The Same Thing Again, But Different: A Preview of the Legislative Session
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by David O'Leary |
January is just around the corner, and that means the General Assembly will soon convene in Annapolis. A variety of legislation related to issues of concern to the Sierra Club will be considered, and there are lots of opportunities to get involved. Some of the issues to be discussed will sound familiarbecause they are! Many of our key bills did not pass in 2011, so they will be reintroduced this session, frequently with adjusted policy approaches based on what we learned over the past year.
By David O’Leary—January is just around the corner, and that means the General Assembly will soon convene in Annapolis. A variety of legislation related to issues of concern to the Sierra Club will be considered, and there are lots of opportunities to get involved. Some of the issues to be discussed will sound familiar—because they are! Many of our key bills did not pass in 2011, so they will be reintroduced this session, frequently with adjusted policy approaches based on what we learned over the past year.
Passing a bill to provide incentives for building an offshore wind farm is our top priority for 2012. Offshore wind is the largest source of renewable energy currently available to Maryland. If we are to achieve the state goal of having 20% of our electricity coming from renewable sources by 2020, we need to start to take advantage of this resource. Over the past two months Sierra Club volunteers and staff have worked with coalition partners to plan town hall meetings throughout the state—perhaps you are one of the hundreds of people who attended one! Throughout the summer and fall, as key General Assembly committees met to study the policy options and implications, we were meeting with the key legislators, listening and providing our perspective. We’ve also been reaching out to other key stakeholders, including the business community and labor, to gain support for this developing proposal. The groundwork has been laid, and now we need to pass the bill—with your help!
Protecting and restoring the Chesapeake Bay is an important issue in Maryland, but particularly this year, given the EPA-mandated “pollution diet” that is being developed. One or more bills to adjust state level policy and raise revenue to implement Bay clean-up programs related to the “pollution diet” will likely be introduced. One proposal currently under discussion as this article is being written is an increase in the Bay Restoration Fund, or “flush tax.” This bill would provide increased funding for additional wastewater treatment plant upgrades, agricultural programs to reduce nutrient pollution from farms, and repairs and upgrades to stormwater management systems.
The bill to require retail stores to collect a five-cent fee for disposable bags will be re-introduced in 2012. Passing this bill will help to reduce another important source of pollution that affects our communities and waterways.
Look for other bills that relate to Sierra Club issues, ranging from hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, to energy efficiency, to campaign finance reform.
We made some progress in Annapolis in 2011, but not enough. We need your help to be more successful in 2012. There are many ways to get involved. Our chapter legislative committee has grown in size and involvement over the past few years. An article in a recent issue of Chesapeake described people’s positive experiences participating with the committee in the legislative process. Whether you have a lot of time or a little, and whether you have expertise on a particular issue or not, there is a role for you. You can visit Annapolis for the Environmental Summit on January 24th, or for one of the chapter lobby nights on January 30th, February 27th, and March 26th. You can call or write your elected officials about the issues that you care about, and talk to others to encourage them to call and write, too. Letters to the editor of your local paper also make a big difference. We need help to review bills and write and present testimony. Contact Chris Bryan at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the chapter office at 301-277-7111 to find out how you can get involved.
Many familiar issues will be heard again in Annapolis this year, but there are always some things that will be different. If everyone contributes some time and energy to the effort, we’ll be even more successful in passing important legislation to protect Maryland’s environment.
David O’Leary is vice chair of the Maryland Chapter Executive Committee and conservation chair for the Maryland Chapter.
> 2011 Table of Contents