By Christian Schorn

On July 28, Maryland State Delegate Tom Hucker visited Bethesda Green as part of the Business Incubator’s monthly Luncheon Speaker Series for a discussion on recent developments in environmental policy and legislation in Maryland.  Delegate Hucker has a well-established record of supporting and championing bills that promote sustainability, conservation, pollution control, and green business on the state level, and has been recognized as a 100% Environmental Voter by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and Environment Maryland.

MD Delegate Tom Hucker (center) at Bethesda Green

The meeting was fairly well attended by Bethesda Green staff, members of several of our incubator companies, and numerous local green business owners and representatives.  After a series of introductions from everyone in attendance, Hucker launched into an presentation of “wins” and “losses” for the environmental movement in Maryland’s 2010 legislative session.

Among the wins:

  • Passage of SB 179, which requires the Public Service Commission to establish a pilot program for charging electric vehicles in Maryland. This bodes well for the future of electric vehicles and charging stations and their potential as a large growth industry in Maryland.
  • Passage of SB 717, which allows owners of solar thermal systems to receive solar renewable energy credits.
  • Passage of  SB 595, which extends the shareholder liability protections of benefit corporations, companies that commit to improving the environment as well as making a profit, to Maryland limited liability companies (LLCs).

Along with the wins, however, came losses. The largest one in particular was the failure of HB 1054, the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act. Despite the disappointing defeat, Hucker is working with advocates in support of passage in 2012 (see his website for more details).

Del. Hucker remains optimistic about the future of sustainability in Maryland and provided insight about the legislative process through a list of the “Five P’s” most important to legislators:

  • Political philosophy. On any given bill, some delegates will automatically support it, some will automatically oppose it, and some will be on the fence. It is this third group that is most instrumental for determining a bill’s success.
  • Press. The attention of the press adds pressure to legislators to consider all bills carefully.
  • PACs. The financial support coming from PACs is a strong persuader when legislators cast their votes.
  • Personal persuasion. In addition to funding, lobbyists with well-established relationships with delegates can have an effect on the way they vote.
  • People. This is the “P” that most constituents can influence the most. According to Del. Hucker, people so rarely contact their delegates that as few as five or ten emails from people on any one subject can convince a committee that it’s an issue that their constituents care about!

An additional “P” that Del. Hucker closed his talk with was “Persistence.” This means writing, calling, or even meeting with your political representatives to discuss an issue or a bill you want to see passed. And maybe next legislative session, with that last “P” in mind, we can help make Maryland a more sustainable place to live.

A Bethesda Green intern, Christian Schorn is studying environmental science as a junior at Connecticut College.