Blog

2019 Public Interest Wins and Losses

By Emily Scarr
State Director

As the Maryland General Assembly wraps up their 2019 session we’re reflecting on the past 90 days, celebrating successes and highlighting disappointments.

We’ve got a lot to be proud of and a lot of work ahead of us. As a small donor funded, grassroots organization, we’re up against tough odds, but by combining citizen action and tough minded advocacy we can make progress on our most pressing issues, and we have.

Below is a snapshot of Maryland PIRG’s top 3 priority bills, and here is our full roundup. In the upcoming months we will also release our annual scorecard so you can see how your legislator voted on top public interest issues. ONWARD!

1. KEEP ANTIBIOTICS WORKING (SB471/HB652)

PUBLIC INTEREST WIN

Antibiotic overuse on farms is causing our most life-saving medicines to become less effective and, in some cases, entirely ineffective. An estimated 160,000 Americans die every year from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and the Centers for Disease Control warns that “much of the antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe.”

In the U.S., two-thirds of all antibiotics important to human medicine are sold for use on animals. They are often fed in routine, low doses to animals that aren't sick, just 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 leads the Keep Antibiotics Working campaign. We worked with Senator Paul Pinsky, Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (RN), and Delegate Sara Love to ensure we stop the overuse of antibiotics on Maryland farms to stop the rise of antibiotics resistance. The Maryland General Assembly has passed a new bill to ensure that Maryland is restricting antibiotic use on farm animals that are not sick and collecting important data regarding antibiotic use on farms.

2. FIGHT FLAME RETARDANTS (SB902/HB1264)

PUBLIC INTEREST LOSS

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 worked with Delegate Bonnie Cullison, Senator Antonio Hayes, the Professional Firefighters of Maryland, and NRDC to ban these toxic chemicals in children's products and furniture. Unfortunately the bill was not brought up for a vote, and we expect to be back in 2020 for another campaign.

3. ELECTION DAY REGISTRATION (SB449/HB286)

PUBLIC INTEREST WIN

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.

In November, the vast majority of Marylanders voted in favor of Election Day Registration on the ballot. Maryland PIRG, as part of the Everyone Votes Maryland Coalition, worked with Senator Paul Pinsky and Delegate Kirill Reznik to pass a strong law to implement Election Day Registration in Maryland. The bill passed!

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