U.S. Congress Passes Great American Outdoors Act

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 22, 2020
Contact: Ben Alexandro, balexandro@mdlcv.org, 845-596-9634

U.S. Congress Passes Great American Outdoors Act

Landmark bill will protect open spaces in Maryland and throughout the United States

Washington, D.C. – By a bipartisan vote of 310-107, the U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), a landmark environmental bill that will restore parks and public lands in Maryland and across the country and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Act (LWCF). The bill, which passed the Senate on June 17, now heads to the White House for President Trump’s signature.

“The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act is a significant victory for Maryland,” said Maryland League of Conservation Voters Executive Director, Kim Coble. “The bill guarantees that Marylanders will have access to clean, safe, and healthy parks for years to come.”

The Great American Outdoors Act will allow the National Park Service to restore resources that are deteriorating due to age and inconsistent funding. In Maryland alone, park sites that welcome nearly 7 million visitors and support more than 2,900 jobs each year require $244 million in repairs. The now-permanent LWCF funding is significant for Maryland: The state has received $231.8 million in LWCF funding over the past five decades, protecting places such as the Assateague Island National Seashore, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Monocacy National Battlefield and the C&O Canal National Historic Park. Maryland also uses LWCF to leverage additional funds, such as state Program Open Space money that funds hundreds of facilities and creates access to local and state parks.

Coble lauded the role of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in shepherding the Great American Outdoors Act through Congress. “For decades, Marylanders have always known that Steny Hoyer would go to the mat for Maryland’s special places,” said Coble. “His tremendous leadership in moving the Great American Outdoors Act through Congress will provide lasting benefits to Marylanders and all Americans.”

The Maryland League of Conservation and its members weighed in heavily in support of the Great American Outdoors Act. Early in July, Maryland LCV organized 36 Maryland conservation groups to urge Rep. Hoyer’s continued leadership, and Maryland LCV reached hundreds of thousands of Marylanders through drive-time radio ads and extensive on-line advocacy in both English and Spanish. 

Here are quotes from other Maryland organizations that joined with us in advocating for the Great American Outdoors Act:

“Our parks are inundated with people — a great problem to have, but our parks need help so they can remain treasures that connect people to nature while preserving delicate ecosystems. The Great American Outdoors Act is that help,” said Emily Ranson, Clean Water Action, Maryland Director.

“The Alice Ferguson Foundation applauds Majority Leader Hoyer’s continuous leadership of environmental causes both locally and nationally. The Great American Outdoors Act will continue to ensure our national parks thrive for future generations,” said Theresa Cullen, Executive Director, Alice Ferguson Foundation.

“GAOA funding will support our Urban parks and recreational spaces that are used by millions of people close to home,” said  Jim Foster, President, Anacostia Watershed Society.

“This passage of the Great American Outdoors Act ensures that our irreplaceable Maryland parks and public lands will continue to be protected, and that all Marylanders will have access to nature. By continuing to provide funds for our parks we help cool our communities with green spaces as climate change heats up, and create opportunities to expand outdoor education programming,” said Denisse Guitarra, MD Conservation Advocate at Audubon Naturalist Society.

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 Maryland LCV is known for educating lawmakers and holding them accountable for their leadership and votes on key environmental issues. Their annual scorecard, along with other reports, help inform voters about their legislators’ records.

Maryland League of Conservation Voters
30 West Street, Suite C
Annapolis, MD 21401
www.mdlcv.org

Great news! The Great American Outdoors Act Passes out of Congress

By a bipartisan vote of 310-107, the U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), a landmark environmental bill that will restore parks and public lands in Maryland and across the country and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Act (LWCF). The bill, which passed the Senate on June 17, now heads to the White House for President Trump’s signature.

“The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act is a significant victory for Maryland,” said Maryland League of Conservation Voters Executive Director, Kim Coble. “The bill guarantees that Marylanders will have access to clean, safe, and healthy parks for years to come.”

Check out our press release here.

