Maryland’s loss

He was mentioned for political posts ranging from Congress to head of the state police to perhaps even governor, but like many Maryland families Dan Bongino’s is heading for the sunny climes of Florida. As he noted on social media:

My family and I will be relocating to Martin County, Florida within the next few months. The reasons are beyond the scope of this platform and, for that reason, I explain a bit more in this week’s podcast show. I will speak more about it over the coming weeks as I see many of you individually and during the radio fill-ins, but I felt that you deserved to know as soon as I did. You have allowed me into your lives in this small way and I feel like you are a part of my extended family.

(In case you are wondering, Martin County is along the Atlantic coast, north of Miami and Palm Beach. Its western border is Lake Okeechobee.)

Whatever the reason, Dan will be missed in Maryland politics as an effective, articulate spokesman for conservative values. His departure from the scene leaves a void which, quite frankly, is begging to be filled by someone – but there’s no one on the state’s political scene who can bring that combination of conservatism and charisma.

Naturally, naysayers will say that he never won a general election in either of his two tries, and this is true. Yet he was successful at one thing: nationalizing races that otherwise would have escaped the attention of political observers. I think that it can be argued that his success in that regard in 2012 helped a little in getting Larry Hogan elected two years later, as he made people believe races could be won here by a Republican.

The withdrawal of Dan Bongino may have effects on the Democratic side as well. I think it cements John Delaney as the contender to beat for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018 because now he has an easier path to re-election in 2016. (If Bongino were to have entered a 2016 contest, my thought is that he would have made a second try at a Congressional seat rather than another statewide race.)

I have a couple reasons for this line of thought. If you look at the U.S. Senate race for next year, you have two sitting Congressmen already eyeing the seat: Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards. It wouldn’t surprise me if another one or two get in, particularly John Sarbanes as his family name is still associated with the United States Senate. While Delaney is not hurting for money and could compete on the level required for such a high-powered field, I’m sure the state Democratic leadership is having a collective heart attack as more Senatorial aspirants come from the ranks of relatively safe Congressional seats. So his staying put may be rewarded down the road as far as the party goes.

On the other hand, Delaney is trying to make a name for himself as being a bipartisan player, and Democrats in the know realize that part of Larry Hogan’s appeal was the promise to work on both sides of the aisle. Those Democrats who crossed over to back Hogan probably don’t budge for a Doug Gansler, Heather Mizeur, or one of the also-rans in the 2016 Senate race, but they just night for Delaney as he is the Democratic mirror image of Hogan as a business owner. The biggest difference is that Delaney won his bid for Congress while Hogan lost his.

Now I don’t think Dan is going to fall off the face of the earth, as I’m sure he will maintain his thriving broadcast career. I’m sure he’s looking at this as a different door opening rather than one being closed.

But for someone who, four years ago, was known to hardly anyone as he commenced what I’m sure most people thought was the crazy notion that he could be a U.S. Senator, Dan’s done well for himself. Yet don’t forget that his career is rooted in that of another upstart who also made a political splash for a short while before returning to private business – Brian Murphy. It was the onetime gubernatorial candidate who chaired Dan’s campaign at the start.

I guess that’s the problem with conservatives. They’re too busy being productive to play politics, and Dan Bongino is a pretty productive guy. I hope he finds success and happiness for his family in Florida, but as a force in Maryland politics he will be missed.

The Corker bill: another major sellout by our GOP elites

By Cathy Keim

The repetitive nature of our GOP leadership is wearing thin. Once again they are setting up a situation where they will pretend to try very hard to stop the very thing that they are in fact enabling.

The president is pushing hard for a terrible agreement with Iran. Senator Tom Cotton and 46 of his colleagues published an open letter to Iran explaining that the president could not bind the USA to an agreement with the consent of Congress.

Andy McCarthy presents the situation:

Thus, the Constitution mandates that no international agreement can be binding unless it achieves either of two forms of congressional endorsement: a) super-majority approval by two-thirds of the Senate (i.e., 67 aye votes), or b) enactment through the normal legislative process, meaning passage by both chambers under their burdensome rules, then signature by the president.

This put the GOP leadership in a bind. They do not want to constrain the president for unknown reasons, but they do want to appear to their constituents back home like they are trying.

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Senators Robert Menendez (a Democrat) and fellow Republican Lindsay Graham submitted a bill that will solve this impasse for the GOP elites.

