2022 Legislative Updates in our Region
By Robin Stimson, LMSW
Happy New Year! As many of you know, every year MADD attempts to change and strengthen laws at the state and federal levels. Enforcement remains important. Prevention is key. But laws are the linchpins of public safety and holding offenders accountable.
When MADD advocates, we meet with lawmakers and community partners with the goal of making positive, lasting changes for citizens everywhere. As a reminder, we made huge strides on the federal level when in November 2021 congress passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill (HR 3684) and it was signed into law by President Joe Biden. It was a huge deal! Because of you, MADD was able to beat the auto industry and work to change the way cars are made. While we are thrilled about this enormous victory, MADD’s work is not done.
The HALT Act gives the National Highway Transportation and Safety Authority (NHTSA) three years to evaluate technologies and set the standard for impaired driving prevention technology on all new vehicles. That means that new cars equipped with the NHTSA-directed technology could start rolling off the assembly line in 2026-2027. MADD knows that there are at least 241 advanced passive technology systems that already exist (or are at least in development) that work to prevent drunk driving. MADD advocates, staff, and volunteers will need to keep the pressure on lawmakers, and other officials, to ensure that advanced drunk and impaired driving prevention technologies are mandated, not voluntary, as the standard equipment in all new cars. Over the next few months, keep an eye on your inboxes for more information on how you can get involved, attend weekly war room sessions, and outreach to your representatives.
In 2021, our state-level efforts ranged from continuing to push for closing the dangerous loophole that remains after Noah’s Law was passed in 2016; to playing defense on bills that would have stripped hard-fought protections. Both the Maryland and Virginia legislative sessions commenced on Wednesday, January 12, 2022, and MADD victims, staff and volunteers are off and running. In addition, as we continue our outreach in Delaware, we are learning more about the issues there and ways we can work with our partners throughout the state. We are confident that MADD will be a force over the coming months and years. Over the past few weeks, we have not only met with several state delegates and senators. But we have also worked with some of you on the bills and initiatives that matter to you. MADD’s Governmental Affairs team can provide resources to make the process feel less overwhelming which can include letters of support, up-to-date statistics, press releases, messaging, and like-minded volunteers to help elevate your voice.
As far as networking goes, MADD will continue to be focused on our mission of No More Victims ©. The reality of the socially distant sessions of today will require that we remain persistent to ensure your voices are heard.
Sadly, 2022 might mirror the 2021 general assembly in some ways. After all, the public health concerns as the result of COVID, are still at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Depending on the state and chamber, members of the public might have to testify via Zoom. Many of the meetings we have attended so far have been virtual – and our lack of in-person presence hurt us on key initiatives last year. Maintaining everyone’s safety is still paramount to our concerns.
However, if there is a will, there will be a way for us to make our presence known in Richmond and Annapolis. Not much matches the excitement and hustle and bustle when conducting advocacy at the state’s capital. Yes, it’s cold. Yes, there’s no parking. But we look forward to getting out during those cold winter months, supporting our volunteers, seeing old friends, and relishing those feelings of hope that 2022 will be the year we move the needle.
We need continued support from our MADD community – now more than ever. This could include helping us to coordinate and communicate the best ways to be effective. Get your fingers ready for multiple and targeted phone calls and letter-writing campaigns to your elected officials. Your personal journey (the heartbreak behind the stats and numbers) is crucial to break through the noise and make an impact.
MADD Mid-Atlantic will continue to prioritize any initiatives that will ensure that no other family ever must go through the pain and loss that so many of you have endured. We will have letter templates and scripts for those that need them. We will call on you early and often to rally the troops and show what a force our MADD Volunteers are and will be.