Maryland members of Congress and how they voted:

Senator Ben Cardin: Voted Yes

Senator Chris Van Hollen: Voted Yes

District 1 Representative Andrew Harris: Voted No

District 2 Representative Dutch Ruppersberger: Voted Yes

District 3 Representative John Sarbanes: Voted Yes

District 4 Representative Anthony Brown: Voted Yes

District 5 Representative Steny Hoyer: Voted Yes

District 6 Representative David Trone: Voted Yes

District 7 Representative Kweisi Mfume: Voted Yes

District 8 Representative Jamie Raskin: Voted Yes

Sign our Thank you card to Majority Leader Hoyer and other members of congress who voted for the Great American Outdoors Act and permanently funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has supported or enhanced the protection of many of the most special parks and other natural areas across the state.

Looking up through the trees into a clear sunny sky

 The Fund was permanently authorized in 2019, but that does not guarantee that the $900 million put into the LWCF account every year will be spent on conservation. Over the 55 years of the program, billions of dollars have been siphoned from the fund for other non-conservation purposes. In fact, this past fiscal year 2020, only $495 million was appropriated to LWCF—far short of full funding, and yet the highest amount in 15 years.Maryland is filled with hidden treasures of natural beauty. A true “America in miniature,” our wonderful state has towering tree-covered mountains in the west, and long stretches of sand-covered beaches on our Eastern Shore, and is home to the bountiful Chesapeake Bay.

That means the money that should have gone to increasing recreation opportunity for all, protecting our parks from being sold off to the highest bidder, providing close-to-home playgrounds and ballfields to support healthy kids and families, safeguarding our drinking water supplies, and keeping working forests in sustainable operation instead of subdivided and developed — went somewhere else. 

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has provided funding to help protect some of Maryland’s most special places and ensure recreational access for hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities. 

Maryland has received approximately $231.8 million in LWCF funding over the past five decades, protecting places such as the Assateague Island National Seashore, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Monocacy National Battlefield and the C&O Canal National Historic Park.

Forest Legacy Program (FLP) grants are also funded under LWCF, to help protect working forests. The FLP cost-share funding supports timber sector jobs and sustainable forest operations while enhancing wildlife habitat, water quality and recreation. 

For example, the FLP contributed to places such as the Broad Creek in Dublin and the Coastal Bay project in Snow Hill. FLP has directly protected 2,014 acres in Maryland. The program assists states and private forest owners to maintain working forest lands through matching grants for permanent conservation easement and fee acquisitions, and has leveraged approximately $4.6 million in federal funds to invest in Maryland’s forests. These forests enhance air and water quality and provide wildlife habitat and recreational access.

LWCF state assistance grants have further supported hundreds of projects across Maryland’s state and local parks including Conquest Waterfront Preserve in Queen Anne’s County and Seneca State Park in Montgomery County.

Economic Benefits

Active outdoor recreation is an important part of the Maryland economy. The Outdoor Industry Association has found that active outdoor recreation generates $14 billion in consumer spending in Maryland; provides 109,000 jobs that generate $4.4 billion in wages and salaries; and produces nearly $951 million annually in state and local tax revenue. Further, the U.S. Census reports that each year over 2.7 million people hunt, fish, or enjoy wildlife-watching in Maryland, contributing over $1.6 billion in wildlife recreation spending to the state economy.

Funding in Maryland

Federal Total $ 134,400,000
Forest Legacy Program $ 4,600,000
American Battlefield Protection Program $ 3,000,000
Habitat Conservation (Sec. 6) $ 3,500,000
State Program Total State Grants $ 85,300,000
Total $ 231,800,000

Resources:

Factsheet of Maryland LWCF

UPDATE: TERRIFIC NEWS FOR LANGLEY PARK LATINO COMMUNITY

                                                 En español

July 22,2020

Thank you again for your generosity in donating to our GoFundMe campaign during May 2020 for the “COVID-19 Crisis Fund” for the Latino community of Langley Park. I’m delighted to now report that another $20,000 has been awarded – in addition to the more than $10,000 that you helped raise – to directly assist this community!

I’m so proud of this effort fostered by our CHISPA Maryland program in partnership with the Langley Park Civic Association. “This grant from the League of Conservation Voters will provide a great relief to these families so that they are not left behind, and it will also help our community to move forward together,” said Cándida Garcia, a board member of the Langley Park Civic Association. “The Civic Association will use these funds to provide direct financial relief to immigrant families that are experiencing hardships related to COVID-19 and increase the capacity of the Langley Park Civic Association to better assist residents of this community during the pandemic and beyond.”