The fact that the Democrats, including Maryland’s Ben Cardin, are jumping on board with the Corker bill is evidence that something is very wrong. As Politico notes:

The low-key Cardin engaged in a furious round of negotiations with gregarious Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, prompting something that was once viewed as almost unthinkable: a bipartisan deal for Congress to review an Iran nuclear deal — with the blessing of President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

This bill looks tough because it forces the president to submit his Iran agreement to the senate, but as McCarthy adds:

Once the deal is submitted, Congress would have 60 days (or perhaps as few as 30 days) to act. If within that period both houses of Congress failed to enact a resolution of disapproval, the agreement would be deemed legally binding — meaning that the sanctions the Iranian regime is chafing under would be lifted. As Corker, other Republican leaders, and the president well know, passage of a resolution of disapproval — even if assured in the House with its commanding Republican majority — could be blocked by the familiar, lockstep parliamentary maneuvering of just 40 Senate Democrats. More significantly, even if enacted in the Senate, the resolution would be vetoed by Obama. As with the resolutions of disapproval on debt increases, it is nearly inconceivable that Obama’s veto would be overridden.

Instead of the president needing 67 senators to approve his Iran deal, now the Senate will need 67 votes to block the deal.

What? Why would the senators subvert the Constitution, turn the process upside down, and virtually ensure that they cannot block whatever the president presents?

This is the same old story of the leadership voting yes to let the bill out of committee so that they can futilely vote no on the floor. What they could kill in committee, they willfully let advance and then make a big show of voting no to their constituents back home. The details are different, but the story is the same.

Do not be taken in by this craven show of weakness by the GOP leadership hidden by a pose of strength. We have been sold down the river once again.

The other side of session

Since the General Assembly session came to a close last week, I’ve received my share of end-of-session wrap-ups from a number of members. But one has stood out because it focused as much on what wasn’t done as it did on the accomplishments. Sometimes keeping bad ideas from becoming law is as much a victory as any bill which is signed.

So when I read Mary Beth Carozza’s assessment of the recent session, I noted that a significant part of her remarks focused on what did not pass.

While serving you here in Annapolis, sometimes the bad legislation we are able to stop is just as important as the bills we are able to pass. This year a number of new tax increases were proposed but did not pass due to our efforts to stop them. Among the worst of this year’s proposed tax increases was the so-called “Chicken Tax,” which would place a 5-cent per chicken tax on every chicken raised in the State of Maryland.

Another agriculture-related tax increase we were able to kill this year was a proposal to repeal the sales and use tax exemption for agricultural products and equipment, such as feed and tractor fuel, that go into producing a final good for sale. The repeal of this exemption would have increased taxes on our state’s farmers by approximately $212 million starting next year and increasing to $251.2 million by 2020.

Other taxes which did not pass this year include the “death tax,” which would have eliminated the “death tax” repeal passed by last year’s General Assembly, a “bottle tax” that places a 5-cent tax on every bottle, a “bag tax” that would ban plastic bags and place a 10-cent fee on paper bags, a $90 million increase in the tobacco tax, and a tax on utility bills for solar and wind that would eventually ramp up to a $566 million annual tax.

Having studied the General Assembly for several years, I can tell you that many of these tax proposals reappear session after session. The “chicken tax” was around last year, a number of Democrats were upset that the death tax repeal passed last year (as they were the ones who voted against it), and the others are proposals which are perennial. The repeal of the agricultural products exemption is a fairly new one to me, though.

To hear Democrats tell it, we need all those new revenue streams for various pet causes. As examples, one version of the “chicken tax” was going to pay for cover crops and to help replace failing septic systems, one previous incarnation of the “bag tax” was intended for stream cleanup through the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and a small portion of the increased tobacco tax was (ironically enough) slated for a smoking cessation fund. (Most was intended for that vast fiscal hole we call the General Fund.)

But taxes weren’t the only thing needing to be stopped:

Members of the Eastern Shore Delegation also were able to kill another bill that would have increased the regulatory burden on farmers known as the “Farmers’ Rights Act.” This bill would have required the Attorney General’s Office to review all livestock production contracts before they are approved. In order to meet the bill’s requirements, the Attorney General’s Office would have had to hire three new, full-time Assistant Attorneys General at an expense of over $200,000 per year. This proposal is another example of an attempt to grow government bureaucracy at the expense of our citizens, especially our farmers.

I also worked closely with the Hogan Administration and local small business owners to pull regulations that would have hurt small arcade businesses in Ocean City and across the State of Maryland. For the last several months, the State Lottery Commission had been attempting to advance a proposal which would regulate these small businesses in the same way the state regulates casinos. I am happy to report that Governor Hogan directed the Lottery Commission to pull these proposed regulations.

