The Brave New Virtual World of the 2021 Legislative Session

The Brave New Virtual World of the 2021 Legislative Session

There is an old saw around Annapolis that “every session is a special session.”  Every session is unique in its own special way.  Some sessions, however, are more unique than others, and this one certainly takes the cake.  Even veterans around the State Circle – legislative and lobbyist alike – are stumbling around like novices as we learn our way through the brave new world of Virtual Session.

To start with, most of us – including your Maryland LCV staff – are working our bills from the comfort (?) of our home offices, negotiating around spouses, children, and pets.  Gone, for the moment, are the hallway meetings, and the tips and (often critical) gossip gleaned from casual conversations around the charging stations and coffee shops.  

On the other hand: gone, too are the opportunities that give high-dollar lobbyists advantages over the non-profit lobby corps and grassroots advocates. Without the Committee Dinners and other opportunities that deep pocket expense accounts allow, we’re all on more even footing. With committee hearings taking place over Zoom, any individual with a computer and an internet connection has exactly the same ability to testify without needing to drive to Annapolis or spend hours on inefficient, unreliable public transit.

This last point is especially salient for this legislative session as we continue the fight to secure adequate funding for the Maryland Transit Administration’s public transit infrastructure, which is the first bill that your Maryland LCV staff will be testifying on this year. Watch out for the recording of the virtual rally that happened on January 19th, and for the play-by-play live-tweeting of the hearing of Senate Bill 199, the Transit Safety and Investment Act on January 28th.

Public transit systems all over the country have seen a dramatic decline in ridership, but this is much less true in Maryland than it is anywhere else.  A large percentage of our essential workers, especially those in health care, have continued to count on our buses, subways, light rail, and trains to get to work. Unfortunately, Maryland’s buses, subways, light rail, and trains break down significantly more often than those in comparable systems around the country. 

We are relying on essential workers, who are relying on unreliable public transit.  We all need and deserve safe and reliable transit.  Maryland LCV is leading the charge, with our partners, to improve our public transportation system for the sake of our environment, our health, and our economy. (Did you know that dollars spent on public transit yield roughly twice the jobs of the same amount spent on roads?)

We hope you’ll join us to bring this bill over the finish line by contacting your Delegates and Senators and ask them to pass the Transit Safety and Investment Act (HB 114/SB 199).  While the bill provides much needed funds to improve the transit system, these funds come from a reallocation of existing transportation funds. And stay tuned for next week when we report back on what happened in the hearing.

By |2021-02-02T08:29:31-05:00February 2nd, 2021|Categories: Blog, Climate Change, DEIJ|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Statement by Ramon Palencia-Calvo in Support of the Transit Safety and Investment Act Kickoff

Statement by Ramón Palencia-Calvo in Support of the Transit Safety and Investment Act Kickoff

Maryland LCV is a state-wide, nonpartisan organization, and we use political action and education to protect our environment and communities. We are particularly focused on the intersection of climate and environmental equity. That’s why we see this bill as a priority for all of us.

We are experiencing a climate crisis — and carbon emissions are causing this crisis. We are all aware of the effects of climate change in Maryland, including extreme weather events, such as floods and heat waves. With more than 3,000 miles of shoreline and 265,000 acres of land that is less than five feet above sea level, our coasts are extremely vulnerable to sea-level rise. 

The pollution from carbon emissions not only fuels climate change, but also has a devastating effect on our health — and especially the health of our underserved communities.

Simply stated, transportation is inextricably linked both to our climate and to the well-being of our communities. We need to act now.

Unfortunately, the urgency of this issue was ignored last year. Climate policy was a significant area of failure for the 2020 General Assembly. That’s why Maryland LCV gave the General Assembly an “F” for Transportation in our 2020 Environmental Scorecard.

Many of the bills that did not make the cut last year, like the Transit Safety and Investment Act, would have made  Maryland more resilient to future calamities and to the climate change impacts that we are already experiencing.

Why is this bill so important for the climate? Our transportation sector, mainly consisting of single occupancy vehicles, is the largest source of GHG emissions in Maryland, accounting for 40 percent of total emissions.

A well-funded transit system will help reduce the number of cars and trucks on roads and the number of miles travelled by these vehicles, and thereby reduce overall GHG emissions. On average,  a single occupancy vehicle produces more than double the amount of CO2 per passenger mile than public transit.  This is paramount because we cannot fix our climate problems  if we do not address the leading source of GHG emissions.

