Have you ever felt like something was deja vu all over again? Well, that was the sense I got in hearing State Senator Rich Colburn speak at last night’s Wicomico County Republican Club meeting.
Once we got through the usual business of the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, introduction of guests, reading of the minutes, and treasurer’s report, we got to hear Senator Colburn deliver the bad news: everything old is new again with both the Special Session and what’s likely on tap for 2012.
While the Special Session slated for the week of October 17 is supposed to be about Congressional redistricting, Colburn noted that Governor O’Malley may also choose to introduce a “jobs bill” as well. Of course, Colburn added that “if we have a Special Session it should be about jobs,” but his idea for a fix was to simplify the process of doing business in the state and making the tax structure fair. It’s my own suspicion that with Governor O’Malley in charge we’ll likely see more gimmicks that have been tried and failed.
Still, if we’re to get a redistricting plan that “has to survive court challenges” it needs to be completed by January 11, 2012 since that’s the filing deadline for the April 3 primary. Colburn predicted the Eastern Shore would continue to be one Congressional district, but as I pointed out one speculative plan added more of Baltimore and Harford counties to the First District, eliminating the small area of Anne Arundel County we currently have. One possible reason Republicans are being packed in to the First is to allow Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola a chance to compete in a revised Sixth Congressional District which will include more of Montgomery County, Rich added. And while the state NAACP would like three majority-minority districts, they would have to step on someone’s toes to get that.
On a state level, Rich thought his Senate district would lose its Caroline County portion and be pushed southeastward, deeper into Wicomico County.
A key goal of the 2012 session, said Colburn, would be to maintain Maryland’s AAA bond rating. One suggestion to accomplish that would be to increase the rainy day fund to 7.5% and eliminate the structural deficit. But that could be difficult in a state where 1 of every 18 jobs overall depends on the federal government. (I suspect the ratio in Montgomery County is more like 1 in 3.)
But there would be other issues, too. Transportation funding will be a political football, as the aforementioned Senator Garagiola would like to make increasing the gasoline tax a “top priority.” But Colburn felt the gas tax is supposed to pay for roads and bridges, not mass transit – instead, mass transit should have its own dedicated funding source. According to Rich, Maryland is the only state in the country which picks up the deficit for its mass transit systems. Furthermore, in our state only 28% of the cost is paid at the farebox when the ideal is 50 percent.
Many of the other topics Colburn predicted would come before the 2012 General Assembly session fell under two general areas: more taxes or more regulations. The tax increases could come as a straight increase in the corporate income tax, expanding the palette of services subject to the sales tax, or possibly doubling the flush tax as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation favors. The CBF also has its grubby little fingers into possibly making nutrient management plans more stringent, getting PlanMaryland enacted, and trying again for an outright ban on septic systems.
Something I learned from Rich (well, it confirmed my suspicions, anyway) was that 94% of the people testifying at the toll hearings were against the increases, so I guess Norm “Five Dollar” Conway was clearly in the minority. Also, this will be the fourth increase on truck traffic in the last decade.
Rich and at least one observer saved some special enmity for the practice of using University of Maryland law students to sue farmers accused of polluting groundwater. Why can’t we pull funding from the law school, it was asked. While that outcome is unlikely, I was shocked to hear that the stated reason for doing this was to give the law students some experience before the Court of Appeals. I think they could use some of that practice fighting the gerrymandering soon to come, but I won’t hold my breath on that one.
Concluded Colburn, “Annapolis shouldn’t run your everyday life.” He also pointed out a couple upcoming events he was holding: his 33rd annual banquet on October 1st and his brunch on January 7th.
Giving the Central Committee report, Dave Parker spoke on a number of upcoming events, including an upcoming TEA Party rally at Lawyer’s Mall in Annapolis on October 18th. He also mentioned that we were working on precinct organization, particularly around Salisbury. We needed some good candidates to straighten out a “dysfunctional” city government that’s become a “festering blister of stupidity.”
Another upcoming event of note is our Central Committee meeting October 3 as we’ll have a guest speaker. U.S. Senate candidate Rich Douglas will be in attendance, so it’s an opportunity for Republicans to get to know him. (Like the WCRC, the Central Committee also meets at the Chamber of Commerce building.) Our meetings are open to the public.
Mark McIver spoke up about recent votes that Andy Harris had made regarding the impending budget battle in Congress, and noted Andy would be here for a fundraiser on September 30 as well as several stops on October 8th.
After discussion of internal club business, including planning for the club’s Christmas Party, we heard from Delegate Mike McDermott. After he plugged his upcoming fundraiser on October 8th (one of Andy Harris’s stops) he announced he would be speaking at the October 18th TEA Party rally. He then lashed out at the Democrats’ Maryland job-creation record, saying that Maryland has created a new 383 jobs this year – last in the country in job creation. “If we (Republicans) can’t make inroads (against that), Mike bellowed, “we should pack it up and go home.” This is an “opportunity…like we’ve never had before.”
Finally, fellow Central Committee member John Palmer mentioned that just five people had taken advantage of the opportunity to speak on the prospect of an elected school board at the last County Council meeting – two for, two against, and one neutral. He pleaded with those interested to come to the next County Council meeting the evening of October 4th and state a case.
The next WCRC meeting will be October 24th, with a speaker to be announced.