Win some and lose some

Two votes in the Maryland Senate have caught my attention. On the “good” side is the failure of a measure to stop the Blackwater development in Dorchester County. Whether you’re for growth or against it, to me it’s a victory for two reasons.

First and foremost, government shouldn’t be allowed to change the rules in the middle of the game or place additional hoops for a developer to jump through. There’s provisions against ex post facto law in both the U.S. and Maryland constitutions. (If you look at the upper right hand corner and the rest of the article, you can guess what I spent a little time reading tonght.) Once the Blackwater subdivision came closer to fruition, a Baltimore County delegate introduced the measure.

The second point is that; to me, private property rights trump environmental concerns in this case. There’s three roadblocks still remaining to Blackwater according to the Sun article: a lawsuit by the environmentalist Chesapeake Bay Foundation, approval by Cambridge City Council, and approval by the Maryland Critical Areas Commission, which “has jurisdiction over areas within 1,000 feet of Chesapeake Bay tributaries.” If this is true, MCAC ought to be hammering the City of Salisbury over their illegal sludge pit rather than worry about that portion of a development that happens to fall close to a small tributary of Chesapeake Bay. But it’s much more satisfying to the environmentalists to ruin someone trying to make a good return on his investment than to nail a fellow governmental agency.

On the bad side of the Senate ledger was an affirmative vote on Senate Bill 1075. (h/t to Delmarva Dealings.) Like I said, tonight I was reading the Maryland Constitution and Article 8 notes:

That the Legislative, Executive and Judicial powers of Government ought to be forever separate and distinct from each other; and no person exercising the functions of one of said Departments shall assume or discharge the duties of any other.

While Maryland code does require appointments be with the advice and consent of the Senate, it doesn’t imply that it has to be done each term. Oddly enough, this wasn’t a problem until now, mainly because Governor Ehrlich is a Republican seeking re-election and the last several Maryland governors have served two terms. Thus, I feel SB1075 is a violation of the Maryland Constitution, and it would be most proper for Governor Ehrlich to veto the bill if it reaches his desk.

Now, that would make things interesting come next January if Gov. Ehrlich is reelected, since the bill’s effective date is this June. Makes it more important to get enough GOP Delegates and Senators elected to thwart the Democrats’ chances at overriding a veto.

Odd and ends #4

Just a bunch of little stuff, not necessarily enough in each part to make a full post. So hopefully the total is greater than the sum of its parts.

First of all, I noticed a week or so ago that the Justice For All? blog was having some issues with Google. It appears Hadley has the blog back up and going but without everything previous to this month. That’s unfortunate because one thing I feature on my blog is what I consider the best of my comments elsewhere (“My Feedback”) and JFA has a bunch of them, which are now dead links.

But Hadley is certainly not alone in his complaint, as Michelle Malkin attests.

If you are familiar with the story of monoblogue, you’ll recall that I once had a Blogger account. But I decided to leave Blogger shortly after a post I did in July of last year, and it was for economic reasons. I really didn’t want to consciously support a company whose employees gave over 95% of their campaign contributions to liberals and their causes. (To that end, you’ll notice I have no Google ads.)

It was through some of the other local blogs that I saw the rechristened “Son of Wal-Mart” (aka House Bill 1510) was defeated in committee. Interestingly enough, the vote was 13-9 to kill the bill. Since I’m all but certain that Democrats are a majority on the committee (as they are in the House of Delegates overall) it has to mean that they were feeling heat from someplace. The $64,000 question is whether it was:

a) the negative press on it, including articles in the Wall Street Journal and mentions on Rush Limbaugh’s show

b) the fact that 2006 is an election year for each and every one of the 188 Senators and Delegates in the General Assembly, not to mention two key statewide races

c) the power of the blogosphere, including myself.

While I’d love to think the answer was c) I think the reality staring Democrats in the face made b) the answer. Even though the vast majority of Democrat seats are likely “safe” because of voting demographics, it’s not totally out of the question for enough seats to flip over to the GOP to enable a re-elected Governor Ehrlich to have his vetoes sustained. It’s bad enough for the Democrats that the gay marriage issue was thrown in their lap by a judge; thus, passing “Son of Wal-Mart” this year would truly energize another conservative base of voters.

Speaking of voting bases, it’s starting to look like the long wait for county offices to attract candidates is over. We now have four candidates for Sheriff and three for county executive. The remaining question is how many people will flock to county council seats, especially with the recent turnaround on annexation.

I think Monday’s WCRC meeting will be an interesting one because of this and other issues.

Once again, if you read this blog on a regular basis you’ll find that I’m very pro-growth. One main reason is that my paycheck depends on people wanting to invest in development, whether of a business or residential nature. And it’s not just Wicomico County, but all over the Eastern Shore and beyond.

In our business, we have a lot of regulations to deal with, mostly of a restrictive nature. Honestly, 95% of them are common sense – one example is having fire-rated tenant separation walls so a fire in one unit is less likely to spread to another. The amount of exemption from certain fire code items you gain by installing sprinklers is another sensible restriction.

But in the case of Wicomico County and the whole growth controversy, I’m a little befuddled. Part of the reason is because I’m a “come here” so I have a short point of reference. In my readings of the local blogs, though, I’ve gathered two important nuggets. One is that somewhere, probably locked away in the most secure vault on the Eastern Shore, is Wicomico County’s master plan. Well, it must be locked away, because to hear the local blogosphere, it’s being ignored!

