Splitting up or making a stronger whole

In the wake of the successful Brexit vote I knew someone would resurrect this old idea.

Certainly the idea of the state of Delmarva (or as I would call it, the state of Chesapeake) has been around for generations. It’s only natural given the geographic isolation both the Chesapeake and Delaware bays provide, but reality’s heavy thud divided this sandbar somewhat unevenly into one full state and parts of two others. The full state is one of the smallest in the country by both population and geography while the states split by Chesapeake Bay have practically all of their population across the Bay – less than 10% of Maryland residents and barely 1/2% of Virginia residents live on this side.

Yet if there were a referendum on the subject, we would have a plethora of possible choices, with perhaps the top three being: one new state for the entire peninsula with a brand new slate of laws, the merger of the Eastern Shore portions of Maryland and Virginia into a greater state of Delaware, or remaining as we are. Perhaps Wilmington and New Castle County of Delaware may feel better with a more urban state like New Jersey. But then what happens to institutions like the University of Delaware, which is in New Castle County?

Obviously the politician in me likes the idea of a greater Delaware that would become a “purple” state where Republicans have a good shot of taking control. Since New Castle County boasts a population of 556,779 (according to the latest estimate) out of a state that has 945,934 (based on that same data) it’s always going to run the state of Delaware. (If you think Maryland is bad, remember no jurisdiction has more than 15% of its population. New Castle County is over half of Delaware’s.) Adding the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia would basically negate the Democratic-leaning population of New Castle with a broad area nearly equal in population but definitely more conservative-leaning.

Yet even if we can’t be part of Delaware, there are a number of things that can be done to bring us closer. My favorite (and this has been tried before) is to eliminate the sales tax from Eastern Shore counties in Maryland. (The same could be done in Virginia, although being separated by about 40 miles of Maryland makes the “Del” and “Va” a less likely pair of rivals.) Creating a business zone based on Delaware laws as applicable for the Eastern Shore could be of assistance as well.

But while this idea has plenty of benefits, it probably won’t happen in my lifetime because political power is more important than the people, It’s still a shock to me that the people of Great Britain were allowed such a referendum in the first place – obviously the liberal EU assumed everyone loved them. I expected a result more like the bid to split California up into six states, which failed to qualify for this year’s ballot. The last state to be split up was when the Union-leaning western part of Virginia seceded from the Confederate state of Virginia in 1863 – Virginia was eventually readmitted but not reunited with its former territory, which is now West Virginia. To create a new state or expand Delaware it would take the approval of all parties involved and that’s not going to happen because they need our money – and when it comes to politics we know they follow the golden rule: he who has the gold, rules.

It is nice to dream, though.

Willful ignorance?

According to multiple news reports on both the state and national level – apparently this was, to paraphrase Joe Biden, a “big f’ing deal” – Larry Hogan is now an official member of #NeverTrump. Welcome aboard.

Hogan said he doesn’t plan to vote for Trump, but was coy on his choice otherwise. “I guess when I get behind the curtain I’ll have to figure it out,” Hogan said. “Maybe write someone in, I’m not sure.” That sounds vaguely familiar, although even as moderate as Hogan can be I would imagine he’s not a Hillary supporter.

Certainly the governor would prefer to keep his questioning confined to affairs of state, but after being bugged about his choice for months once his endorsed candidate Chris Christie exited the race he obviously threw up his hands and gave the most honest answer he could. Of course, it wasn’t good enough for the Democrats who want Hogan to condemn Trump for his statements so they can beat up the downticket candidates this year, but the goal shouldn’t be to satisfy a party that’s nominating a candidate who, if she were not Bill Clinton’s wife, would likely be in prison for her actions as Secretary of State.

What’s interesting to me about this whole thing is that Hogan’s appeal cuts across many of the same lines as Donald Trump’s does. Both had crossover attraction in their election, as thousands of Democrats voted Hogan in 2014. Many of them switched parties two years later to cast a ballot for Donald Trump. At the end of last year the Maryland GOP had 971,806 voters but gained over 29,000 by the end of April to eclipse 1 million for the first time at 1,000,915. (As of the end of May they had 1,004,083.) Unfortunately, the Democrats are growing even faster as they gained 68,000 in the same December-May period. So there may be a little bit of a political calculation going there.