The Langley Park community is a longtime partner of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. Through our Chispa Maryland program, and in partnership with community members, faith leaders, and the Langley park Civic Association — we have delivered environmental education workshops, advocacy opportunities, and leadership training that has produced over 30 Environmental Justice and Action “Promotores” (advocacy leaders) from this community over the past five years.

“These Promotores and leaders have become the heart and soul of the Chispa Maryland program, and this community has been a key ally in advancing environmental legislation and policies that incorporate environmental justice in Maryland,” said Chispa Maryland Program Director Ramon Palencia-Calvo. “With many community members experiencing income loss due to lay-offs or significant reduction of work hours, and many unable to access federal assistance programs, we consider continued support for the community to be an urgent priority.”

In May, Maryland LCV Education Fund and Chispa Maryland partnered with the Langley Park Civic Association to also assist its immigrant residents during the coronavirus pandemic. Jointly, the two raised over $10,000 through a 10-day GoFundMe campaign to help families with emergency assistance for rent, food, medicine, and other essential items.

“During that same May period, we applied for the $20,000 grant for the community from the national League of Conservation Voters’ COVID-19 Fund,” said Palencia-Calvo. “We are thrilled that the funds have now been awarded, because the community of Langley Park continues to experience hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Those who are interested in supporting Chispa’s COVID-19 community relief efforts should contact Maryland LCV Education Fund at rpcalvo@mdlcv.org

Kim Coble

Executive Director

Original Post: May 22, 2020

By Ramon Palencia-Calvo, Deputy Director

  Together we give

Through our Chispa Maryland program, we have developed transformational relationships with a variety of environmental and community groups. The Prince George’s County community of Langley Park,where upwards of 80% of the residents are Latino, has become one of our most effective and valued partners. 

Our Chispa Maryland program and community leaders and residents of Langley Park have collaborated on environmental education workshops, advocacy opportunities, community clean ups, environmental forums, and air quality monitoring. I know I can always count on the Langley Park community to go the extra mile in support of the environmental issues that are so important to all of us.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic is severely threatening the Langley Park community, one of the most affected areas in all of Maryland. Latino community members are experiencing income loss due to layoffs or significant reduction of work hours, and many have been unable to access federal assistance or other relief programs. 

Join our effort today to support our partners in need, Our campaign ends on May 31st>>

Over 30 Environmental Justice and Action Promotores from this community have graduated from our program. These Promotores and leaders have become the heart and soul of the Chispa Maryland program, and this community has helped us advance environmental legislation and policies, such as the Clean Energy Jobs Act, the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign, and banning styrofoam in Prince George’s County. 

In response to the needs of our community allies, Chispa Maryland is partnering with the Langley Park Civic Association, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that serves individuals residing in Langley Park, to assist its immigrant community directly affected by COVID-19 and the broader pandemic.  This organization and the people they represent have been key partners in helping Chispa Maryland advocate for climate justice.

They have stood with us to advance our joint environmental priorities, and now they need us to stand with them. Join us today in support of the Langley Park community and our 10 day campaign to raise funds directly to those in need>>

The Langley Park Civic Association will identify families that require critically urgent financial assistance for rent, food, medicine, or other essential items. The funds will be used to provide direct financial relief to those families who might have been rejected from other funding sources, have received only partial relief, or have emergency needs that are simply too urgent to undergo a complex administrative process. 

Check out our press release here.

Thank you and I hope you and your families are well in this time,

headshot of ramon palencia calvo

Ramon Palencia-Calvo, Deputy Executive Director and Chispa Maryland Director
Maryland LCV Ed Fund and Chispa Maryland

By |2020-07-27T14:36:57-04:00May 20th, 2020|Categories: Blog, Diversity, Donor, Successes|Tags: , |0 Comments

Congressional District 7 Special Election

By Kristen Harbeson, Political Director

As I’m sure you’ve noted on your calendar, the special election is coming up very quickly- April 28th! We want to be sure your voter registration information is up to date and you are clear on how to vote by mail because it can be confusing.

We hosted our first webinar about the special elections with our partners and in case you missed it, here is the recorded meeting:

Both the Special Election on April 28 th and the June 2 nd Primary will be primarily Vote By Mail, with limited in-person options.
Despite the critical public health dangers of COVID-19, elections can be conducted in a safe and secure manner through Vote By Mail.
33 States – Including Maryland – allow any eligible voter to request an absentee ballot and vote by mail without needing to provide a reason. The April and June Elections are simply a rapid expansion of that program.

