Did you know 760 volunteers engaged with us during the legislative session? From letter-writing, to phone-calling, to the incredible Op-ed submitted by two Presbyterian pastors that really shifted the tide on the Transportation bill, your engagement is critical. If you aren't already an Advocacy Volunteer and wish to join the movement, please click here. Without you, nothing changes in Annapolis!
It was another unusual year for the legislative session thanks to COVID! Legislators, lobbyists and advocates adjusted their communications to mostly virtual means on a tight schedule and conditions prohibited in-person lobbying visits to Annapolis. All that said, much was accomplished for some of the environmental bills in a short time, while other legislation we were supporting did not move forward. Here's our summary of the highlights below.
Legislative Briefing Recap
We kicked off the year with a comprehensive virtual briefing about environmental legislation. IPC co-hosted the event in collaboration with Interfaith Power & Light and the Earth Forum of the First Presbyterian Church of Howard County.
124 people attended the briefing and heard action strategies from lead organizations about the: Environmental Human Rights Amendment (MDEHR), Coal Community Transition (Sierra Club), Climate Solutions Now Act (Chesapeake Climate Action), Transit Equity Recovery Package (Maryland League of Conservation Voters) and the Plastic Bag Reduction Act (Environment Maryland). All participants received a Packet of Resources containing information about each of the bills, action steps, and the contact information for each person who presented on that legislation.
Final Action to Advance the Transportation Safety and Investment Act
Hallelujah! The Transportation Safety and Investment Act (SB 199 / HB 114) passed the Assembly, thanks to you and many others who advocated for its passage. Even though the bill passed we're now calling on Gov. Hogan to sign the bill or at least allow it into law, and to not veto it. Gov. Hogan has until June 3rd to sign, veto, or allow bills to become law. So please contact him:
Gov. Hogan might need to be reminded that this bill includes a study of the MARC train expansion into Western Maryland, an issue that is of importance to him. Without this bill, the Western Maryland study will not happen. You might make that a talking point when you contact him.
Plastic Bag Reduction Act - Got Stalled in the Senate
Even though we had the votes, this bill got stalled in the Senate Finance Committee. We all know how destructive single-use plastics can be to human health and the environment, and we know that we can mitigate that harm by reducing the amount of plastic that we use, including single-use plastic bags. DC, Howard County, Baltimore City, and the entire state of Delaware have passed legislation to reduce plastic bags. Why can't Maryland? All that said, next year offers an opportunity to strengthen the bill, especially after the Baltimore Bag Ban goes into effect in July, to show how effective it can be. There may be a focus on getting more counties to implement similar bag bans - e.g. in Montgomery (which currently just charges a fee, but doesn't ban use) and Anne Arundel Counties.
Lastly, Kristen Harbeson at the Maryland League of Conservation Voters said this about IPC's network of advocates:
"IPC's advocacy is absolutely invaluable. On the Transit bill, your op-ed was perfectly timed to help push the bill to a vote in the Senate - and then ultimately to its successful conclusion. Having your congregations reach out to their legislators through direct e-mails and phone calls, or through social media, was an important part of the wider coalition efforts. The coalition working on passing that bill was powerful, and diverse, but IPC's voice was unique in that space, providing legislators with the message that the decision to support this bill was a moral one. I am always so immensely grateful for your work, never more so than this year."
Thank you for making a difference in 2021!
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