By Dawn Stoltzfus
Amplifying our clients’ voices during Maryland’s annual General Assembly session is a Hatcher Group specialty – and, to be honest, it’s one of our favorite activities (we are policy wonks, after all!). But this year, with the legislature concluding early due to COVID-19, writing our traditional Sine die wrap-up seemed unimportant in these challenging times. However, our clients worked so hard to advance important policies that affect all Marylanders. And that will always be important.
As I reflect on this shortened but productive legislative session, I feel an incredible sense of gratitude. I am grateful for all the nonprofit organizations working to make our state a healthier, happier place. I am grateful for our elected officials who provided leadership while prioritizing critical issues. I am grateful for the reporters who shone a light on the General Assembly when the State House doors were closed, and the public could not bear witness. And I am so grateful for the incredible Hatcher Group team who put their heart and soul into all of our work.
The good news: many of our clients achieved major success – whether passing new legislation or drawing attention on the need to advance public health, protect our environment, and improve education. From strategic communications, media outreach, and digital campaigns, to event planning or eye-catching design, here is some of the work we are grateful and proud to have supported this year:
- After three years, the Smart on Pesticide Coalition’s hard work paid off as lawmakers voted to ban the toxic, nerve agent pesticide chlorpyrifos in the final minutes of the shortened session – making Maryland the fourth state in the country to ban chlorpyrifos and the second state to ban it through legislation. Major congratulations to Ruth Berlin, the Maryland Pesticide Network, and the entire coalition for a well-deserved victory! We hope to inspire other states to follow in Maryland’s footsteps.
- The Maryland Behavioral Health Coalition successfully fought to restore funding for behavioral health services, incorporate behavioral health support in the landmark education legislation, and focus attention on equal access to behavioral health services, expanded crisis response, and overdose prevention sites. The coalition’s inspiring Keep the Door Open rally drew more than 400 advocates. Now, and in the coming months, access to behavioral health services will be urgently needed — and we are so thankful for the dedicated advocates and providers doing this work. View a video of the rally below:
- Today, 23% of Maryland high school students currently use e-cigarettes, a rate five times higher than adult use. A coalition of tobacco control advocates, led by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, worked to end the sale of all flavored tobacco. While the legislation was unsuccessful, the coalition educated policymakers, the media, and grassroots about this growing public health emergency.
- For decades, debris, pollution, and sediment from the Conowingo Dam has harmed the Chesapeake Bay. A bipartisan group of Maryland lawmakers collaborated with Waterkeepers Chesapeake on legislation that would have forced Maryland to withdraw from their flawed settlement agreement with Exelon for the 50-year license renewal for the Dam. While the bill fell victim to the shortened General Assembly session, we successfully spread the message that we need to protect our waterways and throw out this #DirtyDamDeal!
- Maryland’s hospitals get millions of dollars in tax breaks each year, which they are supposed to use for community benefits programs that make our communities healthier. But not all hospitals follow through. We were happy to have worked with 1199SEIU to educate legislators and the media about a bill that would ensure hospitals’ spending is transparent and they do their fair share for communities. The legislation passed in the shortened session.
- We helped the Maryland Association of Nonpublic Special Education Facilities (MANSEF) organize another successful Advocacy Day. Students, teachers, and advocates met with representatives and told their stories about why schools that serve students with physical, emotional, and developmental disabilities are so important. In case you’ve never had the privilege to see her in action, Dorie Flynn runs one of the best advocacy days in Annapolis!
Our friends and colleagues at nonprofits and foundations are certain to face challenges in the months ahead, even as their services and voices are needed perhaps more than ever. We are so thankful for the opportunity to have worked with our change-making clients this legislative session and we look forward to achieving more great things in the future.