(Contrary to popular opinion, however, the Libertarian Party has not gained in Maryland despite Republican threats to leave if Trump was nominated. In the month after the primary they actually lost 87 voters.)

It’s worth noting that Donald Trump got 54.1% of the GOP primary vote, which translated to 248,343 votes. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton received 62.5% of the Democrat vote, which turned out to be 573,242 votes. Even Bernie Sanders outpolled Trump with 309,990 votes. GOP turnout was right about 45%, so Trump would have to get a whole lot of unaffiliated voters to have a shot. Having Hogan come out publicly against The Donald probably doesn’t assist that cause.

But the more important number to Hogan is 70 percent, which is roughly his approval rating right now. I don’t think Trump can touch that number in Maryland, and while there may be the most radical 10 percent of Trump supporters who won’t vote for Hogan in 2018 because Hogan is withholding his support, that’s only about 25,000 voters at risk – not even 1/4 of his victory margin in 2014. If 70 percent of the population likes you, it’s a pretty good bet you’ll be re-elected. (This is why the Democrats have tried to pin Trump to Hogan every chance they get.)

While I suspect that his reasoning may be a lot different than mine, I’m pleased to have Governor Hogan on my side on this one. The GOP still has an opportunity to correct course at the Cleveland convention, and I think they better take it.

A familiar sight

I may never grace the pages of The Resurgent for my writing ability, but I at least can say I contributed in some small way to the success of Erick Erickson’s venture. In an article written by Steve Berman on Friday, I had to do a double-take. “That looks like the Salisbury Trump headquarters,” I said to myself, then realized the photo looks REALLY familiar. The person who did the photo for the article (perhaps Berman) cropped the car out of the left side of the photo.

I suspect I also used this photo for Facebook as well, so it’s pretty much public domain. But I had to have a little fun with it.

Berman was a good sport, though.

Yet there was a serious element to his search.

Of course all this played out prior to the Orlando terrorist attack last night, which may make the fundraising question less relevant for Trump*, but the case that’s been made by Berman and others who question the wisdom of nominating Trump is his heretofore weak effort at raising the sort of money needed. $2 billion in free media is great for the primary, but now the actual race between Trump and the candidate the media actually supports has begun. This doesn’t count Trump’s belief that he can put California, New York, New Jersey, and “maybe” Maryland in play.

Now I was told at our state convention that the RNC would immediately chip in $25 million upon his nomination, as Trump’s message about self-funding his campaign was only for the primary. Nor does Trump have the advantages of donors made fat by government largesse or coerced dues to bankroll his campaign. While it’s possible to overcome these disadvantages on a state scale as Larry Hogan did, the fact Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six national Presidential elections tells me the Democratic formula is hard to beat. It’s going to take all these newfound passionate Trump people contributing to the ground game to win over Hillary, and do so without taking resources needed to maintain the Senate and House.

Color me, along with Berman and Wolf, a little skeptical at this point.

__________________

* The BIG caveat: it seems to me that the more anti-Trump protests and terror attacks there are, the closer Trump inches to his goal. It will be interesting to see the polls toward the end of this coming week as more is learned about the Orlando attacker.

Announcing: the 2016 monoblogue Accountability Project

For the tenth year in a row, I have graded all 188 legislators in the Maryland General Assembly based on their voting patterns on a number of key issues. Beginning with sine die back in April, I started looking into both floor and committee votes trying to find those which reflected conservative principles, with an eye on civil liberties as well. The final product, all 27 pages, can be found right here or in its usual sidebar location.

You’ll notice the look is a little different this year, as I decided to scrap the old two-column format and just give it more of a standard form that’s easier to read. I also changed the font to something a little more stylistic. On the charts themselves, I decided to eliminate the committee votes from the main chart and instead added two new pages for those votes so that all of the legislators on the committee can be more directly compared.

