Making businesses pay

Today I received my monthly propaganda from Tom Perez at Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. Aside from the usual pat on the back for itself as they figure out how to create more red tape, they trumpeted Secretary Perez’s recent appearance before the House Economic Matters Committee on a bill they advocated, HB1590. In the way DLLR describes the bill, it’s an effort to keep businesses from cheating by declaring their employees to be independent contractors and perhaps it’s a pretty good idea. But part of his testimony really bothered me:

House Bill 1590 prohibits employers from misclassifying employees in order to avoid compliance with a host of labor-related laws. The Act includes a statutory presumption that a worker is an employee and places the burden of proof on the employer. The Act requires DLLR, DBM, the Comptroller of Maryland, the Workers’ Compensation Commission and other state agencies to cooperate by sharing information concerning suspected misclassification of employees. (Emphasis mine.)

In other words, businesses are guilty of the offense before being proven innocent. Other items which caught my attention are the mandates for record-keeping and the 2% monthly interest rate for reimbursing the state for misclassified employees, along with the fines.

The fiscal note also provides some interesting reading, as the state would gain over $1 million in estimated revenue if the bill were to pass, but DLLR is chided for assuming the effect on small business would not be meaningful. It is noted that much of the intention of the bill is to crack down on those who illegally misclassify employees, with much of the attention paid to those in the construction industry.

So there may have been a strange coalition that combined to defeat the bill in committee last week despite Secretary Perez’s testimony. While Republicans would generally not have liked the onerous penalties and compliance costs for recordkeeping that HB1590 would have placed on small businesses, immigration advocates may have seen this as an attmpt to dry up the burgeoning labor market for illegals in the construction industry – after all, illegals certainly not going to complain about being misclassified as independent contractors as long as the cash they get is green and spendable. But don’t be surprised if this bill doesn’t make repeat appearances in subsequent General Assembly sessions. Like a bad penny, a lot of bad ideas make return visits to Annapolis until they finally get passed.

A Giant labor pain

March 31, 2008 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Politics · 3 Comments 

I was out doing my shopping yesterday when I spied a note in our local Giant store. Apparently the store will be closed for a portion of Tuesday (10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. sticks out in my mind) for a meeting of all the union employees to ratify their new contract. While I’m not aware of any labor strife between the union and the grocery chain or how many other stores this particular contract would affect, it does make for some inconvenience for certain daytime shoppers.

But what if the union did turn thumbs-down on a new deal? Would the Giant employees go out on strike and threaten their market share?

Having lived in a heavily union city most of my life, let me tell you that there are some who are really, really militant about not crossing picket lines. (And don’t even go there with them about shopping in a non-union store like Wal-Mart.) Certainly one option for Giant if a strike were to come to pass would be to hire temporary “scab” workers who could keep the business running while the regular employees stood around outside by the street with their picket signs. (Did you know that in many cases they are paid for the task?)

Then that brings up the question of what Giant’s corporate owners (a Dutch firm called Ahold) would do to attract shoppers. In my experience, having a local grocery chain on strike was a great time for consumers like me who didn’t mind crossing picket lines because man, did they put up the loss leaders. It would certainly skew my upcoming market basket report next month.

However, as I said at the top, this is all idle speculation because they may already have a done deal that’s deemed fair for both union and corporation. Let’s hope so for both their sakes – with all the other passionate discourse between locals on a number of subjects, a grocery strike would not be welcomed.

Cutting a public figure

March 30, 2008 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

I actually had a different post in mind for this evening, but it can wait.

I’ve become the subject of a free-fire zone between Joe Albero and “Straight Shooter” at Off The Cuff. After Joe put up this post with a picture of me in what could appear to be an odd if not compromising situation, Straight Shooter replied thusly. Of course, it all started with this (sort of) tongue-in-cheek post I did. (Actually, with Joe’s wealth and the energy he puts into his blogging effort, he could be a politician – albeit in the William Donald Schaefer mold. It would be a test to see just how good of a businessman he really is, would it not?)