These were all well and good, but I remain disappointed by the PMT regulations which will disproportionately affect local farmers, who are the victims of the “good faith negotiations between all stakeholders on this issue.” Remember, the eventual success of these regulations hinges on being able to use the excess chicken manure that local farmers can no longer use. If these schemes of creating energy or other by-products don’t succeed in creating a viable market, the state either has to continue to subsidize these failing enterprises or will simply leave local farmers hanging. Given the usual preference of Annapolis to side with environmental interests over those of farmers, I suspect the latter will eventually be the case, although we may be forced in the meantime to use millions more in taxpayer subsidies as the state tries to goose that manure market along.

I can tell you that I have picked out all the bills I will use for the monoblogue Accountability Project. Over the next few weeks I will be compiling the votes and seeing how all the new Delegates and Senators (as well as the holdovers) did. Will the change to a Republican governor be reflected in a more conservative overall voting pattern? Stay tuned.

A few convention thoughts

For those who don’t know, the Maryland Republican Party had its convention “downy ocean” on Friday and Saturday.

They certainly can go upscale now that we occupy the governor’s office.

Doesn’t seem that long ago we couldn’t scrape up convention sponsors, let alone “Governor’s Circle” or “Chairman’s Circle.”

Since I didn’t have a proxy, nor could I attend anyway because I had work to do for a new employer, I decided to do the Friday night drop-in. To allocate a couple lines from an old Bob Seger song: “I headed east because I felt the change would do me good – see some old friends, good for the soul.”

Unfortunately, poolside at the Princess Royale isn’t great for photos. But truth be told, I wasn’t much into documenting the night anyway. I was having too much fun chatting up folks like my old “partner in crime” Heather Olsen, being a radio guest for Ryan Miner, and talking shop with some others. I did take a few various shots with the cell phone, but they don’t rise to the level of worth commenting on because most are dark or somewhat tiresome.

But I did receive some flak from on high about the piece I wrote Friday, being scolded because I didn’t know the whole story. Yet this bears one question: what would Joe Burns – or those four members of the Carroll County RCC who opposed the change to submitting multiple names – gain from lying or embellishing the truth? Conversely, if they are right, what does the “good old boy establishment” wing of the MDGOP lose? The ability for cronyism at will?

There’s no doubt that Joe’s idea of a properly working MDGOP is different than that of the leadership, and it’s probably a far cry than mine. But it’s my understanding that Diana Waterman chose to address this at the very end of the convention, after the expected move by the Resolutions Committee to not report any resolutions out. Been there, done that. As always, we have plenty of time for rehashes of what’s going on with the various party leaders, but not enough time to put some simmering issues to rest. I’d love to have some input from those on Resolutions to know why nothing made the cut.

Going forward, though, this is something which needs clarity. Either we allow the governor to have his way simply because he has an “R” behind his name or we have consistency in rules. After all, there was no do-over on any of the other General Assembly nominees.

One other thought I had, thanks to the presence of Don Murphy, was his belief that “you must be present to win.” Where was everyone who is considering a 2016 U.S. Senate bid? Besides Andy Harris, who had a hospitality suite upstairs, away from the pool, I wasn’t aware anyone else hosted a suite. Perhaps they were on the downlow, but now that session is over you would think we would have some movement. We already know a couple of the players lined up on the other side.

From what I heard, the party will be back in Annapolis Solomons this fall so I’m sure all those Senate hopefuls will be out of the woodwork by then – along with the umpteen GOP presidential hopefuls (more specifically, their Maryland proxies.) Hopefully we can be arguing over the merits of Dan Bongino vs. Andy Harris vs. Laura Neuman for Senate and all those who wish to clean up Barack Obama’s disaster because we will have some resolution and direction on the subjects currently at hand.

And who knows? I might just get a proxy for that one, or I might not. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon for all but two things: working (which is what I did) or arguing politics. I only missed it a little bit, which isn’t bad considering.

It might be a good idea this fall, though, to bump the Resolutions Committee report to the front of the agenda – and bring some popcorn.

Third Friday, April 2015

Trust me, I like going to 3rd Friday, particularly the outdoor version. But last night they had a special guest who brought a few of his friends.

I have Mary Beth Carozza to thank for that photo, but as you can see it’s a bipartisan gathering. In fact, he even brought Salisbury’s mayor and Wicomico County’s executive together.

But they were on a relatively tight schedule, as the Greater Salisbury Committee dinner was slated the same night. So it was interesting watching the parade of state and local pols roll up one side of the Plaza and down the other, greeting friends along the way. If you weren’t there by about 6:30 you missed most of that excitement.

But 3rd Friday is maintaining its newfound status as a place to be.

I didn’t see a whole lot of people with beer, perhaps because it was Breakfast time.