The other item is the subject of “pipestem” annexations. I was under the impression that Salisbury was attempting to streamline and square off their boundaries. But instead they run their boundaries several miles farther out, extending pipestems like so many tentacles and latching themselves further toward Delaware and other county borders.

It seems to me that it’s much easier to annex land in Maryland than in Ohio, mainly because Ohio has a township form of government for unincorporated areas. So when a city or village expands, there’s automatically a government entity that gets smaller and the township trustees generally fight annexations tooth and nail because it shrinks their tax base. Several times in my home area annexation battles have ended up in court. In one case, the battle was over city sewer and water being extended to unincorporated areas in exchange for not fighting annexation – but the township residents wanted no part of the higher city tax rates and sued the city.

Here in Maryland, it’s almost like Wicomico County has a “whatever…” attitude toward annexation, less area to take care of. Since it seems all the state money to run government comes from the same pot, there’s not a net loss to the county by losing territory, but it’s fewer miles of road to fix or less snow to plow.

Growth is an issue I can see both sides of. To me, it’s not growth that’s the problem, since it’s going to happen if an area is reasonably attractive. We happen to be in an area that has a nice climate and a rural feel that many seek. And it’s my opinion that even doubling the population wouldn’t change that.

County executive candidate Ron Alessi alluded to my concern when he spoke of getting good jobs here. But how can that get done? In a perfect world, each house that’s constructed also gets some place for the homeowner to work, as well as the public facilities necessary to maintain the house’s safety, utilities, accessibility to the job through improved roads, etc., etc. But it sounds like we have shortages of most of the other facets that go into a good community.

Delmarva has some assets to a company looking for a good location to place a factory or other facility. It has a nice location for “quality of life” issues and at least Delaware is somewhat business-friendly. The minuses are transportation needs, since it’s difficult to access a lot of places from here with Chesapeake Bay. But if there’s a company who doesn’t have a lot of time-sensitive issues, we’re as good a place as any to locate, maybe better than most.

Rather than kowtow to every residential developer in the region, what are we doing to get more jobs to the area? I’m not saying we need a Kia plant but someone ought to sell the region better to job providers. (Having a more business-friendly General Assembly would help too.) White-collar corporations could be lured to our area’s proximity to DC and the Northeast – close enough for easy access, far enough away so you don’t smell it.

I’m going to end this overall rant with one close to my heart. I sent and received e-mail from Brian Cleary, who’s the Operations Manager for Clear Channel of Delmarva (they run, among others, 96 Rock.) The subject was this year’s “Thirsty Thursday” band lineup at the Shorebirds games. It pissed me off royally when I read:

Sadly, the Thirsty Thursdays with the Shorebirds this year will not feature live bands … last year, we were able to secure the bands for the Shorebirds. However, for a number of reasons, we backed off playing the local music (ratings the biggest factor – the lack of cooperation and enthusiasm from the local acts one of the others), so those bands aren’t really working with us any more…(i)nstead for this year’s Thirsty Thursdays, we will have Whiskey & Cowboy broadcasting their show at the stadium.

Come on, what could’ve been better than beer, ball, and bands? Leave it to somebody to mess up a good thing.

It’s a very sad state of affairs when this is all the better we can do. One thing I got to love quickly about the area when I moved here was the support the local radio stations gave to regional bands. Instead of playing Nickelback for the 300th time, 96 Rock would play a local band’s song in a semi-regular rotation, plus every week they did “Local Lixx” which was an hour of local music. Now, I know some of the local bands dropped the ball (there’s a larger audience on the Internet, particularly myspace.com) but free airplay is free airplay, people. Do you think I wouldn’t like a plug for this blog on Bill Reddish’s show?

It really sucks because last year’s “Thirsty Thursdays” introduced me to some great groups like Control Freaks, Not Alone, Chowderfoot, and 7 Days Torn, among a host of others. There’s just so many good groups out there in our area that deserve support and another outlet for supporting them has vanished. Instead, we’ll be “entertained” by a wannabe morning crew that happens to be on in the afternoons.

Hopefully I’ll still get to see some good bands at “Beast of the East” this year, but since I think 96 Rock brought those bands in last year, it remains to be seen. No one’s announced yet at the site. The band list for “Pork in the Park” is up already though, they have an interesting assortment of groups.

It’s less than three weeks to the real beginning of spring. When the Shorebirds play and we get the twin weekend events of Pork in the Park and Beast of the East, it’s time to get ready for another fun Delmarva summer!

Update on HB1510

Since there was an article today in the Daily Times and I found out in looking the bill status up that a hearing on it was held today, it appears that the so-called “son of Wal-Mart” may be gaining traction. (Also a h/t to Duvafiles is in order.)

We can still stop this attempt to drive business out of Maryland. Get informed and get involved.

The first reading bill text and now the fiscal notes are available online.

Ongoing 2006 election feature

Since we’re now inside 6 months to the primaries in both Maryland and Delaware, I think it’s time to do a public service and begin to link to various campaign websites of all the candidates I can. Tonight I started with the Maryland U.S. Senate race and linked to the three main contenders – Ben Cardin, Kweisi Mfume, and Michael Steele. If you look to the right at the Bloglist, it’s under the category “Let the people decide.”