Anyway, the debate centers over whether I am a “public figure”. Obviously, having a website where I put my views in the public domain can make me a target of criticism. Add in the fact that I’m an elected official and that’s another piece of the argument in favor of Joe’s side. While people may not always walk up on the street and recognize me, those in the political realm usually do. My website doesn’t have my picture on it, maybe someplace it should. I do have pretty much a face shot on my Myspace page, linked to the right column. (As a bonus, I have a good theme song.)

Sometimes I think Joe keeps a large file of pictures of various people and items that he brings out when he feels a need to (like event anniversaries); in this case he pulled out a pretty recent picture, one which I’ll explain the circumstances with momentarily. While I like to take a lot of photos myself, generally I take them in connection with an event like a political gathering, baseball game, or band concert. Once in awhile I’ll do the usual tourist thing if I’ve been someplace new, but generally pictures that appear on monoblogue are of subjects I describe above. (I have a camera filled with shots of 12 bands from last night and more from today.)

Now as for my appearance, that I can’t do a whole lot about with the exception of weight. Considering I was 330 pounds at one point and now weigh about 260-270 (still slowly losing) I’m certainly not of an average weight but aside from the large middle and a mild case of asthma I’m blessed with pretty good health – further, like most people I’m aware that I have a family history of various maladies so I make sure that I have those particular items checked out on a regular basis.

I do have to say that some of the insinuations about which way Joe goes or that he has a double life spent at the Park n’ Ride are disgusting and I don’t believe them anyway. As for me, I’ll just say that people who truly know me know which way I look as far as THAT is concerned.

The picture of me Joe used was taken a couple weeks back at the Shorebirds Fan Fest. I actually never saw Joe and didn’t think he’d made it to the event until I saw some of his other Fan Fest pictures a day or two later. At that time, we in the Shorebirds Fan Club were taking down some of the games we’d ran, the pools in question were those used for the duck pond game and the treasure hunt game (it was filled with sand.) The gentleman whose top of his head you see was picking up the pool to carry overhead (had his back to me) and I believe I was getting ready to pick up a pail of sand or something else to carry down to the truck of the volunteer who’d provided the items.

You see, while Joe was there taking pictures (and I wonder if his grandson was there, he’d have enjoyed it) I was working one of the games in our carnival for most of the four hours the Fan Fest was ongoing. I was happy to take some of my Saturday morning and help out the Shorebirds Fan Club because I’m proud to be a member and officer. I didn’t have my camera on me to record the event but I did my best to promote it here because I’m a huge baseball fan and the Shorebirds are my adopted hometown team. Joe alluded to my post here but instead of linking to my post asked me to comment on his blog about it. (Maybe I would have but I didn’t read Salisbury News until after the fact!)

Above all, while I didn’t really want to delve into these sorts of accusations and innuendos, I thought it would be better to have my side known. I do appreciate those who have commented in my defense and hopefully I have posted this in a manner that reflects the way I attempt to write my site – with class, dignity, and a few subtle attempts at humor. To paraphrase what has been said on other occasions in other venues, if you don’t like what’s on monoblogue there’s a big “X” in the corner you can click on. But the same goes for Salisbury News and if Joe’s out of line there’s other news sources out there you can turn to that stay on a higher road.

A trucker’s strike may be no joke

March 30, 2008 · Posted in Delmarva items, National politics, Politics · 1 Comment 

The ever-alert Bob McCarty (who I also link to under “fellow dittoheads”; he’s out of Missouri) found out about a movement sweeping the independent trucking industry:

One Iowa newspaper reporter describes it as “a small, online grassroots effort (that) now appears to have the potential for something bigger.” That “something bigger” is a threatened nationwide shutdown by independent truck drivers — possibly hundreds of thousands of them — April 1.

Though set to take place on April Fools Day, the effort — launched with Dan Little, owner-operator of Little & Little Trucking, L.L.C., a livestock hauling company based in Carrollton, Mo. — is no laughing matter. It began two weeks ago when Little posted an open letter to his fellow independent truckers on his web site he set up to give trucking companies like his exposure to prospective shippers anywhere in the U.S.

In the letter, which is still available on the site, he vowed to shutdown his trucking company at 8 a.m. April 1, 2008, and no longer accept loads at any price until such time as the federal government puts into action a plan that will give all owner-operators some help.

