As you might know, one of the traditional items I do for my readers is compile the monoblogue Accountability Project, with this year’s version likely to come out next month. (I have to do some slight tweaking to the format, which may take a little more time.) But a few days back I received an item from the Maryland Campaign for Liberty regarding speed cameras, from which I excerpt:
We had no illusions that the Statists in Annapolis would seriously consider a pro-liberty proposal like getting rid of speed cameras throughout the state.
Why would we be satisfied with just accomplishing these three goals you might ask?
Because we were able to get politicians on the record.
And boy, did we get them on record.
Between now and the next legislative session we’ll be holding politicians accountable for their votes in committee.
Our job as activists is to connect the legislative season to the electoral season.
The goals they were alluding to were to have the speed camera bill introduced, get a hearing on it, and put it to a vote, which it received in committee. All three were accomplished, but to the surprise of many (including me) neither the House bill nor a Senate companion received a single committee vote – this despite the fact three of the bill’s co-sponsors (Delegates Jay Jacobs, Wayne Norman, and then-Minority Leader Tony O’Donnell) sit on that Environmental Matters Committee. Norman was excused from the vote, but O’Donnell and Jacobs voted in line to kill the bill. The same was true for Senator Nancy Jacobs, who did nothing to back the Senate version she co-sponsored, although that vote was likely a perfunctory formality because the Senate vote document notes the bill is “Dead in House.”
Still, one would think a sponsor would at least vote for his or her bill, so I wonder how that vote came about in committee.
I’ll cheerfully admit I don’t know the ins and outs of how these committees work when they sit down to vote, but I would venture to say I know more about the legislative process than 99% of Maryland residents because I study the votes. It’s sort of sad to consider that not all of the 2700 or so bills introduced in the 90 day session receive a committee vote, although Environmental Matters voted on about 85% of the bills they were assigned this year. Many of those were rejected in a similar manner.
And the Campaign for Liberty people make the same point:
Wouldn’t you think that at least a few Republicans would have voted the right way on such a no-brainer liberty bill?
I make it my business to study bills and voting patterns, so I know that not all bills being considered in a committee are voted on in a unanimous manner. Take the three examples I’ll be using for the mAP from that same Environmental Matters Committee: HB44 failed on a 16-7 vote, HB106 (the Septic Bill repeal) failed 19-5, and HB252 (also sponsored by Delegate Smigiel) died in a 17-6 vote. I actually look for split votes, because unanimous votes generally show either broad support, a complete lack of guts, or a bill simply way too far out of the mainstream to even get a motion. HB251, in my opinion, fell into the second category.
So perhaps the Campaign for Liberty is correct in chastising those who didn’t vote to support the speed camera repeal, because there were several other votes where they were unafraid to stand in the minority. Hopefully next year their effort will gain steam, since the other side typical introduces bad bills several years in a row before legislators are cowed into approving them. Maybe the same is needed for good bills, too.