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Maryland House approves bill to allow voters to decide on legal recreational marijuana use

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ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland House of Delegates approved two bills Friday to reform the state’s marijuana laws – one would allow voters to decide whether to legalize marijuana and another to permit those convicted of possessing the drug to request their records be expunged.

Under one bill (HB1), voters would cast ballots in November on a constitutional amendment to legalize the possession of up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis for personal use for anyone age 21 and over. If the referendum passed, the law would go into effect on July 1, 2023.

The bill was approved by a 96 to 34 vote.

The companion bill (HB837), authorizes the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission to study and report annually on the long-term effects of marijuana use, and it would allow the records of those convicted of marijuana crimes to be expunged. The bill was approved 92 to 37.


The bills now go to the Senate for consideration.

House Minority Whip Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-Carroll, opposed the bill and said he felt the legislation should only be considered after the commission completed its studies.

“We’re putting the marijuana cart before the proverbial horse,” Shoemaker said during Friday’s session.

The bill’s sponsor, Del. Luke Clippinger, D-Baltimore, has long said he wanted the bill to focus on righting the wrongs done to those criminalized previously by its use.

Del. Luke Clippinger, D-Baltimore, said the passage in the House Friday of his bill was the first step to a November voter referendum on legalizing recreational use of marijuana.

“The thousands of people who have been incarcerated and those incarcerations have not made us safer,” Clippinger said during the floor debate before the vote.
Del. Gabriel Acevero, D-Montgomery, voted against the bill. He said it should have included provisions to rectify the damage done by disproportionate convictions and incarcerations of African-Americans for marijuana use.

“It is not enough for us to acknowledge the harm that is done to communities by the intentional war on drugs,” Acevero said. “What is equally as important is that we repair the harm that was done to the communities that have been disproportionately impacted, and unfortunately this bill does not do that.”

Clippinger said in an interview with Capital News Service that the votes were an important first step.

An October 2021 Goucher College Poll showed 60% of Maryland residents approved of marijuana legalization, down from 67% from a previous poll seven months earlier.

“That’s why we wanted to have a referendum on this issue, to allow people to look at this really challenging issue and decide for themselves whether or not we should legalize adult-use cannabis,” Clippinger told CNS.

Clippinger said he understands Acevero’s concerns regarding fixing past deeds.

“I think that we have a long way yet to go,” Clippinger said. “One of the issues is figuring out how we can help communities that have been disenfranchised and disempowered by the criminalization of cannabis. That’s the next step.”

Approval of the two bills came after a turbulent floor debate Wednesday when House Republicans failed to pass seven proposed amendments, including one that would allow counties to opt-out of legalization. Others would have broadened enforcement of marijuana use in public or while operating vehicles.

“The fine for the public consumption of alcohol is higher than what it is for marijuana and you can go to jail for the public consumption of alcohol in Maryland, but not marijuana,” House Minority Leader Jason C. Buckel, R-Allegany, said Wednesday. “This isn’t a slap on the wrist, this is a tickle on the wrist.”

Currently, possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana in Maryland does not result in arrest, jail time, or a criminal record. Instead, possession of small amounts results in civil penalties. The fine for a first offense is $100, up to $250 for a second offense, and up to $500 for three or more offenses.

By E. A. BREEDEN 

Capital News Service

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Supreme Court hears arguments over voting rights in Alabama case

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday, October 4, 2022, in a case over Alabama’s 2021 congressional redistricting plan. Although Black people make up 27% of Alabama’s population, the map includes just one majority-minority district, where Black voters constitute the majority.

Evan Milligan, executive director of the civic engagement group Alabama Forward, sued John Merrill, the Alabama Secretary of State, alongside other voting interest groups in three federal court cases.

Their argument hinges on Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which says that states must prevent racial minorities from having “less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.” The plaintiffs presented 11 maps to prove that creating two majority-Black districts that complied with other traditional Alabama redistricting requirements was possible.

In January, a three-judge panel ruled that Alabama’s new congressional maps likely did violate the Voting Rights Act and gave the state two weeks to create a new one. Alabama made an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court to stay the ruling.


