LSPC Testimonies

  • TESTIMONY FOR SB0701 Maryland Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer End of Life Option Act

    TESTIMONY FOR SB0701

                                                 Maryland Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer End of Life Option Act 

    Bill Sponsor: Senator Waldstreicher

    Committee: Judicial Proceedings

    Organization Submitting:   Lower Shore Progressive Caucus

    Person Submitting:   Marie Velong 

    Position: FAVORABLE

    Honorable Committee Members: 

    On behalf of the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus, I am writing today in support of the Richard E Israel and Roger "Pip" Moyer Maryland End of Life Option Act to authorize medical aid in dying in our state. I would strongly encourage the committee to vote for this compassionate option that would allow a terminally ill, mentally capable adult with six months or less to live, the choice to receive a prescription for self-ingested medication enabling a peaceful, pain-free death. 

    In my 72 years of life, I have helped many of my pets to achieve a pain-free death because of the pain they were currently in. When I had to watch my husband, mother and other people I cared about die in so much pain, I could not understand why we can show so much compassion to our animals and not the people we love. Even convicts on death row get more consideration. We should at least have the option for a better death. People choose when and how they will give birth, why can't they choose when and how they themselves can leave this earth? 

    By supporting the Maryland End of Life Option Act, I hope my home state is the next to join eight states and the District of Columbia in authorizing medical aid in dying. Thank you for representing me, The Lower Shore Progressive Caucus and others in this state. I truly hope you will vote  Favorable on this bill that is so vitally important to me and our organization.

  • 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

     

    I should mention Cecilia Plante from the Maryland Legislative Coalition before I get much further – the MLC is tracking about 200 bills, and Cecilia has brought us along, kept us well-informed, and been extremely patient with us. Her expertise has been absolutely vital to our efforts, so thank you, thank you Cecilia.

    Okay, back to the top five.

    One. The Kirwan Commission addresses quality in Maryland's public education system, which previously held the top spot in the U.S. but has slid toward the bottom of the top ten in recent years. Worse, state testing puts us below the national average, at 29 out of 50. Fewer than 40 percent of Maryland high school grads can read at a 10th grade level, or pass an Algebra I assessment. 

    Kirwan recommends dramatically increased funding for schools and school construction in an effort to reverse this. As I understand it, there's a $4 billion price tag, so... significant.

    So far, the Kirwan bills are steaming full ahead, but we are continuing to monitor them, and associated funding bills, and if we get an indication that they need added support, we will be ready to take what actions we can.

    Two. Single-Payer. We've sent along our support to Senator Pinsky, for his bill which would create a commission to study the transition from our current “dog's breakfast” of a health care system, toward something hopefully better. The bill is SB 228, hearing was yesterday. Pinsky would allocate $3 million to get the commission going, and even though that's a drop in the bucket next to the money attached to the Kirwan bills, with the focus on education this legislative session the “Commission on Universal Health Care” bill has a hard road ahead of it. 

    We took action this week, in an effort to get it through committee. Although there aren't any local legislators on the Senate Finance Committee, we contacted every member anyway, asking them to support SB 228 - guess we'll see what happened.

    Moving on. Am I going too fast? I do I want to talk for a minute about actions, after the recap.

    Three. The CAFO moratorium. I heard from Debbie Gousha just last week about a crossfiled bill that would deny wastewater discharge permits for these large agricultural-industrial outfits if they try to expand their operations, so that's a mechanism for imposing the moratorium. They are SB 841, with a hearing on March 11, crossfiled with HB 1312, with a hearing on March 4. I'm guessing we will be taking a weekly action on these bills in short order.

    There's another bill that we're watching, as I understand it this one has a better chance of going somewhere, that's SB 928, which would require CAFOs to submit a manure transport plan before receiving, again, a discharge permit. We submitted testimony on this, I think. Senator Carozza is on the committee, the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, so it would be appropriate to bother her about this. 

    Four. End of Life –  HB 643, this one TIED in the legislature last session, let's try again. It's currently scheduled for a hearing in the Senate... 

    I don't think we've had a weekly action on this one, but we've been following it. The bill carefully provides patients with terminal illness, who don't expect to live out the half-year, aid in dying.

