The news has been awash in the horrors that Red State governments have unleashed upon the lands, so I understand why progressives have been nervous. The mid-term elections could very easily restore power to congressional Republicans, and who knows how much damage they’re prepared to do? (I think their primary accomplishments will be investigations into problems they, themselves, have made up.)
So with states like Texas, Florida, and Georgia locking down abortion prohibitions, (I’m pretty sure they’ll be regulating sex positions* before too long, in the name of “freedom,” of course,) granting themselves the right to overturn election results they don’t like, and removing any school books that might contain actual education, I can see where the woefully outnumbered Red State Democrat might wonder to where they might escape this gleeful repression.
*I can hear the slogans now…”Doggie Style leads to bestiality!” “Man should ALWAYS be on top!” “Fellatio is a Waste-io!”
I say, “Come on up to Maryland, baby!”
Don’t laugh… when you look around at the competition, Maryland has a lot going for it. It’s a reliably blue state. Even with a two-term Republican governor, Maryland is still making progressive waves.
Last week, the state passed a whole slew of laws that actually benefit average citizens. The following are among the new bills:
Legalizing recreational marijuana: In November legalized pot will be a referendum on the ballot and is expected to pass by a landslide. It would legalize possession of up to 1.5 ounces and remove criminal penalties for possessing up to 2.5 ounces. It would also expunge past marijuana convictions for possession.
Abortion: new law would allow medical professionals beyond only physicians to perform abortions and spend 3.5 million for medical training on the procedure. (There was talk this year about codifying the right to abortion into the state constitution but there were too many that didn’t think it was necessary.)
Climate Change: created a goal to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 60% below 2006 levels by 2031. Governor Hogan was expected to veto this bill but allowed it to become law without his signature. But he had already hampered the goal by nixing an east-west light-rail route that Baltimore badly needs if they are to get serious about public transportation.
Paid Leave: Created a statewide family leave insurance program that will cover up to 12 weeks of parental family leave.
Tax Relief: Oh, I like this one, because I’ll be there shortly. The new bill gives citizens 65 and older a $1000 state income tax credit and exempts many child care and medical expenses from sales tax. Who says you can’t cut taxes in a Blue State? (State sales tax is 6%. I don’t know what your state’s is, but when I moved here from New York in 1997, theirs was 8%, so this seemed like a deal.)
Ghost Guns: banned, along with any gun that doesn’t have a serial number.
Jury Duty Compensation: Raised from $15/day to $30. It’s still grossly insufficient to compensate those who lose a day of work, but it’s less of an insult now.
Marriage Age: Raised from 15 to 17, and 17-year-olds can get married without parental consent if they complete a series of steps to show they are doing so thoughtfully and safely. Save the child marriages for Tennessee.
For pet lovers, they also outlawed the declawing of cats, which is barbaric mutilation. If you want a cat, just accept that your furniture might get shredded, and don’t maim your pet.
Most of these bills were vetoed but over-ridden by the legislature. With Governor Hogan holding presidential aspirations, he can’t have approving some of these things on his record or he has no chance in the primaries. The fact that he’s not a Trumper already gives him a stiff headwind.
He did approve making Juneteenth a state holiday and of course, approved a pile of money for the Orioles and Ravens stadiums.
The state is gerrymandered safely blue, although just a little less going forward. Democrats lost a bid to further restrict the only conservative district so now there will be two. It’s ironic that Republicans had the nerve to go to court to fight Maryland’s Democratic gerrymandering while defending against all attempts to overturn their own gerrymandering efforts in states like Florida. I’ve always said that I’d be glad to give up Maryland’s biased maps, but not until the Red States did the same. There is no reward for being noble… Republicans will just pick up the seats and laugh all the way to the House.
But it’s not just politics that should be a draw. Look at the state COVID stats. 95% of state residents have had at least one vaccination. Almost 4.6 million have been fully vaccinated. Testing positivity was at 2.53% last week. It had been as low as 1.5 but has been creeping up with the new variant. Even so, less than 150 people are hospitalized with COVID. And Baltimore is home to one of the best hospitals in the world, the renowned Johns Hopkins. There are other top-shelf hospitals here as well.
Maryland has something for everyone, too. Baltimore and the metro area serve as a cultural center with museums, concerts, and theater, and outside that is a rural landscape. The state is basically Alabama with Baltimore in the middle. But the middle makes the rules.
The street fairs are awesome… there is the Italian Festival, the German Festival, and also Greek, Russian, and Polish festivals. ArtScape is a huge summer party. And you have to attend “Hon-Fest” at least once in your life. That’s where Baltimore gets its freak on.
The weather is fairly stable. It gets hot, occasionally into the 100s, but not for too long, and can get very cold, but again, only for a short time. We don’t get many tornados but might see a hurricane come up the coast every 8-10 years. Any earthquakes barely register on the Richter scale.
If you’re a sports fan, this is a major-league town, with both professional baseball and football. Granted, the Orioles haven’t sported a winning team since 2014, but the stadium is beautiful and very affordable, compared to other markets. (As a Steelers fan, the less I say about the Ravens, the better.) College sports thrive here as well, especially basketball and lacrosse.
Maryland has a great shoreline and nice beaches. The bay is beautiful for boating, fishing, and other water activities. Crab cakes! Crab cakes! And hey, we just unstuck that freighter that was mired in the bay for the last month, so we got THAT going for us!
Of course, it’s not all the land of milk and honey. There are still some serious problems with violence and crime, drugs and traffic. The drivers are terrible. The city school system is a mess. Real estate prices are insane. (Not “west coast insane,” but still vastly overpriced for what you get.) But no place is perfect. But if you stay out of the really rough parts, you can escape relatively unscathed.
So don’t despair if you’re trapped in a state whose goal is to make it 1940 again. Unassuming little states like Maryland are trundling along under the radar, providing a secure place for the 21st century to evolve. It could be a welcome destination where a progressive-minded person can feel at home.