I’ll start checking into who has actually filed for what races. My intention is to link with as many of this area’s campaigns as possible. So here’s a list of what I consider “area” campaigns:

Maryland:

United States Senate (what I started tonight)
U.S. Congress – Maryland District 1
All statewide campaigns (Governor/Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller, Attorney General)
State Senator and House of Delegates – Districts 37 and 38
County offices in Wicomico, Worcester, Somerset, and Dorchester counties, particularly County Executive and County Council as applicable to the jurisdiction.

Delaware:

United States Senate
U.S. Congress – at-large
State Senate – District 20 (District 21 is not up this year as I understand it)
State Representatives – Districts 38, 39, 40, 41
County offices in Sussex County.

Virginia:

United States Senate
U.S. Congress – Virginia District 2 (covers the Eastern Shore of Virginia).
Most of their races in 2006 appear to be local mayor/council races, they run on an opposite calendar of local/state elections than does Maryland.

If you come across a link I don’t know about (or if you’re a candidate) let me know at my e-mail address here: michael@monoblogue.us. You may recall earlier I linked to a press release from House of Delegates candidate Sonny Bloxom – I’m open to that as well (with certain restrictions.) And it’s a good thing I linked to the press release because otherwise I’d have misspelled his name!

Seriously, it would be great to have all the sites here and make this a “one-stop shop” for election info, so that’s my goal for the campaign season.

Update: I found a batch of new links (added tonight) on a site called politics1.com so a hat tip goes to Ron Gunzberger, who runs the site.

It’s a crime!

Thanks to Delmarva Dealings for pointing out the Daily Times printed my letter to the editor yesterday. Now, normally they call me to verify but I guess they must read the blogs and found I “crossposted” it anyway. Thus, I never heard a thing, and I don’t get the print edition here (we do get it where I work.)

What I’d love to know is why the DT editor chopped it up so bad?!? I write a certain way on purpose. Sure it may be wordy, but as Rush Limbaugh would say, “words mean things.” I take plenty of time to write, because I want to type out my thoughts and opinions in a manner that expresses them completely.

However, if you followed the link and you’re discovering monoblogue for the first time, welcome! Glad you’re here. But I’m betting that if you saw that online link to my site on the DT website, you’ve likely already read my blog from being linked in other places. Of course, the more readers I get, the more likely I can get actual paying advertisers to come to my site…that would be cool. At least then I could make my server fee back.

Actually, the real reason I was getting ready to write a post was something I saw on Justice For All? almost a month ago, but it was almost immediately buried in the avalanche of MDE/zoo/Salisbury Water Treatment plant news. It was a 5 part pictorial called “No Gangs in Salisbury.” To refresh your memory:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Despite the fact that the news is old blogwise, it doesn’t mean we are any less likely to see gang trouble this year. No one wants a repeat of last year’s random homicide incident, only this time involving, say, MS-13 or ABM.

As I see it, the main cause of gang problems in Salisbury is not quite what one may think. I recall seeing a news item last year about several incidents where alien workers were robbed but couldn’t or didn’t report these incidents to the police. The reason most theorized is that these workers were here illegally and didn’t want to draw attention to themselves and their crime by reporting a crime perpetrated on them. So they just bore the loss of hundreds of dollars in cash silently.

Many of these laborers speak little or no English, and don’t have bank accounts. Either they are paid in cash or use a secondary vendor to get their checks cashed (Wal-Mart will cash a payroll check for a modest fee.) It’s not been uncommon for me to complete my shopping at Wal-Mart (particularly the one in Fruitland) and find myself behind a group of Mexican laborers who pull out a large wad of cash to pay for their groceries. Obviously this fact isn’t lost on the criminal element, who see these people as an easy target. Knowing that the foreign population generally carries a large amount of cash and is hesitant to report being relieved of it by threat of force, it almost becomes a sport to see who can get the largest amount of ill-gotten gains.

Then the question becomes: what happens to all that loose untraceable cash? A lot of it ends up in the pockets of those who ply the narcotics trade. And where there’s a thriving drug market, there’s generally gang formation. So you begin to see various garages and other buildings “tagged” with gang graffiti marking their turf and sending hidden messages to competing gangs.

One thing I was curious about and I finally looked into tonight was how one can get in touch with the local police and sheriff’s office. In Toledo, there’s an anonymous tip line one can call if they have information on a crime committed (obviously, if one’s in progress, 9-1-1 should be dialed.) But there’s no such thing here. It’s particularly important that one can call in tips anonymously, since dealing with a gang like MS-13 can be dicey.

Now it could be that the criminal investigation sections of the Salisbury PD and Wicomico Sheriff’s Department do handle anonymous tips, but they don’t advertise that kind of service, nor is it known if they’re bilingual. Let’s face it, until some sort of meaningful immigration reform and enforcement is passed on a federal level, Salisbury’s going to be a bilingual city.

The other thing is something that struck me driving along on Saturday. I was driving down Church Street to work and I saw a group of people fixing up a porch. Since they were mostly Caucasian, I didn’t figure they were native to that mostly minority neighborhood. I’m guessing it was a church group who was doing their part to help a less fortunate member of the community.

So why couldn’t a group adopt a block on a Saturday and paint over some of the gang tagging? Have Home Depot or Lowe’s pitch in and donate a few gallons of paint. It could even be the community service element for those who are sentenced to complete community service, still better if they were unruly juveniles who were quite possibly the ones to deface the building in the first place.

