In 2019 LWVMD volunteer advocates submitted testimony on nearly 100 bills and their hard work and your support has helped Maryland to achieve some very important goals and avoid some dangerous pitfalls. LWVMD’s is grateful to be able to work together with strong coalition groups and partners on many issues in pursuing progress for Marylanders. Read about our legislative wins for 2019 below and learn about the battles LWVMD will continue to fight in 2020.
MAKING DEMOCRACY WORK
- Election Day Voter Registration (HB 286/SB 449) - the voters spoke and the Maryland General Assembly (MDGA) listened - affirmed on the ballot in 2018, the MDGA has acted to fully implement the program to ensure anyone qualified to vote can do so anytime they show up to the polls.
- Election Day Page Program (SB 364) - allows students to assist election judges in polling places on Election Day after going through training with the State Board of Elections. This will help to instill civic responsibility in Maryland’s young citizens and ensure the fairness and accessibility of elections.
- Coordinated Expenditures and Donations - Investigation (HB 1025/SB 123) - gives the State Administrator or a designee the authority to investigate suspected violations of Maryland’s coordinated expenditure law and collect further evidence.
- Campaign Finance Reports - Late Fees and Certificates of Nomination (HB 878) - increases the fines candidates must pay for failing to file campaign finance reports in a timely manner and prohibits a certificate of nomination from being issued to any candidate who fails to file campaign finance reports or pay the fines assessed by the State Board of Elections.
- State Board of Elections - Open Meetings - Video Streaming and Recording (State Board of Elections Transparency Act) (HB 71/SB 184) - requires State Board of Elections meetings to be live streamed and the recordings to be archived online for later viewing, increasing the transparency of these proceedings.
PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT
- Clean Energy Jobs Act (SB 516) - will double Maryland's use of renewable electricity sources by 2030. The bill requires development of a plan for achieving 100 percent clean energy by 2040. This measure is projected to create 20,000 jobs in the clean energy sector and provides funds for training under- employed residents to fill those jobs.
- Environment - Expanded Polystyrene Food Service Products – Prohibition (SB 285/HB 109) - bans the use of styrofoam for food service products consumed or sold in our state. While several counties passed similar prohibitions, Maryland is the first to ban it statewide, representing a strong step towards keeping our land and waterways free of harmful toxic litter.
- Natural Resources -- State and Local Forest Conservation Funds (SB 234/HB 272) - increases accountability and transparency by local governments around the fee-in-lieu funds from developers for tree replacement.
- Technical Study on Changes in Forest Cover and Tree Canopy in Maryland (SB 729/HB 735) - orders a technical study of Maryland forests to determine health, quality and extent with aim of having a base for recommendations for "no net loss" of forest.
PROMOTING SOCIAL & ECONOMIC JUSTICE
- The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (SB 1030) - provides $1 billion in new funding for Maryland public schools over the next three school years. The new funds will cover conversion of more half-day preschool programs to full-day, intensive tutoring to make sure students can read on grade level by 3rd grade, extra supports for schools with concentrated poverty, additional funding to provide special education services, salary increases and improved training for teachers, and a strong accountability system.
- Minimum Wage and Enforcement - "Fight for Fifteen" (HB 166/SB 280) - will increase the state minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour by 2025 with a longer phase-in for employers with 14 or fewer employees and other exceptions, helping to support Marylanders who are struggling to afford basic necessities.
- Task Force to Study Transportation Access (HB 923) - requires a study resulting in recommendations to improve access to employment, training and education opportunities, health and rehabilitation services, and other social services for individuals and families in the State without access to public transportation or the ability to use personal motor vehicles.
BILLS LWVMD SUCCESSFULLY OPPOSED TO AVOID DANGEROUS PITFALLS
- Amendments Convention - Democracy Amendment (HJ 2/SJ 1) - this bill called for a constitutional convention to address the decision by the Supreme Court that gives corporations unlimited rights to donate to political campaigns. While the League strongly supports legislation to limit the influence of money in politics we advocated against this bill because a convention could place every American citizen’s constitutional rights and protections in jeopardy.
- Retirement Tax Fairness Act of 2019 (SB 170/HB 149) - with the state facing structural deficits for at least the next several years reducing tax income could have detrimental effects on Maryland’s ability to pay for education, health care and public safety. If this bill had passed it would cost the state $17.6 million in 2020 increasing to $56.4 million in 2024.
ISSUES WE WILL CONTINUE TO FIGHT FOR IN 2020
- Redistricting Reform - while all redistricting reform measures calling for independent commissions and simple district standards failed again this year in the Maryland General Assembly a lot of work towards reform in Maryland and across the nation has been seen. LWVMD’s Administrative Director, Ashley Oleson, served on a commission formed to redraw district six after Maryland’s U.S. District Court declared the gerrymander to be unconstitutional. This commission’s work served as a demonstration of what an inclusive and transparent redistricting process could be, with 5 recorded and live streamed public hearings held in the areas affected by potential district changes, and ultimate adoption of a plan submitted by a member of the public. Any action on this plan has been delayed until the Supreme Court issues its own opinion on the case. In the meantime, LWVMD volunteers will continue to raise awareness of the need for fair maps in Maryland with citizens and legislators. We must have a constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2020 to ensure a just process is put in place when the next redistricting cycle begins in 2021, so this will remain a top priority in the coming year.
- Education Funding - The Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (the Kirwan Commission) and the General Assembly will tackle the funding formulas that determine how the cost of its recommendations will be shared between the state and counties. LWVMD will work in coalition with other public education supporters to raise awareness through social media campaigns and grass roots lobbying to support legislation for adequate and equitable funding and progressive sources of revenue.
- Renewable Energy - LWVMD will work in coalition with other environmental organizations to support legislation to insure that trash incinerators no longer “count” as renewable energy in Maryland’s law for promoting renewable energy. The state should only be sending subsidies to truly clean energy like wind and solar power.
- Transportation - Working with the Maryland Climate Coalition and other transit advocates, LWVMD will support legislation that promotes transportation projects that reduce the impact of transportation as the number one cause of global warming. This would also include supporting land use policies that make public transportation more economically viable and efficient.
The LWVMD board reviews advocacy topic recommendations from its membership every year prior to the start of the legislative session, so this list should not be considered to be an exhaustive list of 2020 priorities. In collaboration with our members, we will determine which issues in addition to those mentioned LWVMD will fight for next year. If you want to participate in LWVMD advocacy and have a voice in the process find your local League and join today!