Key among the complaints are the price of diesel fuel and of truckers’ insurance premiums, which are based on the personal credit of truckers themselves. While it may not have quite as much impact in our area because a large percentage of the trucks are corporate rigs (like Perdue’s trucks) many of these costs affect truckers regardless of who signs their paychecks. Corporate-owned truck or not, diesel fuel is still shading $4 a gallon here.

I found it interesting that Dan Little’s first point echoes something I’ve said each time gas prices have gone up – those inside the Beltway who would like to lay a levy on the “obscene profits” oil companies make when gas prices are high never question the even-higher taxes they extract from each and every gallon of gasoline and diesel fuel. Of course, they’ll tell you that money goes to fix up highways so gas taxes can’t be cut, but in truth a great deal of that federal cash never sees a highway unless it’s a bus that’s stuck in traffic along with the trucker burning his $4-a-gallon fuel while idling on the interstate. Mass transit gets a lot of federal gas tax money in subsidies.

While I’m not entirely sure a work stoppage will be effective because someone will fill the vacuum created by an independent trucker parking his rig, the fact of the matter is that these independent businessmen are hurting because of items that could and should have been addressed long ago, in particular the price of diesel fuel. Had we gone ahead and allowed more domestic oil exploration, fuel may only be $2 or even $1.50 a gallon. Unfortunately we’ve put ourselves behind the 8-ball for the foreseeable future because even if these oil fields could be touched tomorrow, it would take many months to reach a point where crude begins to flow.

In the meantime, truckers may keep on truckin’ but it’ll ruin their balance sheet when they do.

I’ll leave (most of) the lights off for you…

And it isn’t even Earth Day yet. But if you read this AP story by writer Tanalee Smith it’s apparent that our friends Down Under in Australia have drank a large pitcher of the man-made global warming Kool-Aid. (Maybe they thought it was a pitcher of Foster’s?)

Peter Garrett, Australia’s Environment Minister, noted:

“We’re not only talking the talk, we’re walking the walk. Whatever your view is about the magnitude of the problem … we can save money by using energy wisely and efficiently, and that gives us the added bonus of reduced greenhouse gas emissions.”

The quote jumped out at me because it’s the same tagline my associates at the American Institute of Architects are using as a toast before they take a hefty slug of that Kool-Aid too. I’ll give Garrett points for bringing up the cost savings of using energy efficiently and wisely; however, I draw the line at savings by fiat such as what Maryland is trying to do with their supposed Global Warming Solutions Act.

(By the way, the Senate version of that as amended passed 31-16 last week, with both of our local Senators and Congressional candidate Andy Harris properly voting against it. How did Frank Kratovil vote? Oh yeah, he’s a blank slate.)

Of course, this is a completely symbolic event anyway because in the grand scheme of things sitting in the dark for an hour won’t make much of a dent in your electric bill or total power consumption. (It goes without saying that the Earth won’t be any less warm either.) Since you still have to run some of your appliances like your refrigerator, if you’re like me you might save 1 kWh. The good news for you, the reader, is that you don’t have to participate because I’ll do it for you – my house will be pretty much dark at that hour. Instead, I’ll be listening to multiple watts of amplification as bands under the megawatt spotlights perform in the Spring Luau where people who actually have a life will be. (Come to think of it, that may account for several hundred people and their homes without lights on – we’re starting a movement here!)

Thus, you can leave your lights on – in fact, you can crank that three-way bulb up to the highest setting – without a guilty conscience and be absolved of environmental sin because I’ll erase your carbon footprint for that hour. You’re welcome.

Crossposted on Red Maryland.

And I thought it was Ozzy’s fault

March 28, 2008 · Posted in National politics, Personal stuff · Comments Off on And I thought it was Ozzy’s fault 

After giving all of you a literal dose of humor and hyperbole the last couple days, it’s time to get back to some serious issues. (I could hear the groans from here.)

This news item caught my interest because I happen to be a user of Singulair, between that and Advair I no longer suffer ill effects from the asthma that’s plagued me from time to time in my life. Some others may not have felt their life was worth continuing after taking the medication though:

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it is investigating a possible link between Merck’s best-selling Singulair and suicide.