Voting by Mail

  • All registered voters in Congressional District 7 will receive ballots
  • Ballots will be sent to the address listed with the State Board of Elections
  • Ballots will not be forwarded
  • Voters must mail back their own ballot by the US Postal Service
  • Postage will be pre-paid for mailed ballots
  • Ballots sent by e-mail will need to be printed and mailed with appropriate postage (2 stamps)
  • Ballots should be signed and filled out with a black pen
  • Ballots must be postmarked on or before April 28th

Voting in Person

  • Each jurisdiction will have one in-person voting centers
    • Baltimore City: Edmondson High School – 501 N. Athol Avenue
    • Baltimore County: Martin’s West – 6817 Dogwood Road
    • Howard County: Howard County Fairgrounds – 2210 Fairgrounds Road
  • Vote Centers will be open on April 28th from 7am – 8pm
  • Ballot marking devices will be available for voters with disabilities
  • Each jurisdiction will have at least one secure vote drop box which will be available on election day. Locations will be finalized by April 20th
  • Both the Special Election on April 28 th and the June 2 nd Primary will be primarily Vote By Mail, with limited in-person options.
  • Despite the critical public health dangers of COVID-19, elections can be conducted in a safe and secure manner through Vote By Mail

33 States – Including Maryland – allow any eligible voter to request an absentee ballot and vote by mail without needing to provide a reason. The April and June Elections are simply a rapid expansion of that program.

Check your Registration

  • To register or to check the status of your registration can be done on the State Board of Elections website: www.elections.Maryland.gov
  • Registering to vote or requesting an absentee ballot will require a state ID
  • Same Day registration will be available at vote centers, however these voters will likely be required to fill out a provisional ballot.

Important Dates

  • April 21 – Last day to request a ballot to be mailed
  • Ballots sent by USPS will include postage-paid return envelopes
  • April 24 – Deadline to register to vote and request ballot be e-mailed
  • E-mailed ballots will need to be printed and mailed. Voter will be required to pay their own postage (2 stamps).
  • April 28 – Ballots must be postmarked by this date or cast in person
  • May 6 – Results expected to be announced on or before this date.

Troubleshooting

  • If you have not received a ballot
  • If you have general questions or problems on election day
    • 1-866-OUR-VOTE: national election hotline
    • 410-844-4859: Baltimore Votes election day hotline

Benefits of Vote By Mail

  • Election Security
    • Paper Records of every vote in case of a recount
    • Few instances of fraud. Oregon voters have sent in over 100 million ballots since 2000, and only about a dozen people have been caught and prosecuted for election fraud, none of it organized or consequential
  • Voter Education
    • Voters have time to sit with ballots and do their research
    • This is especially important for voters with lower literacy levels or those whose first language is not English

 

Celebrate Earth Today

By Laura Wood, Development Director

Like us, we hope you’re enjoying, exploring, and taking refuge in Maryland’s great outdoors during this unprecedented time. Let’s all celebrate our natural environment today, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day!

Today is such a reminder of how important it is that we protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land on which we live. 

We are watchdogs – guardians of our environment – protecting Maryland’s natural resources not only for us, but for our children and future generations.

With your support, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters will work to ensure pro-conservation leaders are elected, and then hold them accountable through our scorecard and policy advocacy.

Only by transforming our political system and electing environmental champions will we create the opportunity to take the bold action needed on climate change.

Celebrate the 50th Earth Day and donate $50 to Maryland League of Conservation Voters now.

Together, we can raise the political voice that is needed to protect Maryland’s environment for the future.

Stay well and healthy,

Laura Wood, Development Director

P.S. Interested in a tax deduction? Make your gift to the Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund here.Even if you don’t itemize on your taxes, thanks to the COVID-19 Relief Bill, your contribution could be tax-deductible up to $300 (consult your tax advisor for more information).

 

2020 Legislative Wrap Up

By Kim Coble, Executive Director

This year’s post-session wrap-up is coming three weeks before it normally would, due to these unprecedented times.  What is normally a recap of what bills did or didn’t pass, this year we need to look at things through a slightly fuzzier lens: what passed, what didn’t pass due to legislative inaction, and what was abruptly discarded due to a public health crisis.