As for the votes themselves, the overriding theme to me was fiscal. Democrats don’t like not being in the governor’s chair to spend money, so they are trying to use their legislative majority to force Governor Hogan to spend more. To the majority, there are two advantages to this approach: not only can they give handouts to favored constituencies, but they can prevent Hogan from finding the savings he can use to cut taxes and fees. Their goal seems to be putting our governor in a position where he has to raise taxes, which is music to the ears of people like Mike Miller and Michael Busch.

So you’ll notice quite a few floor votes deal with these sort of mandates. There are also quite a few intended to strip power from the Executive Branch (which wasn’t an issue just two short years ago) and tie the hands of businesses because government needs something to justify its existence.

I note in the conclusion that there were far fewer correct votes this year, and a large part of that was the mix of bills I selected. Last year I had an average House score of 39.82 and Senate count of 41.15. This was because a lot of Democrats got scores in the 20s, and that was based on their support for marijuana and civil liberties legislation I favored. This year, not so much as the averages plummeted to 27.1 in the House and 23.26 in the Senate. Being a more hardline fiscal conservative this year (because they addressed the issues they were with me on last year) changed a lot of Democratic scores from 24 to a big fat zero. On the other hand, I had only seen two perfect scores in nine previous years but got two in one session this year for the first time.

I’ve been warned that the third year of the cycle is always the most ambitious for policy, although liberals are dangerous any year. There are a few things that were stopped this year that we will surely see in 2017, such as paid sick leave. I also expect a bid to extend the fracking moratorium as part of a broad environmental package – the wackos were strangely quiet this year but I think 2017 brings some interim deadlines and reports on Bay cleanup. Add in the trend to mandate more spending and 2017 will be an interesting time.

One final change comes in the sidebar. I’m leaving the 2015 report available as part of a long-term process to show trends for the 2015-18 term. As one example, I think the candidacies of Kathy Szeliga and David Vogt affected their voting patterns – you’ll be able to judge for yourself now.

Feel free to print yourself a copy for your use, just don’t forget where it came from.

Harris weighs in on transgender issue

In a letter to local school superintendents within his district, Congressman Andy Harris urged those officials to maintain the stance of respecting the privacy of those who use gender-specific facilities:

I realize the tenuous position the Departments of Education (DOE) and Justice have put you in through the “guidance” provided in their letter, dated 13th of May, to school districts. I urge you to continue to respect a student’s right to privacy – including girls that do not wish to undress in the presence of biological males or whose parents feel likewise. Please know the Obama Administration will not have the last word on this issue.

(snip)

(T)he Obama Administration sent the May 13th letter to school districts across the country containing “guidance” that would require all public schools to accommodate students using restrooms of their choice regardless of their biological gender. Violation of this “guidance” is, of course, under the implicit threat of withholding of federal funds and/or legal action by the DOJ. On this issue, I believe the Administration is misinterpreting federal civil rights law, and violating state’s rights. There is no statutory authority for this “guidance.” (Emphasis in original.)

Although he’s not a lawyer, Harris goes on to cite a pair of court cases that are already underway to reinforce his belief that school systems have nothing to worry about insofar as federal funding goes. And he may be correct on this point, as it will likely be months (if not years) until this winds its way through federal courts – in the meantime it’s a safe bet that most school districts will cave on this and further blur the lines between genders, all to cater to perhaps one or two students in a 1,000 student school who are truly suffering from gender dysphoria as opposed to the couple dozen who may be doing so as a rebellion against authority or to get their jollies. I thought we were supposed to celebrate differences, so what is wrong with the one or two in question having respect for their peers and using a unisex restroom as available? I suspect most kids in a school would know the situation of the student in question.

The next question, though, is when this will come down to the state level and, more importantly, when it will be impressed on Christian schools (such as the one Kim’s daughter attends) that these accommodations need to be made? It’s already becoming fair game for just anyone to use her restroom, such as at Target.

Of course, I have heard the argument that a truly transgendered person would be indistinguishable from their opposite sex in mannerisms and it’s likely they are already using the restroom of the gender they identify with. Fortunately, modern restroom design would either provide that a guy who identifies as a woman uses a stall (because a women’s room is all stalls) or that a girl that identifies as a guy uses the stalls available in the men’s room because they can’t use a standard urinal.