In a 5-4 decision, the court agreed to let Alabama keep its proposed map until the case could be argued before the court. The three liberal justices were joined by Chief Justice John Roberts in dissent, saying that there was already precedent in place from a 1986 Supreme Court ruling.

In Thornburg v. Gingles, the court found that the North Carolina legislature’s redistricting plan violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by grouping Black voters in such a way that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to elect their preferred candidates. And, before the Court heard the case, Congress clarified Section 2 to mean that plaintiffs only had to prove discriminatory effect – not discriminatory intent – for the Voting Rights Act to be violated.

Alabama’s Solicitor General Edmund Lacour made a varied and complicated set of arguments before the justices Tuesday, arguing that the redistricting plan submitted by the plaintiffs did not meet the procedural standards set out by the 1986 ruling. He also contended that a map with more than one majority-minority district would be “racially gerrymandered,” allegedly violating the 14th Amendment.
Lacour seemed to suggest that such a map would disproportionately benefit Black people and harm white people.

“Single-member districting is uniquely zero-sum,” he said. “If you have a neutral plan and someone comes in and upsets it to racially gerrymander in favor of one racial group, necessarily you’re going to be harming some other group on account of race.”

The justices appeared skeptical of Alabama’s arguments, especially liberal Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett also expressed confusion about Lacour’s arguments: “Mr. Lacour, I think I’m struggling in the same way that some others have about narrowing down exactly what your argument is. You know, I disagree with you and agree with Justice Kagan’s characterization of the intended point. Our precedent and the statute itself says that you don’t have to show discriminatory intent, so put that aside.”

Notably, Jackson argued that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment was adopted in a “race-conscious way.”

“I don’t think we can assume that just because race is taken into account, that necessarily creates an Equal Protection problem,” Jackson said. “‘(The country’s Framers and Founders) were in fact trying to ensure that people who had been discriminated against, the freedmen during the Reconstruction period, were actually brought equal to everyone else in society… That’s not a race-neutral or race-blind idea in terms of the remedy, and even more than that, I don’t think that the historical record establishes that the Founders believed that race neutrality or race blindness was required.”

Kagan suggested that previous rulings should have resolved this dispute without it needing to be brought to the Supreme Court, saying, “What strikes me is that under our precedent, this should be a slam dunk.”

This is the third major challenge to the Voting Rights Act to be argued before the Supreme Court since 2013. The previous two, Shelby County v. Holder and Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, both resulted in significant constraints on the Voting Rights Act.

Kagan said Tuesday that the Voting Rights Act has not fared well at the court in recent years: “And you’re asking us essentially to cut back substantially on our 40 years and to make this extremely difficult to prevail on too. So what’s left?”

By HUNTER SAVERY and KATE SELTZER
Capital News Service

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Maryland senators to Pentagon: address toxic chemicals on bases

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WASHINGTON – Maryland Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, both Democrats, have joined a host of other lawmakers in an open letter to the Pentagon to increase resources for cleaning up toxic chemicals found on military bases.

At issue are what are known as PFAS, which stands for per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a group of “forever chemicals” that come from consumer and industrial goods and can cause various diseases in humans.

The letter, signed by over three dozen senators from both parties, said PFAS found in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), a fire suppressant used by the military, personal protective equipment used by firefighters, and other products, left those who served at military installations at a higher risk of health problems.

“Nearly 700 military installations nationwide have known or suspected PFAS contamination, exposing service members and their families and civilian communities near DoD installations to these toxic chemicals,” the senators wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

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A recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine presented evidence that PFAS exposure was associated with lower antibody responses, elevated cholesterol, decreased infant and fetal growth, and increased risk of kidney cancer in adults.

According to the report, those who have worked or resided at places with identified PFAS contamination should have regular blood testing. The report specifically mentions military bases as locations where PFAS have been identified.

In 2022, Congress allocated $517 million for military PFAS-related testing, research, and cleanup. The senators said the Department of Defense has not done enough.