FDA said it is reviewing a handful of reports involving mood changes, suicidal behavior and suicide in patients who have taken the popular allergy and asthma drug.

Merck has updated the drug’s labeling four times in the past year to include information on a range of reported side effects: tremors, anxiousness, depression and suicidal behavior.

FDA said it asked the Whitehouse, N.J.-based company to dig deeper into its data on Singulair for evidence of possible links to suicide. The agency said it has not established a “causal relationship” between Merck’s drug and suicidal behavior. An agency spokeswoman said the review was prompted by three to four suicide reports it received since last October. (Emphasis in original.)

And wouldn’t you know it, after I talked about owning shares in Exxon/Mobil the other day, I also own a handful of Merck shares too. Apparently I’m a financial Typhoid Michael, but I digress. These are some pretty serious charges to be laid down without so much as a clinical trial for proof. It falls into the same category as carrots cause suicide because these “three to four” people who committed suicide also ate carrots within the last year.

Within three months, something tells me that I’ll be watching TV and some law firm will be advertising the class-action lawsuit against Merck: “Has someone in your family committed suicide while they were taking the asthma drug Singulair? You could be part of a large cash settlement…” Merck’s already been tangled in courts over Vioxx, another medication I took briefly with no ill effects.

Trial lawyers love drug companies because the media for years has encouraged Americans to have a Pavlovian response of hatred for Big Pharma. In almost any legal case, the drug manufacturers have to play from a tremendous disadvantage because trial lawyers can easily whip up sympathy for victims while convincing juries that these drug companies which have all kinds of money to purchase commercial time on network television for their newest wonder drug are too greedy to give the plaintiff a fair settlement and should be slammed with punitive damages too.

Certainly drugs can be expensive. While the co-pay for my three-month supply of Singulair runs $50, the actual retail price is $419. But how many employees, scientists, and test subjects did Merck pay during the years of study and trials to make sure Singulair worked effectively and was safe? (Yes, you can be paid to be a guinea pig for clinical trials, and it’s a nice chunk of change.) Singulair happened to be a hit but there’s countless misses out there, drugs you never heard of because they failed at clinical trials or couldn’t be mass-produced effectively.

It’s just another example of mass hysteria over a product that’s been proven effective and safe, probably to set up more political pressure to do something about the drug companies. If you’re like me and take Singulair daily, keep it up. I expect you’ll be back tomorrow to read what I have to say then.

Crossposted on Red Maryland.

A draft movement

Pity the Delaware Republican Party. It seems that no one wants to run for Governor there under their banner even though this year the governor’s chair is an open seat because current Governor Ruth Ann Minner is a lame duck due to term limits. At the moment there are two GOP candidates in David Graham and Mike Protack, but neither seem to have much chance if you believe this blogger. Since Terry Spence, who was mentioned in the piece, decided not to run and both Graham and Protack were also-rans in the 2004 GOP primary to eventual nominee Bill Lee, perhaps it’s time for someone else to throw his hat into the ring, and I know just the guy. His name is Joe Albero.

You may say, but he does the Salisbury News website…yes, but he actually lives in Delaware. And think of all the advantages he could bring as Governor of Delaware.

First and foremost, with the relatively small population in Delaware and all the millions he’s made and is making with the rush orders for his products, he certainly could self-finance his campaign. That would save the Delaware GOP a ton of money that they may be able to use on shoring up Mike Castle’s chances as well as building the party for future races. You know, Senator Biden can’t live forever.

Secondly, he’s on a first name basis with our own Governor, Martin O’Malley, so he has that leg up. After all, he has claimed that Martin reads Salisbury News on a daily basis. And while he may not be familiar with Mike Castle, Joe Biden, or Tom Carper he certainly knows the odds-on favorite for Congress on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in Andy Harris and has been hedging his bets by getting to know Frank Kratovil a little bit too. I understand that neither of these two would represent Delaware but that is where we in Maryland go to buy our big-ticket items and play the slots so we sort of know you already, kind of like kissing cousins.

