1. Get Involved: support progressive candidates and issues: Join and Support MCPA
2. Contact your State Legislators for more transparency, electoral fairness, and sound budget policies.
EMERGENCY ACTION ALERT: Act Now! Maryland needs voting machines we can trust.
3. Discuss budgets and revenues with elected officials, 1:30 PM February 7th 2010 in Wheaton
4. Sample Letter on Progressive Working Group Issues
5. Background, news, and information on these bills and policies
6. Please join the Montgomery County Progressive Alliance.

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1. Get Involved! Support progressive candidates and issues! Join and Support MCPA
If you live in the Montgomery County Maryland area, please join the Montgomery County Progressive Alliance. MCPA is local, independent coalition of organizations. MCPA organizes debates, forums and other events to inform the public and advance understanding and progress in Montgomery County. More information: https://mcprogressive.wordpress.com/

We’re gearing up for an exciting, important 2010. MCPA will endorse candidates and issue campaigns, educate the general public on issues, host events, and otherwise support progressive issues and campaigns as MCPA and in concert with other organizations. To achieve everything we should–to expand our meetings, hold more forums, extend outreach, and organize support for the best candidates–we ask you to become a paying member of MCPA now. Support our work: https://mcprogressive.wordpress.com/join-and-support-mcpa/ Contact mikehersh@mikehersh.com to work with MCPA.

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2. Contact your State Legislators for more transparency, electoral fairness, and sound budget policies.
MCPA is a member of the Progressive Working Group (PWG), a coalition of 24 organizations* in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties–and most recently Howard and Baltimore Counties and Baltimore City–joining together to support 3 important issues: campaign finance reform, greater transparency/open access in Annapolis, combined reporting aka closing a massive corporate tax loophole. Following a PWG meeting with House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch, we’re hopeful we can achieve progress on all of these issues!

In fact, we’ve already seen progress. Quickly following efforts from PWG and coalition allies Ryan O’Donnell (Maryland Common Cause), Sean Dobson, (Progressive Maryland) and Maryland Transparency and Equal Access in Government, Speaker Busch and Senate President Mike Miller took steps to promote greater transparency in General Assembly operations, including posting committee votes online.

We’re not satisfied with partial success on one issue area, however. We’re asking you to adapt the following sample letter (see below) to write or call your state legislators. Please use your own words! Identical emails and calls are less likely to receive due consideration. You can find your legislators’ contact information online here: http://mlis.state.md.us

* EMERGENCY ACTION ALERT! Maryland needs voting machines we can trust. The Maryland Legislature unanimously voted for paper-based, verifiable voting. Unfortunately, Governor O’Malley failed to fund the transition away from unreliable, error-prone, expensive and obsolete DRE voting machines in his current budget. The Board of Public Works will meet to consider funding the transition to more reliable, less costly paper ballot voting. Urge your state legislators to contact the Governor and demand voting machines we can trust in Maryland! (See sample letter below).

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3. Discuss budgets and revenues with elected officials, 1:30 PM February 7th 2010 in Wheaton
Sunday, February 7th 1:30 to 3:30 PM. Panel discussion/forum on MD and MoCo Budgets.

While we welcome the Governor’s commitment to schools and other priorities in his just-released budget, many questions remain about remaining challenges. Join us for a panel discussion on these critical issues with Delegates Brian Feldman, Sheila Hixson, and Roger Manno, County Council President Nancy Floreen and School Board President Pat O’Neill. We’re awaiting response from County Executive Ike Leggett and MCEA leadership. Free and open to the public.

Wheaton Library, (first floor large meeting room)
11701 Georgia Ave. Wheaton MD 20902
Public transportation: from Wheaton Metro take Y9 Bus (toward Montgomery Hospital).

More information and RSVP: Mark Woodard markdwoodard@comcast.net or Mike Hersh mikehersh@mikehersh.com

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4. Sample Letter on Progressive Working Group Issues:

Dear (name and office of delegate or senator)

I am a member of the Montgomery County Progressive Alliance, a grassroots group with approximately 1100 members in Montgomery County. We are part of a coalition of 24 groups which supports campaign finance reform, greater transparency and equal access in Annapolis, and combined corporate income reporting. I urge you to support these issues in the current legislative session.

Maryland needs voting machines we can trust. We thank you for voting to purchase and deploy paper-based, verifiable voting machines. Although you and the rest of the Maryland General Assembly unanimously voted for it, Governor O’Malley failed to fund the transition away from unreliable, error-prone, expensive and obsolete DRE voting machines in his current budget. Please contact the Governor and convey your strong commitment to voting machines we can trust in Maryland. Urge him to fund the transition to more reliable, less costly, verifiable paper ballot voting machines when the Board of Public Works meets to consider funding priorities in Maryland early next month.

We need real campaign finance reform (CFR) including voluntary public financing of General Assembly elections. This would let you focus on important issues facing our state, rather than on raising funds for your campaign. I understand challengers can raise campaign funds during the session, but you are not allowed to do so. We believe CFR would fix this unfair situation, and help free you and your colleagues from the burdens of fundraising. This would increase public confidence in the General Assembly, and ultimately make your work more effective.

We’ve considered the impact the recent US Supreme Court decision may have on CFR, and we understand that public financing would likely survive judicial challenge by virtue of its voluntary nature. We also understand that Sen. Paul Pinsky is among the legislators like to sponsor such legislation during the 2010 session. We strongly urge you to do all you can to ensure the passage of public financing CFR into law.