It will have to be an ongoing effort, because the gangs will come back a few times. But they eventually lose interest, or more likely, hit another block where their colors will last for a longer time.

I look at it this way. There’s probably as many if not more gang-bangers and wannabes on the streets than there are cops. Generally cops are better armed, but they can’t be everywhere at all times. So the deciding factor in taking care of the gang problem is the citizens. But the citizens generally want to just get along in life and stay out of the way of the gangs – a healthy fear. That creates a condition which perpetuates the problem.

The suggestions I posted here are just a tip of the iceberg. Much needs to be done at all levels of society (notice I didn’t say government) to eradicate the gangs from all sides. The most effective tool to me would be drying up their money supply, but that’s going to take pressure on all levels of the drug trade.

We’re going to have a new sheriff in town come November. First and foremost on his/her agenda is going to be the gang problem, and the remedies prescribed during the campaign will be tested soon after the oath of office is sworn. Let’s hope they work.

Outstanding comment

I just moderated a comment to a previous post that’s likely better than the post itself, so I’ll link back to that post. It was a comment that does a great job of what I like to see comments do: move the conversation forward.

I didn’t want the comment buried in a post that’s several back in the pipeline. That would be a shame because not everyone reads past the first post or two. So here you go.

Another one to stop

I was doing research for a comment I was going to submit to another website and ran across an interview Senate candidate (and Congressman) Ben Cardin did with a “friendly” site (MyDD.com) and interviewer Jonathan Singer. What leaped off the page at me was this quote:

Singer: Now let’s look at something specific to your state of Maryland. Your state legislature enacted a plan that would mandate that large companies, like Wall Mart (sic), provide at least some healthcare benefits, either directly to workers or through contributions to the state program. Should Congress look at a similar plan?

Cardin: Congress should pass a program that provides for universal health insurance coverage.

It is not acceptable for us to have 45 to 47 million Americans without health insurance. It’s not fair for those who have health insurance to pay for those who do not have health insurance. That was the frustration in Maryland, where you had companies that were not only paying for their own employees but literally paying for their competitors’ employees because of the extra cost for the uninsured.

So the Congress should pass legislation that guarantees that every person in this country has health insurance, and it’s in every one of our interests that that be done.

I wonder if he knows James Hubbard? So, not only would we get tagged with higher taxes and a health insurance mandate here in Maryland if HB1510 passes, but if Cardin wins (and remember, his term would extend beyond the 2008 presidential election and could be the same time as Hillary’s re-election) we might have the same thing nationwide.

Spread the misery around: the unofficial credo of the Democrats.

More on Hubbard

Last night, I wrote about Delegate James Hubbard, who is attempting to expand the Wal-Mart bill to be more fair, if you define fairness as spreading red tape over more entities. Actually, it’s reported as companies with more than 1,000 employees but in reading the actual text of the bill the number 10,000 is changed to one. So I’m led to assume that EVERY company in Maryland is involved.

And that’s not all that’s in this bill. Basically by fiscal year 2010 we’ll have universal health coverage or additional taxes under it. I really love this power grab:

IN THIS SECTION, “APPLICABLE POVERTY INCOME LEVEL” HAS THE
13 MEANING STATED IN § 10-709 OF THE TAX – GENERAL ARTICLE.
14 (B) IN ADDITION TO THE TAX IMPOSED UNDER TITLE 10 OF THE TAX –
15 GENERAL ARTICLE, UNLESS AN INDIVIDUAL DEMONSTRATES TO THE SATISFACTION
16 OF THE COMPTROLLER THAT THE INDIVIDUAL WAS COVERED BY HEALTH
17 INSURANCE OFFERING BENEFITS COMPARABLE TO THE COMPREHENSIVE
18 STANDARD HEALTH BENEFIT PLAN UNDER § 15-1207 OF THIS TITLE FOR THE
19 TAXABLE YEAR:
20 (1) IF THE FEDERAL ADJUSTED GROSS INCOME OF THE INDIVIDUAL, OR
21 OF THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE INDIVIDUAL’S SPOUSE IF THEY FILE A JOINT INCOME
22 TAX RETURN, IS EQUAL TO OR GREATER THAN 350% OF THE APPLICABLE POVERTY
23 INCOME LEVEL, THE INDIVIDUAL SHALL PAY AS ADDITIONAL STATE INCOME TAX
24 FOR THE TAXABLE YEAR AN AMOUNT EQUAL TO THE HOSPITAL SHARE OF
25 COMPREHENSIVE STANDARD HEALTH BENEFIT PLAN FOR THE TAXABLE YEAR, AS
26 ESTABLISHED BY THE MARYLAND HEALTH CARE COMMISSION; AND
27 (2) IF THE FEDERAL ADJUSTED GROSS INCOME OF THE INDIVIDUAL, OR
28 OF THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE INDIVIDUAL’S SPOUSE IF THEY FILE A JOINT INCOME
29 TAX RETURN, IS LESS THAN 350% OF THE APPLICABLE POVERTY INCOME LEVEL AND
30 THE INDIVIDUAL IS ELIGIBLE FOR MDCARE:
31 (I) THE INDIVIDUAL SHALL BE ENROLLED IN MDCARE AND SHALL
32 PAY AS ADDITIONAL STATE INCOME TAX FOR THE TAXABLE YEAR THE APPLICABLE
33 MDCARE PREMIUM;
34 (II) THE COMPTROLLER SHALL COORDINATE WITH MDCARE AND
35 THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE TO DETERMINE ELIGIBILITY
36 OF THE INDIVIDUAL FOR MDCARE, THE MARYLAND MEDICAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM,
37 AND THE MARYLAND CHILDREN’S HEALTH PROGRAM; AND
38 (III) IF THE INDIVIDUAL IS ELIGIBLE FOR MDCARE, THE MARYLAND
39 MEDICAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM, OR THE MARYLAND CHILDREN’S HEALTH