“It is our understanding that one of the major obstacles in the way of Congress putting more resources toward this problem is a lack of planning by the Department on how to execute a higher funding level,” the senators said. “Simply put, DoD is not sufficiently prioritizing PFAS testing, remediation, and disposal as part of its annual budget process, nor is the Department adequately developing the appropriate plans to utilize even higher funding levels as provided by Congress.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Defense declined a request for comment and said the Department will respond to Congress accordingly.

Jared Hayes, a PFAS-focused policy analyst with nonprofit activist organization Environmental Working Group, said there are almost 400 DoD bases with confirmed PFAS contamination in either drinking water and/or groundwater. At least 300 additional bases have suspected contamination.

According to Hayes, some of Maryland’s highest levels of PFAS contamination have been found at Naval Research Lab, Ft. Meade, and Webster Field Naval Annex. He said PFAS found at bases such as these contribute to local fish and shellfish contamination.

Hayes said, “while there may be bases around the U.S. with higher levels of contamination, the high levels of PFAS and the concentration of so many DOD bases along such an important waterway as the Chesapeake Bay makes Maryland bases stand out in the U.S.”

By EVE SAMPSON
Capital News Service

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Hours ahead of shutdown deadline, U.S. House sends Biden stopgap spending bill

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WASHINGTON — U.S. House members, mostly along party lines, cleared a Friday spending package that would bolster natural disaster response funding. With Hurricane Ian still battering the Southeast, lawmakers will likely need to approve another aid bill later this year.

The measure would provide $2.5 billion in assistance for the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire that destroyed parts of New Mexico this spring, $2 billion in Community Development Block Grant disaster relief funding for states affected by natural disasters during 2021 and 2022, and $1 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The measure also includes $12 billion to help Ukraine continue to defend itself following Russia’s invasion in February.

The package would keep the federal government up and running through Dec. 16, giving congressional leaders and the White House more time to work out how much to spend on discretionary programs and to draft bipartisan versions of the dozen annual government funding bills.

The billapproved 230-201, now heads to President Joe Biden for his signature. He needs to sign the measure before midnight, when the current government spending law expires ahead of the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1.


Virginia’s House delegation split on party lines on the measure, with all seven Democrats supporting it and all four Republicans voting no.

If the stopgap spending bill hadn’t cleared Congress, the federal government would have begun a partial government shutdown early Saturday.

The U.S. Senate approved the bill following a 72-25 vote Thursday, with all opposition coming from Republicans.

Republicans blast December deadline

GOP lawmakers in the U.S. House spoke out against the package Friday, arguing that setting up a government funding deadline during the lame-duck session following the midterm elections wasn’t the right decision.

“This legislation represents Congress at its worst,” said GOP Rep. Bob Good of Virginia.

The stopgap spending bill, Good said, shouldn’t expire until after the new Congress convenes in January, preventing the current Democratic-controlled House and Senate from passing any more spending bills.

Even if Republicans were to gain control of the U.S. House and Senate following November’s midterm elections, the spending bills would still need bipartisan support to clear the Senate’s 60-vote legislative filibuster and the backing of the Biden administration to avoid a veto.

House Appropriations ranking member Kay Granger, a Texas Republican, urged lawmakers to vote against the bill, saying it didn’t do enough to address border security, energy or inflation.

Granger also chastised Democrats for releasing the short-term bill Monday with just days to go before the end of the fiscal year.

“It’s unfortunate that this bill would be rushed through the House today with just hours to spare to avoid a government shutdown,” Granger said. “The American people continue to wonder why Congress can’t get its job done until the very last minute.”

Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz called on House members to vote for the package, saying the disaster relief funding is crucial for states like hers.

“Look no further than Southwest Florida, in my home state, where Hurricane Ian inflicted tragic human loss and massive property damage,” she said.

“We cannot leave communities behind that are still picking up the pieces from disastrous floods, wildfires, and hurricanes, and even basic water system failures,” she added. “This federal funding bill comes to the rescue by helping to meet long-term housing, infrastructure, and recovery needs.”

Short-term bills

Congress hasn’t completed its appropriations process on time since 1996 and regularly starts off the new fiscal year under a stopgap spending bill that typically lasts through mid-December.

