The McDermott notes: week 9

Another relatively routine week of hearings and a few interesting votes here and there as the General Assembly session moves toward its climax in about a month. Delegate McDermott covers these in relatively straightforward fashion, so there’s not as many nuggets to pan out of this week’s rundown.

I did find his description of last Monday night’s session interesting, though:

The unions were in town on Monday. I had an interesting visit from many representatives from the Department of Juvenile Justice complaining about their budget. I told them the budget belonged to the governor and, although he had increased spending by billions over the past few years (including a billion this year), the lack of funds available for our juvenile programs represent his underfunding of these areas. I told them they needed to discuss it with the governor. They agreed, and then stated, “We tried to get in to see him but he will not see us.” Why am I not surprised?

Now I’m not clear if it was the unions who were asking about the budget, or the DJJ. Perhaps the department is one of the many state agencies saddled with a union and they were trying to say these things to make Republicans look bad, taking advantage of the lack of knowledge most in Maryland have about the state’s budgetary process.

Among the bills Mike heard testimony on Tuesday were ones he co-sponsored: a measure to stiffen sentences for those who rob or burglarize pharmacies and one to establish a victim-offender mediation program. It’s interesting to note that the bulk of bills dealing with crime are sponsored primarily by Democrats, which was the case in the pharmacy bill. Now I’m not going to reflexively say it’s a bad bill because of that, but to me burglary is burglary just like murder is murder and rape is rape. I don’t necessarily take the same dim view of a bill defining a specific burglary as worse than another in the same manner as I would so-called “hate crimes” but I can’t see why it’s necessary to differentiate the burglary or robbery of a pharmacy. Stealing is stealing.

It’s also notable that McDermott makes an error in his field notes by saying HB500 advanced, because it did not – the motion was unfavorable and he was on the losing side of a 12-7 margin. Apparently those Democrats who are only too happy to raise fees on the rest of us are holding the line for inhabitants of the Frederick County jail who need medical or dental attention. Another intriguing vote was on HB650, which allows a reduction in sentence for attaining a degree or certificate while in confinement – that advanced despite four of the seven GOP members voting against it. Yes, it’s just a 60-day reduction – for now – but I tend to agree with the four who voted no.

McDermott was in the minority on a few other bills which failed in committee: HB235, HB237, HB535 (which was a 10-10 tie), HB539, HB587, and HB704. There is a chance you may see these again on the monoblogue Accountability Project.

The bills heard Wednesday by the Judiciary Committee were more about process, with the most interesting one being a bill to allow more latitude for the Orphans’ Court. This seems like a good idea to me, considering the Orphans’ Court is ostensibly about the interests of minors generally. Mike also mentioned a GOP bill relating to judges, believing it is a reaction to “frustration with judicial creativity outside of the scope of prudence or accepted practice.” Thursday’s hearings dealt heavily with bills addressing the juvenile justice system.

Included in Mike’s assessment are three voting sessions, and as is often the case most of the bills passed unanimously (35 of 49) and four others had token opposition of 1 or 2 votes. But there are a few which have the potential to be Accountability Project votes.

Finally, Michael warned us of a couple bills coming down the pike. HB366 is the single-family home sprinkler law, perhaps better known as the sprinkler company full employment law. That’s about the only use for it. Mike tried to make it a little easier on those of us in rural areas:

I offered two amendments which were defeated. One would have exempted 16 counties from the bill. In this case, 8 counties decided what the other 16 counties should do. A clear example of the tyranny at play in Annapolis. The second amendment would have exempted the requirement for any house not hooked up to a municipal water supply. Again, while the bill made good economic sense, rural Marylanders took it on the chin. Our Constitution says “the people” are the sovereign, but as the Floor Leader on the bill stated from the floor, they believe “the state” is the sovereign.

We won’t have to worry about a medical marijuana bill, McDermott thought, but other new items coming through the pipeline were the budget (of course), a McDermott/Smigiel sponsored House Joint Resolution regarding the recently passed federal National Defense Authorization Act, “Ava’s Law” which would increase the penalties for driving under the influence of drugs, and the Wicomico elected school board vote bill heard this Thursday.

That should bring out a paragraph or two in next week’s version of Mike’s Field Notes.

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