Yesterday was a big day for political types: President-Elect Donald Trump gave his first press conference since the summer, the U.S. Senate held multiple confirmation hearings for Trump’s nominees to cabinet positions . . . and a little closer to home, the Maryland General Assembly opened its 2017 legislative session.
Most of the news outlets I follow focused exclusively on the two former points. (The NPR Politics podcast had a good one-hour overview last night on the radio.) And I’d wager they’re what most of us would have picked up on from our social media feeds. But I think the start of the Maryland General Assembly’s (90 day long) legislative session is a great opportunity to point out that there are other worlds when it comes to politics – worlds that many of us pay little attention to: our states, counties and cities.
For all the focus on national-level politics, many (most?) of the programs and policy decisions that impact our everyday lives are formulated much closer to home than Washington, DC.
Schools, roads, assistance programs, the environment, hospitals and clinics, business incentives and regulations – the State of Maryland (and your state too, if you live elsewhere) has a hand in it all. And in turn, organizations that you and I care about – our faith communities, our schools, labor or business or other advocacy organizations – have a hand in the development of the laws, policies and regulations of the state.
I used to work for the Maryland Catholic Conference, which advocates to the Maryland General Assembly on matters of importance to the Catholic Church. The conference works on issues related to poverty, healthcare, immigration, justice, education, the family, human life and more.
Yesterday the Catholic Review published a story that outlines the conference’s expectations for the next 90 days. This year they include focuses on assistance for low-income students attending nonpublic schools, juvenile justice, paid sick leave, the earned income tax credit and physician-assisted suicide.
If you’re not yet familiar with the conference’s work, I hope you’ll check it out. Maybe attend Catholics in Annapolis Night or join the Catholic Advocacy Network. If you’re in another state, look to see if you have a Catholic Conference where you are. (Most states do.)
Ninety days from now, the Senate will still be debating at least some of Trump’s appointments. We’ll still, I expect, be witnessing a tense back-and-forth between the president and the media. We’ll probably feel stuck on a whole range of issues and relationships.
But in that time, we’ll also have seen much movement at the state level. Maryland will have passed a budget and hundreds of other bills that will impact our lives for years to come. Let’s pay attention, because lot can happen in 90 days.