Republicans and Democrats have consistently leaned on short-term government funding bills, or continuing resolutions, to give themselves more time to negotiate the full-year spending bills.

Congress relied on a string of short-term bills to keep the government running for the full year in fiscal years 2007, 2011, and 2013, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The stopgap spending package approved Friday mostly continues current spending levels and policies from the omnibus spending package Congress approved with bipartisan majorities in March.

by Jennifer Shutt, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Former Valley Health CEO Mark Merrill honored with VHHA Distinguished Service Award

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Former Valley Health president and CEO Mark Merrill was honored September  22 with the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association’s Distinguished Service Award. The award is presented to a past or current chief executive officer with a “long record of performing outstanding, valuable, and unique services to the hospital and health system community.” Merrill retired in 2020 after a 35-year healthcare career, serving the last 11 years with Valley Health.

“Mark Merrill cares deeply about the health and well-being of Virginians in a way that extends well beyond his work as the past president and CEO of Valley Health System,” said VHHA President and CEO Sean T. Connaughton. “He and his wife, Teri, have planted deep roots in the Winchester community and have served the region by donating their personal time and resources to support young people who aspire to careers in health care. Mark was also essential during the multi-year campaign to help hundreds of thousands of low-income Virginians gain access to essential health care coverage through Medicaid expansion.”

During his 11 years at Valley Health, Merrill led the system to many significant achievements, including:

  • completing new facilities or substantial renovations at Valley Health’s six hospital campuses, and expanding ambulatory care sites in the rural region;
  • being named 2016 Large Business of the Year in the Greater Good Awards of the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber;
  • investing $300,000 in a 3-year health career partnership with 12 Virginia public schools and 4 hospital programs to build the workforce of the future and inspire youth to pursue health careers;
  • advocating for Medicaid expansion in Virginia as a VHHA Board member, then chairman when Medicaid expansion was approved by the Virginia General Assembly in 2018;
  • and partnering with providers under a variety of arrangements, engaging with legislators and business leaders to share insights from front-line health care, and advocating for VHHA and American Hospital Association policy positions to ensure access to care within Virginia.

Since his retirement, Merrill has continued to serve the commonwealth through his appointment to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which oversees the roadway infrastructure of Virginia.


Harry Smith, Chairman of the Valley Health Board of Trustees, commented: “Mark is a passionate and dedicated servant leader, with a deep concern for the health and wellbeing of his community. This dedication shows in all he does.”

Merrill was one of two recipients of the Distinguished Service award. The other was James B. Cole, former president and CEO of the Virginia Hospital Center Health System. The award was presented at the VHHA Annual Meeting held last week in Williamsburg, VA.

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U.S. Senate approves stopgap spending bill with disaster relief, heating aid

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate approved broadly bipartisan legislation Thursday that would provide billions for natural disaster relief, military and economic aid to Ukraine, and funding to help low-income families offset the rising costs of heating and cooling their homes.

The legislation includes $2.5 billion in assistance for the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire that burned large swaths of New Mexico this spring, $2 billion in Community Development Block Grant disaster relief funding for states impacted by natural disasters during 2021 and 2022, and $1 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

President Joe Biden said Thursday that given ongoing natural disasters, such as the hurricane in Florida now moving up the coast, more funding may be needed later this year to help communities recover from hurricanes and severe storms.

The package approved Thursday was formed around a short-term spending bill that must pass before Friday at midnight to keep the federal government open through Dec. 16 while congressional leaders and the Biden administration attempt to reach a full-year spending deal.


Using the stopgap spending bill to give themselves a couple more months to work through the annual appropriations process is a regular practice for Congress, which hasn’t completed its work on time since the last century.

The 72-25 Senate vote Thursday sends the measure to the U.S. House, where members are expected to clear the package for Biden on Friday.

Manchin plan yanked

The legislation cleared an important procedural vote earlier this week after West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to remove an energy permitting reform bill the two had agreed to tack on to the must-pass package.

