2019 Federal Priorities


Promote “zero hunger”

The United States produces more food than we need, but still millions of Americans go hungry, even at colleges and universities. Half of all students in higher education experience food insecurity. The Campus Hunger Reduction Act would make universities and colleges eligible for U.S. Department of Agriculture grants to address hunger through outreach, cutting food waste and distributing food that would otherwise be thrown away to hungry students.



Adopt a national Bottle Bill

America has a growing waste problem, including billions of recyclable bottles and cans that end up in landfills or incinerators, or tossed on our streets, parks and beaches. Bottle Bills (also known as container deposit laws and currently in place in 10 states) are a proven, sustainable method of capturing bottles and cans for recycling.

When implemented, Bottle Bills can induce recovery rates above 90 percent, almost triple the national rate.

The environmental effects of beverage containers are disproportionately high: 20 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions emanate from creating new containers from virgin materials. Congress should pass a federal Bottle Bill.



Reduce the use of antibiotics

Antibiotics have saved countless lives since they were discovered less than 100 years ago. Without these miracle drugs, we’d lose the ability to treat common infections, and medical advances including cancer chemotherapy, routine surgery and organ transplants would be much more dangerous. Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that antibiotics are losing effectiveness due to overuse. Indeed, a recent estimate suggests that more than 150,000 Americans died from antibiotic-resistant infections in 2010.

Although overusing antibiotics in human medical care is part of the problem, a more deliberate and systematic overuse occurs on industrial farms. Approximately 70 percent of medically-important antibiotics sold in the United States are intended for livestock and poultry. Due to the risks to human health, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend that we ban the routine use of medically-important antibiotics in farm animals.

Congress should pass legislation similar to The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, originally introduced by the late Rep. Louise Slaughter, which would prohibit the routine use of antibiotics in food animals that are not sick, and reserve the drugs to treat sick animals or to control a verified disease outbreak.



Defend the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Consumers in the financial marketplace are especially vulnerable to fraud and other abuses. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) exists solely to protect consumers from bad actors in the banking, credit card and other financial sectors. Unfortunately, over the past few years, the CFPB has been under attack on Capitol Hill. Congress must stop trying to weaken the CFPB and conversely, should strengthen it. First and foremost, Congress must maintain the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s independent funding and structure and exercise strong oversight of the CFPB to ensure that it is doing its only job—protecting consumers from bad actors across the financial marketplace.

Protect data security and privacy

In the wake of multiple breaches that put the personal information of more than 150 million Americans at risk, Maryland PIRG supports federal consumer privacy and data breach legislation that holds data collectors and digital platforms to strong standards while still allowing stronger state protections and continued state innovation. 

In particular, Maryland PIRG supports continued Congressional oversight and greater accountability, including penalties and consumer restitution, of Equifax and other companies that have lost consumer information. In addition, Congress should consider legislation to hold Equifax and other consumer reporting agencies to higher standards of accuracy and security for consumer information, since they act as gatekeepers to financial and employment opportunities.



Protect students in the Higher Education Act

Young Americans have been defrauded by shady for-profit colleges and universities and left with burdensome loans through poor implementation of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Now, the U.S. Department of Education is undermining and delaying enforcement of rules designed to protect these students and make them whole. As Sens. Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander work toward a bipartisan Higher Education Act, Congress should maintain and strengthen essential consumer protections for students.

Promote “open textbooks”

Given that students spend $3 billion of financial aid each year on textbooks, and that skyrocketing costs have forced 65 percent of students to skip buying some or all of their required books and/or online course materials,

we need to shift requirements to more affordable—even free—options. In the past two federal budgets, Congress has appropriated $5 million for an Open Textbooks Pilot program, affording free access to high-quality materials published online. Congress should reauthorize the Open Textbook Pilot program in the Higher Education Act, along with measures to increase price transparency.



Strengthen enforcement of the Toxic Substances Control Act

In the year 2018, when science has proven the dangers of a variety of chemicals, including carcinogens, consumers should know exactly what is in beauty and personal care products, so they can make informed decisions on what they and their children use. We need full disclosure of all ingredients included in beauty and personal care products, including fragrances. Moreover, we need to ban toxic ingredients such as phthalates, which are known endocrine disruptors linked to higher rates of breast cancer, and parabens, which are known to contain estrogen-mimicking properties also linked to breast cancer. Congress took bold, laudable steps a few years ago to update the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Now, it is time to enforce and strengthen it.

Ban asbestos

Most countries around the world have banned asbestos outright, but the United States still allows it for certain uses. That loophole lets companies use this known carcinogen in various categories of consumer goods such as facial powder and some industrial capacities, such as drywall. Congress should once and for all ban this dangerous carcinogen.



Build infrastructure for the 21st century

Our transportation priorities have been too focused on building newer and wider roads, which has only made congestion worse and increased emissions that harm our health and environment. Congress should pass an infrastructure package that helps solve the transportation problems Americans are facing. The package should prioritize fixing and maintaining the aging and crumbling roads and bridges we already have, as well as expanding and improving public transit, walking and biking infrastructure. We need a transportation infrastructure bill that focuses on moving people, not more cars.