Calling the questions

Because early voting begins tomorrow, I feel it’s necessary to talk about how Maryland voters should vote on the statewide issues they’ll face in the election. A total of seven questions are on the statewide ballot – four of them referred by action of the General Assembly and three of them via referendum. This is the first time since 1992 that state voters will have the option to overturn previously passed measures from the Maryland General Assembly and potentially break a forty-year string of honoring the General Assembly’s will.

I’m going to go down the questions in order, but Questions 1 and 2 are essentially similar – they just affect different jurisdictions.

Question 1 reads as follows:

Requires judges of the Orphans’ Court for Prince George’s County to be admitted to practice law in this State and to be a member in good standing of the Maryland Bar.

Substitute the word “Baltimore” for “Prince George’s” and you have Question 2.

Apparently the idea has spread that only an attorney and member of the Maryland Bar can understand the law as it relates to probate law. Now my understanding is that current Orphans’ Court judges who aren’t members of the Bar need to have certain decisions reviewed by a licensed attorney, but this process doesn’t seem to be an issue in most jurisdictions. The people of Prince George’s and Baltimore counties are already free to elect a standing member of the Maryland Bar if they feel the person is qualified to take on the task of Orphans’ Court Judge, but in not making that a requirement it allows people who are in other related occupations or even just those with simple common sense to hold these positions.

Further, while the ballot issues only affect Baltimore and Prince George’s counties now, it’s only a matter of time before the legal lobby gets this to be a statewide prohibition. That would artificially limit the pool of qualified applicants in many smaller counties in the same respect that only a small number are allowed to be State’s Attorney. It prevents turnover in the position, even if someone who may do a better job but lacks a legal qualification comes along.

Rather than set this further precedent (which started in the 2010 election with Baltimore City) I recommend a vote AGAINST both Questions 1 and 2.

Question 3 was also referred by the General Assembly:

Changes the point at which an elected official charged with certain crimes is automatically suspended or removed from office. Under existing law, an elected official who is convicted or pleads no contest is suspended and is removed only when the conviction becomes final. Under the amended law, an elected official is suspended when found guilty and is removed when the conviction becomes final or when the elected official pleads guilty or no contest.

To be quite honest, this ballot language is confusing to me. As I think I read it, basically an elected official who pleads guilty or no contest also forfeits his office. But an honorable public servant wouldn’t get into the situation in the first place.

I don’t see the need to change existing law and on my ballot I’m going to vote against it. But insofar as recommendations go I will remain neutral.

Question 4 is the first of three brought to the ballot via referendum back in 2011.

Establishes that individuals, including undocumented immigrants, are eligible to pay in-state tuition rates at community colleges in Maryland, provided the student meets certain conditions relating to attendance and graduation from a Maryland high school, filing of income taxes, intent to apply for permanent residency, and registration with the selective service system (if required); makes such students eligible to pay in-state tuition rates at a four-year public college or university if the student has first completed 60 credit hours or graduated from a community college in Maryland; provides that students qualifying for in-state tuition rates by this method will not be counted as in-state students for purposes of counting undergraduate enrollment; and extends the time in which honorably discharged veterans may qualify for in-state tuition rates.

First of all, the opening sentence is wrong – they are not “undocumented immigrants,” they are “illegal aliens.”

And the argument that these families have to pay taxes is a red herring – they only have to file. Chances are they’re going to get a refund from claiming the child credit so in that instance they are a net taker of government largess.

This bill is also disingenuous in the fact that these illegal aliens will pay in-state tuition rates but for official enrollment counts will be deemed out-of-state students. So why are they entitled to pay in-state tuition again?

Aside from the last sentence, which according to Delegate Pat McDonough was the original intent of the bill until hijacked by illegal immigration advocates like CASA de Maryland, this ballot issue is a trainwreck for hard-working and legal Maryland residents.

Don’t fall for the sob stories presented by supporters – I urge a vote AGAINST Question 4.

Question 5 was also made necessary via petition, although it had the slimmest measure of success and made the signature threshold with fewer than 60,000 valid signatures (slightly over 55,000 were required.) It is also perhaps the most poorly-worded item on the ballot.

Establishes the boundaries for the State’s eight United States Congressional Districts based on recent census figures, as required by the United States Constitution.

I don’t know who dreamed up this description, but they left out the obvious word: “gerrymandered.”

It’s worth noting that Maryland Republicans created a map which was very elegant in its simplicity and only carved up a handful of counties in a relatively sensible manner. Of course, that was ignored by the Democrats who drew up our current abortion of a map, with districts resembling Rorschach ink blots. Their main objective was to set up State Senator Rob “Gas Tax” Garagiola with his own Congressional seat but that plan was foiled by John Delaney.

Of course, there are those who prefer the current lines because they see a slight partisan advantage for themselves and, indeed, we run the risk of an even worse map should the current lines be tossed out. But I’ll take my chances. Vote AGAINST Question 5.