Republicans had broadly rejected the energy permitting bill, while Democrats in both chambers of Congress criticized both the substance of the bill and the fact Manchin and Schumer struck a deal to advance the measure through Congress without input from other Democrats.

Schumer and Manchin both said they hope to find a path forward for the energy permitting legislation before this session of Congress ends later this year. But that bill will likely need a rewrite to garner members’ support.

The spending bill approved Thursday includes more than $12 billion in economic and military assistance for Ukraine as the country continues its war against Russia’s invasion into the winter months. The new round would bring U.S. investment in the conflict to $66 billion.

Schumer said in a floor speech Thursday that American weaponry has helped Ukraine’s military turn the tide against Russia.

“We cannot stop now,” he said.

The package doesn’t include any new funding for ongoing public health emergencies, rejecting the White House’s request for $22.4 billion in COVID-19 funding and $4.5 billion for the monkeypox outbreak.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said just before the vote that he will push to get COVID-19 funding in the full-year government funding package that could pass in December.

More time for negotiation

The short-term government funding part of the measure is intended to give Congress and the Biden administration more time to negotiate total discretionary spending levels for the fiscal year 2023, slated to begin Oct. 1.

Those negotiations never really got off the ground after Biden sent Congress his budget request in March, asking U.S. lawmakers to provide $795 billion for defense spending and $915 billion for nondefense programs, which includes funding for the Homeland Security, Justice, and Veterans Affairs departments.

Republicans scoffed at the defense request, saying it didn’t increase spending on those programs nearly enough compared to current funding of $782 billion.

Many GOP lawmakers also argued the proposed jump in nondefense funding, from $730 billion, was a bit too high.

Senate Appropriations ranking member Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican set to retire at the end of this Congress, said he thinks there’s a good chance the two parties will reach an agreement this year.

“A lot of that will come from what we can do with the defense number — if we can work that out, I bet we can work the other out,” Shelby said.

Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, chair of the subcommittee that funds the Agriculture Department, the Food and Drug Administration, and rural development programs, said she expects Leahy and Shelby’s retirements will provide momentum to complete full-year government spending bills during the lame-duck session.

“I think minds will focus, and agreement will be reached following the midterms,” Baldwin said. “I think that’s when there’ll be greater focus and a month to get it done, basically.”

“You have a retiring chairman and ranking member who very much want to make sure we have an omnibus rather than a continuing resolution,” she added. “And I think they’ll be committed to that.”

Waiting on November

Indiana GOP Sen. Mike Braun, the ranking member of the Legislative Branch funding panel that provides money for Congress and the Supreme Court, said he expects the dozen spending bills will come together faster than the last go around, which ended more than five months late this March.

“I do think it will probably get done more quickly than that, but nobody’s given any indication,” he said.

Braun doesn’t expect congressional leaders and the Biden administration will agree to total spending levels, the first step to writing full-year bills, until after November’s midterm elections.

Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy, the top Republican on the subcommittee that funds the Energy Department and Army Corps of Engineers, also said he expects the package to come together after the election.

“Look, what I see happening is once again the so-called leadership gets together and puts together an omnibus and gives it to us and says, ‘Take it or leave it,’” he said.

That process, Kennedy said, is “an insult to the American people and a horrible way to put together” the final versions of the annual government funding bills.

by Jennifer Shutt, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Manchin seeks bipartisan ‘sweet spot’ for a new try at his energy permitting bill

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators from both parties said Wednesday they still hope to negotiate energy permitting reform bill this year, reviving efforts to streamline the process after West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III had to pull back his plan amid broad opposition.

The Manchin proposal was attached to a must-pass government funding bill as part of a deal he struck with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer this summer to advance the Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act. But permitting reform was rejected by GOP senators irked by that deal and members of his own party.

large group of House Democrats — and a smaller Senate cohort — intensely opposed what they characterized as a fossil-fuel-friendly measure from the start, saying Manchin would weaken environmental protections and make it more difficult for communities to object to new construction. The House opposition was led by progressive Arizona Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva, but also included leaders of budget and spending panels.

Senate Republicans meanwhile refused to endorse the Manchin-Schumer deal that allowed the passage of Democrats’ sweeping climate, health and taxes bill this summer, even if they agreed in principle that permitting requirements should be updated.


