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The Maryland House Economic Matters Committee is meeting today at 1 p.m. to hear testimony regarding House Bill 951; the Senate Finance Committee will hear testimony on Senate Bill 774 on Thursday. Keith Wrightson, worker safety and health advocate at Public Citizen, will give the following testimony at the hearing:
It is unfortunately far too infrequent when public advocates, labor unions and industry join together in support of proposed legislation. Yet, that is the case today where the three sectors are united in support for legislation that would help protect construction workers from hazardous situations, allow industry to flourish and ensure safety for the general public.
House Bill 951 (with 22 sponsors) and Senate Bill 774 (with 13 sponsors) were introduced by Maryland Delegate Brian McHale (D-46) and Senator Karen Montgomery (D-14), respectively. The bills were inspired by a 2012 Public Citizen report that showed safety shortfalls cost the state $712.8 million between 2008 and 2010. During that time, Maryland recorded 18,600 construction industry accidents in the state, of which 11,000 required days away from work or job transfer. Additionally, 55 construction-related fatalities were reported in those years.
Under the proposal, before being granted state contracts, construction firms would have to demonstrate that they provide safety training to workers and site supervisors and that they do not have serious safety violations. Maryland does not yet consider a company's safety record before awarding contracts.
The legislation would require all companies that bid for public works contracts to provide information about the frequency with which their employees suffer injuries, whether the companies have violated any safety and health laws, and what citations and penalties they have been subject to from occupational safety and health agencies.
When government agencies fail to properly assess construction companies' health and safety performance, the results can be both deadly and expensive. The introduction of House Bill 951 and Senate Bill 774 is the first step toward changing the safety and health conditions for Maryland's construction workers. It will empower workers to identify potential job hazards and will ensure that the construction industry operates safely.
The Maryland lawmakers who have introduced this bill recognize the need to reduce dangers in the construction industry and the many benefits of a policy that requires safe and productive construction sites. Now, the Senate Finance and House Economic Matters Committee must similarly act to reduce worker injuries by voting to require safety standards for companies funded by the public's dime. We hope other members follow the lead of Delegate McHale and Senator Montgomery and vote to support this legislation in committee and assure its passage in the General Assembly.
Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people - not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.(202) 588-1000
"Solar and wind are leading the rapid expansion of the new global energy economy," said IEA chief Fatih Birol, who added that "achieving stronger growth means addressing some key challenges."
Electricity generated by the sun and wind is set to soar to global record levels this year amid surging solar production and high fuel prices, a report published Thursday by the International Energy Agency forecasts.
The IEA's Renewable Energy Market Update Outlook for 2023 and 2024 notes that "the global energy crisis and policy momentum are driving robust growth in solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind power."
Global additions of solar PV and wind are set to increase 107 gigawatts to over 440GW this year, and growth will likely continue next year to reach a total renewable energy capacity of 4.5 terawatts—the equivalent of the total combined electricity output of the United States and China.
"Solar and wind are leading the rapid expansion of the new global energy economy. This year, the world is set to add a record-breaking amount of renewables to electricity systems—more than the total power capacity of Germany and Spain combined," IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement.
\u201c\ud83d\udde3 \u201cThe world is set to add a record-breaking amount of renewables to electricity systems \u2013 more than the total power capacity of Germany & Spain combined\u201d\n\u00a0\nRead more from IEA Executive Director @fbirol on the latest trends in renewable energy markets \u2192 https://t.co/39ootu7F7a\u201d— International Energy Agency (@International Energy Agency) 1685619301
"The global energy crisis has shown renewables are critical for making energy supplies not just cleaner but also more secure and affordable—and governments are responding with efforts to deploy them faster," Birol added. "But achieving stronger growth means addressing some key challenges. Policies need to adapt to changing market conditions, and we need to upgrade and expand power grids to ensure we can take full advantage of solar and wind's huge potential."
According to the report:
Solar PV capacity, including both large utility-scale and small distributed systems, accounts for two-thirds of this year's projected increase in global renewable capacity in response to higher electricity prices caused by the global energy crisis, policymakers in many countries, particularly in Europe, have actively sought alternatives to imported fossil fuels that can improve energy security.