The Transit Safety and Investment Acts is not only important for the climate. This bill is also an important equity bill because public transit is a crucial factor in helping families  move out of poverty. If we allow our public transit system to fall into continued disrepair, the ability of Marylanders to recover economically now and after the pandemic will be adversely impacted.  We cannot fix equity problems if we don’t address accessibility to jobs.

Finally, this is also a public health bill. The health impacts of pollution from the transportation sector are widely documented.  This pollution contributes to everything from respiratory disease, such as bronchitis and asthma, to cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Reducing pollution from cars will have a direct impact on health, especially those in urban areas and communities located near highways.

A well-funded transit system is essential for our communities, our climate, and our public health. Let’s make sure 2021 is the year of the Transit Safety and Investment Act.

By |2021-01-20T07:19:09-05:00January 20th, 2021|Categories: Blog, Press|Tags: , , |0 Comments

MARYLAND LEAGUE OF CONSERVATION VOTERS UNVEILS LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES FOR THE 2021 MARYLAND GENERAL ASSEMBLY SESSION

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 13, 2021

MARYLAND LEAGUE OF CONSERVATION VOTERS UNVEILS LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES FOR THE 2021 MARYLAND GENERAL ASSEMBLY SESSION
 Top Environmental Group to Focus on Bills Addressing the Climate Crisis and advancing Environmental Justice

 
Annapolis, MD – On the first day of the 2021 Maryland General Assembly Legislative session, Maryland League of Conservation Voters (Maryland LCV) announced their legislative priorities, with a specific focus on comprehensively addressing the climate crisis and the disproportionate impacts of pollution on Maryland’s underrepresented communities.

“Climate change is an urgent threat facing our country and our state,” said Maryland LCV board chair, Lynn Heller.  Heller, whose term as board chair began just last month, said that the organization is approaching the 2021 session with a renewed vitality and focus thanks to a recently completed strategic plan. “Our new plan is centered around climate change and environmental justice, and it will guide the organization’s work in 2021 and beyond,” Heller said, adding that “Maryland LCV will work to mobilize Marylanders to promote and pass equitable laws and policies for clean water, healthy air and a resilient climate.”

Maryland LCV’s top two legislative priorities will be the Climate Solutions Now bill and the Transit Safety Investment Act.

Climate Solutions Now would move Maryland’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction goal to net zero by 2045. The bill will provide several low-cost mitigation policies to reduce pollution, including bus electrification and tree plantings in underserved urban areas, calling on the Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities to determine the percentage of state funds spent on climate change that must go to environmental justice communities, and the creation of a work group to protect impacted workers.

“Climate Solutions Now will rebuild Maryland’s economy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing Maryland’s overburdened communities,” said Maryland LCV executive director, Kim Coble. “Maryland legislators have a responsibility to meaningfully address the climate crisis and a diverse coalition is emerging to hold them to that obligation.”

The Transit Safety and Investment Act, mandates an increase of $123 million annually from the Transportation Trust Fund for the next ten years for the transit system “state of good repair” needs identified by the MTA.

“Investments in transit reduce greenhouse gas emissions and produce roughly twice the number of jobs per dollar as the same investment in roads,” said Coble.  “We have seen during this pandemic that many of our essential workers, especially in health care, rely on public transit to get to their life-saving jobs, but our public transit system is unreliable. They deserve better.”

The organization will also work to strengthen the existing Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities through the Environmental Justice Commission Bill. The bill will include revisions to commission membership, goals, authority, and reporting requirements.

Coble added that Maryland LCV will pursue its entire agenda with diverse coalitions across the state, made up of other environmental advocates; social justice, community, and faith leaders; and business and labor groups.

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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 |2021-01-13T08:08:32-05:00January 13th, 2021|Categories: Blog, Press|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

Open Letter regarding Budget Cuts to the Maryland Transportation Administration

September 15, 2020
Contact: Kristen Harbeson, kharbeson@mdlcv.org and cell 410-952-8100

Download the pdf of the letter here.

Re: Budget Cuts to the Maryland Transportation Administration

AN OPEN LETTER TO GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN, MARYLAND TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY GREG SLATER, AND MARYLAND TRANSIT ADMINISTRATOR KEVIN QUINN:

Last week, the Maryland Department of Transportation and Maryland Transit Administration announced major cuts to the MTA system, including cutting bus service by 20%, reducing MARC, commuter local bus, and paratransit service, and cutting the MTA’s already strained six year capital budget for critical safety needs by $150 million. We, the undersigned, urge rejection of these cuts, which would be devastating to many Marylanders that live in low-income communities, communities of color, and people with disabilities.