Because I walked around and didn’t stay for the whole event, this won’t rise to the level of a Weekend of local rock segment. But I found Breakfast surprisingly enjoyable with their mix of covers and originals. (That sounds sort of strange, but I’l go with it.)

They certainly were better than most of the karaoke I heard as I circulated around the state convention prelude at the Princess Royale in Ocean City. Originally it was going to be one long post, but I decided to leave things there and pick up that side of the story in the morning.

Contention from the floor

A couple weeks ago I noted a prospective resolution for tomorrow’s business session of the Maryland Republican Party’s Spring Convention, which begins tonight in Ocean City. While that Article V convention was a hot topic, this one is even more blazing – so much so that sponsor Joe Burns is forgoing the usual process and banking that he can introduce it from the floor. He adds:

I expect I will be attacked a variety of ways, and other tactics used to prevent any issues like this from being even (being) discussed!

Therefore, I will need your help and assistance, if we are to reign in and correct these problems, now! The next elections and upcoming redistricting issues are at stake! We need to fix this now!

I am taking responsibility for one of our County’s own members. There may be others you feel also deserve some form of action too. I will leave this to your own good judgments!

If we all work together, we can nip some of these problems now, and save the rest of the Party, possibly winning future elections, and fixing redistricting problems!

(Obviously, Joe is heavily into exclamation points.)

The gist of his resolution is a demand that MDGOP Second Vice-Chair Larry Helminiak be subjected to a “vote of no confidence” and upon the presumed positive result of that vote, step down immediately. Obviously that would make for a much less harmonious convention, but Burns apparently feels the whole situation of submitting one name originally, then being strong-armed into rescinding the original vote and submitting three names for a General Assembly vacancy (as opposed to the tradition of just one) put Carroll County in a bad light. As his resolution reads:

Whereas, through the actions of one significant member of the Maryland State Party, the 2nd Vice Chairman Larry Helminiak, as an elected Officer of the Party’s leadership, participated in actively preventing other members of his own Central Committee, blocking information from being passed between members, plus pressuring other County’s Central Committee members, to violate their Oath of Office, or the unencumbered exercise of their franchise, while fulfilling their duties as fellow elected officials, (Article IV, Section 4.1, Subsection b, Clauses (1), & (5) plus Article XII, Section 12.1, & Section 12.2) and,

Whereas, by stating at an open meeting, that all members of any County Central Committee, were not ‘elected officials, as they do not stand for election in a general election, but were therefore equal to and should be only considered as ‘being appointed to their seats’ thus degrading the status and the earned, recognized, legal position of each elected Committee members, and,

Whereas, by his specific actions, both internally on this Committee, and throughout the state, he has tried to remove the lawful control of the State Party from the Central Committee elected delegates, placing it into the hands of a limited number of Party officials, contrary to traditional government by ‘We the People’ under consent of those being governed as outlined in our Constitution, a situation of Party Leadership tyranny is being fostered and created, and by using the power of the Party treasury to fund lawsuits to the detriment of, and promotion of these changes, no individual Central Committee’s independence or sovereign existence is guaranteed, and,

Whereas, as there was no reasonable excuse for the State Party to be involved in this lawsuit or situation at all, spending State Party assets to do so, unless this were an attempt to destroy the Party’s Central Committee’s function and their existence through these actions, thus destroying the Party itself,

Therefore, I submit a resolution under the By-Laws were these actions should be considered as ‘Conduct Unbecoming for an Officer of the Party’, I hereby request and require that 2nd Vice Chairman Larry Helminiak be given a vote of ‘No Confidence’ by this Convention for his continuing in office, stepping down immediately as an officer of the Party, and an election for his replacement be accorded as outlined in the State Party By-Laws (Article V, Section 5.5, Subsection e, Clause (2) immediately during this gathering of this Spring Convention.

We go back to the question of whether the Carroll County GOP made the proper play. Thus far the courts have disagreed with Burns, but there is a legitimate question of why the state party had to be involved in the case at all, particularly to the tune of $37,000. On those occasions where previous governors have plucked a member out of the General Assembly for his cabinet, or the more usual death or resignation of a member of either party, the standard procedure was one name picked by the local Central Committee. Carroll County’s first choice wasn’t to Larry Hogan’s liking, so someone requested a do-over. That does seem rather disrespectful of the local officials, yet a majority was fine with that. (You better believe it wouldn’t have been a majority on ours.) Bear in mind that the provision of Article III, Section 13 of the Maryland Constitution does NOT provide for the governor’s rejection of the appointee.

