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

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

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.