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“Nationals October 2019

The big political issues on Maryland’s mind

| March 19, 2021, 08:55 PM

Now that the spectacle of national politics is no longer taking up as much of everyone’s attention, it’s time to focus on state legislators and what’s going to be happening here in Maryland over the next few weeks. What are the big issues keeping politicians busy, and what changes can we expect as a result?

The economy

Everybody knows that the economy needs a push to get back on track after the worst of the COVID-19 crisis, but how should we go about it? Governor Larry Hogan wants to see a big public spending push and he has Democrats on side, but some of his fellow Republicans are hesitating. The package he has planned could cost as much as $1bn at a time when the state’s revenues are falling. Can we really afford it? Hogan argues that we can’t afford not to do it, but there’s an inevitable element of risk involved and this is making people nervous. While Hogan is likely to make progress in the immediate term, if his approach is slow to get results, then he may struggle to find support for later measures.

Pandemic aid

One area where everybody agrees that stimulus is needed is in the form of pandemic aid, but how do we decide who needs it most, and how extensive should it be? The debate, which began in earnest back in January, is still going on as policymakers try to work out how to reach the most vulnerable people and how to manage the increase in unemployment and mental health problems stemming from the pandemic. This is an area where personal experience often matters more than party affiliation, and it’s one where, in other states, the organization No Labels, which promotes cross-party working, has been able to help legislators make progress.

Equality in education

With these big issues taking center stage, some of the others that were generating rigorous debate in the state last year have been getting less attention, but we’re now seeing signs of them coming back to the fore. Notably, issues over inequality in education and the historical disadvantages faced by institutions with mostly black students have a long way to go before they are fully resolved. There are moves to make more education available online – permanently – and there’s also a bill aimed at tackling period poverty by establishing the provision of free menstrual hygiene products in schools, which supporters argue could help to prevent girls from disadvantaged backgrounds from dropping out in their teens.

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Policing and justice

After the flurry of crime bills last session, the big focus in 2021 is on making sure that our police are up to the job and that they have what they need to do it well. A series of upcoming bills incorporate proposals for a psychological test to be incorporated in the police hiring process, mandatory bias recognition training for officers every three years, and the elimination of no-knock warrants. More controversially, officers could be required to leave the service if they kill or seriously injure somebody in the line of duty. The other big issues on the radar where justice is concerned are the possible legalization of marijuana – which has provided a useful income boost for other states – and new laws to penalize damage to state statues and monuments.

The housing shortage

The population of Maryland continues to grow steadily, with cities under particular pressure, and housebuilding is not keeping up. This has been a problem for years, but the additional financial strain on individuals created by the pandemic led to a major increase in eviction, bringing many individuals and their families to crisis point. With state funds limited and the ban on evictions not sustainable forever, debate is raging as to how best to help these people, with some politicians focusing on relocation options within the state and others on ways to bring in the private sector to increase the availability of low-cost housing options. 

Road building and repairs

Infrastructure investment is traditionally a priority for Democrats, but there is widespread cross-party agreement that it can be useful when large-scale job creation is needed. The new five-year plan for funding the improvement of local road networks has the potential to make commuting easier and make the transport of goods more efficient, as well as encouraging businesses to locate in outlying areas, all of which have the potential to spur economic growth. Debate continues over the funding of work on highways, however, and this is likely to remain a fractious issue throughout the current session.

Overall, there’s a feeling at the top that the time is ripe for change in many aspects of how we do things. The pandemic forced us to alter the way that we lived and worked. Now, we can start to take power back into our own hands and make changes that don’t just protect but also actively improve our lives.

Severn Bank

 

Category: Local News, NEWS

About the Author - Stephanie Maris

Stefanie is a local blogger and social media content marketer from Maryland and most recently a wife and a mother. She has an unhealthy obsession with puns, sarcasm and caffeinated beverages.

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