This shifting focus created a favorable environment for solar PV, especially for residential and commercial systems that can be rapidly installed to meet growing demand for renewable energy. These smaller distributed PV applications are on track to account for half of this year's overall deployment of solar PV—larger than the total deployment of onshore wind over the same period.
Meanwhile, the paper notes that "following two consecutive years of decline, onshore wind capacity additions are on course to rebound by 70% in 2023 to 107 GW, an all-time record amount."
The report continues:
This is mainly due to the commissioning of delayed projects in China following last year's Covid-19 restrictions. Faster expansion is also expected in Europe and the United States as a result of supply chain challenges pushing project commissioning from 2022 into 2023. On the other hand, offshore wind growth is not expected to match the record expansion it achieved two years ago due to the low volume of projects under construction outside of China.
The report predicts that "solar PV additions will continue to increase in 2024 while challenges remain for wind expansion."
\u201cIEA hedges rosy outlook for global renewables with caution on wind power. Global additions of renewable power capacity are expected to increase by one third in 2023 as growing policy momentum, higher fossil fuel prices and energy security concerns... https://t.co/gKrgVNI9ya\u201d— RenewableEnergyWorld (@RenewableEnergyWorld) 1685626348
"Global renewable capacity additions could reach 550 GW in 2024 in our accelerated case, almost 20% higher than in the main forecast," the paper contends. "This is mainly due to a more rapid deployment of residential and commercial PV installations, assuming a faster implementation of recent policies and incentives."
Earlier this year, IEA predicted that renewable energy will become the world's number one electricity source by 2025 thanks largely to a surge in wind and solar.
"We are close to a tipping point for power sector emissions," Birol said at the time. "Governments now need to enable low-emissions sources to grow even faster and drive down emissions so that the world can ensure secure electricity supplies while reaching climate goals."
The latest IEA report comes as countries set their sights on a global target for renewable energy ahead of this winter's United Nations Climate Change Conference—also known as COP28—in the United Arab Emirates.
"Bailing out protestors who exercise their constitutionally protected rights is simply not a crime," said one civil rights defender.
Rights advocates warned Wednesday that the arrests of three board members of an Atlanta-based bail fund could mark the beginning of a new era in the United States' treatment of peaceful protesters—one in which both demonstrators and those who support them are targeted by law enforcement.
Under the direction of the Republican state attorney general, Christopher Carr, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Atlanta Police Department carried out the arrests of Marlon Scott Kautz, Savannah Patterson, and Adele Maclean of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund (ASF).
The group offers financial support to people who have been arrested for protesting, including the dozens of people who have been detained for resisting the development of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, also known by critics as Cop City—a $90 million police training facility that would take up 85 acres of publicly-owned forest.
The three board members were charged with money laundering and charity fraud, leading state Rep. Saira Draper (D-90) to question the state's use of SWAT teams and helicopters to conduct the raid in a residential neighborhood.
"Peaceful protest is as American as apple pie," said Draper. "Using heavy handed tactics to suppress peaceful protest is shameful."
\u201cI don\u2019t know the specifics of the charges yet, but at this moment, SWAT and helicopters seem grossly excessive for arresting individuals accused of money laundering and \u201ccharity fraud.\u201d\n\nWhat I do know is weaponizing the powers of the state for political gain is abuse of power.\u201d— Rep. Saira Draper (@Rep. Saira Draper) 1685554334
Writer and historian William Horne denounced the arrests as "the behavior of a fascist police state."
Lauren Regan, executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center, told The Intercept on Wednesday that the ASF is "the first bail fund to be attacked in this way." The funds have been used for at least a century to pool together communities' financial resources to help bail people, including civil rights protesters, out of jail.
"There is absolutely not a scintilla of fact or evidence that anything illegal has ever transpired with regard to Atlanta fundraising for bail support," Regan said.
She added in a press statement that "bailing out protestors who exercise their constitutionally protected rights is simply not a crime."
"In fact, it is a historically grounded tradition in the very same social and political movements that the city of Atlanta prides itself on," she said. "Someone had to bail out civil rights activists in the 60's—I think we can all agree that community support isn't a crime."
Plans for Cop City garnered national attention earlier this year after Georgia state troopers killed a forest defender named Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, also known as Tortuguita, shooting him nearly 60 times.
Since Tortuguita's killing, nearly 30 people have been charged with domestic terrorism for allegedlydamaging property and trespassing while protesting Cop City.