Perhaps the most disappointing part of Burns’ accusation is the paragraph where he alleges Helminiak said members of the Central Committee were not elected officials. In the respects that we are not paid for holding office, need not fill out financial disclosures, and are elected in the primary election rather than the general, this is true; however, we do have to take an almost identical oath of office, have to fill out the campaign finance reports (which include having the bank account and selecting a campaign treasurer), and are given a set of responsibilities which include appointing various officials up to and including members of the General Assembly. I don’t know about Carroll County, but ours takes that responsibility seriously.

In 2010, the last time I was elected, 2,139 people said I was an elected official. I think that carries a little weight, don’t you?

I’ve known Larry for several years and to me he’s a stand-up guy. But there is a part of me who would at least support Burns’s resolution getting to the floor because the whole situation stinks to high heaven and I think Larry Helminiak (as well as the other Central Committee members attending the convention) should explain their actions and answer questions about how much influence was really exerted by the governor’s office.

If we are a party which truly stands for limited government and local control, we should make this an example of executive overreach from Annapolis. Just because the guy in Government House has a “R” behind his name doesn’t mean the party has to bow to his every wish.

The basket of (rotten) eggs

April 15, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics · 1 Comment 

It looks to me like the Democratic National Committee has lost all pretense of objectivity and fairness in their most recent advertising campaign, for their latest e-mail (and yes I’m on the list because most of their e-mails are comedy gold) puts them squarely in the tank for one candidate:

I don’t recall seeing this when Jim Webb formed his exploratory committee and I’m suspecting a similar message won’t be splashed all over my inbox when Martin O’Malley makes it official. The powers that be in the Democrat party are, for better or worse, hitching their wagons to the colossal failure that is Hillary Clinton.

On the other hand, the Republicans now have the advantage of focusing on one target, don’t they? Interestingly enough, the e-mail graphically depicts five of the presumptive frontrunners for the GOP nomination (Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio) as “guys…ready to do whatever they can to make sure a Democrat isn’t the 45th President of the United States.” Well, damn, I would hope so. I know a Democrat as the 45th president (or 46th, 47th, or so forth) isn’t my personal preference!

Yet the fact that she’s almost the candidate by default may be her undoing in the end. Say what you will about Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign, but I think the fact his nomination wasn’t handed to him made him a better candidate. It was the reverse of 2000 and 2004, when Al Gore and John Kerry had relatively brief and easy campaigns. And while conventional wisdom and the party establishment would likely prefer a bloodless nomination campaign, the potential is there for a summer of campaigning as a couple GOP candidates jockey for the brass ring. The idea that they can focus on Hillary while she doesn’t have the advantage of knowing just who her opponent might be could start swinging some votes.

It’s a classic case of putting all their eggs in one basket. Just wait until it falls.

Swerving toward a hard truth

Each week I read Dan Bongino’s commentary at Conservative Review, normally nodding my head in agreement to the point being made. This week’s is no exception, but the title of the piece led me to believe he was swerving into a point I have made for years. He began moving in the right direction when he wrote:

As small business owners, my wife and I do not have income taxes withheld from the money we earn. As many small business owners do, we have to periodically write checks to the state and federal governments for taxes owed. I mailed these tax payments this past week and, while writing out the checks and observing the amounts, I couldn’t believe how much money I had to pay to finance this out-of-control government. I cannot be the only one writing these substantial checks who feels this way.

Later in the piece he adds:

Income tax withholding has softened us. Many of us no longer have to go through the motions of actually picking up a pen and writing out a check to the government to pay our individual tax bills. We all owe it to ourselves to look at the amounts we are paying and to ask ourselves why we aren’t demanding better.

As far as that goes, I couldn’t agree more. But several years ago I penned a series of pieces which eventually became the kernel of a book I wrote. One of them dealt with taxation, and it was written about a year before we had the unsuccessful attempts to “stimulate” the economy through tax rebate checks. At that time I noted:

All right, so I get an $800 check. The feds want me to buy something in the hopes of goosing the economy. But a lot of people who are behind on their mortgage bills and credit cards will simply send that cash along to whomever they owe, which will help bail the banks and creditors out. It’s a similar argument to the one over the subprime mortgage bailout, which helps the creditors but doesn’t teach those who weren’t of enough sense to borrow within their means that they should consider their options more carefully.

And why is it that the federal government now reflexively hands out taxpayer money when the chips are down? They seem to have become the insurer of last resort for America.

If you really want to put money in the pockets of Americans right now, I have another suggestion for a short-term fix. How about suspending backup withholding for a few months? Since most Americans have their tax lives set up to get a hefty refund and “screw” the government (who’s actually screwing these people by receiving an interest-free loan from them) all that would do is make their eventual refund a little smaller. Furthermore, maybe if people actually had to write a check for the full amount due they’d understand just how much of a bite we all have taken from us.