Most importantly though, Joe is an expert on everything. If he would only run for Governor, citizens of the First State would never have to worry about overspending at local fire departments from sending too much apparatus to a scene, or driving at excessive speed to arrive. Citizens could also sleep much better at night assured that the workmanship on construction jobs would be first-rate, especially when it came to concrete slabs. The wastewater in Delaware would be the cleanest in the country since Joe knows his way around those plants and could point out all the flaws which would need to be corrected.

Furthermore residents of the First State would be the most prepared in the country for the next Great Depression sure to come since he keeps predicting it! Between his business expertise and his economic forecasting, soon Delaware would reach new heights as a job magnet. And as the population grows, particularly with refugees from the Salisbury area who are already familiar with his attributes and move across the line to bask in his leadership, he could easily week after week capture the award for the most influential political blog in the state.

Yes, Barrie Tilghman, Jim Rapp, Louise Smith, and others would become fond memories for Joe as those who got him started on his political career. After all, why mess with a small town when you can use your website to take on an entire state’s worth of politicians? Anyone who crosses him in Delaware’s legislature would be certain to incur Joe’s wrath and would soon deduce the error of his or her ways – soon every piece of legislation Joe favored would pass unanimously lest they receive an unfavorable mention in the redubbed Delaware News. Within months he could have the newspapers in Delaware straightened out as well, but eventually they’d fail because all they’d deliver is old news while Joe could have an entire state government of contributors to work with.

Citizens of Delaware, think of the possibilities! It’s not too late to draft Joe Albero and save not only the Delaware Republican Party but the state itself from a bland menu of politics-as-usual as practiced by those already in the race.

All that and more is the promise – even better is that I managed to express it in a small enough number of words to satisfy even his criteria. The end of this sentence is word number 750.

A promise fulfilled and a milestone

On Saturday I promised more pictures and a review from Friday night’s show I attended. If the links don’t work correctly you can go here as well and follow over to my Myspace blog. It’s the more personal side of monoblogue; besides you can listen to Semiblind over there because they do the theme song I selected for my site. I’ll be checking them out Saturday night as part of Skip Dixxon’s Spring Luau so join me over at the Steer Inn in Ocean Pines.

Or, if you want a different set of young people to hang out with don’t forget tonight is the Lower Shore Young Republican Club meeting at the Salisbury Chamber of Commerce building (144 East Main Street), beginning at 7 p.m. It’s the same place we meet for the Wicomico County Republican Club, except I suspect at least a portion of the group will make a beeline to someplace more rowdy afterward. Us old folks generally go home after WCRC meetings but I only do that so I can post about them. For now I’m sparing the LSYR’s that same posting treatment, but I will plug their meeting for those interested who are 18-40 or close enough for government work like me.

By now someone is reading this and wondering what sort of meds I’m on, going from heavy metal to Republicanism in the space of a paragraph. Well, I’d have to guess people like that sort of thing to at least some extent because like a car odometer today should be the day monoblogue flips the 100,000 mark on readership according to my Site Meter. In reality I’ve passed the mark already because I didn’t start my Site Meter until about six months (and probably a couple thousand readers) after I began this odyssey but it’s fun to see just who will be the historic visitor. Yes, I was hoping this would happen a few months earlier but this site’s still done better than I honestly expected it would – I was excited by triple-digits in a week when I began, now three digits is an off week.

And on one final note – just one week until I begin that annual monoblogue tradition known as Shorebird of the Week, so be ready!

Extension of remarks

March 26, 2008 · Posted in All politics is local, Communications, Delaware politics, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Extension of remarks 

After my lunchtime post, I had some additional reaction from reader J.M., discussing in more detail Delaware vs. Maryland energy policy. This is just slightly edited for brevity:

I don’t know if you are keeping abreast as to what is going on in Delaware regarding Renewable Energy initiatives.

But DE has been paying for a number of years now $31,500.00 maximum or 50% per each residential installation for photovoltaic(s). In addition, they are paying 50% of the entire installation (with) a maximum of $250,000 for commercial.

Moreover, they are paying $600/ton for installation of high efficiency HVAC 15 SEER or more (with) a maximum of $3,000 per residence. 

The story gets better, I guess you’ve heard of Bluewater’s proposal for the offshore windfarm. They are also moving briskly towards electricity generation on a grander scale.