Rather than take steps to relieve the strain of a veritable tsunami of challenges to Maryland’s most vulnerable communities, MTA’s plan would exacerbate residents’ difficulties and hobble the state’s recovery. TransitCenter found that 40% of transit commuters in Baltimore City and 35% of transit riders in the state work in essential job sectors, with hospital and health care workers being the largest share of riders. A large number of essential workers – nurses, grocery store workers, child care professionals, nursing care staff, and so many more – rely on public transit to get to their jobs. The proposed cuts would make it harder for these vital workers to get to their jobs, which would threaten their employment and exacerbate the devastation the pandemic has wrought to our economy. A shortage of these critical workers will also add strain to a healthcare system that is already spread too thin.

Maryland should be investing in more public transportation, not less. We should be increasing access to job centers from the communities most in need, not cutting it. We should be prioritizing cleaner transportation alternatives that reduce pollution and the health conditions that make marginalized communities especially vulnerable to the impacts of coronavirus and other respiratory illnesses like asthma. Vehicle emissions also create NOx that ultimately contributes roughly one-third of the nitrogen pollution to the region’s rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Among the problematic cuts to service, the proposed changes eliminate any route from Baltimore City (the jurisdiction with the highest reliance on public transportation) to Annapolis. Even in its current state, public transit to Annapolis is extremely limited, but at least it was available and provided mobility services. With the cuts, Annapolis would become inaccessible by public transportation, limiting the ability of many Marylanders to participate in our state’s Democracy. Public participation is always essential to a free and fair government, but never more so than in a crisis.

In reference to Maryland’s essential workers, the Maryland Transit Caucus has stated in their letter to the administration following the proposed cuts: We rely on them. They rely on MTA. We call on the administration to take immediate action. Funding from the Transportation Trust Fund should be allocated to public transit that benefits all Marylanders, rather than to highway expansion and construction projects that benefit only the wealthiest.

Signed,

  1. Maryland League of Conservation Voters
  2. Maryland Sierra Club
  3. Common Cause Maryland
  4. Clean Water Action
  5. Climate Law & Policy Project
  6. Safe Skies Maryland
  7. Maryland Legislative Coalition
  8. Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition
  9. Maryland Campaign for Human Rights
  10. Coalition for Smarter Growth
  11. Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition
  12. Transit Choices
  13. Central Maryland Transportation Alliance
  14. Maryland United for Peace and Justice
  15. Sunrise Movement Baltimore
  16. League of Women Voters Maryland
  17. Maryland Nonprofits
  18. Nuclear Information and Resource Service
  19. Labor Network for Sustainability
  20. Family League of Baltimore
  21. Bikemore
  22. Eastern Shore Land Conservancy
  23. Maryland Center on Economic Policy
  24. Job Opportunities Task Force
  25. NAACP Maryland State Conference
  26. Public Justice Center
  27. Our Revolution Maryland
  28. Indivisible Baltimore
  29. Indivisible Howard County
  30. Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility
  31. Echotopia, LLC
  32. Maryland Conservation Council
  33. Ji’Aire’s Workgroup
  34. Indivisible Towson
  35. ATU Local 1300
  36. Food and Water Watch Action
  37. Chesapeake Bay Foundation
  38. Disability Rights Maryland
  39. Consumer Advocates for Ride Services
  40. Progressive Maryland
  41. Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Mary
  42. Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) – Baltimore
  43. WISE Maryland
  44. Maryland Climate Justice WIng
  45. Takoma Park Mobilization Environment Committee
  46. Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake
  47. Accessible Resources for Independence
  48. League for People with Disabilities
  49. Climate X-Change Maryland
  50. The Nature Conservancy – Maryland/DC Chapter
  51. Saltzberg Consulting
  52. Chesapeake Climate Action Network
  53. Sunrise Howard County
  54. Baltimore 350
  55. The Parent and Community Advisory Board, Baltimore City Public Schools
  56. Sunrise Rockville
  57. Marylanders for Patient Rights
  58. Bus Workgroup 14
  59. South Baltimore Community Land Trust
  60. Free Your Voice
  61. Represent Maryland
  62. Green Team at St. Vincent de Paul Church, Baltimore
  63. Baltimore People’s Climate Movement
  64. The Climate Reality Project: Baltimore Chapter
By |2020-09-15T13:24:20-04:00September 15th, 2020|Categories: Blog, Press|Tags: , |0 Comments