Top Environmental Advocacy Group touts legislative victories with truncated legislative session

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 18, 2020

Contact: Dannielle Lipinski,  dlipinski@mdlcv.org

Top Environmental Advocacy Group touts legislative victories with truncated legislative session

Annapolis, MD – For the first time since the Civil War, the Maryland General Assembly has ended ahead of schedule in order to help combat the spread of the coronavirus. Alongside crucial legislation to assist our state through this crisis, our elected leaders worked hard to protect our air, land, water, and communities.

“We applaud the members and staff of the Maryland General Assembly and the Department of General Services for their diligence, leadership and commitment during extraordinary circumstances. They exemplified that when we work together, we can achieve great things.  Marylanders are fortunate our leaders accomplished top priority actions while also protecting public health.” Kim Coble, Executive Director of Maryland League of Conservation Voters.

A few shining examples of their efforts include passage of an essential oyster bill and banning the dangerous pesticide, chlorpyrifos. The Oyster Fisheries Management Act creates a new collaborative process and opportunities to improve oyster fishery management. The ban on chlorpyrifos is one of the first in the nation to take effect. The legislators also worked on a suite of bills that assist with community resiliency around the climate crisis. Lawmakers passed these in the final hours of session. 

And some bills simply suffered from time running out and the legislative session ending early due to the coronavirus pandemic. A number of our priority bills were passed out of one chamber but there wasn’t enough time for the second chamber to move the bills. These organizational priorities were the Transit Safety and Investment Act to fully fund MTA, the Maryland Sustainable Buildings Act, and the Plastics and Packaging Reduction Act, which would have prohibited the use of single-use bags. 

While some bills were not able to cross the finish line because of lack of time in an abbreviated session, several were blocked by negative votes or deliberate inaction including removing trash incineration from the Renewable Portfolio Standard, the Clean Coal Community Transition Act, and a bill to electrify the MTA Bus Fleet.

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

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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.

By |2020-03-18T20:38:41-04:00March 18th, 2020|Categories: Blog, Press|Tags: , |0 Comments

Special Update: Coronavirus, the environment and the legislative session

By Kim Coble, Executive Director

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.

If nothing else, the COVID-19 outbreak highlights the importance of a government that quickly and efficiently funds and enacts policies that benefit people and our communities. This public health crisis has made me more determined than ever to ensure we have a government and elected officials who are responsive and accountable to each and everyone of us.

As of this writing, the Maryland legislature is adjourning on Wednesday, March 18th. The first time since the Civil War that the legislative session has been cut short. However, our important work to protect Maryland’s air, land, water, and communities is continuing and we are urging the Maryland General Assembly to focus on a few key environmental bills before they close the doors on Wednesday.

And we could use your help! You can take action from the comfort of your home by checking out our Action Alert Center and sending an email to your legislators today. To find out who your state legislator is, please click here.

The environmental priorities that are a top priority and could pass in the next two days include:

I hope you are taking measures to stay safe and informed. And when you are not sending emails to your legislator, you can find updates on the Covid-19 outbreak from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Maryland’s health authorities.

Thank you and take care,

Kim Coble, Maryland LCV
Executive Director

Stay connected with us while practicing social distancing:

  

Catholics to Rally and Lobby in Support of Key Environmental Legislation in Maryland

SILVER SPRING, Md., February 28, 2020 – Catholics from around the State of Maryland will gather in Annapolis on Monday, March 2, for a Teach-In and Lobby Night in support of key environmental legislation advancing in the Maryland General Assembly. The event will be organized by Maryland Catholics for Our Common Home (MCCH), a lay-led group of concerned Catholics from parishes in both the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

Working in cooperation with Chispa Maryland, the Latino outreach program of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, MCCH members will meet with their legislators to express their support for five bills that they believe exemplify key principles of Catholic Social Teaching:
• SB926 / HB 1425: Climate Solutions Act of 2020 – Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act
• SB 887 / HB 1545: Electric Generation Transition from Fossil Fuels – Carbon Dioxide Emissions Rate and Transition Account (Coal Transition)
• HB 368 / SB 424: Transit Safety and Investment Act
• HB 438 / SB 560: Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard – Eligible Sources
• SB 313 / HB 209: Plastics and Packaging Reduction Act

In addition to their personal advocacy, MCCH members will be bringing a statement of support for these five bills signed by hundreds of Catholics from across Maryland.