Now as for Maryland – once again, I have been invited to testify on numerous energy bills during this past legislative session, but I’m happy to report that I’ll not be attending any of them. Why, you might ask? Because this would have made the 4th consecutive year that I would have wasted my gas and time to speak (to) deaf ears.

It isn’t any one party’s fault for lack of an energy policy. I tag the…fault to a totally dysfunctional State as it relates to implementation of Renewable Energy Initiatives. (Emphasis in original.)

So we have a good idea of what J.M. thinks. However I also wanted to take the opportunity of this post to extend something I remarked on this afternoon as well. As I stated:

I don’t have a lot of objection to HB377…except for my longstanding objection to tax legislation being used to pervert market forces.

After writing that I decided it may be a good idea to further this thought. There are a number of ways that business can take advantage of the government and by extension the taxpayer. In this case, government is using the incentive of a grant or tax rebate to shift the playing field of home energy sources toward the use of solar collectors or geothermal heating and placing a disadvantage on electric and natural gas providers. Somewhere there was a lobbyist for the solar and geothermal industry who talked a legislator into introducing this bill originally in order to secure an advantage for the lobbyist’s client company or group.

Similarly, every day government at all levels works at the behest of a particular business or industry to create some sort of advantage for themselves. A couple years ago my adopted hometown of Salisbury created a controversy for itself by allowing tax increment financing to a developer in order to redevelop the site of the former Salisbury Mall – while the mall has recently been demolished as promised, the new construction has not yet begun while the tax increases endured as part of payment have commenced.

We also see this on a regular basis when a large corporation such as an automaker decides it would like to build a large assembly plant someplace in America. States trip over themselves to secure these plants by offering up multi-billion dollar packages which include tax incentives, making the bet that the plant will not just employ thousands of wageearners whose payroll taxes would make up for the lost corporate taxes, but spinoff entities then create thousands more jobs and even more revenue. Sometimes these packages pan out magnificently, but oftentimes the jobs created fall short of expectations and taxpayers get stuck holding the bag while the corporation adds to its profitability. It also skews the market to some extent as other competitors who didn’t get those sweetheart deals have to find a way to make up for the disadvantage, perhaps holding one of their plants as hostage to local governments with a threatened closing if they don’t get a similar pact.

Corporate interests sometimes choose another angle to gain advantage. Similarly to the solar and geothermal bill above but without the individual tax incentives, companies try to game the system through regulation, a practice called rent-seeking. Fellow Red Maryland contributor and Maryland Blogger Alliance member Mark Newgent has been doggedly looking into this in recent weeks on his website The Main Adversary, with an emphasis on the “Global Warming Solutions Bill” scam (a recent example is here); while a good, quick primer on the concept by Thomas Firey can be found on the Maryland Public Policy Institute site.

Sometimes government can create a disincentive as well. Last week a story ran in Business Week (I found it on the MSN site) that talked about “Why Exxon won’t produce more oil“. While the story charged that Exxon/Mobil is being managed solely to maximize profit, one point I saw as key was that Exxon simultaneously was predicting more production in regions like Russia, Africa, and the Middle East but less production in North America and Europe. Where are the most onerous restrictions for exploring? You guessed it, North America and Europe. (By the way, as an XOM shareholder I don’t mind them making a profit, not that the whole nine shares I bought would allow me to retire on the dividends tomorrow.) Some of those restrictions have been placed by entities interested in alternative energy in order to hamper efforts at utilizing the oil we have. (I know oil companies get breaks here and there as well, so don’t start with the conspiracy theories. You all should know where I stand on oil drilling though.)

In a perfect world, all governmental entities would stay out of the free market but we know that’s not realistic. Even by the Constitution (Article I, Section 8 ), Congress is allowed “To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises” and “regulate Commerce…among the Several States.” They certainly have taken advantage of that power, and those Several States followed close behind. But to the extent that it’s possible, trying to put this genie back into the bottle is worth attempting because with a more level playing field innovation is encouraged, benefitting all of us.

Crossposted on Red Maryland.