At the time the session was curtailed, Maryland LCV and the environmental community were on track to have a successful legislative session, with strong, ambitious legislation passing in the sectors of transportation, energy, resiliency, water, and agriculture.

Unfortunately, as the coronavirus required us to socially distance ourselves, it also meant many of those bills ended up on the figurative cutting room floor. We are still proud of the progress we made, which sets us up for future success. The groundwork we laid on key issues is essential as we face the global crisis of climate change.

There were literally dozens of bold, visionary bills presented this session, most of which were not passed. Here are some of the highlights:

To see the full legislative summary, go here.

Oysters: One of the clearest victories of the year was to further protect our oysters. The veto of last year’s bill – creating an oyster fisheries management program – was overridden. A corrective bill to fix the dates complicated by the veto’s delay passed both chambers unanimously.

  • HB720-19/SB830-19 (Barve/Elfreth)Natural Resources – Fishery Management Plans – Oysters
  • HB911/SB808 (Gilchrist/Elfreth)Natural Resources – Fishery Management Plans – Oysters

Resiliency: In the face of a public health emergency, the necessity of preparing for emergencies brought on by climate change came into sharper relief.  A bill that gives counties the bonding authority for resiliency projects passed, as did one that allows the Bay Restoration Fund to be used to support similar efforts under limited circumstances.

  • HB78/SB172 (Watson/Hester)Bay Restoration Fund-Authorized Uses
  • HB539/SB457 (Watson/Elfreth)Local Governments – Resilience Authorities – Authorization

Pesticides: After a pitched battle, the General Assembly passed a phase-out ban of Chlorpyrifos – a dangerous pesticide connected to negative health impacts in children.

  • HB229/SB300 (Stein/Lam)Pesticides – Use of Chlorpyrifos – Prohibition

Several bills were blocked by negative votes, departmental opposition, or deliberate legislative inaction:

  • HB432/SB423 (Korman/Zucker)Zero-Emission Bus Transition Act – This bill would have mandated that all future purchases in the state’s transit bus fleets be for electric vehicles.  It passed the House and the Budget and Tax Committee in the Senate, but an abstention in the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee gave it an untimely unfavorable vote.
  • HB98/SB168 (Davis/Kelley)Electricity – Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard – Qualifying Biomass: This bill would have removed “black liquor” from the resources receiving subsidies as a clean energy resource as part of Renewable Portfolio Standard. This bill received an unfavorable vote in the Senate Finance Committee.

Transportation: A number of important bills were introduced that would have made considerable progress in our transportation sector by adequately funding existing public transportation systems, and transitioning the entire fleet of state vehicles and buses, as well as private vehicles, to electric. Of these, the bill to adequately fund public transit came the closest to making it through both chambers, passing on a party line vote in the House of Delegates but not receiving a vote in the Senate:

  • HB368/SB424 (Lierman/Zucker):  Transit Safety and Investment Act: Passed house

Energy: Maryland has made great strides in recent years to transform our energy sector from polluting fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy.  The urgency of the climate crisis inspired dozens of bills to address the energy production and use sector.  The three bills that made progress before the abrupt end to session promoted architectural changes to state-owned buildings to reduce energy consumption (and protect birds), required the Public Service Commission to consider climate impacts when approving projects, and updating our state emission reductions goals while offering tangible steps to reach those goals. Each of these received votes in one chamber, but failed to advance in the second due to time-restrictions.

  • HB192/SB299 (Hill/Guzzone-Lam) – Maryland Sustainable Buildings Act: Passed house
  • HB531/SB656 (Charkoudian/Kramer) – Utility Regulation-Consideration of Climate and Labor: Passed senate
  • HB1425/SB926 (Stein/Pinsky) – Climate Solutions Act of 2020:  Passed both senate committees

Resiliency: While we work to lessen the effects of climate change, our state also must move to protect our communities and environment from the crises that we are facing right now. A suite of bills worked to confront these concerns, including one creating a State Resilience Office at the Emergency Management Service and another that created an ombudsman in the Attorney General’s office to facilitate environmental enforcement and transparency of data.