42 UNOFFICIAL COPY OF HOUSE BILL 1510

1 PROGRAM, THE INDIVIDUAL SHALL BE AUTOMATICALLY ENROLLED AND ASSESSED A
2 3-MONTH PREMIUM BY THE COMPTROLLER.
3 (C) NOTWITHSTANDING TITLE 2, SUBTITLE 6 OF THE TAX – GENERAL ARTICLE,
4 THE COMPTROLLER SHALL DISTRIBUTE THE REVENUE FROM THE ADDITIONAL
5 STATE INCOME TAX IMPOSED UNDER THIS SECTION AS FOLLOWS:
6 (1) AMOUNTS RECEIVED UNDER SUBSECTION (B)(1) OF THIS SECTION
7 FROM INDIVIDUALS HAVING FEDERAL ADJUSTED GROSS INCOME EQUAL TO OR
8 GREATER THAN 350% OF THE APPLICABLE POVERTY INCOME LEVEL SHALL BE
9 DISTRIBUTED TO A SPECIAL FUND ADMINISTERED BY THE HEALTH SERVICES COST
10 REVIEW COMMISSION, TO BE USED ONLY TO PROVIDE REIMBURSEMENT FOR
11 UNCOMPENSATED HEALTH CARE IN THE STATE AS REQUIRED UNDER § 19-214(C) OF
12 THE HEALTH – GENERAL ARTICLE; AND
13 (2) AMOUNTS RECEIVED UNDER SUBSECTION (B)(2) OF THIS SECTION
14 FROM INDIVIDUALS HAVING FEDERAL ADJUSTED GROSS INCOME LESS THAN 350%
15 OF THE APPLICABLE POVERTY INCOME LEVEL SHALL BE DISTRIBUTED TO THE
16 GENERAL FUND OF THE STATE.

There was already a plan in place for medically uninsurable individuals to be insured by the state. This bill revamps that existing program into MDCARE, which will cover ALL uninsured people, including those deemed “uninsured” because their premiums are over 3% of their income. This is whether you would choose to be uninsured or not.

Let’s see, HB1510 also doubles the cigarette tax to help pay for all this as well, and MANDATES a certain amount be spent on the program. I thought the governor made the budget. Oh, and a sop to the union thugs, MDCARE employees will have the right to collective bargaining (it’s in the bill too.)

Actually, the reason I started this post was to do a little bit of comparison. I went to the Maryland General Assembly website and looked up all the number of bills that Delegate Hubbard has sponsored as a solo sponsor, then compared it to our local representatives.

In the 2006 session, Hubbard has sponsored 19 bills solo (including HB 1510) and co-sponsored an additional 131 bills. Most of his “solo” bills have to do with health care in one form or another.

In Districts 37 and 38, which cover at least some of Wicomico County, here’s how our elected officials compare:

Bennett Bozman, Delegate, 38B: no solo bills, 117 as co-sponsor.
Rudy Cane, Delegate, 37A: no solo bills, 109 as co-sponsor.
Richard Colburn, Senator, 37: 31 solo bills, 98 as co-sponsor. Most of his solo bills are for various county-level issues, like raising the salary of a judge or money toward a project.
Norman Conway, Delegate, 38B: no solo bills, 84 as co-sponsor.
Addie Eckardt, Delegate, 37B: no solo bills, 122 as co-sponsor.
Page Elmore, Delegate, 38A: 12 solo bills, 145 as co-sponsor. All of his solo bills deal with Somerset County issues.
Jeannie Haddaway, Delegate, 37B: 4 solo bills, 118 as co-sponsor.
Lowell Stoltzfus, Senator, 38: 6 solo bills, 40 as co-sponsor.

So the vast majority of bills where our Delegates and Senators are the lone sponsor deal with mundane county-level issues, which is true of most in the General Assembly. Even many bills that are co-sponsored by our representatives are local issues (as an example, Bozman and Conway were the lone two sponsors of a measure on several occasions.)

But Hubbard is looking to use his district seat to bankrupt an entire state by making health care “free.” Remember, health care is NOT a right. And while it may appear to be “free” (or nearly so) health care to those placed under MDCARE, when they lose their jobs because the business they work for is shackled by all the red tape MDCARE will certainly cause, they’ll see who pays for it all in the end – hard-working Free State entrepreneurs.

Like this is a surprise?

I will give the large hat tip to Rush today for introducing me to this article by Brendan Miniter. My ears perk up whenever he mentions the Free State and we got a lot of airtime today.

