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Political notes: Enviros want to ‘get it done,’ Black Caucus debate reaction, Senate race updates, personnel moves and more

A view of the Maryland State House in December 2021. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

With the Maryland Department of the Environment set to release a final recommendation in a matter of days on what the state needs to do to meet its ambitious climate goals, a coalition of environmental organizations, advocacy groups and community leaders has written to Gov. Wes Moore (D), urging his administration to adopt the most aggressive strategy possible.

They are calling their lobbying effort “get it done by ’31.”

This summer, the Department of the Environment issued a preliminary “climate pathway” report, looking at policy options to hit the state’s climate reduction and clean energy mandates. Following months of public hearings, a final report, which would be used as a template for action in the upcoming General Assembly session, is expected out by the end of the month.

A state law, passed in 2022, requires a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2031 and requires the state to hit net-zero emissions 14 years after that. But despite new federal and state investments in offshore wind and other clean energy programs, it isn’t clear how much additional funding will be available to state policymakers to achieve these goals, or whether the targeted deadlines can be hit.

In the letter to Moore, more than 40 groups, from Advance Maryland to Waterkeepers Chesapeake, urge his administration to find the means and the political willpower to achieve its mandates quickly. They urge him to follow the lead of the Biden administration at the national level, which is making records amount of funding available for climate and clean energy programs.

“The Inflation Reduction Act unites labor, environmentalists, health advocates, anti-poverty leaders, and did not trigger the grassroots opposition that typically accompanies a President’s flagship policy achievement,” the groups wrote. They urged Moore to make climate advocacy “the centerpiece” of next year’s legislative agenda.

“Commitments, promises, and unfunded recommendations, regardless of how bold they are, will simply not be enough,” the groups said. “A fully enacted and funded plan will make Maryland the undisputed national leader in tackling the climate crisis and the myriad inequities it exacerbates, including health disparities and poverty. We are therefore urging you to provide a strong climate plan and funding mechanism that will “get it done by ’31.”

“We are all eager to support your climate leadership and are counting on you to roll up your sleeves and get it done by ’31,” they concluded.

Hate crime commission member reinstated

The office of Attorney General Anthony G. Brown (D) announced Wednesday the end of the temporary suspension of Zainab Chaudry from her position on the Maryland Commission on Hate Crime Response and Prevention.

Chaudry, executive director of the Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), was suspended by Brown on Nov. 21, after anti-Israeli posts to her personal social media page. At the time, Brown, as chair of the commission, said the posts were disruptive to the work of the commission.

This week, however, Brown’s office said a review of the 2023 law that created the commission directs him to appoint members to the panel, but does not give the attorney general authority to suspend or remove a commissioner before the end of their four-year term.

The law requires the 22-member commission to include a representative from CAIR, as well as 18 other organizations.

Before the commission’s meeting next week, Brown will distribute draft operating guidelines about personal communications by commission members to “carefully balance their right to free speech with their role as a commission member.”

Brown’s office said the guidelines will emphasize that appointees are public officials and assume an obligation to put their own interests aside while serving on the panel.

“Once the guidelines are finalized, all Commission members will be expected to comply with them and I fully anticipate that they will,” Brown said in a statement. “I believe the Commissioners recognize the commitment required to eradicate hate crimes and bias incidents in Maryland, including the rising tide of antisemitism and Islamophobia. We must all put aside our differences, no matter how stark they may seem, and find common ground on ways to respond to and prevent hate crimes in our state.”

U.S. Senate race: reaction to forum, new endorsements

A group of state and local lawmakers issued a statement Wednesday expressing disappointment in “dismissive remarks” by Rep. David Trone (D-6th) during a forum for Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate on Sunday.

“We are deeply disappointed in Congressman Trone for his dismissive and condescending comments about County Executive Alsobrooks, saying she does not have ‘the lived experience that we all need to come up with new ideas’ and asserting she ‘never experienced a challenge in life,’” the lawmakers said in a statement.

The signers were: Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery), Del. Nicole Williams (D-Prince George’s), Del. Debra Davis (D-Charles), Del. Stephanie Smith (D-Baltimore City) and Prince George’s County Councilmember Wanika Fisher (D).

“Angela – an African American woman who made history in her election as state’s attorney and as Prince George’s County Executive – has valuable experience as a woman, a mother and the daughter of aging parents. That lived experience has only made Angela a more successful and innovative leader, the record is clear,” the supporters wrote before listing successes during Alsobrooks’ career.

“And this isn’t just about what Angela has done, it’s about what those sorts of remarks tell us about Congressman Trone. People might expect divisive statements from politicians, but we will not tolerate them, especially in this Democratic primary, and not against a leader who has proven in her years of public service to be dedicated to lifting up her community,” the statement continued. “David Trone should apologize to the County Executive and to the voters who deserve better.”

Trone’s campaign, in a statement, said “we aren’t surprised to see our opponent launch attacks against David Trone to distract from a series of press stories that raised serious questions about their track record and multiple new polls that show David Trone in a commanding lead for the United States Senate.”

The statement went on to criticize Alsobrooks’ leadership on issues important to the Latino community.

“For years Latino Prince Georgians have felt left out and left behind by their county government. From a lack of representation in the executive’s office to grave disparities in vaccine distribution and public health programs during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, voters deserve transparent answers on these pressing issues,” the statement continued.

Also on Wednesday, the Trone campaign announced endorsements by the International Association of Ironworkers Local 5 and 568 and the Sheet Metal Air Rail & Transportation Local Union 100.

Local 5, based in Largo, and Local 568, based in Cumberland, represent thousands of construction tradesmen and women. SMART Local Union 100, also based in Prince George’s County, represents workers from the Washington D.C. metropolitan area as well as workers from Baltimore to Cumberland.

As the Annapolis lobbying world turns

Lisa K. Smith, who for the past several years has been director of legislative affairs and assistant general counsel for the Maryland Public Service Commission, is leaving the state regulatory agency to become a principal in the Annapolis office of Husch Blackwell Strategies, a national lobbying firm.

Smith is one of the most knowledgeable people in Maryland on wonky matters or energy policy and utility regulation.

She previously served as director of policy and legislative affairs for the Baltimore City state’s attorney’s office and as director of legislation for the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. She is also a member of the Maryland State Board of Victim Services — and is fluent in Spanish and French.

Husch Blackwell Strategies is a national lobbying firm with a federal practice in Washington, D.C., and outposts in nine state capitals.

“Lisa’s skill set is not only diverse but unmatched in Annapolis,” said Sarah Peters, the managing partner of HBS’ Maryland office. “Her multidisciplinary expertise and relationships, will bring exceptional knowledge and guidance to the vast interests of our clients.”

Vogel adds to campaign team

Del. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery), who is running for the open seat in the 6th Congressional District, is adding seasoned political operatives to his campaign team.

Vogel for Congress brought on fundraising consultants Jeff Larivee and Lori Silverman, both have also consulted for Equality PAC.

Larivee also works with Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) and Silverman has previously worked with current Secretary of Commerce Gina Romando and Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.).

Molly Mitchell, a seasoned political operative, also joins the campaign.

Mitchell previously led communications for Axios and, during the 2018 election, contributed to the media strategy at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Also among the new hires is Oren Adam as campaign manager. Prior to running Vogel’s campaign, Adam was part of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Mid Atlantic Finance team in 2020 when Democrats flipped the Senate.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include a statement from David Trone’s campaign. 


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Political notes: Enviros want to ‘get it done,’ Black Caucus debate reaction, Senate race updates, personnel moves and more