/PM BlogSpace Report/ [Published Jan. 8] The Maryland General Assembly begins its three-month session with formal openings today. When we look at the list of issues that many analysts say will top the agenda of this 2020 General Assembly session, we get the itchy feeling that one sentence could clear away some of the confusion.
“Stop bad jobs; start good jobs.”
We are, we know, all entangled in the need to keep our families fed, sheltered and so on. But that doesn’t mean we should just throw in the towel to continuing the kind of Maryland economy that includes damaging forms of commerce and demeaning jobs – or kowtow to bosses and corporations that keep wages low and hours uncertain and smugly say “take it or leave it.”
We can do better, take more control over our daily lives. But it means working together, talking together, and having a vision of a better society. We can do it in Maryland and in the nation at large. And we don’t have to take what the bosses hand to us.
When we look at the proposals and counterproposals from legislators and the administration of Gov. Larry Hogan we see many instances where bad jobs are being protected because really good, meaningful jobs that contribute to a better society are in short supply -- because it is in the interests of corporations and business to keep them in short supply.
Take Pimlico. The state’s endless struggle to preserve its outdated and abusive horse-racing sector despite diminishing popularity and steady, heartbreaking deaths of horses on the racetrack has stopped being a matter of Maryland’s brand and instead is an embarrassment or worse. We can create better jobs.
Take Gov. Hogan’s self-serving plan to put toll lanes on the Capital Beltway in Maryland. It is draining funds from badly needed transit improvements and encouraging more air pollution and a drastically larger carbon footprint. It is supported by some worker organizations because it’s the only kind of construction work, at that scale, on offer. We can, and should, provide more meaningful construction work increasing and modernizing the state’s housing stock in tandem with improving mass transit. That can cut the carbon footprint of existing housing and, by increasing the supply of public-managed housing, lower the hyperexploded cost of housing overall.
A potential collision may loom between the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA), which Hogan allowed to become law rather than veto last year, and the Maryland Department of the Environment’s rather late-arriving draft plan that was mandated by a 2017 environmental law. Like Hogan’s Clean And Renewable Emissions Standard proposal released with much fanfare last spring, the yoked proposals fail to provide policies to reach its mandated goals of 40 percent greenhouse gas reductions by 2030. One of the biggest gaps in Hogan’s “CARES” proposal – no meaningful policies for a just transition out of fossil-fueled electricity -- means justifiably suspicious workers and their unions will fight it. CEJA, by comparison, pivots on job retraining and development and income support during the transition to renewables, though it’s just a start on what will be needed.
Turning the state’s criminal justice system away from incarceration and cash bail policies to a fair system that ensures justice without marginalizing and impoverishing low-income workers and their families. This will be complicated by Hogan’s crowd-pleasing attempt at making this all about law and order and crime-fighting, using the genuine crisis of violence in Baltimore as exhibit A without addressing the reasons – neglect and defunding -- that despair and privation in the city are feeding the crisis.
Health care reform is a broad general effort aimed principally at preserving the state’s version of the Affordable Care Act (there will be plenty of appeals from progressive Democrats in the legislature to the growing popularity of single-payer Medicare for All). Health care issues will be complicated by specific struggles over vaping, the slowly abating opioid crisis in the state, and recreational marijuana.
And of course, the big enchilada – the Kirwan Commission proposals and collaterally an accelerated school construction plan, both of which will be terrain of big revenue battles between a more-progressive legislative leadership and a governor who calls Kirwan a scheme to raise taxes.
Hogan’s language has, clearly, poked the new leadership in the Assembly – both chambers’ leaders have walled off raising some of the familiar taxes, and now they have to find loopholes in their own rhetoric, because more revenue will be needed – not just for education, but for many progressive moves that will make the state a better place to live for all of Maryland’s families. Revenue proposals from the Maryland Fair Funding Coalition and from Our Revolution Maryland are keyed to the corporate and business profiteers who extract big money from Maryland commerce and consumers and return little or nothing in taxes.
There will be plenty of distractions for the delegates and senators. Hogan’s self-serving contrived fights over restorative funding for the state’s black colleges and compensation for unjustly imprisoned inmates are well-designed to keep the legislators’ eyes off the prize while lobbyists try to roll back progressive gains like paid sick leave and, likely, the tattered schedule for raising the minimum wage.
Published Jan. 8 on the Progressive Maryland PM BlogSpace, where more about the Maryland General Assembly session and related matters can be found.