Reader feedback

Knowing that I pay attention to bills in the General Assembly, on Tuesday reader J.M. wrote to me on the subject of energy grants, noting he “doubt(s) very seriously” that an energy grant bill will come out of our General Assembly session. In his opinion, Maryland lags far behind Delaware, which offers, “energy grants for commercial (and) residential customers…(and) implementation of geothermal heating and air.”

“Maryland continues to offer nothing…but demands higher taxes!”

(By the way, the last part was all caps in the original, I decided to be nice to my readers and not yell.)

So I looked up the bill he cited, HB377/SB207. J.M. correctly notes that the bill as amended passed the House of Delegates 137-0 on March 19, so it can be brought over to the Senate for their action before sine die on April 9th. For an O’Malley Administration-sponsored bill I don’t have a lot of objection to HB377 (nor did anyone in the House of Delegates as no one stood against it) except for my longstanding objection to tax legislation being used to pervert market forces. Be that as it may, the idea’s not too radical as solar and geothermal energy are relatively practical for limited applications such as heating a home. I know some who have used geothermal even without a large tax incentive because of the energy cost savings.

Like the bill or not, J.M. is correct on one statement, noting that, “this session…can be chalked up as a defeat for the Maryland taxpayer.” While we may not agree on a lot in the field of alternative energy, he and I share similar sentiments on that opinion.

Legal items about illegal immigration

March 25, 2008 · Posted in Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · 2 Comments 

I found out something I wasn’t really aware of the other day, and was just waiting for the right moment to make it a post. On occasion I get e-mail from a group called the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that bills itself as “an independent research institute which examines the impact of immigration on the United States.” They recently put out a report on the shadier side of illegal immigration – while most people think of illegal immigrants as people who have made their way through the southwest desert across a border without enough of a fence, this paper makes a different claim:

While presidential candidates promise to secure the border, the other major source of illegal immigration is largely ignored – lax visa policies. Visa overstays account for between one-quarter to one-half of the illegal-alien population, and fencing, unmanned aerial vehicles, National Guard patrols, etc., are irrelevant to controlling this part of the immigration problem.

Betcha didn’t think of that! I know I didn’t think there were that many running around who overstayed their visas, but, as author David Seminara writes, a number of the 9/11 hijackers fit into that category:

It’s also worth recalling that the 9/11 Commission noted that the six-month authorized stay given to tourists allowed the hijackers “sufficient time to make preparations” for the attacks.

The former State Department official gives a number of reasons for the problem, but probably the most telling among them are:

  • The crushing volume of applications. Most visa-processing posts are woefully understaffed, resulting in very brief interviews. Managers value speed over clarity of decision making, so many applications that deserve closer scrutiny instead end up being approved.
  • The Department of Homeland Security has not implemented meaningful exit controls or shared entry/exit data with consular officials overseas, leaving them without adequate information on visa renewal applicants. (And they’ve been at this how long and have had how many billions thrown at them?)
  • The simple reality that it is far easier to say “yes” to applicants than to dash their hopes by telling them that they don’t qualify to come to America.

Obviously if you think your only hope is to somehow make it to America from some poverty-stricken backwater, your human story is going to be pretty compelling. After all, what’s one more visa request granted? It’s one more person we taxpayers have to account for if they indeed overstay their visa and begin to use the services we all provide, that’s what.

Now I’ll get to the item that ties in nicely and will make this a more well-rounded post. I received an e-mail with news from Delegate Ron George on a bill for which I sent in written testimony, House Bill 288. The measure was intended to require proof of citizenship or legal immigrant status to acquire a Maryland drivers’ license. Unfortunately:

The House Judiciary Committee voted 12-9 to defeat HB 288. It is disappointing, but not unexpected. All the Republicans as well as Committee Delegates Kevin Kelly, Gerron Levi and Todd Schuler were with us and voted against Chairman Vallario’s unfavorable position. Please thank them if you get a chance.  Del. Frank Conaway, a bill co-sponsor, reversed positions and voted against the bill!

