Working on a better Maryland
After the weekend many had, it’s probably good that we are back to work – more of a rest there than in overdoing the Ravens celebration. Maybe Joe Flacco is on his way to Disneyland as we speak.
There are a number of interesting bills being heard this week in the General Assembly. Of course, we all know about the setup for the eventual gun grab better known as Senate Bill 281, which will be heard Wednesday afternoon along with House Bill 106, a bill I’ve been following to repeal last year’s Septic Bill (which created the Tier maps we all know and despise.) As promised, I spent part of my weekend and today working on testimony since I can’t be in Annapolis Wednesday. (Alas, the days which work best for me aren’t days testimony is normally heard, Monday and Friday.) I’ll post my thoughts at an appropriate time.
But it’s worth noting that SB281 isn’t the only thing on the Senate Judicial Proceedings agenda – Senator Brian Frosh has three other bills being heard that afternoon, with all three having him as a lead sponsor. They’re all gun-related as well, but in hearing that testimony you may get a sense of where SB281 is going and where Frosh stands on the issue. (The other three bills are Senate Bills 228. 266. and 420.)
The same is true on the House side Wednesday, as seven other bills share the docket with the HB106 repeal bill.
It’s getting to the time of year where most of the bills which won’t end up locked in a Committee Chair’s drawer have their hearings, although the schedule has been known to run into March. It seems to me, though, that bills which Committee chairs want buried (in instances where a hearing is granted) have them as late as possible – so it’s a little surprising HB106 got its hearing early. Yet there are a number of other bills being heard on the same day, with the biggest being the Senate gun measure.
Now that the House and Senate have eclipsed the 1,400 bill mark as an aggregate, the rules will change a little bit as bills now have to go to the Rules Committee first (because a certain number of session days have passed.)
Yet if you’re not good at writing testimony, there is something else you can do. I’m part of a worthwhile effort of volunteers called the Maryland Legislative Watch, where dozens of volunteers are assigned legislation to read and assess on the simple basis of whether it conforms with the Maryland Declaration of Rights. So far I think I’ve provided input on 8 or 10 bills, and have five more on my plate once the opportunity presents itself. So it’s not a huge time commitment; certainly Elizabeth Myers, the leader of the project, puts in her share of time but most of the rest of us can have it comfortably done in an hour or two a week. (Most bills are under 10 pages; once you figure out the legalese and method of writing it’s easy.)
If I get another 50 people to sign up, not only would Elizabeth likely love me forever, but we would only have perhaps a dozen apiece to deal with because many have already committed. There are people who say they want to get more involved and educated; well, here’s a great opportunity.
The campaign to change Maryland may not bear fruit until 2014, but the work is already underway. More help is always welcome.