Please support Del. Heather Mizeur’s Maryland Open Government Act. Greater transparency/open access will let citizens better understand your efforts in Annapolis by facilitating access to information and participation in hearings. If enacted, the bill would allow free and total public access to services on the General Assembly’s Web site–eliminating the $800 fee for legislative tracking. It would also provide for live webcasts of committee hearings and Board of Public Works meetings. To facilitate public participation in General Assembly committee hearings, it would require one-day advance online notice of committee hearing agendas, would let people sign-up online to testify, and would mandate the publication of standing committee votes on the General Assembly Web site.

These objectives enjoy wide support politically and geographically. Along with all 24 members and allies of the PWG in Baltimore City, Montgomery, Howard, Baltimore and Prince George’s Counties, both House Speaker Busch and Senate President Miller endorse these principles. According to the Cumberland Times-News, “A legislative working group of the Allegany County Chamber of Commerce generally supported the Maryland Open Government Act.” Clearly, the time for greater access and transparency has come. Please sign on as a co-sponsor of The Maryland Open Government Act in the House of Delegates, or parallel legislation in the Senate.

We support combined corporate income reporting which would require the largest multi-state corporations to pay their fair share and help support education, infrastructure, transportation and other basic needs in Maryland. During the current budget crisis, this is more important than ever. Combined reporting will not harm Maryland’s economy or undermine efforts to attract and foster strong commercial growth. According to The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, which studied employment growth in states with combined reporting states from 1990-2006, “five of the seven states with the fastest employment growth use combined reporting” and “ten of the states with combined reporting had employment growth exceeding the national growth rate.”

According to an article entitled “Combined Reporting” from the New Rules Project: “Many retail chains earn profits at stores nationwide, but have developed an accounting scheme to evade paying their full share of state corporate income taxes. Tax experts believe the practice is costing states billions of dollars in lost revenue. It has also given chains an advantage over locally owned businesses, which must pay state income tax on all of their earnings. Twenty-one states are not vulnerable to these tax-evasion schemes, because they have enacted a policy known as combined reporting.” These states include–Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Maryland has been considering enacting combined reporting for several years. The House of Delegates passed Combined Reporting during the recent special session, but the Senate did not. Other states currently considering combined reporting include Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina and Wisconsin. The 31 states which have passed or are considering combined reporting represent every region of the U.S.–a wide range of political and socio-economic character–which indicates that this is not a left or right, pro- or anti-business, or partisan issue. Combined reporting is a simple matter of basic fairness, sound economics, and honest accounting.

We urge you to support Del. Roger Manno’s HB 10 which would dedicate funds from combined reporting to strengthen the state employees’ and teachers’ pension systems and prevent transfer of pension obligations to the counties and Baltimore City. Please co-sponsor HB 10 in the House, or sponsor and support parallel legislation in the Senate.

Thank you for your consideration of these important issues.

Sincerely,

Your name and address

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5. Background, news, and information on these bills and policies

Campaign finance reform:
Bill to be introduced soon. Fact sheet on campaign finance: http://progressivemaryland.org/public/documents/2010/ga/CleanElectionsBasicHandout2010.pdf

Fair and effective solutions to the budget crisis:
Teacher and Employee Pension Sustainability and Solvency Trust Fund (HB 10) (Manno) http://mlis.state.md.us/2010rs/billfile/HB0010.htm

Also see: “Combined Reporting” New Rules Project: http://www.newrules.org/retail/rules/level-playing-field-taxation/combined-reporting

Also see: “Corporate Lobbyist’s Case Against Combined Reporting in New Mexico: A Rebuttal”
http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3012

Also see: WTH is Combined Reporting https://mcprogressive.wordpress.com/2010/01/09/wth-is-combined-reporting-and-why-do-we-need-it/

Transparency and Equal Access in Government:
See “Crowdsourcing Maryland’s Democracy” Washington Post Op-Ed: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/local-opinions/2009/12/crowdsourcing_marylands_democr.html

Also see Delegate Ali’s bill at Legislative Voting Sunshine Act (HB 107) (Ali): http://mlis.state.md.us/2010rs/billfile/hb0107.htm

Also see: “Lawmakers to introduce Maryland Open Government Act today,” Cumberland Times-News http://www.times-news.com/local/local_story_028094302.html

Also see: http://maryland-politics.blogspot.com/2010/01/busch-committee-votes-will-be-posted.html

Also see: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/annapolis/2010/01/miller_senate_to_post_committe.html?wprss=annapolis

Also see: Del. Mizeur legislative agenda: http://www.heathermizeur.com/pdf/2010/Mizeur2010LegislativeAgenda.pdf

Maryland Transparency and Equal Access in Government Coalition (MD TEAG) builds support for transparency/open access issues and needs more volunteers. TEAG has been meeting with legislators and others on these issues. For more information on TEAG’s long range goals as well as its work in the current session and to become involved, contact Luis Zapata, Chair, MD TEAG Coalition, MDTEAG@gmail.com, 301-325-6754.

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6. Please join the Montgomery County Progressive Alliance.
MCPA is local, independent coalition of organizations. MCPA organizes debates, forums and other events to inform the public and advance understanding and progress in Montgomery County. More information: https://mcprogressive.wordpress.com/

Support our work: https://mcprogressive.wordpress.com/join-and-support-mcpa/

Contact mikehersh@mikehersh.com to work with MCPA.

To join the MCPA Google group, send an email to mcprogressivealliance-subscribe@googlegroups.com

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