Updates from the legislative committee

Recap of legislative committee activities:

We started out the season with a two-meeting review of a substantial list of legislative items the LSPC and the Maryland Legislative Coalition had supported in the last session, and narrowed in on six items from that list that the committee would make top priorities. 

One item, an idea for a bill that would help young people with disabilities transition into the workforce, never made it onto paper this session. In retrospect, we could have encouraged one of our representatives to pick up the ball on this one, or I guess we could have submitted draft legislation – not sure how that works - but we waited too long, and will have to revisit this next session. 

The remaining five are 

  1.  Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education
  2.  Single Payer Healthcare
  3.  Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, or CAFO, moratorium on the Eastern Shore
  4.  End of Life Act
  5.  Correctional Facilities and Police Officers – Immigration status

 

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TESTIMONY FOR SB0228 Commission on Universal Health Care

TESTIMONY FOR SB0228

                                             Commission on Universal Health Care

Bill Sponsor: Senator Pinsky 

Committee: Finance 

Organization Submitting:   Lower Shore Progressive Caucus

Person Submitting:  Jared Schablein,  Chair of the LSPC   

Position: FAVORABLE

 

I am submitting this testimony in favor of SB0228 on behalf of the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus. The Caucus is a political and activist organization on the Eastern Shore, unaffiliated with any political party, committed to empowering working people by building a Progressive movement on the Lower Eastern Shore. 

Since our organization's creation the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus and our members have been strong supporters of efforts to move our nation towards a Single- Payer Healthcare System that provides quality healthcare to all.  SB0228 would allow our state to lead the nation by giving us the opportunity to join the rest of the industrialized world by transitioning our current system to a Single Payer system in the most efficient and cost-effective manner to ensure all Marylanders have quality healthcare.  

SB0228 would accomplish the first step by creating and funding a commission to collect the information needed to create a plan so that Maryland can join the rest of the industrialized world by implementing a Single Payer Healthcare System and ensuring that it provides quality healthcare to all Marylanders.  

SB 0228 also allows us to become the nation’s leader when it comes to healthcare by showing us the way to innovate and lead in the same way that waryland did with the hospital system. This commission will also show the people of Maryland that their legislators are committed to lowering the costs for healthcare,  providing more coverage for things like mental health and dental, and ensuring that all Marylanders have health insurance. 

The Lower Shore Progressive Caucus supports this bill and recommends a FAVORABLE report in committee.

 


TESTIMONY FOR SB1000 The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future

TESTIMONY FOR SB1000

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future

Bill Sponsor: President Ferguson

Committee: Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs

Organization Submitting:   Lower Shore Progressive Caucus

Person Submitting:  Karen Smith, Communications Co-Chair of the LSPC and Somerset County Educator   

Position: FAVORABLE

In 2009, Maryland public schools were ranked #1 in the nation by three separate, independent studies. This ranking held true until 2013. Sadly, this is not the standard any longer. In 2019, Maryland’s schools were ranked 4th in the nation by Education Week.

 

The Kirwan Commission and the Blueprint for Maryland’s future has become a hotly contested issue among legislators, educators, and taxpayers. Most would agree--if only in theory--that prioritizing education is necessary for the future of a healthy economy and quality of life of Marylanders. The aim of this very comprehensive bill is to increase funding for universal pre-K, special education, teacher training, concentration of poverty grants, and teacher salaries, to name only a few priorities of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.

 

While many of those who argue against the bill do so because they say the cost is too high, we at the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus would argue that the cost of not funding the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations is too high. Underprepared teachers cannot hope to prepare students fully. Teacher-education programs are not attracting students. Local universities such as UMES and Salisbury University have few students enrolled in teacher preparatory programs. And why, once certificated, would they choose to stay locally and earn less for doing the same job?

 

 

 

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TESTIMONY FOR HB0561 ELECTRIC INDUSTRY – COMMUNITY CHOICE ENERGY

TESTIMONY FOR HB0561

ELECTRIC INDUSTRY – COMMUNITY CHOICE ENERGY

Bill Sponsor: Delegate Charkoudian

Committee: Economic Matters

Organization Submitting:   Lower Shore Progressive Caucus

Person Submitting:   

Position: FAVORABLE

 

I am submitting this testimony in favor of HB0561 on behalf of the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus. The Caucus is a political and activist organization on the Eastern Shore, unaffiliated with any political party, committed to empowering working people by building a Progressive Movement. 