More than 40 people in all are facing domestic terrorism charges, and three people charged with felonies have been placed in solitary confinement.
Civil rights attorney Alec Karakatsanis called the use of a "heavily militarized" police force to arrest three campaigners for alleged financial crimes "a bone-chilling development" that could have implications for the future of protesting in the United States.
\u201cTake a look at this. This logic, by the Republican Attorney General, would suggest that anyone donating to a bail fund or legal support charity is guilty of felony "terrorism" crimes. How liberal institutions react to this fascist abuse of power will be vital:\u201d— Alec Karakatsanis (@Alec Karakatsanis) 1685544745
Karakatsanis added that "everyone should be scared by" a statement made by Georgia's Republican governor, Brian Kemp, who said arrests were "a reminder that we will track down every member of a criminal organization, from violent foot soldiers to uncaring leaders."
"When three community organizers who help to run a bail fund are arrested with an entire SWAT team on clearly bogus financial charges, it signals that not only is it illegal to protest, it's also illegal to try and support people who have been criminalized for protesting," Hannah Riley, a writer and organizer, toldHuffPost. "If bail funds aren't safe, what's next?"
State Rep. Ruwa Romman (D-97) noted that the targeting of the ASF comes as people in the U.S. are increasingly relying on mutual aid to access reproductive care.
"Are we going to see attacks on abortion funds," she said to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "on bail funds, other types of funds that provide resources for those attempting to navigate our increasingly expensive and complicated legal system?"
"MAGA Republicans want to reach into our pockets and steal our earned Social Security and Medicare benefits," responded one advocacy group.
After securing a debt ceiling agreement that caps federal spending and threatens food aid for hundreds of thousands of poor adults, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy made clear Wednesday that Republicans are not finished targeting the nation's safety net programs—and signaled a coming effort by the GOP to slash Social Security and Medicare.
In a Fox News appearance ahead of the House's passage of the debt limit legislation, McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the measure is just "the first step" of the GOP's broader agenda, which includes further cuts to federal programs and massive tax breaks for the wealthy.
"This isn't the end. This doesn't solve all the problems," the Republican leader said of the House-passed bill, which would lift the debt ceiling until January 2025—setting up another potential standoff shortly after the 2024 elections.
McCarthy lamented that President Joe Biden "walled off" major components of the federal budget, including Social Security and Medicare, from cuts as part of the debt ceiling agreement—though McCarthy himself agreed to "take those off the table" in late January.
"The majority driver of the budget is mandatory spending. It's Medicare, Social Security, interest on the debt," the Republican speaker said Wednesday, adding that he intends to announce a bipartisan "commission" to examine ways to cut such spending.
The progressive group Our Revolution responded that "it's never enough for the right wing."
"They want it all," the group wrote on Twitter. "We have to tell them NO."
Watch McCarthy's comments:
\u201cHouse Speaker Kevin McCarthy announces he is assembling \u201ca commission\u201d to look at potential cuts in entitlement programs:\n\n\u201cThe president walled off all the others. The majority driver of the budget is mandatory spending. It\u2019s Medicare, Social Security, interest on the debt.\u201d\u201d— The Recount (@The Recount) 1685548097
The idea of forming a bipartisan commission to study and propose cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other non-discretionary spending is hardly new.
In 2021, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) led a group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers—including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.)—in unveiling legislation that would establish bipartisan panels to study and recommend changes to the nation's trust funds, a scheme modeled after the Obama-era Simpson-Bowles commission that recommended Social Security cuts.
The changes proposed by the so-called "rescue committees" would then receive expedited votes in the House and Senate.
Advocacy groups have described the Romney legislation, known as the TRUST Act, as an insidious ploy to cut Medicare and Social Security behind closed doors. Republicans have also proposed raising the Social Security retirement age, a move that would slash benefits across the board.
Social Security Works, which has been speaking out against the TRUST Act for years, said Wednesday that "MAGA Republicans want to reach into our pockets and steal our earned Social Security and Medicare benefits."
Jon Bauman, president of the Social Security Works PAC, urged the public to "beware the 'Problem Solvers' and 'No Labels'-style Democrats who would be willing to 'serve' on McCarthy's commission to cut your earned benefits."
"They are problem MAKERS," he wrote.