Something’s not right with either Delegate George’s description or the count since six Republicans serve on the Committee (Delegates Dwyer, Frank, McComas, McConkey, Shank, and Smigiel.) Regardless, I think I’m safe in saying that the 12 Democrats who voted to kill this measure would be:

  • Delegate Curt Anderson (District 43 – Baltimore City)
  • Delegate Ben Barnes (District 21 – PG/AA County)
  • Delegate Jill P. Carter (District 41 – Baltimore City)
  • Delegate Kathleen M. Dumais (District 15 – Montgomery County)
  • Delegate Benjamin F. Kramer (District 19 – Montgomery County)
  • Delegate Susan C. Lee (District 16 – Montgomery County)
  • Delegate Victor R. Ramirez (District 47 – PG County)
  • Delegate Samuel I. Rosenberg (Vice Chair – District 41 – Baltimore City)
  • Delegate Luiz R.S. Simmons (District 17 – Montgomery County)
  • Delegate Kriselda Valderrama (District 26 – PG County)
  • Delegate Joseph F. Vallario, Jr. (Chair – District 27A – Calvert/PG County)
  • Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher (District 18 – Montgomery County)

Yep, gutless votes by people in pretty safe Democrat districts. Maybe they’re safer because the local MVA offices there are passing out driver’s licenses like candy and directing them to the next stop at the Board of Elections? On the other hand, kudos to Delegates Levi and Conaway for voting against at least a couple of their fellows from their home counties – Levi is from PG County and Conaway from Baltimore City. It goes without saying Delegates Kelly (Allegany County) and Schuler (Baltimore County) should be commended as well for crossing party lines and voting on the right side too.

Crossposted on Red Maryland.

Lunchtime reading

March 25, 2008 · Posted in All politics is local, Bloggers and blogging, Campaign 2008 - Congress, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Lunchtime reading 

I came across a couple posts yesterday which I thought were worthy of mention and comment of my own. The beautiful thing about WordPress is that I can have them open in a new window so you can read these posts I link to then come back and see if you agree with my assessments.

I’ll start out with a post by Richard Faulknor, who writes a fairly new blog called BlueRidgeForum. Yesterday he pointed out GOP legislators he called the “CASA 8”, referring to Republicans voting in favor of the advocacy group for Latino immigrants (legal and illegal) based in the Washington, DC area.

They voted not to withdraw an appropriation of $1 million from the FY2009 budget for this group, despite the budget woes we’re facing and the fact many other deserving organizations will get nothing. Among the CASA 8 was local Delegate Page Elmore, who also cast a vote for the bloated O’Malley budget as I noted as part of yesterday morning’s “Odds and ends” post.

I’m hoping 2010 will be an opportunity for a change in District 38A. If Andy Harris can pull off a win against an entrenched incumbent by playing to the Shore’s conservative base, perhaps a conservative candidate could contest the seemingly moderate Delegate Elmore in the primary. Personally I like to have a choice in the primary election regardless of the merits of the incumbent and in this case an alternative is sorely needed.

Speaking of Senator Harris, yesterday the Daily Times had a front page story above the fold on Republicans who support Democrat opponent Frank Kratovil. The AP piece by Kristen Wyatt focused on one dissatisfied GOP voter, a fact that was not lost on my fellow Red Maryland contributor G.A. Harrison in his Delmarva Dealings post yesterday.

I don’t suspect Kristen Wyatt or anyone else at either the AP or the Daily Times is going to look very hard for a Democrat who would support Andy Harris. I’m sure there’s many out there because conservatives continually win in this area despite the fact we on the Republican side labor under a disadvantage in terms of party affiliation. (By the way, it was also noted in Faulknor’s post that Senator Harris was the Senate sponsor of the budget amendment to strip funding from CASA de Maryland in the FY2009 budget.)

I wrote a few weeks ago about some of the factors in this Congressional race and key among them is the fact that Frank Kratovil is pretty much a blank slate as far as issues are concerned. Certainly the Democrat can talk like a conservative on a number of issues but if he’s going to do that, you may as well elect the true conservative and not a Johnny-come-lately. Frank’s staying pretty silent about other stances on issues which may not resonate as well but with the help of sympathetic media is defining himself rather than allowing Andy Harris to define him. (I’ll define Frank Kratovil – talks tough but would vote with the liberals in Congress at least 70% of the time. If he wins you can make book on that.)

So take a look at what Faulknor and Harrison have to say and feel free to comment both here and on their sites.

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