    Finally, five, HB 388, this Maryland's version of the TRUST Act, and it would put limits on local law enforcement's ability to ask people about their immigration status, detain people for federal

     immigration, basically it would limit local law enforcement from doing ICE's job for them. The opposition likes to use the word “Sanctuary” in relation to this bill, but I view it more as treating people like human beings. We had a weekly action on this one, and I sent my delegate a longer letter in support as well. This one's personal to me – my work partner and good friend was deported back to Honduras last year.

    We have also sent out calls for action on a few bills outside our top five - 

    • Back in January, we wrote in support of HB 4, which would close the long gun loophole. This passed in the House on Feb. 4  by a vote of 87-47. It's now in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee - need to keep an eye on it, make sure it doesn't die there.
    • There's bill being pitched Wicomico County Council that would make it illegal to smoke medical marijuana in public. The LSPC opposes this bill, and we've been writing council members to say so. I've been told the best way to tamp down this prospective bill is to lobby District 1 Council Member Ernest Davis and District 2 Council Member Nicole Acle for 哲o� votes. Council Members McCain and Hastings are already 哲o's,� we need either Davis or Acle to squeak past, getting both of them would be safer. 
    • Community Choice Energy.  This is a bill that would enable county and local governments to aggregate customers, with an emphasis on promoting renewables but also an intention to negotiate for lower energy rates for customers who haven't had nearly the benefit they may have expected from third-party suppliers. If anybody's still jotting numbers down, it's HB 561/SB 315. We took action on this out of a desire to support some environmental legislation while we were waiting on the CAFO bills to break loose, but also because it's a good bill.
    • We also had an action to solicit testimony in support of offshore wind, ahead of a Public Service Commission hearing in Ocean City. Two wind farm projects have been approved, but the companies have now proposed larger turbines, so the matter came back for more discussion.

    Moving on. I would love it if more people got involved on the legislative committee; it would be good to get some different perspectives. I'm sure we all have our particular passions, and I'd love input on legislation that YOU feel passionate about.

    And, finally, getting to some more hands-on actions and activities, we've been talking about joining forces with some other like-minded groups, and to that end we'd like to encourage anyone who's available to swell the numbers at the Sierra Club's Lobby Night, which is this coming Monday night, in Annapolis. 11 Bladen St. The action runs from 4 to 8 p.m., if you're coming try to get in around 3 or 3:30, so you can get parked and get through building security by 4. The Sierra Club has their own legislative priorities. You can check out the whole list on their website, but I'll mention their top two - the Just Transition Off of Coal bill, and the Climate-Based Decision-Making by the Public Service Commission bill.

    We are also planning our own Lobby Night, the date is Monday, March 9. We're going to try to schedule some meetings, but as I understand it, Monday nights are usually free nights for legislators, so we may have some success just showing up if we can't get on a schedule. So, between now and then, we'll be getting ready to advocate for some specific legislation, and hopefully we can all work out some of the logistics, meetups, and carpools before then. 

    And I've been looking into some possible venues for an “Eatin' Meetin',” a working dinner, which combines two of my favorite things  - politics and food. I've got a couple possibles, they're not free but not outrageous, either, so that's something I'm hoping we can throw into the mix, make our legislative committee work more fun. And...I hope you guys are interested enough to get involved!

  • 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 Maryland 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 have 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, the 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?

    In addition, funding the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future will level the playing field for schools on the Lower Eastern Shore. Our students must meet the same standards in order to receive a Maryland diploma as those who attend better-funded schools. Teachers in Maryland must also meet the same standards in order to be certificated, yet salaries are not competitive. While there is some consistency for 1st-year teachers with only a bachelor’s degree, once teachers gain the required degrees and more experience, there is a huge disparity in salary between the counties. Even though teachers on the Lower Shore must meet the same qualifications in order to remain certificated, they are often paid much less for doing the same job! A teacher with a master’s degree in Wicomico County would have a minimum salary of $77,364. That same teacher would earn $106,543 in Montgomery County. This is unconscionable. How can we hope to attract and keep highly qualified teachers? The answer is that we cannot.

    We are asking for a FAVORABLE vote to fund the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. Our students truly cannot wait any longer for us to make necessary changes to an education system that is failing our students.

  • 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.

  • Lower Shore Progressive Caucus 2019 Legislative Agenda

    Legislative Agenda 2019

     

    Priority Legislation Issues

    1. Medicare for All/Single Payer Health Care
    2. A Minimum Wage increase to $15 an HR  
    3. Debt Free Higher Education for 4-year institutions.
    4. Trust Act
    5. Community Healthy Air Act

    Other Supported Legislation

    Economic Issues

    • Worker Rights
    1. Collective bargaining for community college workers
    2. Statewide collective bargaining for local government workers
    3. Overtime for low-income salaried employees
    • College Debt forgiveness
    • Oppose the construction of the new Redskins stadium at Oxon Cove Park.
    • Create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board.