“I am eager to participate in lobby night in Annapolis as part of Maryland Catholics for Our Common Home,” stated Sandra Perez, a parishioner and staff member at St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Maryland. “As an immigrant from Central America, I am well aware of the connection between climate and migration crises. As both a Catholic and U.S. citizen, I have a moral obligation to speak up and support policies that help to clean up our environment and promote environmental justice at home and abroad.”

“Catholic teaching connects the principle of care for creation with giving priority to the needs of the poor and concern for and solidarity with workers, and we think these bills reflect that comprehensive vision,” stated Bob Simon, a MCCH member and organizer for this event. “These five bills align Maryland’s climate goals with current science and international agreements supported by Pope Francis, heed his call to move from polluting sources of energy to renewables ‘without delay,’ address shortfalls in public transportation that disproportionately affect low-income communities, and address the blight of plastics pollution that is a consequence of what Pope Francis has described as our ‘throwaway culture.’ We hope the General Assembly enacts all five bills, as well as other legislation that would protect the environment of our common home.”

The MCCH event on Monday, March 2, will begin with a teach-in and prayer service at 4:30 P.M. at the historic Carroll House on the campus of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 107 Duke of Gloucester Street, Annapolis. After the conclusion of the prayer service, participants will walk to the Maryland House of Delegates building to convene and then to fan out to appointments with Members and staff of the General Assembly from their districts.

Last year, MCCH focused its advocacy on the passage of the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act, as part of the broad coalition that sucessfully moved that bill to enactment.

Contact: Bob Simon
Maryland Catholics for Our Common Home
301-887-7458
robertmsimon@gmail.com

By |2020-02-28T14:02:12-05:00February 28th, 2020|Categories: Press|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

They say Never Fall in Love with a Bill

By Kristen Harbeson

The conventional wisdom in Annapolis is that you never should fall in love with a bill – because it’s too hard to let it go when it changes or dies.  I’ve never been very good at not falling in love with the bills on which I work. I spend countless hours getting to know each of them, crafting them, getting to know their quirks, strengths, and weaknesses, believing in their value, and fighting for them. I don’t know how to do that without falling in love – and in truth, I don’t think very many people do.

But as one of my favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle, wrote about her marriage, “the growth of love is not a straight line, but a series of hills and valleys.”  The rest of the book (which is called A Two Part Invention if you’re interested) talks about how navigating those hills and valleys are about finding the way between where to hold fast and where to accept change, and also that sometimes when things are darkest, it’s important to take a minute to appreciate unexpected light.

This week, which saw hearings on two of our biggest priority bills.

The ban on Chlorpyrifos had several hours long hearings in both the House and Senate Committees. We put our best arguments forward – talking about the extreme dangers of the pesticide to the health of our communities, especially children, and our environment, and presenting the case for effective alternative treatments.  The opponents talked about the problems with banning the chemical, outlining the dangers of hard-to-kill pests to crops and the livelihood of the farmers, pleading for “last resort” exemptions.

The other bill is the ban on plastic bags and it was heard in the House of Delegates. Our coalition outlined the problems of plastic bags to the climate, waterways, and in our communities.  We explained how a 10c cost to paper bags at check-out ensures that businesses aren’t forced to raise prices, especially in low-income communities – and is necessary to drive the behavior change that actually reduces litter. Opponents argued there could be an unintended consequence to low-income communities from having to pay for bags that once had been given out for free.

The next step for both of these bills is to work with the committees to find the path through compromising and maintaining bill integrity to a bill we can support. How do we keep the legislation as strong as possible and address reasonable concerns outlined by opponents. How do we bring new people onto the path with us without losing key partners and allies? It can be a difficult process, and the path is definitely not a straight line.