  • HB614/SB460 (Lierman/Elfreth) – Environmental Accountability and Transparency Act: Passed senate
  • SB721 (Hester) – Emergency Management – Chief Resilience Officer – Appointment and Duties: Passed senate

Water: While the oyster legislation was a strong victory for Maryland’s waterways, other bills that would have addressed the health of our waters failed to make it over the finish line, despite a strong start. One, that would have created better systems of licensing for septic system inspectors who are on the front line of preventing septic run-off into our waterways, failed to reach the priority level to move to the floor in the last days.  The other would have banned plastic bags at check-out throughout the state, which moved to the senate floor on the last day of the abbreviated session and failed to make it through second reader.

  • SB254 (Young) – On-site Sewage Disposal Systems – Inspection – Licensing: Passed senate
  • HB209/SB313 (Lierman/Augustine) Plastics and Packaging Reduction Act: Passed house

Thanks to your online advocacy (over 6,000 emails to legislators!), calls to your legislators (almost 250 patch-thru calls!), in person lobby visits, and attending rallies in Annapolis we were able to make the progress we did make. The work you do is essential to protecting our air, land, water, and communities. 

Advancing strong environmental legislation is essential as we face the global crisis of climate change. As the environmental watchdog in Maryland, we will be keeping a close watch over the special session planned for May and we plan to release a 2020 Environmental Scorecard in the coming months.

Thank you for being a conservation voter,

Kim Coble, Maryland LCV
Executive Director

The full legislative summary is here.

Stay connected with us while practicing social distancing:

  

Long-time Environmental Champions join Maryland LCV

By Ed Hatcher, Board Chair

Nothing is more important than protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land on which we live, and these issues are even more urgent because of the climate crisis and now the coronavirus outbreak.

The public health crisis has made the Maryland LCV team more determined than ever to advance our mission of keeping elected officials responsive and accountable to each and every one of us.

That’s why I am thrilled to announce our two new board members Stuart Clarke and Steve Lafferty.

Stuart and Steve are long-time environmental champions well suited to advance our mission of accountability during these challenging times. They will also be important players as we work to make Maryland a national leader in what can be done at the state level to combat climate change.

Stuart is vice president of strategic initiatives for University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences (UMCES). Steve is a former Maryland State delegate and now Baltimore County’s chief sustainability officer.

We are thrilled to welcome these two long-time environmental champions onto our board. Maryland LCV is working to make Maryland a national leader in demonstrating what can be done at the state level to combat climate change. Stuart and Steve will be important players in our efforts.

Stuart Clarke

 

STUART CLARKE

Before joining UMCES, Clarke served as the executive director of the Town Creek Foundation, a private philanthropic foundation dedicated to a sustainable environment. He has also acted as co-chair of the Maryland Climate Commission,  and as a trustee for Greenpeace USA.

Stuart earned a graduate degree in political science from Yale University. He and his family reside on the Eastern Shore.

Hon. Steve Lafferty

STEVE LAFFERTY

Steve served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 2007 to 2019, where he was a leader on issues related to the environment and land use. A longtime resident of the Towson area, he has previously served as the Howard County deputy director of planning and zoning, and as director of special projects for the Howard County executive.

Lafferty earned a master of arts degree from Bowling Green State University, and a J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law.

Together with you, Maryland LCV’s staff and board of directors are working to ensure a healthy future for all our communities, neighborhoods, and families.

Here’s to more good work to protect Maryland’s environment,

Ed

Ed Hatcher, Maryland LCV Board Chair
PS: At Maryland LCV we care deeply about our staff, supporters, and fellow humans across the country. That’s why we are putting in place all the precautionary measures we can. For the immediate future, Maryland LCV has suspended all activities that would require people to come together in the same room. All staff are teleworking, all meetings will be via video conference and all events are cancelled.
By |2020-03-31T19:31:59-04:00March 31st, 2020|Categories: Blog, Successes|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

Where you’ll find the lobbyists in Annapolis

By Kristen Harbeson, resident Lobbyist and Political Director

I love tracking my steps during session – wondering how many miles I logged in a day.  Although there are days when my feet ache from all the walking, there is at least as much sitting as there is walking: sitting in committee rooms (and occasionally on the floor outside of committee rooms); sitting around tables during coalition meetings and while talking to legislators; sitting in the public lounges for emergency conversations with colleagues.