In case the link ceases to work (I know the Wall Street Journal site is a subscription site, whereas the OpinionJournal is the “free side”) the money passage is this:

let’s turn to (Delegate James) Hubbard. He began our conversation by pointing out that the Wal-Mart bill–which forces companies with more than 10,000 employees to spend at least 8% of their payroll on health care or pay the state the difference–was always intended to be just the first step (emphasis mine). Four years ago, he made his intentions clear by introducing legislation to increase cigarette taxes and to use the tax code to compel employers to provide health insurance. Under his legislation the revenue from these taxes would be dumped into a new state fund that would then be used to expand Medicaid eligibility to families with incomes up to 300% of the poverty line (up from 200% now). But even in a legislature with large Democratic majorities, his bill stalled.

So Mr. Hubbard and others settled on a new approach–pushing through smaller, bite-sized pieces. The first piece was the Wal-Mart bill. It passed last year and was enacted last month, when the Legislature overrode Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s veto. Two weeks ago Mr. Hubbard was at it again, this time introducing a new bill to mandate that companies with at least 1,000 employees spend 4.5% of their payroll on health care or pay the state the difference. Once this piece is in place, Mr. Hubbard told me, the next step will be to create a similar mandate–perhaps 2% or 3%–for companies with fewer than 1,000 employees. Each year, Mr. Hubbard hopes to expand the mandate to include ever smaller companies with the ultimate goal of “health coverage for all Marylanders.”

Mr. Hubbard noted how effective splitting the difference can be in moving legislation toward a larger goal. “If you give up 80% of what you want to get 20%,” he said, “after five years you will have nothing left to give up.”

This is the relevant portion of the text of HB 1510, which is an omnibus bill regarding health care in general (it’s innocently titled Public-Private Partnership for Health Coverage for All Marylanders. Some partnership, a gun to the head isn’t a real alliance.) The bill as a whole is a 50 page .pdf file.

I believe the way this works is that additions to existing statute are in ALL CAPS. Perhaps a lawyer-type can help me on that.

Article – Labor and Employment

8 8.5-101.

9 (a) In this title the following words have the meanings indicated.
10 (b) “Employee” means all individuals employed full time or part time directly
11 by an employer.
12 (c) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, “employer”
13 has the meaning stated in § 10-905 of the Tax – General Article.
14 (2) “Employer” does not include the federal government, the State,
15 another state, or a political subdivision of the State or another state.
16 (d) (1) “Health insurance costs” means the amount paid by an employer to
17 provide health care or health insurance to employees in the State to the extent the
18 costs may be deductible by an employer under federal tax law.
19 (2) “Health insurance costs” includes payments for medical care,
20 prescription drugs, vision care, medical savings accounts, and any other costs to
21 provide health benefits as defined in § 213(d) of the Internal Revenue Code.
22 (e) “Secretary” means the Secretary of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation.
23 (f) “Wages” has the meaning stated in § 10-905 of the Tax – General Article.
24 8.5-102.
25 This title applies to an employer with [10,000] ONE or more employees in the
26 State.
27 8.5-103.
28 (a) (1) On January 1, [2007] 2008, and annually thereafter, an employer
29 shall submit on a form and in a manner approved by the Secretary:
30 (i) the number of employees of the employer in the State as of 1
31 day in the year immediately preceding the previous calendar year as determined by
32 the employer on an annual basis;

44 UNOFFICIAL COPY OF HOUSE BILL 1510

1 (ii) the amount spent by the employer in the year immediately
2 preceding the previous calendar year on health insurance costs in the State; and
3 (iii) the percentage of payroll that was spent by the employer in the
4 year immediately preceding the previous calendar year on health insurance costs in
5 the State.
6 (2) The Secretary shall adopt regulations that specify the information
7 that an employer shall submit under paragraph (1) of this subsection.
8 (3) The information required shall:
9 (i) be designated in a report signed by the principal executive
10 officer or an individual performing a similar function; and
11 (ii) include an affidavit under penalty of perjury that the
12 information required under paragraph (1) of this subsection:
13 1. was reviewed by the signing officer; and
14 2. is true to the best of the signing officer’s knowledge,
15 information, and belief.
16 (b) When calculating the percentage of payroll under subsection (a)(1)(iii) of
17 this section, an employer may exempt:
18 (1) wages paid to any employee in excess of the median household
19 income in the State as published by the United States Census Bureau; and
20 (2) wages paid to an employee who is enrolled in or eligible for Medicare.
21 8.5-104.
22 (a) An employer WITH 10,000 OR MORE EMPLOYEES that is organized as a
23 nonprofit organization that does not spend up to 6% of the total wages paid to
24 employees in the State on health insurance costs shall pay to the Secretary an
25 amount equal to the difference between what the employer spends for health
26 insurance costs and an amount equal to 6% of the total wages paid to employees in
27 the State.
28 (b) An employer WITH 10,000 OR MORE EMPLOYEES that is not organized as a
29 nonprofit organization and does not spend up to 8% of the total wages paid to
30 employees in the State on health insurance costs shall pay to the Secretary an
31 amount equal to the difference between what the employer spends for health
32 insurance costs and an amount equal to 8% of the total wages paid to employees in
33 the State.
34 (C) AN EMPLOYER WITH FEWER THAN 10,000 EMPLOYEES THAT IS ORGANIZED
35 AS A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION THAT DOES NOT SPEND UP TO 3% OF THE TOTAL
36 WAGES PAID TO EMPLOYEES IN THE STATE ON HEALTH INSURANCE COSTS SHALL