Despite the widespread condemnation of his measure, Manchin said Wednesday he expects to keep working to get an agreement before the new year, a goal many of his fellow senators said they share.

Manchin said he plans to talk with fellow West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, when the two are back in their home state next month, noting he’s optimistic the duo can work out a final bill.

“We just have to find the sweet spot, find the middle that kind of appeases the majority,” Manchin said.

The centrist Democrat nodded when asked by a reporter if Schumer had assured him he’d try again with another floor vote.

Mountain Valley Pipeline in Roanoke County near the Blue Ridge Parkway in July 2018. (Ned Oliver / Virginia Mercury)

Mountain Valley Pipeline

After stripping Manchin’s permitting bill from the must-pass government spending package, Schumer pledged Tuesday evening to “have conversations about the best way to ensure responsible permitting reform is passed before the end of the year.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre released a statement Tuesday night saying President Joe Biden “supports Senator Manchin’s plan because it is necessary for our energy security, and to make more clean energy available to the American people.”

“We will continue to work with him to find a vehicle to bring this bill to the floor and get it passed and to the President’s desk,” she added.

Whether Manchin’s bill would still include the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline running from West Virginia to Virginia was unclear on Wednesday.

Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, who was furious Manchin’s permitting reform bill included approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, said he believes there’s a good outlook for a bipartisan permitting reform bill, estimating it could get at least 70 votes in the Senate.

Work on permitting reform by the Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Delaware Democratic Sen. Tom Carper, and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Manchin, has already found a good starting point for a bipartisan bill, Kaine said.

“They worked on it very, very carefully,” Kaine said, noting he’s not on either of those panels. “I don’t want to tell them what their timing should be. But they’re down the road, and there’s a bipartisan group that wants to do it, including me.”

On the Mountain Valley Pipeline, Kaine said he didn’t want to get into “a hypothetical world and what might be acceptable.”

But Kaine, who has said he was not consulted about the inclusion of the pipeline in the Manchin plan, did say the way Manchin handled the pipeline in his bill wasn’t the right way to go.

“It was taking something out of permitting and saying, ‘You don’t have to comply,’” Kaine said. “But permitting reforms could make the process better, and then Mountain Valley and others could have a better process to go through.”

Republicans want another try

During a brief interview Wednesday, Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines said he hopes there’s a way for Democrats and Republicans to draft a bill after the elections and before the next Congress begins that both parties could support.

“It’s an issue that we need to address. And it’s a significant obstacle to continue to allow us to develop our natural resources,” Daines said. “It’s not just about energy. It’s also about forestry. It’s about mining, and it takes way too long to get projects approved.”

Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy said a permitting reform bill is essential for lawmakers who want to see more fossil fuel extraction as well as those who want “cleaner forms of energy.”

“I hope we can sit down and put together a permitting bill,” Kennedy said. “I mean, no fair-minded person can believe that it should take five, seven, eight years to get a project permitted in America. I don’t care what the project is.”

Kennedy said the rejection of Manchin’s permitting reform bill was about more than just signaling the GOP wanted a more bipartisan bill.

He said it was about members of both parties sending a message to Manchin following months of negotiations on the Democrats’ spending package from this summer that included money for renewable energy, among dozens of other provisions.

“What I saw happen yesterday — how can I explain this — two wrongs rarely make it right, but they do make it even,” Kennedy said. “And what happened yesterday was people who are unhappy with Senator Manchin, on both sides of the aisle, made it even.”

“We now have a fresh start, and I hope we can sit down and put together a permitting bill,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said he’d like a final, bipartisan energy permitting reform bill to set firm end dates for studies into energy projects.

“I don’t want to foreclose anybody’s right to study or object, but have some hard and fast rule saying this is the end of the process,” he said. “Two or three years is plenty of time for people to be able to study a project before a decision has to be made.”

Louisiana GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy said more lawmakers than just Schumer and Manchin need to be involved in drafting the measure if it’s going to have any chance of becoming law and improving the energy permitting process.