One of the most likely places you’ll find me during much of the Session is in a wingback chair in the hallway on the second floor of the House Office Building.  From there, I can talk to Delegates and their staff pass by on their way to and from the Environment and Transportation and Economic Matters Committees.  I’m not the only one who tends to find herself there – it’s a spot where lobbyists from every kind of advocacy group will find a place to take a call, charge their phones, or catch a few minutes on their laptops between meetings.

These kinds of relaxed locations are where conversations happen that build community, and sometimes provide news in bits and pieces that, when taken together, can help provide context to help shape a legislative strategy.

Ramon Palencia-Calvo, our Deputy Director testifies for one of our priority pieces of legislation.

Ramon Palencia-Calvo, our Deputy Director testifies for one of our priority pieces of legislation.

This week there was a hearing on our first priority bill.  Ramon testified on the importance of fully funding the Maryland Transit Authority, which has a $2 billion shortfall over the next ten years according to a study released last summer. The MTA serves every jurisdiction in the state, but low-income and already disadvantaged communities suffer the most from failures due to inadequate maintenance. Additionally, a strong, affordable, and accessible public transportation system is essential to reducing Maryland’s greenhouse gas pollution. (Did you know that the transportation sector – especially highway traffic – represents more than 40% of our greenhouse gasses?!) This is always an important moment in a campaign.  It’s the first time that arguments for and against are presented side by side, and examined by the committees who make the decision of what happens next. It’s a little bit like a play, and a little bit like a polite boxing match.

In this case, the hearing was in front of the House Appropriations Committee which works with the State Budget.  Ramon, and all of our partners provided strong testimony after the bill was presented by Delegate Lierman.  The Department of Transportation spoke against the bill, which isn’t uncommon, especially for bills that require the Governor to spend money in a specific way. Next week, the same bill will be heard in the Senate, and then we work on the next step: A vote from subcommittee.

Sitting or standing, or running through the halls, you can count on your Maryland LCV staff working hard next week to pass strong environmental laws.  Next week we’ll have some marathon bill hearings, too, so stay tuned!

Talk about changing the body politic!

By Kristen Harbeson, Political Director

Folk singer Pete Seeger, one of my great heroes, once said that “when you bring people together, even if just for a beer, you’re changing the body politic.” He knew what he was talking about. Pete’s music was an important part of the soundtrack for social change in the 20th century, especially for both labor rights and the environment.

Kristen Harbeson speaks at the 2020 MDEnviroSummit

Bringing people together, and changing the body politic, is a pivotal part of the work of your Maryland LCV staff and our partners. On any given week, Maryland LCV staff participate in as many as 15-20 different conference calls or coalition meetings relating to our priorities and how we all can work together to advance our agenda.  These are in addition to the dozens of other conversations, in groups of two and three and four, which propel us forward in the session dance.  Periodically there are public meetings like the one that Dannielle and I went to on off-shore wind in Ocean City (and that Dannielle wrote about).

By far the best demonstration of bringing people together to change the body politic, though, happened this week during the annual Environmental Summit when 30 organizations that make up the Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment (CCE) gather together with hundreds of advocates to unveil and showcase the bills we selected as our priorities. For the last two years, I’ve had the joy of being able to – as the chairman of CCE – welcome everyone to the event and kick off the program.  There is simply nothing like standing in front of a room of five hundred advocates ready to charge forward and make a difference.  It’s a tremendous honor to be able to help coordinate the extraordinary table of environmental leaders that do so much amazing work during the ninety-day session and beyond.

But that’s not what I will remember most as we move through the next 68 days of Session.  What I will remember are the words of the 18-year old keynote speaker, Athena Verghis, who left the packed room with the following words:

“We stand here convinced of a bright future for Maryland, because when we change the root, we can change the crop. Let us replace the root of ignorance with much needed understanding and unwavering commitment to the future.  Let us replace frustration with hope. As global citizens for tomorrow I want to leave with one message: There is not enough time for us to point fingers and promise short-term gain that will only benefit a few citizens. However there is just enough time to recognize the urgency of this climate emergency. For every single individual in this room to fulfill his or her role as legislative leaders or social influencers and to commit and create systemic change that benefits all living things that call Maryland their home. Because this is your backyard as well as our future.”

I, and every person walking out of that room, left with a renewed sense of hope and urgency, committed to doing everything we could to move our state forward. Talk about changing the body politic! Pete Seeger would have been proud.