45 UNOFFICIAL COPY OF HOUSE BILL 1510

1 PAY TO THE SECRETARY AN AMOUNT EQUAL TO THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT
2 THE EMPLOYER SPENDS FOR HEALTH INSURANCE COSTS AND AN AMOUNT EQUAL
3 TO 3% OF THE TOTAL WAGES PAID TO EMPLOYEES IN THE STATE.
4 (D) AN EMPLOYER WITH FEWER THAN 10,000 EMPLOYEES THAT IS NOT
5 ORGANIZED AS A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION AND DOES NOT SPEND UP TO 4.5% OF
6 THE TOTAL WAGES PAID TO EMPLOYEES IN THE STATE ON HEALTH INSURANCE
7 COSTS SHALL PAY TO THE SECRETARY AN AMOUNT EQUAL TO THE DIFFERENCE
8 BETWEEN WHAT THE EMPLOYER SPENDS FOR HEALTH INSURANCE COSTS AND AN
9 AMOUNT EQUAL TO 4.5% OF THE TOTAL WAGES PAID TO EMPLOYEES IN THE STATE.
10 [(c)] (E) An employer may not deduct any payment made under subsection
11 [(a) or (b)] (A), (B), (C), OR (D) of this section from the wages of an employee.
12 [(d)] (F) An employer shall make the payment required under this section to
13 the Secretary on a periodic basis as determined by the Secretary.
14 8.5-105.
15 (a) Failure to report in accordance with § 8.5-103 of this title shall result in
16 the imposition by the Secretary of a civil penalty of $250 for each day that the report
17 is not timely filed.
18 (b) Failure to make the payment required under § 8.5-104 of this title shall
19 result in the imposition by the Secretary of a civil penalty of $250,000.

What a surprise, take a little in 2005, go for more in 2006. The next part I didn’t print goes into importing Canadian prescription drugs and, if the federal government doesn’t grant the state a waiver, a mandate that the state Attorney General file suit against the federal government.

Again, the Delegate who sponsored HB 1510 is James W. Hubbard, of District 23A. I realize it’s a longshot to find a Republican in PG County to try and unseat him, but this nutjob has got to go. A more realistic thing to do would be to encourage our Delegates to stop HB 1510 dead in its tracks. According to the General Assembly website, this bill was rereferred to the Health and Government Operations subcommittee yesterday. Let’s make sure it doesn’t see the light of day again.

WCRC meeting – February 2006

Once again, I took part of my evening and attended this month’s Wicomico County Republican Club meeting. We had about 30 in attendance this time.

As far as club business goes, our finances are still double what they were last year, although it was pointed out that this time in 2005 was right after the 2004 elections so the old amount should be used with caution when comparing. But the club didn’t do much for the 2005 local elections either since they were technically nonpartisan. Membership was up to 95 paid members, but I’m not one (yet), simply because I forgot my checkbook! Additionally, 8 members paid at the “elephant” level, which is additional money donated to the club.

Elected officials present were Wicomico County Councilman Gail Bartkovich and Worcester County Commissioner Sonny Bloxom (as noted last month, he’s running for Delegate in District 38B.) Also present was County Council candidate Dorothy White of District 5, the northeast portion of the county. (That district’s actually right across the road from me.)

Our speaker this month was Michael Grissom from the Maryland GOP. The Florida native is actually better known as the political director for Katherine Harris’s 2004 congressional campaign, now he’s working for the MGOP. He also worked with the Kilgore campaign last year in Virginia. You win some, you lose some.

Grissom noted a few things about this year’s approach to the Maryland races, particularly retaining Governor Ehrlich and electing Michael Steele to the U.S. Senate. The two things I found most interesting about his remarks was the emphasis on “microtargeting” and the effort come Election Day (or, actually, more like Election Week thanks to the D’s – vote early and often!) to assure as much as possible a clean election. That would be lawyers on the ground. If the D’s can pony up lawyers, so can we.

“Microtargeting” is fascinating – it’s targeting newer residents and based on consumer preferences, where certain traits show up in those who are more likely conservative. The example Grissom gave was if a person owned a Ford F-150 pickup, had a concealed carry permit, and subscribed to Field and Stream, they would more than likely be conservative and a probable Republican voter. (I guess on the flip side, if you drive a Volvo, subscribe to the New York Times, and have seen “Brokeback Mountain” 5 times, it’s likely you’re a moonbat who votes straight ticket Democrat – if there’s no Greens on the ballot.)

Additionally, Grissom told us that a field staffer for the Eastern Shore would be coming soon, at first based out of the Easton area because it’s centrally located on the Shore, but eventually by fall there would be a staffer for us on the south end of the Eastern Shore, as well as one on the north end. There’s going to be 5 or 6 field staffers in Maryland to start, our small population dictates one shared amongst the whole Eastern Shore for now.

A good question came from an attendee at that point. His concern was about Ehrlich and Steele “getting their message out” given the pro-Democrat slant of most Maryland media outlets. The key, explained Grissom, is getting the message out via the grassroots. Just talk up your neighbors (or be a blogger like me!) This helps to increase GOP turnout – while the stated goal is 80% in Wicomico County, it was revealed that GOP turnout in 2004 was 82% and 2002 GOP turnout was about 78%. So their “goal” is about the norm – but additional registered Republicans can also make a difference even with similar numbers.

Some other comments during this portion of the meeting:

Governor Ehrlich has not decided on a running mate yet, but it sounds like he has a short list being kept close to the vest at this time.

