Local Advocates Announce Support For Maryland Local Tobacco Control Bill

Annapolis, Md. – On Thursday afternoon, the NAACP Maryland State Conference (MSC), American Heart Association and LOCAL (Let Our Communities Act Locally) Maryland, members of the Maryland Tobacco Free Coalition, announced their support for the Maryland Local Tobacco Control Bill (H.B. 1011, S.B. 410). This legislation would restore the abilities of localities to enact and enforce local laws regulating the sale and distribution of cigarettes and other dangerous tobacco products to fit the specific needs of their communities. Passage would ultimately improve the health of all Marylanders.

Successful passage of this legislation would overturn a contentious 2013 court ruling, Altadis v. Prince George’s County. That bill stripped Maryland’s local governments of their power to fully protect residents from the devastating effects of tobacco use and prevented them from passing new laws regulating tobacco products.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Ben Kramer (D-Montgomery County) and Del. Sandy Rosenberg (D-Baltimore City). “The tobacco industry not only wants to addict the next generation of Marylanders, it needs to do so in order to continue delivering profits for its shareholders,” said Rosenberg. “Maryland’s county and city governments should be able to tailor local tobacco control laws to fit the needs of their jurisdictions. The Maryland Local Tobacco Control Bill recognizes that local governments should also be able to fight back against big tobacco and ensure the health of their residents.”

Smoking-related illnesses are the No. 1 cause of death in the Black community, surpassing all other causes of death, including AIDS, homicide, diabetes and accidents. Researchers found that stores in predominantly Black neighborhoods were up to 10 times more likely to display tobacco ads inside and outside than retailers in areas with fewer Black residents.

“Historically, the NAACP has led Grassroots outreach and empowerment in an effort to heal families and communities,” said NAACP Maryland State Conference President Willie Flowers. “For years, broken systems have created broken communities and while some focus has been on the people it should glaringly be on the broken system itself. Today, our goal of educating impacted communities about tobacco

Given the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating impact on the heart, lungs and other vital organs, curbing tobacco use has heightened in urgency.

“Using tobacco products is an immense health risk. Each year, 7,500 Marylanders die from tobacco-related causes,” said American Heart Association State Government Relations Director Laura Hale. “That’s one person – a mom or dad, son or daughter, friend or colleague – every hour of every day. By restoring the ability of local governments to pass new tobacco control laws, Maryland’s residents will all have better opportunities to live longer, healthier lives.”

Sugar Free Kids Maryland executive director Shawn McIntosh leads the efforts of LOCAL Maryland. “Our coalition believes that every Maryland community has the right to maintain healthy families,” said McIntosh. “Taking away the ability of local governments to protect their residents’ health and quality of life hurts the residents of this state. The Maryland Local Tobacco Control Bill would allow communities to create laws that fit their needs and allow their residents to thrive.”

LOCAL Maryland Statement on Gov. Hogan’s Decision to Ban Localities from Closing Schools

On Monday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan stripped local governments’ authority to issue blanket closures of schools, following his disagreement with a Montgomery County decision to close private and parochial schools. His revised emergency order continues to allow localities to order closures or modifications at businesses and organizations, but it now excludes schools from that authority.

The following is a statement from Shawn McIntosh, who leads the efforts of LOCAL (Let Our Communities Act Locally) Maryland:

“Our coalition is disappointed with Gov. Hogan’s decision to revoke the authority of local governments to issue blanket closures of schools within the state. We feel that excluding schools from his emergency order is inconsistent with his other directives during this COVID-19 pandemic and does not protect the ability of Maryland’s localities to govern their citizens in a manner that suits them best.

Montgomery County has made the decision to mandate the closure of private and parochial schools. That is a decision that is optimal for the county and how they believe they can best protect the health and safety of their students, which should always be the paramount concern, but specifically during this COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone in our state is entitled to that right.”

LOCAL Maryland is a coalition of advocacy organizations committed to protecting the health, the environment and economic wellbeing of Maryland citizens. It works to ensure that local governments have the ability to pass laws that meet the needs of their residents.