Caucus members consistently support legislation designed to protect, and improve, air and water quality, and legislation that recognizes the status quo for energy production no longer meets our needs – climate change is upon us. Inasmuch as HB 0561 promotes renewable energy, it satisfies these environmental priorities. The bill also shows potential for lowering energy costs for many customers, by giving county and local governments the ability to aggregate larger pools, and concomitantly negotiate for the same savings high demand (bulk) customers enjoy. 

Evidence shows low-income households pursuing lower energy costs have taken a huge hit from bad actors in the third-party supply industry. HB 0561 can reverse that damage, and in doing so not only encourage but enable those same households to participate in supporting renewable energy sources. It may be there is an as yet unrecognized, deep, reservoir of interest in renewable energy whose light the practicalities of life have hitherto kept hidden under a bushel. 

HB 0561 requires no subsidy, although it is certainly arguable that  aggregation would be worthy of subsidy for its economic justice benefits alone, not to mention its potential environmental benefits. However, the bill leaves these judgments entirely up to customers, with an opt-out provision. The caucus anticipates that a majority of customers will find county and local aggregation plans a good fit, both economically and with an eye toward stewardship of the Earth. 

The Lower Shore Progressive Caucus supports this bill and recommends a FAVORABLE report in committee.


Call to Action in Wicomico County

We at the LSPC strongly encourage you to take the same path as Mr. Ben Rayne has and contact the 3 county council members listed below in an effort to garner attention to accurate information regarding the legality of proposed actions, as well as to let your elected officials know exactly what the citizens of Wicomico County desire regarding the proposed restrictions on consumption of medical cannabis within our county. 

Letters, emails, and phone calls are wonderful ways to let county council members know the wishes of the community they serve.

 

Wicomico County Council

125 N. Division Street, Room 301

Salisbury MD 21801

Dear Mr. Cannon, Mr. McCain, Mr. Davis:

My name is Ben Rayne and I have lived in Wicomico County my entire life, save for a brief 6-month period during which I lived in Dorchester, after which I came bounding back to Wicomico.

I am writing the three of you today in protest of Sheriff Lewis and SA Dykes proposal to increase the severity of punishment with regards to public use of cannabis. I myself am a registered patient with the MMCC and I can’t begin to tell you the life changing benefits of legal cannabis use for the treatment of certain medical conditions from which I have suffered from most of my life. I am bipolar, I have ADHD, I suffer from PTSD, I have a panic/anxiety disorder, and I am on the autism spectrum. In case you were unaware, these are not curable conditions, only treatable with therapy and medication. Medical cannabis has helped me overcome much of the anxiety of daily life that had left me unable to work after a series of traumatic moments in my life.

But even if we forgo the usual anecdotes about how much good this plant is facilitating, we can find massive faults in the arguments put forth by Sheriff Lewis and SA Dykes. Their entire plan hinges upon something known as preemption. Preemption is a legal concept that sets forth the idea in strong State Government models, like The State of Maryland is set forth in its constitution, that when the State passes a law, that law is THE law of the land. No local laws may be made that supersede the State or Federal Government’s authority.

 

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The Racial Impact of Marijuana Laws

One aspect of making additional marijuana laws that is often overlooked in rural, or less urban areas is the racial impact they have on society. The enforcement of marijuana laws generates some of the justice system’s starkest racial disparities. “The War on Marijuana in Black and White,” a landmark report from the ACLU, details the staggering racial bias and financial waste of our country’s counterproductive fight against a drug widely considered less harmful than alcohol. The excuse that marijuana is a gateway drug is a widely debunked theory. *In the United States, between 2001 and 2010, a black person was almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person was, despite approximately equal rates of use. That needs to be repeated... despite approximately equal rates of use. In some states and counties, blacks are 8, 10, or even 15 times more likely to be arrested, mainly because of the concentration of law enforcement in lower income or poor areas. Lower income people, regardless of ethnicity, are more likely to be financially devastated by the disparate enforcement of such laws. They are less likely to afford bail. That, in turn means that someone living from paycheck to paycheck who cannot afford to pay a small bail faces losing employment, housing, even their families as they wait the average 3 months of incarceration before even having a court hearing. The main purpose of bail is to ensure appearance in court and protect society. Not many people would argue that the average marijuana users are dangerous. However, holding someone on bail has another unlawful purpose; revenue. One of the reasons that some in law enforcement favor the laws are just for that reason; to continue the revenue flow from incarceration. Many jurisdictions depend on that revenue as a large portion of their budget. That is wrong. That is not how our justice system should work. *Marijuana Law Reform ACLU

Submitted by Gerald Hampton, a Wicomico County Resident


A Letter From the Chair

I love walking down the boardwalk in Ocean City and admiring the hive of activity during the busy beach season. Seeing folks from all walks of life enjoying our Eastern Shore of life brings joy to my heart.