So a little over seven years ago, before anyone outside the circle of the Secret Service had ever heard of Dan Bongino, I was on this track of discarding backup withholding. The onus should be on the government to collect rather than the taxpayer to get back what is rightfully theirs because it’s our money. On the whole, I still think dispensing with backup withholding is a wonderful idea short of adopting a national consumption tax like the FairTax (after the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, of course.)

Still, this is a good indication of how much Dan Bongino “gets it.” Whether he decides to run for Congress again, the Senate again, or waits until 2018 to pursue a state office, it’s clear he has a clear understanding of how the economy should work.

Hogan’s first veto?

I don’t know our governor’s position on Senate Bill 190, dubbed by some as the “travel tax,” but no less than Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform is urging a veto. His organization has sent a letter (detailed at the previous link) to Governor Hogan asking him to reject this bill that was passed by both chambers during the session. As they explain:

This legislation would disparately impact the Maryland travel industry by apply the Maryland sales tax to online travel agents, brick and mortar travel agents, wedding planners, tour operators, and other service providers. With summer almost here, and tourism season gearing up, a new tax would hurt many small businesses in Maryland who rely on tourism for revenue.

Interestingly, the ATR letter quotes local Delegate Christopher Adams, who cites the hundreds of travel agents who would be affected by the bill. On the other hand, his Senator, Addie Eckardt, was the only GOP sponsor of the bill and lone GOP Senator to vote in its favor.

Perhaps the best explanation of the legalese of the bill comes from its Fiscal Note:

Online travel companies (OTCs) typically obtain access to hotel inventory (rooms) through contractual agreements with hotels. OTCs pay a discounted rate for these hotel rooms that they sell (as room rentals), and then retain certain fees that are part of the total price paid by customers. The purchaser of the room rental is typically charged the same rate as the person would be if the hotel room rental was purchased directly from the hotel. The issue that has arisen in recent years is the definition of taxable price that state and local sales and use taxes and hotel rental taxes are to be based on. OTCs have typically been paying and remitting these taxes based on the reduced rate that they pay for the hotel rooms; however, states and local jurisdictions have been arguing in court that these taxes should be collected on the total room rate paid, which is the base for which the taxes would have been imposed if a customer rented the hotel room directly from the hotel.

As I understand it and to create an example, let’s say a hotel room rents at $150 per night to the general public. An OTC comes to the hotel and says they will rent the remaining lot of rooms for $75 apiece – obviously the hotel profits by not having to deal with unsold inventory for the night while the OTC can provide a discount to the standard rack rate and still make money. Everybody wins – but the state.

The contention is that OTCs are paying room taxes based on the $75 rate, while the state believes they should be paying based on the $150 rate. That’s what this law would provide for, and while some jurisdictions in the state have come to agreements with the OTCs (and there is a court case on the subject pending) this law would force OTCs to pay taxes based on the higher rate, eating into their bottom line for dubious overall benefit. The Travelocity vs. Comptroller case cited by the Fiscal Note involves $6 million over eight years; even if Travelocity is accounting for just 10 percent of the overall market the amount in question is only a few million dollars out of a $40 billion budget.

If Hogan vetoes the bill, the margin in the House is close enough to make it very possible a veto would be sustained as it passed in the House of Delegates by an 84-56 margin – one vote short of 3/5. Delegate James Proctor could be the swing vote since he was absent from the original balloting.

Because Maryland law allows the governor to sign bills well after the legislative session has concluded, it’s quite likely that Hogan can wait as long as he needs to make the decision. While this bill is dubbed the “travel tax,” there is the complication of Marriott possibly moving from Maryland that Hogan may have to consider.

But the idea of electing Hogan was that of no new taxes, regardless of whether this is a “clarification” or not. Let the court case take its course, and veto the bill. It’s another vote that is likely to find its way to the monoblogue Accountability Project.

What’s in an image?

April 12, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics · 1 Comment 

Somewhere, somebody is laughing all the way to the bank.

The logo to the left of this paragraph (appropriately enough) is the Hillary Clinton campaign logo. If you’re scratching your head, you are not alone.

On the surface, I get it. The “H” is obvious, and the right-facing arrow is supposed to denote a forward motion. Forward to what, I’m not sure, because I’m betting much of her campaign will be devoted to trying to recreate the 1992 campaign – without the bimbo eruptions.

