2019 Legislative Priorities

By Emily Scarr
State Director

Maryland's 90 day legislative session starts today.  In the next few months we have a tremendous opportunity to improve the quality of life in our state.  Our top priorities include protecting families and firefighters from toxic chemical exposure, stopping the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria, and ensuring all eligible voters can participate in elections.  We're also supporting a wide range of public interest priorities in line with our mission. We'll share our full legislative agenda soon.

1. Implemenation Alert: The Keep Antibiotics Effective Act

The Keep Antibiotics Effective Act of 2017 expanded on federal policy to stop the routine use of antibiotics on animals that are not sick.

Unfortunately, the Hogan Administration and Maryland Department of Agriculture have proposed regulations which fail to protect public health from the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria on farms.

Antibiotic overuse on farms is causing our most life-saving medicines to become less effective. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 23,000 Americans die every year from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and warns that “much of the antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe.”

In the U.S. nearly 70% of antibiotics important to human medicine are sold for use on farms. They are often fed in routine, low doses to animals that aren't sick to prevent diseases that can be caused by poor diets and stressful, cramped or unsanitary living conditions. This routine use of low dose antibiotics on industrial farms facilitates the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can travel off of farms and into the community.

Maryland PIRG is working with Senator Paul Pinsky and Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (RN) to ensure we stop the overuse of antibiotics on Maryland farms to stop the rise of antibiotics resistance.

2. Fight Flame Retardants 

Chemical flame retardants are added to many products in our homes, including: toys, fabrics, furniture, and electronics. Unfortunately, flame retardants fail to protect from harm in fires. Instead, they make house fires more dangerous because when they burn they release cancerous chemical dioxins putting families and firefighters at risk.

Day to day, chemical flame retardants can escape into the air and dust and then enter our bodies. The chemicals accumulate in the body and are linked to: endocrine disruption, cancer, reduced IQ and poor attention in children, heart disease, and infertility. When they burn they become even more toxic. 

More than half of all career firefighter line-of-duty deaths are from job-related cancers.

Maryland has been a national leader in phasing out some of the most dangerous chemical flame retardants. But new toxic chemicals continue to take their place, leading to an endless regulatory game of whack-a-mole.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has determined that chemical flame retardants don’t provide fire safety and recommends that manufacturers of furniture and children’s products stop using them. In 2018, California passed a law to ban the sale of furniture and children’s products containing chemical flame retardants by January 2020

It’s time for Maryland to join the movement to eliminate these chemicals to protect our children, firefighters, and families. Maryland PIRG is  working with Delegate Bonnie Cullison and the Professional Firefighters of Maryland to ban these toxic chemicals in children's products and furniture.

3. Election Day Registration

We should do everything we can to ensure all eligible voters are able to have their voice heard on Election Day. For over a decade Maryland PIRG has supported efforts to enact same day registration on Election Day in Maryland. Now, after years of legislative advocacy and voters overwhelmingly approving a constitutional Amendment on the ballot, we are poised to finalize the program.

Our democracy works best when everyone participates. This bill allows eligible voters to register to vote or update their registration, and vote on Election Day. For those who fall through the cracks or need to update their registrations, Election Day registration will ensure all eligible voters can participate on Election Day and help decrease the number or provisional ballots cast and to be counted. This is especially critical for new and young voters who are more likely to move frequently and are less experienced in navigating the registration process.

Maryland PIRG is working with Senator Paul Pinsky and Delegate Kirill Reznik to pass a strong law to implement Election Day Registration in Maryland.

Stay tuned, we'll share more of the policies we're supporting during the legislative session soon! You can also check out last year's agenda and scorecard.

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