“I’d like to have some sort of shot clock with teeth so that agencies can’t just sit on an application and do a pocket veto of things that otherwise meet every criteria. This permitting reform did not really have that,” Cassidy said.

He said he doesn’t mind if a bipartisan bill gets attached to an unrelated must-pass bill, saying he’s “never a purist on procedure.”

Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester said he’d like to have more input in negotiating the permitting reform bill.

Tricky path

If senators, and possibly their U.S. House colleagues, work out a bipartisan bill, Schumer will have to decide how to move the legislation through the floor.

Given the amount of time it takes to move stand-alone legislation on the U.S. Senate floor, and the short amount of time the chamber will be in Washington, D.C., during the lame duck session following the midterm elections, several lawmakers have floated the idea of attaching permitting reform to a must-pass bill.

One possible option is the National Defense Authorization Act, the Pentagon’s annual policy bill, which Schumer has said the chamber will take up during October.

That option might not be especially appealing to panel members who have traditionally walled off the bill from policy proposals that aren’t directly related to defense or national security.

Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, a Senate Armed Services Committee member, said Wednesday she doesn’t want to see a permitting reform bill tacked onto the defense policy bill.

“I don’t know that that’s a good idea. I’ll be honest,” Ernst said. “I’d rather see germane amendments being placed, and we have a lot of amendments that we would like to see come up that are germane. So to have one that’s not germane be placed upon the NDAA would probably create some heartache.”

Jacob Fischler contributed to this report.

by Jennifer Shutt, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Warrior Psychotherapy Services, PLLC

WCPS Work-Based Learning

What Matters & Beth Medved Waller, Inc Real Estate

White Picket Fence

Woodward House on Manor Grade

King Cartoons

Front Royal
52°
Cloudy
7:12 am6:49 pm EDT
Feels like: 48°F
Wind: 7mph NNW
Humidity: 81%
Pressure: 29.99"Hg
UV index: 0
ThuFriSat
75/52°F
73/41°F
59/37°F

Upcoming Events

Oct
5
Wed
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Oct 5 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
Oct
8
Sat
11:00 am Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 8 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Come back to the family farm at Sky Meadows. Explore the park’s sustainable farming practices, visit the barred plymouth rock hens, learn about our cattle operation in partnership with the Department of Corrections’[...]
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 8 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work in the Historic Area. Members of the Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac have set up shop and are ready to show[...]
Oct
9
Sun
10:30 am Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Oct 9 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Please join us on October 9th at 10:30am and October 10th-12th at 6:30pm nightly for a special series of services with Johan Bruwer. Johan is from Bloemfontein, South Africa, and will deliver a very inspiring[...]
11:00 am Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 9 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Come back to the family farm at Sky Meadows. Explore the park’s sustainable farming practices, visit the barred plymouth rock hens, learn about our cattle operation in partnership with the Department of Corrections’[...]
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 9 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work in the Historic Area. Members of the Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac have set up shop and are ready to show[...]
Oct
10
Mon
11:00 am Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 10 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Fall Farm Days: Life on the Farm @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Come back to the family farm at Sky Meadows. Explore the park’s sustainable farming practices, visit the barred plymouth rock hens, learn about our cattle operation in partnership with the Department of Corrections’[...]
6:30 pm Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Oct 10 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Please join us on October 9th at 10:30am and October 10th-12th at 6:30pm nightly for a special series of services with Johan Bruwer. Johan is from Bloemfontein, South Africa, and will deliver a very inspiring[...]
Oct
11
Tue
6:30 pm Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Oct 11 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Please join us on October 9th at 10:30am and October 10th-12th at 6:30pm nightly for a special series of services with Johan Bruwer. Johan is from Bloemfontein, South Africa, and will deliver a very inspiring[...]
Oct
12
Wed
6:30 pm Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Oct 12 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Bethel Life Revival 2022 @ Bethel Assembly of God
Please join us on October 9th at 10:30am and October 10th-12th at 6:30pm nightly for a special series of services with Johan Bruwer. Johan is from Bloemfontein, South Africa, and will deliver a very inspiring[...]