One way to continue supporting Ocean City tourism is to bring new jobs to the Lower Shore. Offshore wind developers are required to open two new operations and maintenance facilities in the Ocean City area, which means more jobs, more worker income, more local tax revenue, and more commerce for Ocean City businesses.

But as Mayor Meehan wails against the offshore wind developers over the height of their proposed turbines, he is doing a disservice to the residents of Ocean City. As Las Vegas, the tourism capital of the world can attest, a recession can be a downright disaster for an area that relies so heavily on tourism. Las Vegas saw almost three million less visitors between 2007 – 2009 during the Great Recession. Residents lost homes, businesses were shattered, and families were decimated. Offshore wind will provide lower shore residents more job stability when the state and national economy inevitably cool off.

Ocean City has spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars hiring hotshot attorneys and lobbyists to derail an industry that economists say will support an estimated 25,000 jobs in Maryland with more than $1.5 billion in worker and business income over the next twenty years.

Imagine if that money had been spent making safety improvements for bikes and pedestrians on Coastal Highway or combating the H20i car festival that frustrates residents and visitors each year.

Concerns about offshore wind and tourism are not supported by facts. Block Island in Rhode Island presents a lesson for Ocean City. The tourism-dependent island is home to the nation’s first offshore wind farm, and like Ocean City, some were concerned about the effect on tourism. Not only was tourism not impacted, it actually increased. The University of Rhode Island examined AirBnB data and found that occupancy rates increased 19 percent and added an extra $349 in revenue for owners. Block Island is proving that tourism and offshore wind can co-exist. Perhaps the mayor can use some of the money he is spending on lobbyists to visit block island and see the positive impacts for himself.

Economic opportunities like this come around once in a lifetime. We have an opportunity to help build a new American industry that will benefit Ocean City and the entire region. Our elected officials should stop, examine the situation and ask themselves if they want to go on the record as being against job creation for their own constituents. I certainly hope they think twice for the sake of our economy.

Jared Schablein
Chair, LSPC
Pittsville


Patients' rights under attack

It was likely only a matter of time before Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis spoke up regarding the use of medical cannabis. For an elected official sworn to uphold the law, he doesn't always seem to understand the potential impacts of the proposals he is making. In seeking to limit the use of medical cannabis in public, he is in flagrant violation of the state Constitution and completely disregards the opinions of medical professionals who have prescribed this medication in the best interests of their patients.

See the news story link below City Councilwoman Michele Gregory's heartfelt plea to use common sense and empathy to uphold patients' rights in our community.

Dear Council President and Members,

First and foremost, I would like to thank you for taking the time to hear my story and for the opportunity to provide you with an alternative view to the proposed legislation. I sincerely appreciate the fact you allowed me to speak, even though the public comments had closed.

As I explained to you in my remarks, our journey to using medical cannabis was not an easy one. Even now, it isn't a magical cure. What it does allow, however, is a quality of life that was previously impossible. And despite the immense rarity of my son's condition, there are many like him, young and old, who use cannabis as a medical treatment, whether for epilepsy or easing the symptoms of cancer treatments or any other number of ailments. I hope you take this into consideration when debating this regressive legislation, and decide that the right of our counties citizens to a better quality of life is greater than the need for more penalties for the few who break what is already the law.

 

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Democracy is a verb

In November of last year I had the great privilege and honor to volunteer to be a judge in what is called a “Project Soapbox” event organized by The Mikva Challenge (https://mikvachallenge.org/). Held in a 10th grade classroom at the E.L. Haynes public charter school in NW DC, it was an intense and inspiring hour with around 25 African- & Hispanic-American students led by an engaged history/civics teacher at the school. The slogan of the Mikva Challenge is “Democracy is a verb.” In other words, democracy is an activity, not a static concept.

 

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Debunking Talking Points Against Single Payer Healthcare

Each bullet below is the tried and true talking point developed by PR firms for the healthcare industry to be used to sow FUD — Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt about Single Payer (SP) proposals such as National Improved Medicare for All. Following each bulleted line is the rest of the story so you won’t be deceived by the naked lie.

Industry myth about Medicare For All and the truth that disproves them:

1. Medicare For All is “Government-run health care.”
* SP would only control payments and be able to negotiate prices. Care would continue to be as today, delivered by private, public and non-profit entities.

2. Medicare For All is “Socialized medicine.”
* As proposed in Medicare For All, only the payment system will be made public. Care providers will continue to work for private groups as today. Providers would not be employed by the government.

 

 

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