    Racial Issues

    •  Criminal Justice Reform
      1. Ending the Bail system in Maryland
      2. Elimination of mandatory minimum sentencing
      3. Revamp of State k-12 school funding formula, including new school reforms
      4. Juvenile Justice Reform  
      5. Legalization of Marijuana
    • Ban the use of Nooses and Swastika to threaten or intimidate (HB-04)  
    • “U-Visa” bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for victims of crime who cooperate with local law enforcement.
    • Removing Winder Sign from Wicomico County House (local issue Wicomico County)

    Environmental

    • Support the construction of the Wind Projects off the coast of Ocean City
    • Oppose the Eastern Shore Natural Gas Pipeline plan.
    • Increase Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) of 50% by 2030
    • Green Amendment that will set forth the inalienable right to a clean environment
    • Community Solar Legislation to expand the process of having citizens invest in solar farms
    • Ban single-use plastics

    Democracy Initiatives

    • Support Rank Choice Voting initiatives on the Lower Shore
    • Small donor public financed election on the Lower Shore
    • Constitutional Amendment Repealing Citizens United
    • Non-Partisan district reform

    Other

    • Ban untraceable 3D guns
  • Lower Shore Progressive Caucus 2018 Legislative Agenda



    Legislative Agenda 2018

     

    Priority Legislation Issues

    1. Overturning Governor Hogan’s veto of Paid Sick Leave (2017, HB1/SB230) (PASSED AND BECAME LAW) 
    2. Medicare for All/Single-Payer Health Care (DIED IN COMMITTEE WITH 8 CO-SPONSORS IN THE SENATE) 
    3. Minimum Wage increase to $15 (2017, HB416/SB962) (DIED IN COMMITTEE)
    4. Rape Survivor Family Act (2018 HB1/SB2) (PASSED AND BECAME LAW) 
    5. Trust Act (2017, HB1362/SB835) (Withdrawn: Unfavorable Report by Judicial Proceedings) 
    6. Funding For the Farms and Families Act 
    7. Community Healthy Air Act (Senate Bill 133) (DIED IN COMMITTEE)

     

    Other Supported Legislation

    1. Economic Issues
    1. Debt Free Community College for both AA Degrees and Job Certification; funded through loophole closing – SB 1173 (PASSED AS HB-16 FOR STUDENTS WHOSE FAMILY MAKES LESS THAT 150,000 A YEAR) 
    2. Worker Rights
    1. Collective bargaining for community college workers (Died in Committee)
    2. Statewide collective bargaining for local government workers (Died in Committee)
    3. Overtime for low income salaried employees (Died in committee)

     

    1. Racial Issues 
    1. Codify Bail Bond Initiative (2017) to Further Criminal Justice Reform HB 1157/SB 879 
    2. Criminal Justice Reform
    1. Elimination of mandatory minimum sentencing (Died in commitee)
    2. Revamp of State k-12 school funding formula, including new school reforms (Died in Committee) 
    1. Removing Winder Sign (local issue Wicomico County) (FAILED COUNCIL WON’T MOVE IT)

     

    1. Environmental 
    1. Increase Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) of 50% by 2030 (DIED IN COMMITTEE)
    2. Prohibit construction of Trans Canada Potomac gas pipeline (Failed Pipeline was approved)

     

    1. Democracy Initiatives
    1. Automatic Voter Registration (PASSED AND BECAME LAW)
    2. Change of party registration during early voting (PASSED AND ON THE BALLOT) 
    3. Small donor public financing (died in Commitee) 
    4. Constitutional Amendment Repealing Citizens United (Passed the house. Died in Senate Committee) 

     

    1. Tax Reform
    2. Freezing the estate tax (PASSED AND BECAME LAW) 
    3. Reinstating the millionaire tax

     

    1. Education
    2. Kirwan commission proposal - funded through progressive taxation (Pushed for next session)
    3. Universal pre-K education (likely to be included in #1 (Kirwan Commission)  (Pushed for next session)

     

    1. Death with Dignity legislation (Bill Withdrawn With Lack of Support)