These are the days, though, when I tend to look around at my colleagues (both in and out of the environmental community) and realize that I am not alone. We all have once again – for better or worse – fallen in love with our bills, but it’s really because we love Maryland, the General Assembly, and the process of passing laws we think make the world better. And that realization brings unexpected light in the deepest valleys.

Session step count: 184,432

Session mile count: 81.2 (From Waterworks Park in Annapolis to South Mountain Park in Boonsboro)

Mountain climbed: Piton de la Petite Riviere Noire in Mauritiuzs

By |2020-02-20T15:51:44-05:00February 20th, 2020|Categories: Blog|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!

Circles within circles

Weekly Counter

The weekly counter of our Political Director

By Kristen Harbeson, Political Director

There are a lot of analogies to describe Annapolis during the legislative session. One of my favorites is thinking of it as a dance: spinning, and turning, passing hand to hand; dozens of interactions, sometimes brief and sometimes lengthy, that ultimately creates a community. Circles within circles, everyone relentlessly moving through the steps of the dance that does not end until Sine Die, the last day of session. 

I was reminded of the nature of the community last week. When an emergency took me away from Session immediately after it began, the legislative work didn’t miss a beat. The Maryland LCV family and our coalition partners all stepped in to make sure that, while I took care of urgent family business, none of the important work we do together suffered: the dance continued. 

Coming back on Monday I was able to jump right back into the circle, only slightly disoriented with having missed a few rounds of the routine. The community is also extremely caring: While we all have our roles – legislator, aide, and advocate – we all are people first, and the human connections can be both strong and affirming. It’s one of the many reasons I love this job and this world. 

This week’s work was visiting legislative offices with the “blue backs” (in the House) and “white backs” (in the Senate) of our priority bills. These are literally copies of the bills, where legislators can sign their names as cosponsors before the bills are introduced.

 Asking for cosponsors helps us to determine the level of support for a particular bill (signing on as a co-sponsor is a strong commitment of support), and an opportunity to answer the questions that legislators and their staffs may have on our bills. Walking into their offices also, sometimes, gives the legislators a chance to say “hey! I wanted to talk to you about this other bill I’m thinking about. Do you have a minute?” 

Last week we were walking around two priority bills: the Plastic Bag ban and the ban on Chlorpyrifos – which I will talk more about in the weeks to come. Both of these are just about ready to move to their next step – being “read out” on the floor and assigned to a committee for a hearing date. We’ll be doing the same process next week with other bills, as the steps of the dance become ever more complicated (and interesting!).

It’s the Best Day of the Year- the beginning of Session!

Kristen Harbeson, Political Director

By Kristen Harbeson, Political Director

I always get a charge out of the first day of Session.  There is a “back to school” feel to the campus, as everyone returns to the halls of Annapolis with big dreams and freshly minted New Year Resolutions.  Many legislators are returning with new committee assignments or leadership appointments, so they will be finding their way to new offices and learning the ropes of new policy briefs. Six new members (five in the House of Delegates and one in the Senate) – will be moving into their offices for the first time, and both the House and Senate will have new faces behind the rostrum, gaveling their chambers to order. And, of course, there are changes in the environmental community, with new leadership in many partner organizations – including our own!

The energy around a new session is electric – but it is only a matter of hours after the rush of greetings before everyone buckles down for work. I look at my newly polished shoes and know that at the end of 90-days, they will have traversed miles and climbed mountains (all within the same ¼ mile and three buildings), in the interest of pursuing strong environmental policy. The notebook where I keep a record of meetings and conversations, currently crisp and empty, will be full. I will be a stranger to the desk in my office, in favor of the floors outside of the committee rooms.

Over the next 90-days, I’ll be updating you weekly on the stories from the halls of Annapolis, and giving you a look behind the scenes at my life as a lobbyist for “The Political Voice of the Environment,” and help to pull back the curtain of how bills become laws here in Maryland.  I hope you’ll take this as an opportunity to ask questions as we go along, and as we work together to pass ground-breaking environmental legislation. Don’t forget to sign up to receive our weekly “hotlist” of legislation we’re tracking (or you can find it here: https://www.mdlcv.org/weekly-hotlist).  I can’t wait to hear from you!