Yet as I noted on Friday, Hillary is just one of several Social Security-age Democrats chasing the brass ring. There’s probably a reason most of these contenders were rejected before in favor of a candidate who was born at the tail end of the baby boom in 1961. In the minds of many, the torch has been passed to that generation and no matter how hip Hillary tries to be it’s not going to have that same mojo.

And if anything, the Hillary 2016 logo seems almost…corporate. We already know that some candidates are going to run to her left and it wouldn’t surprise me if they have that same train of thought going on. Surely this logo has been focus-group tested, but that seems to be the manner by which her campaign is going to run anyway.

But focus groups or not, there is already some visceral reaction. Wikileaks is crying foul because their logo has a red, right-facing arrow, for example.

All this begs the question: are we going to focus on the logo, or the record? I know we will have plenty of time for debates and such, but perhaps that arrow should be turned down based on Hillary’s accomplishments.

Color me uninspired by the whole thing.

Religious Freedom, Childrens’ Rights, Capitalism and Gay Marriage

April 11, 2015 · Posted in Cathy Keim, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comment 

By Cathy Keim

Today a friend (hat tip Sam) sent me an article from American Thinker called “The Gay Marriage Wake Up Call,” which tied together a lot of loose ends in my thinking. I certainly recommend that you read Robert Oscar Lopez’s whole article.

As Michael and I mentioned earlier this week, one of the reasons that the Maryland General Assembly should reject HB 838/SB 416 is due to the ethical issues behind paying for IV fertilization procedures for lesbian married women.

Dolce and Gabbana, the gay Italian fashion designers, made a huge stir several weeks ago when they were quoted in The Telegraph:

We oppose gay adoptions. The only family is the traditional one. No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: life has a natural flow, there are things that should not be changed.

Gabbana also stated:

I am opposed to the idea of a child growing up with two gay parents. A child needs a mother and a father. I could not imagine my childhood without my mother. I also believe that it is cruel to take a baby away from its mother.

The reaction to their statements was vicious, but they stood their ground. One letter of support came from six adult children raised by gay parents. At Life Site News, they said that they “want to thank you for giving voice to something that we learned by experience: Every human being has a mother and a father, and to cut either from a child’s life is to rob the child of dignity, humanity, and equality.”

Here we see that the children need somebody to speak up for them. Usually the discussion is centered on the desires and needs of the adults in a marriage, but for millennia, the main point of a marriage was to produce heirs. With the advent of no-fault divorce, contraception, and the sexual revolution, the main focus of marriage shifted to adult satisfaction and fulfillment. Now with gay marriages being declared legal in several states and the Supreme Court taking up the question, we are potentially going to have gay marriage forced upon the entire nation.

Since a gay couple cannot produce heirs without an outside party, then we are left with many troublesome ethical problems. What are the rights of the sperm or egg donor/surrogate mother? Should the taxpayer have to pay for the technology necessary to produce children for a gay married couple through their health insurance? Is there a problem with designer children – selecting the genetic attributes desired from blue eyes to IQ?

Perhaps most importantly, does a child have a right to a father and a mother? One or the other is missing by necessity in a gay marriage. Do two mothers or two fathers make up for the missing parent?

These six adult children of gays (COG) do not think so. It does not take a lot of imagination to decide that two mothers or two fathers does not bring the same experience to a child as being raised by a mother and a father. The world is made up of both men and women and the home should be the first place that the child learns to interact with a male father and a female mother.

We know that adopted children long to know their biological parents, so why would children of gay parents not long to know their missing biological parent?

The necessity of IV fertilization to produce a child for a lesbian couple and the need for a surrogate mother to produce a child for a gay couple leads us to the capitalism part of the discussion. These are very expensive medical procedures and there is money to be made from opening up a new market of wealthy gay clients.

The “synthetic children” comment by Gabbana also involves a lucrative money making potential. This is already occurring, but with the legalization of gay marriage and the implicit right to children that that implies, then the market for choosing your child’s traits will increase and that will spill over into the heterosexual married population. Why should a heterosexual couple just have a “normal” child when everybody else is having genetically “superior” children? You can envision the liabilities involved in having your children the old fashioned way and having to accept whatever child you create. Why not stack the odds in your favor by choosing to modify the genes?

With no theological background to stay the tide, then this market will be huge and very profitable.

The COGs that are speaking up for the rights of all the voiceless children now and to come that are being or will be raised by gay parents have a powerful point to make. They have filed friend of the court briefs with the Supreme Court for the upcoming gay marriage case. That along with new studies that show that COGs have more emotional problems, lower graduation rates, etc. makes for a powerful testimony against gay marriage being the same as marriage as we have traditionally understood it.

