners to identify, recruit, train, elect and hold accountable the new pro-environmental leaders who will move our country towards a future of clean air, clean water and clean energy for all.
Karla Raettig, Maryland League of Conservation Voters
Our organizations work together across Maryland on environmental issues. To us, that work is an integral part of the larger work for social justice. We strive to protect the natural world out of a concern for people, communities, and future generations. People can only thrive in a healthy ecosystem on a living planet. And too often, the same racism that has deprived people of color full access to wealth and opportunity has also deprived them of access to clean air and water.
Our organizations put our faith behind Harford County Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti as she emerged to play a leadership role in advancing a critical climate initiative for our communities. But Del. Lisanti’s racist outburst calls into question her respect for the leadership, staff, volunteers, and members of our organizations, as well as the people we advocate for.
Our organizations will not remain silent when the foundation of our work is to lift up communities engaging for our shared values across the state and to promote a healthy environment for all Marylanders. The act of crafting public policy as a Maryland elected official is a privilege and requires a fundamental respect for every person affected by those policies. With regard to Del. Lisanti’s comments in the Washington Post, alcohol is never an excuse for racism or racist behavior. Comparing racist epithets that dehumanize us, our partners, friends, and neighbors to mere profanity is equally unacceptable because it minimizes the past and present systems which weaponize difference.
We hope that Del. Lisanti will engage in rigorous soul-searching and anti-racism, anti-oppression training that could turn this offensive episode into a truly meaningful growth experience not just for herself, but also for her colleagues, constituents, the people of Maryland, and for everyone across the country who rejects implicit and explicit racism and hatred across our nation.
Our trust and confidence in her leadership is lost, especially on environmental issues that are core to our missions. Serving as a state elected official and being a state-wide leader on climate justice requires the full faith and trust of all Marylanders. Unfortunately, Delegate Lisanti spurned that trust and, as such, we believe the best course of action is for her to resign as a member of the House of Delegates.
Meanwhile, there is much work to be done. We urge Governor Hogan and the leadership of the Maryland Senate and Maryland House of Delegates to pass bold laws in 2019 that underscore our state’s commitment to progress in the areas of environmental health, economic justice, and racial equity as prescient matters of social justice.
Maryland Environmental Health Network
Sierra Club Maryland Chapter
Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Interfaith Power & Light (DC.MD.NoVA)
Maryland League of Conservation Voters (Maryland LCV)
Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Maryland
Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility
Clean Water Action
Citizens Climate Lobby, Maryland
Food & Water Watch
The Earth Coalition
National Wildlife Federation Mid-Atlantic Regional Center
Maryland Conservation Council
The clear winner for Tuesday night was Maryland’s environment. And that is all thanks to you. Check out our list of endorsed candidates to see how they performed.
Thanks to pro-conservation voters, volunteers, and donors, 86% of our endorsed candidates won! Maryland saw record-breaking turnout during early voting and on election day with over 2 million votes cast in Maryland.
That is phenomenal, and a large turnout means Marylanders are standing up for their communities and making sure their voices are heard. You not only voted, you turned out to support these candidates through volunteering and spreading the word. Through the Maryland LCV Political Action Committee, we doorknocked and called nearly 20,000 voters in priority districts – that is all thanks to your support.
The candidates who ran on environmental issues have been pounding the pavement door-knocking, calling, participating in debates and forums for many months and all their hard work has paid off. While not all of our candidates won, we saw candidates embracing the environment as a winning issue.
Our endorsed candidates have pledged to protect our air, land, and water and we look forward to working with them to fulfill your environmental values.
So take a rest now, Friend because in January, we are going to need to come together to fight for a stronger Maryland. This next legislative session we are going to have some big asks because we don’t have time to wait.
We need to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act to increase our renewable energy in Maryland, secure stronger water protections, and encourage smarter growth to mitigate climate-related weather disasters. We have our environmental champions in place at the county and state level to secure these gains but we’ll need your help to ensure that campaign promises are turned into action.
By Karla Raettig, Executive Director
As the environmental watchdog in the state of Maryland, I’m proud to present to you our 2018 Environmental Scorecard. The annual report highlights the environmental voting record of all 188 legislators in Maryland.
The 2018 Session was a complicated year for the environment in the Maryland General Assembly. On the one hand, legislators passed several bills of environmental importance and in multiple cases the environment was a bipartisan concern.
While those bills were important, leaders in the General Assembly failed to vote on many top environmental priorities. This inaction short changes Marylanders from truly understanding where our elected officials stand on these particular top environmental issues and further disenfranchises voters in this key election year.
In more frustrating news, we saw long-time environmental champions fail to support environmental priorities, or refuse to bring them up for a vote. In particular, we are especially concerned at the shelving of top environmental legislation, such as the Styrofoam ban.
These bills are supported by you, and strong community-led coalitions with broad legislative support that key leaders in legislative committees refused a vote on. See how your legislator scored here>>
Once our elected officials return to Annapolis in January, we at Maryland LCV will be there to hold them accountable for their actions, or inactions.
The full Scorecard is available online and includes records of votes cast on the floor of the House and Senate and in committees, along with past voting records.
Thank you for being a conservation voter.
By: Dannielle Lipinski
Do you remember moving into your first apartment? I loved that feeling of independence. Along with finally being able to sort the recycling and start a compost pile that my roommates hated, I remember looking at our energy bill wondering how we can start to be a part of the clean energy revolution and fight climate change as consumers.
I had already convinced the roomies about energy-efficient lightbulbs and turning off the lights. However, when I talked about solar panels and wind turbines, they immediately shut me down. Now that I’m all “grown-up” and some of my “roommates” are my young son, a turtle, and a rambunctious dog, I can make a few more choices about my energy usage, not to mention still drive everyone crazy with compost ideas, rain barrels, and a garden that has grown a bit wild.
Through my work at Maryland LCV, I’ve worked on landmark legislation that helps all Marylanders combat climate change. In 2015, the General Assembly passed a fantastic law called the Community Solar Act (HB 1087). This is the pilot program that really changes the way we think about solar energy and who can benefit from its increased usage.
Homeowners who have looked at solar and determined that their living situation cannot support solar panels, they can still benefit from solar power. In addition, the law expands the benefits of solar to renters, churches, and others who have not been able to participate before. The great thing about community solar is that anyone and everyone can join in. In states like Minnesota and New York, community solar has really taken off.
And now it’s Maryland’s turn. With community solar, you can “share” the power generated at a nearby solar farm. You have the option of paying no upfront fees. There are no rate hikes and no surprises. Simply put, community solar is the wave of the future. Your solar will come from a local site within Maryland and you’ll be helping Maryland grow in solar energy.
Look into community solar today, and you can convince your roommates to take the plunge and join the clean energy revolution! Please check out the links below for more information on opportunities to sign up:
Here is more information about the Community Solar from the Public Service Commission: https://www.psc.state.md.us/electricity/community-solar-pilot-program/