With new leadership in Jackie Wellfonder, the Wicomico County Republican Club re-established its routine – for one month, since we normally skip a May meeting due to its usual coincidence with Memorial Day as its fourth Monday – and had a very full agenda for its return from a March meeting truncated by an outside event.
But before the meeting began we embarked on something new, as several members and one local politician gathered down the street at Roadie Joe’s for a pre-event happy hour. This was an idea discussed by the club’s newly-installed executive committee at a meeting we had before being sworn in, and we hope to make it a tradition. While it was a modest success, it also gave me a chance to go over the agenda with our new president. Having to defer a meeting made for more business which needed to be conducted.
Leading off the meeting with Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, we soon learned we had a surprise guest who was in town. After I had read the minutes of the last two meetings, I suggested we amend the agenda to defer the Treasurer’s Report, but Congressman Andy Harris interjected, “no, hopefully your treasury is doing better than ours.” So we indeed heard the report before allowing Andy to speak.
It was “a good month to be a Republican,” Andy argued. We now had a distinct advantage on two separate issues: individual rights, as expressed with the loss of the gun bill in the Senate, and fiscal responsibility based on competing budgetary plans.
To Andy, the failure of the gun bill may be “where the President begins to lose his second term.” He couldn’t even keep his Democrats on board, Harris added, and the tactic of creating a 60-vote threshold (in order to prohibit popular pro-gun amendments from consideration) obviously backfired. Meanwhile, Obama “puts the brakes on the economy,” making him more unpopular.
And on the fiscal side, Harris pointed out that neither the President’s nor the Senate’s budget proposals ever balance. While it takes a decade for the House plan to reach equilibrium, Harris voted in favor of an alternative which would have accelerated the timetable to four years, a plan which failed. Yet Andy warned, “until we get true reform on entitlements, we won’t balance.”
Moreover, the cuts would have to come from the spending side. “There is no way a tax increase comes through the House,” said Harris.
Andy also touched on a number of other subjects during his unscheduled remarks, alluding to what should be revealed as an interesting exchange between him and Eric Holder during an Appropriations Committee hearing, talking about what could be a common-sense incremental change to ethanol regulations, and assessing Hillary Clinton’s chances at the 2016 Democratic nomination.
We also found out a little bit more on the ammunition situation, to which manufacturers labor under contracts with the government specifying they must supply indefinite quantities to the government at indefinite times, up to a certain amount, with the federal government dictating the terms. Yet there are millions of rounds of ammunition stockpiled by the government already, and Harris is looking into a way of curtailing the stockpiles in order to make more available to the general public.
Further, Harris deemed the situation in Boston as a “setback” for both the anti-Second Amendment crowd and immigration reform.
Upon the conclusion of Andy’s remarks, it was time to hear from our original scheduled speaker, Delegate Charles Otto.
Charles didn’t have a lot of good news in his brief remarks on the recently-completed Maryland General Assembly session, noting that we passed a $37 billion budget with $1.1 billion more in state debt in addition to a lot of other ill-considered legislation.
But the subsequent discussion brought out a number of questions, such as why the governor hadn’t signed the gun bill yet? Otto noted that the governor has signing ceremonies for bills, generally in May, and the bill will be signed then.
We also found out that a $900,000 earmark for the relocation of Delmarva Public Radio mysteriously appeared in the final budget, despite the fact no bill was introduced for it during the session.
Joe Holloway chimed in about a bill which passed allowing the county to decouple its personal property tax rate from its real property tax rate. (Normally the personal property tax rate had been set at 2 1/2 times the real property tax rate.) Holloway described this bill as a possible end run around the county’s revenue cap. It should be pointed out, though, that last year’s Senate Bill 848 effectively ended Wicomico’s 2 percent limit on property tax increases.
Dave Parker gave a Central Committee report which noted that our Pathfinders seminar “apparently went well,” however, it was plagued by a somewhat small turnout. He also briefly recapped the election of Diana Waterman as Chair, noting our county was evenly split between supporters of Waterman and Collins Bailey, with a vote for Greg Kline thrown in. Two great candidates ended up as officers, though, said Parker.
He also alerted those present that the foes of this year’s Senate Bill 281 are eschewing the referendum process to fight the bill in court, determining their belief that Constitutional rights should be left to a ballot. If it does pass muster in the courts, though, he is working with other counties to propose a nullification resolution.
Our next Central Committee meeting will be May 6, Parker concluded.
In other WCRC business, we also learned we would present our annual scholarship to the winners at our June meeting.
Jackie Wellfonder briefly went over some of her ideas for her term, which actually began at the March meeting cut short by the gun bill townhall meeting. With the happy hour being one proposal, she outlined desires for an additional fundraiser to supplement our Crab Feast and making upgrades to our website and social media presence.
Ann Suthowski took a moment to update us on voter registration efforts, including a Super Saturday we will hold in September – for which she’s looking for nearly 40 volunteers – and speak on behalf on gubernatorial candidate David Craig, for whom she is the “county point person.” He will be doing a three-day tour of the state in June, with our stop being June 4.
I took a few minutes to speak on candidate recruitment and its importance, passing out a list of all the offices contested next year and those who are incumbents. But we also need volunteers to help run these campaigns and to act as treasurers, I added. Next to the candidate himself, the treasurer is the most important person because of our state’s campaign finance laws.
My message was simple: I wanted to make sure every space on that paper had at least one Republican candidate. No longer can we concede offices to the other side because they’ve been there so long, because those are the Democrats who can help their fellows get elected.
While it wasn’t in my remarks last night, I should point out that most of those who have already filed for office at this early stage are Democrats. On the eastern edge of Wicomico County there is a new state legislative district, District 38C, and there’s already a Democrat in the running for what should probably be a reasonably Republican seat. Norm “Five Dollar” Conway no longer has the late Bennett Bozman to help him get votes in Worcester County, so they gave him a much more urban District 38B which mainly covers Delmar, most of Salisbury except the northwest part of the city, and Fruitland. It’s worth noting his district now includes most of the Salisbury University community, which explains the tremendous amount of pork suddenly delivered their way from the state. Amazing how libraries so quickly become a priority item.
That turned out to be the extent of our business, so we adjourned until June 24. Our next meeting will feature a few words from our scholarship winners, with the featured speaker being Dr. Mark Edney, a local surgeon who will be discussing Obamacare.