Now it becomes clear why the sudden attack on the RFRA laws. This is a trick to get people to not focus on the rights of children to have a mother and a father, but rather to say that religious bigots are causing troubles for poor discriminated against loving gay couples. This amounts to let’s change the subject to an easier topic to score points.

Christians as a group are increasingly being marginalized and stigmatized in our culture. The gay lobby would much rather turn the focus to adult Christian “bigots” than to the concerns of a child’s right to a mother and a father.

The largely secular elite has already decided that sexual freedom is more important than religious freedom and now they are going to exhibit their power.

The Democrat Party has completely thrown in with the sexual freedom at all costs group. The Republican Party elites are tied to corporate interests and unfettered capitalism. They will pretend to be against gay marriage to pacify their base, but they really don’t care. They would prefer that the issue go away just as they have always wanted to ignore social issues for economic ones.

The conservative base is all that has kept the Republican Party afloat for many years now, but their leaders keep folding anytime anybody sneezes at them.

Even liberal churches are choosing to change with the times by dropping “outdated” creeds for newer, more culturally friendly ones. The number of people standing up for marriage between one man and one woman is shrinking daily.

Should the Supreme Court decide in favor of gay marriage, then our country is on a collision course between the rights of the sexual freedom group and the religious freedom of orthodox believers. At this point it looks like the Christians had better know their core beliefs because they are going to need to stand firm in the face of increasing cultural ostracism.

Taking the queen

The news cycle today was dominated by the reports that Hillary Clinton would make her 2016 plans official on Sunday – and she would be doing it via social media and in small groups because she’s oh-so-hip.

Yet there are a number of people out there who are afraid Democrats would have buyer’s remorse if Hillary is the nominee. A handful are coalescing around Martin O’Malley because of his experience as governor, but another former governor who can also boast of a term in the Senate is entering the race now as well. Is it blood in the water?

Perhaps not, but former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee promises “fresh ideas for America” as the second Republican-turned-Democrat to run in this cycle after onetime Virginia Senator Jim Webb entered late last year. Of course, these “fresh ideas” are typical liberal bromides but nonetheless Chafee is playing the populist card in an effort to attract those who aren’t ready for Hillary. As opposed to Webb, who is a former Republican running to the center, Chafee is going more to the left of Hillary, but based on the approval ratings he had during his lone term as governor of the Ocean State and the fact his chosen successor didn’t even make it through the primary it makes Martin O’Malley look like a political genius – and that is damn hard to do.

Yet it makes a great point. If you look at the contenders who have entered (or are likely to enter) the GOP race, you have a vast selection of current and former governors, members of the United States Senate, and even a private citizen or two. There could be upwards of 15 serious aspirants who bring some sort of unique experience to the table.

On the other hand, so far the Democratic slate may include a former First Lady who was a failure as a Cabinet secretary and undistinguished one-plus term Senator, a gaffe-prone vice president and two-time failure in the Presidential race (who was also caught plagiarizing material). a pair of governors who couldn’t even get their anointed successors elected, a one-term Senator who got tired of the job, an avowed Socialist, and Fauxcahontas. Yeah, that’s a real set of winners. And the average age of this group is 66, with O’Malley serving the useful purpose of dragging it down by a couple years since he’s only 52.

Nobody really likes Hillary. Eight years ago most people figured she would be the first woman president and we would have a Presidential history lineage which went Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton. Instead, some semi-obscure Senator named Barack Obama promised a fundamental transformation of America and we got it. (We didn’t necessarily like it, but that’s another well-documented story.)

It’s also worth noting that the 2006 elections, which saw the GOP lose its majorities in both houses of Congress, were seen as a precursor to 2008 where Barack Obama won. The TEA Party wave of 2010 didn’t quite reach the White House in 2012 – in part because Mitt Romney was seen by some conservatives as uninspiring – but the presidency is an open seat once again in 2016 and the 2014 results returned the GOP to control of Congress.

Some Democrats probably feel Hillary is the best, last hope to regain the prosperity many enjoyed during the Bill Clinton years. But we are almost a generation removed from his tenure and much has happened in the interim – 9/11, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an economic meltdown, and a division in politics rarely seen since the days before the War Between the States. If you compare that to the first 16 years removed from Ronald Reagan, the conditions back then were much more placid – the fall of the Soviet Union, a minor recession, a quick Gulf war, and then worries about scandals culminating in one involving a blue dress. Until 9/11 that was our real news story. From Bush to Bush was easy compared to the longer potential timeframe from Clinton to Clinton.

For all those reasons, Hillary may be the most vulnerable fait accompli candidate in recent memory, and I don’t think Chafee’s entry will be the last dark horse.

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