LOCAL Maryland Introduces 2020 Legislative Agenda Aimed at Protecting Quality of Life for State Residents

On Jan. 17, LOCAL (Let Our Communities Act Locally) Maryland, a coalition consisting of advocacy organizations from across the state, committed to protecting the health, the environment and economic wellbeing of Maryland citizens, introduced its 2020 legislative agenda.

The coalition will support a bill that will be introduced by Maryland Association of Counties (MACo), which would ensure that local jurisdictions would have assumed authority unless otherwise stated (implied preemption).

“This bill will add clarity to this process,” said MACo executive director Michael Sanderson. “Rather than having local laws struck down quietly in court through litigation, we’ll have those debates in the open through legislation. That’s how public policy ought to get done.”

“This legislation empowers local governments to enact laws that create jobs, preserve the environment, and promote the well-being of families and the community,” said bill sponsor Del. Karen Lewis Young, Frederick County, District 3A.

LOCAL Maryland will work to prevent potential preemption amendments in state legislation involving pesticides. In 2019, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals rejected an argument that local governments are impliedly preempted from regulating the use of pesticides and upheld a Montgomery County pesticide regulation. Three times in the past decade, the pesticide industry has attempted to preempt pesticide laws in the state and have failed.

Alan Cohen is a founding member of Safe Grow Montgomery, an all-volunteer group of residents, working to end exposure to non-essential lawn pesticides in Montgomery County.

“Safe Grow Montgomery is concerned that the chemical industry may approach state legislators during this General Assembly session. Their goal is to preempt local ordinances involving pesticides,” said Cohen. “Our group is excited to partner with LOCAL Maryland to allow the voices of Maryland localities to be heard. Silencing these voices endangers the health of our citizens.”

In 2019, advocacy organizations across Maryland — including 1199 SEIU, the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP, the American Heart Association and National Employment Law Project — launched LOCAL Maryland. The coalition pays special attention to state legislation that would take away the ability of local governments to protect residents’ health and quality of life. During the 2019 General Assembly, LOCAL Maryland successfully advocated to keep preemption amendments out of the state’s minimum wage bill.

Sugar Free Kids Maryland executive director Shawn McIntosh leads the efforts of LOCAL Maryland. “Our coalition believes that every Maryland community has the right to healthy families, a clean environment and good jobs,” said McIntosh. “By supporting MACo’s efforts to ensure that local governments can preserve the right to assume authority, we can make that happen.

It is also our goal to protect local laws involving pesticides so that each of our state’s unique localities can govern in a manner that suits them best. One size does not always fit all.”

“Preemption has been a troubling trend,” added Sanderson. “Legislatures have been deciding that one size fits all and shutting down communities’ ability to react to their own needs. We don’t want to see that catch fire in Maryland and LOCAL Maryland brings together voices from across the state to stand up for our communities.”

LOCAL Maryland Town Halls Spark Spirited Conversations with NAACP Chapters

More than 25 NAACP members and other guests filled rooms in Prince George’s County and Howard County this September to learn more about preemption understand how preemption can hurt their health and quality of life, while sparking spirited conversation.

The town halls were facilitated by LOCAL Maryland, a coalition of state advocacy organizations committed to protecting the ability of local elected officials to pass laws that support healthy families, a clean environment and good jobs.

A discussion held at the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP Convention at Ocean City on Oct. 26, brought in more than 50 attendees and members that wanted to make a difference. Successful meetings in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County garnered significant interest in November.

Gerald Stansbury, President of the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP wanted the audience to know exactly how preemption can specifically hurt is constituents. “It’s important for people of color to understand that preemption affects things we need like housing, safety and health,” said Stansbury. “It takes away the power of community. It takes your voice away. We need to start the conversation about preemption. This is our cause. We need to be on the front lines.”

Monica Young, representing Prince George’s County councilmember Jolene Ivey sat on the panel and emphasized how preemption affects local government. “Preemption impacts our ability to create laws that impact our community. Who knows you better than your state legislators? It’s important that your local legislators are able to work with you directly to know your needs.”