Polling was described as being “within percentage points” although Rasmussen showed Michael Steele down double digits to Ben Cardin. This poll was taken shortly after the stem-cell comment apology though.

There will be “slate money” for local campaigns to use this year, as Grissom noted the Maryland GOP has raised an “amazing amount of money.” Sonny Bloxom chimed in that if he raises a certain amount by the primary, the state GOP will kick in campaign money as well. If you use the vote total for the 2004 presidential election in Maryland as a guide, the campaign for governor may cost upwards of $25 per vote and the Senate campaign $12.50 per vote. That makes the numbers scary large in reality.

And, of course, after Grissom finished with his informative talk (and left to head home to Baltimore – we appreciate him coming down!) there were other issues discussed at the meeting. Most important to me was the County Council’s upcoming agenda, as budget issues take center stage in April and May. Impact fees or no impact fees? The capital improvements budget is said to be “fairly set” though. Adding to those improvements, it was announced tonight to us that money’s in the pipeline for construction to Business U.S. 13 in Salisbury, State Route 349, and U.S. 50. I knew a state representative in Ohio named John Garcia who said every time you see an orange barrel you see money from the state coming back to you. So we’ll see some money coming back to us in the form of highway improvements.

Another thing pointed out by John Bartkovich was that we need to fill our slate, still a lot of “blank” spaces on it. One complaint is that incumbents seem to be slow in deciding whether they want to run, so people who don’t want to face an incumbent also have to wait. Further, in the last couple months we’ve lost a candidate for County Executive and Sheriff who both dropped out of their race.

The club also is still looking for officers. They’ve offered me a post, I had to decline. It was more than I had a comfort level of doing at this time. I’d enjoy doing the newsletter part of it, but the other functions are more than I think I can handle – I’ve been taught to manage around my weaknesses so there you have it. That goes to being a candidate this year as well, although I hold the caveat below.

There is a Central Committee meeting a week from tonight that I would like to attend, kind of a “try before I buy” sort of thing. It’s intriguing to me in some respects but I’m a long way from running if I ever decide to.

Other upcoming events of note are a state party election school in March up in Gaithersburg, our annual booth at the Spring Festival April 28-29 (I’ll likely do that, maybe I’ll even bring brownies), the state GOP spring convention in Cambridge May 13, and way out there the Crab Feast in September. And we get to skip June and July for meetings.

Next month our speaker will be one of the two GOP Delegate candidates for District 38B, Jack Lord.

aaawww…did us bloggers upset the little ole city of Salisbury?

It’s said that “nature abhors a vacuum.” In the case of Salisbury, since the local paper or TV stations aren’t always the best source for news, something fills in the slack.

There’s always been a “rumor mill” wherever you go, but in this era of widely available Internet and the opportunity to sign up for (or buy like I did) a domain name and join the “pajamas media”, it’s very possible for a blogger to have a larger circulation and disseminate information to a larger audience than the so-called “mainstream media” outlets.

Three of my fellow Delmarva bloggers became accepted members of the media this week as all three local media outlets featured them on their news. The gist of the stories was a focus on local resident Joe Albero, a man who’s had repeated run-ins with several government entities. To those who aren’t a fan of his efforts, I suppose the term for him would be “local gadfly.” The really funny thing is that Albero doesn’t have his own blog, generally he works with and comments to the Justice for All? blog (although he has commented here on monoblogue as well.)

I’m sure all three of these blogs have rapidly increased their readership over the course of this year (let alone the last few days), as has mine (I had a record number of hits yesterday.) Monoblogue is a little different than the other three, but I do cover a lot of the same ground. It would be interesting to know what the hit rate is for the “mainstream” outlets compared to the bloggers. While it’s probably on a order of magnitude higher, I bet the gap is decreasing.

What struck me as funniest about the coverage was the Daily Times article, and particularly Mayor Tilghman’s reaction to the bloggers, “If they care for a higher level of community discussion, then I recommend they become involved in the city of Salisbury.”

Honestly, how does one become more involved with the city of Salisbury? Let’s assume for the sake of argument that at least one of the above mentioned bloggers or correspondents attends each public meeting, and looks over all the agendas and such that is public information. To me, the next step would have to be either working for the city or running for office. There’s only so many city positions that open up where an impact can be made, and you have to actually live in Salisbury to run for office (not to mention win an election.)

Once upon a time some wag said, “you can’t fight City Hall.” It becomes easy to ignore the wishes of the public when you know you have enough support from the voters to remain in the job term after term. But you can’t ignore bloggers quite as easily when they present a compelling version of events that may not be what the mayor and others in city government like to hear. So far the efforts of the bloggers have brought to light the animal deaths at the zoo (as well as their polluting the Wicomico River), the permitless dumping at the wastewater treatment plant, irregularities in annexation and zoning approvals – that’s just in Salisbury. Multiply that by 1,000 other large communities.

Maybe the best way to sum this up is if there weren’t bloggers and commenters to the sites who really cared about the place they live, it would be that much more difficult to muster up the resources for necessary change. This is the second place I’ve moved to by choice, and the first one was paid for by someone else (college.) So I’m interested in doing my part to make it a better place to live; after all, I have a stake in the community now since my job depends a lot on the well-being of the Delmarva area.

Not just our problem

With a hat tip to The American Princess, this may end up being the solution to the zoo problem.