Thank goodness for state-level policymakers who are resisting the Trump administration’s extreme policies. Attorneys general from around the nation are making headlines by fighting Trump’s discriminatory immigration ban. Governors from both major political parties stood up to the attempt to strip away health care from millions of hard-working Americans and their children. And mayors and law enforcement officials are lifting up undocumented residents and recognizing their many contributions to our society, rather than assisting in the indiscriminate roundups Trump has demanded.
These headline-grabbing acts of resistance are helping to preserve core values of our society from an administration that seems to have no recognizable guiding principles. Meanwhile, quietly and in great number across the country, state and local policymakers are taking other steps to Trump-proof the institutions that form the backbone of our civil society.
Shining a light on some examples of these small acts of resistance will hopefully help us maintain a sense that all is not lost. It’s a reminder we all need when faced with the disorienting barrage of assaults on our safeguards, from Congressional Review Act resolutions upending important environmental and labor protections to budget proposals that could undermine all forward progress on environmental protection.
In Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan declared after 60 days in office that he had done more for the Chesapeake Bay than his Democratic predecessor accomplished in eight years. He was wrong then and still has no accomplishments to back up such an audacious claim. That makes it all the more astonishing that Hogan has been tight-lipped on President Trump’s proposal to eliminate the federal office that is the lynchpin of a seven-state cooperative effort to restore the Bay. Without the Chesapeake Bay Program’s contributions at the federal level, the future of Bay cleanup is in jeopardy.
Leaders in the General Assembly, by contrast, looked at President Trump’s budget proposals and knew they had to act. They got the recognition they deserve for protecting health services provided by Planned Parenthood but also accomplished a number of things that flew below the radar.
Despite structural impediments that come from a state budget process where the legislature cannot appropriate more overall funds than the governor proposes in his budget, the Maryland General Assembly responded to Trump’s proposal to drastically reduce federal funding to enforce the Clean Water Act. Maryland lawmakers quickly proposed to set aside enough money to fund new inspectors for both the Maryland Department of the Environment and Department of Agriculture – the two agencies that have the greatest responsibility for ensuring that polluters are not fouling local waters that flow into the Chesapeake Bay.
And that’s not all. Maryland legislators took proactive steps to get out ahead of President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which could restrict money that passes through to state agencies like Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation for enforcement. In the latest state budget, DLLR is required to report back on its safety and health enforcement capacity within its current budget and policies. That report will be an important tool when it comes time to address the agency’s needs after President Trump and Congress settle on future spending.
We’re deep in the weeds of public health policy here, but the good news is that forward progress is still possible, despite retrograde action at the federal level. Marylanders can thank the General Assembly’s budget committee leaders like Sens. James DeGrange, Edward Kasemeyer, and Richard Madaleno, and Dels. Maggie McIntosh, Tawanna Gaines, Adrienne Jones, Ben Barnes, Brooke Lierman, and Marc Korman for that progress.
Top photo by Kevin Galens, used under a Creative Commons license.