Stepping over the line
Every year there are bills introduced late in the session which seem to be fraught with peril. For example, last year we were saddled with a new gasoline tax from a bill introduced one year ago Tuesday, well after the cutoff for new bills to avoid the need for Rules Committee approval. Last year’s session also brought a late bill, introduced at the end of February, which radically changed campaign finance law and, among other things, pushed the filing deadline to February from April. Bad idea.
Because the filing deadline was much earlier this year, a certain delegation must not have liked the hand it was dealt insofar as those running for Central Committee. To that end, the Harford County delegation introduced House Bill 1513, which makes a key change to the Central Committee in that county only.
At this time, there are 12 members of the Harford County Republican Central Committee – twelve positions that a whopping 32 people are seeking. (All of them are at-large countywide positions similar to many other counties in Maryland.) Out of that crowd, it’s apparent that a number are members of the local Campaign for Liberty chapter, and those who would be considered the “establishment” came running to their General Assembly delegation for aid. The result was HB1513, which is written as an “emergency” bill so it would take effect once passed and approved by the governor. Generally this occurs no later than May.
The idea behind the bill is that Republican members of the county’s delegation to Annapolis would become ex officio members of the HCRCC, with voting power in just two instances: removal of members and new appointments. At this time, there are seven members of the Harford County delegation who would become members: Glen Glass, Rick Impallaria, Susan McComas, Pat McDonough, Wayne Norman, Donna Stifler, and Kathy Szeliga. With the exceptions of Norman and Stifler, all could be members going forward into next term if this law passes.
What this bill would do is expand the voting from 12 members to 19 members (as it stands now) or perhaps even 20 members if all members of the General Assembly from Harford are Republicans. (There is one Democrat among the eight presently.) The key reason for this is to make the difficulty of having a 2/3 majority on these issues – where 8 of 12 have to agree – to a situation where it becomes 13 of 19 or 14 of 20.
I think the fear is that a majority of the insurgents will win over so-called “establishment” candidates. By stacking the numbers with members of the General Assembly, they need only convince about half of the existing body to vote with them in order to reach a 2/3 majority. (I use this number because it’s an operative one here in Wicomico County.)
While the numbers would be much less significant here in Wicomico County, if a similar law were passed for us it would add four members to our nine. In that case, attaining a 2/3 majority if the Delegates voted as a bloc could require only a minority of original members (4 of 9.) In Harford’s case, it could be a 6-6 split turned into a 13-6 majority.
And while we certainly would welcome our Republican delegates to our meetings, I think this bill sets a tremendously horrible precedent. There was nothing stopping any of these Delegates from running for Central Committee, aside from the obvious fact not all of them live in Harford County – that in and of itself is a terrible feature of the bill. Again using Wicomico County as an example, all four Delegate slots would go to members who live outside Wicomico County. Shamefully, the only two resident Delegates we have are Democrats.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t surprise me if this bill passes, even if it does so on just Democratic votes (which is very possible.) And I’m not sure what sort of legal challenge could be made to it, aside from perhaps the fact they would be adding non-residents to the Central Committee – but it could be argued as well that they were voted in by the people of Harford County, too. And if it does, look for a lot of copycat bills in the coming years as the legislative branch consolidates power.
To this I say not just no, but “hell no!” They won’t let us come vote in the General Assembly on bills, so why should they have the right to vote on our Central Committee?