Next up is the petition which secured the most signatures – over 200,000 at last count as thousands continued to pour in months after the official deadline. Here is Question 6 in legalese:

Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.

The other day I posted a video which explains well the overall argument against same-sex marriage, but one other point I’ve heard refutes the religious exemption fig leaf: that only applies until some clergy member creates the precedent of marrying a same-sex couple. Once precedent is established, there’s less legal recourse for recalcitrant clergy to refuse to perform ceremonies, much like those religious organizations which provide health insurance for their employees are being forced to cover birth control and abortions via federal edict. Those portions of the law would be the first to be struck down in any liberal court of law, and Maryland has enough of those to make it a slam dunk.

Honestly I don’t care who sleeps with who, but marriage should remain as being between a man and a woman – it’s for the children. Vote AGAINST Question 6.

Finally, we come to Question 7, which has been – by far – the one generating the most media attention thanks to nearly nine figures of spending by various casino interests. In all honesty, it’s a battle between gaming concerns Penn National and MGM for the hearts and minds of Maryland voters. Penn National has casinos in Charles Town, West Virginia and Perryville, Maryland which would be hurt by the competition a new casino would provide while MGM finally got a sweetheart deal from the state it could accept since they chose not to bid on any of the five original casinos provided by state voters in 2008.

Question 7 reads:

Do you favor the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education to authorize video lottery operation licensees to operate “table games” as defined by law; to increase from 15,000 to 16,500 the maximum number of video lottery terminals that may be operated in the State; and to increase from 5 to 6 the maximum number of video lottery operation licenses that may be awarded in the State and allow a video lottery facility to operate in Prince George’s County?

I’ve already talked about this issue at length so I see no need to reinvent the wheel, whether it’s roulette or otherwise. Vote AGAINST Question 7.

Because of my inclination to disfavor Question 3, it will be an easy trip down the ballot for me – no, no, no, and so forth. But on the Wicomico County Questions A through D, all deserve support as they were carefully thought out by a Charter Review Committee whose judgement I trust. These are outlined on page 2 of our sample proof ballot here.

Of the four, perhaps the weakest link is Question C because of the removal of the residency requirement. But while a 2/3 majority doesn’t seem like a lot, having a seven-person County Council translates to a 5-2 majority. I’d be a little more hesitant with a nine-person County Council and 6-3 requirement but that’s not in the cards anytime soon.

The others are good ideas, particularly Question A. Having experienced the Council replacement process I would have liked an additional 15 days to make a better-informed decision.

So now you know how this voter will fill out his ballot, and I suggest you do the same.

 

Comments

4 Responses to “Calling the questions”

  1. Kevin on October 27th, 2012 10:15 am

    Michael,

    On Question 6 the idea that one church officiating a same-sex marriage would create a precedent that could be used to force all other churches to as well doesn’t hold water.

    Jurisprudence on discrimination by religious entities has long held that they have special exemptions from discrimination law so long as the church or religious entity in question is acting on a sincere belief.

    That’s why it is still legal for churches to refuse to marry interracial couples or have women as priests or hire gay people as Sunday school teachers. It doesn’t matter that there are churches that have done all of the above, so long as a given church still has the sincere belief that it would be a violation of its religious commandments to marry a gay or lesbian couple, any effort to force them to is still going to fall flat in court, even if another church has married a gay couple (point of fact, many Unitarian churches already do such ceremonies).

    And even if a wayward district court did rule in favor of such a suit, I would gladly put money down on it being overturned on appeal.

    Fact is, this argument, like many of the ones against Question 6 is rooted in a misunderstanding of American jurisprudence on religious liberty.

  2. Shaun Alexander on October 28th, 2012 7:14 am

    You might want to reconsider your NO stance on 3. It toughens up the law when elected officials misbehave. The key phrasing is “only when the conviction becomes final”. Translation: only after ALL appeals have been exhausted.

    In effect that means that under status quo an elected official can plead guilty or be convicted under a public corruption statute and stay in office for months or even years while they appeal their conviction or guilty plea. – Yes, you can appeal a guilty plea ; most easily by challenging the validity of the law under which you plead guilty.

    Under the change the corrupt official would be forced out automatically after conviction or pleading guilty instead of hanging around in office for months and or years collecting salary and accruing pension benefits at taxpayer expense.

  3. A REAL Republican voter guide : monoblogue on November 4th, 2012 8:49 am

    [...] want a good – conservative – Republican voter guide, you can look no further than my website since I went over all these questions last week. I don’t sell out to the highest [...]

  4. If you can’t beat ‘em… : monoblogue on June 29th, 2013 10:41 pm

    [...] mailing list from the time when Question 7 was on the ballot, particularly since I was also against the ballot question but for different reasons. (I still contend Article XIX of the Maryland Constitution should be [...]

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