I think the issue is more in the realm of locker and changing rooms where it can become obvious that the biological equipment is different, and it presents an uncomfortable experience for both sides. So what is wrong with the right to privacy, particularly since the Left thinks it applies to a woman’s body in other situations?

The simple truth is no matter what surgery you subject yourself to or how many hormones you take, 99.99% of us are either male or female. (There is a very tiny group that is intersex or has a degree of those characteristics, perhaps 1 in every 2,000 births.) You simply can’t change the fact you are XX or XY at birth and it doesn’t matter whether you feel more feminine on some days – guys, stay out of the girls’ locker room. The policy in place for many, many years worked for a reason – because it was logical and respected obvious differences.

Hopefully Harris is correct about the federal government’s impotency, but that doesn’t mean school administrators will do the right thing as illustrated above.

The conservative’s conundrum (revised and extended)

In the wake of my original remarks I had quite a bit of reaction on social media, and the balance of support vs. “throw the bum out if he doesn’t resign” seems to be about 50/50. The latter category, however, seems to be almost exclusively Trump supporters who didn’t seem to hear the part at the state convention (or read my reporting) about being tolerant to those who don’t support The Donald.

I do have one issue with a completely different segment of the Trump opposition that is physically attacking Trump supporters such as those in California. Since many of these young punks have no concept of history, let me throw something out at you that was actually before my time, too.

Back in 1968, the Democratic Party had its convention in Chicago. As it turned out, then-President Johnson declared himself out of the running after a disappointing showing in the New Hampshire primary, opening up the field to a group of candidates that was cut down by one with the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy that June after the California primary. Coupled with an escalating Vietnam war and race riots in response to the murder of the Rev. Martin Luther King two months beforehand, all creating a population already on pins and needles, the violent Democratic convention shocked a population as it was punctuated by scenes of daily protests and violence captured nightly on the evening news. (Remember, there was no internet back then so the sources of national news information were the nightly TV news and daily newspaper. National conventions also received wall-to-wall coverage on the networks in that era.) Across America’s heartland, it was easy for the law-and-order campaign of Republican Richard Nixon to be successful as voters were sickened by the strife associated with the 1968 Democrats.

So when you are out protesting Donald Trump by waving Mexican flags and shouting anti-American slogans, it’s a surefire way to rally support to his side. Quite honestly, I’m surprised some conspiracy theorist hasn’t put out the idea that the Trump protestors are an inside job by his own side to galvanize support. This is an election that has a lot of the hallmarks of the 1968 campaign, and Donald Trump isn’t a half-bad impersonation of Richard Nixon.

But back to my story regarding Trump supporters, who remind me that “You do not and are not willing to represent the nominee that the voters who you represent prefer.” This particular one pointed out that there were 7.200 county voters who supported Trump. (7,214, but who’s counting?)

So let’s make the leap in assuming they are against the status quo in Washington, which seems to be Trump’s selling point. Well, I also represent the 8,775 Wicomico County voters who were happy to support Andy Harris and I have no problem working for his re-election because I find him conservative enough. I’m not quite so down with the 2,839 Kathy Szeliga supporters but she will still get my vote. Both of them have been loyal and conservative Republicans for years, unlike Trump. Commitment to limited government (not to mention tact, trustworthiness, and a command of the English language) is something I find sorely lacking from Trump.

And then we have this diatribe from that same person:

Your role as a Central Committee member is to advance the party, and that means whomever the nominee is after the primary, you work to beat the Democrat! If you cannot do that in good conscious (sic) you should resign.

Well, this is interesting because I did a quick bit of investigation and found out this person was a diehard Ron Paul supporter in 2012 and basically has had the desire to stick it to the Republican Party since then. In fact, it’s intriguing to me that a number of folks I know as Paul supporters and who are supposedly pro-liberty are supporting perhaps the most anti-liberty Republican in the race simply because they perceive him as anti-establishment. Seems to me that in this person’s opinion the GOP wasn’t worth advancing:

I’ve been saying this for a long time…This man is not, and never has been a Republican…he is an Obama operative….a couple stupid neocons jumped all over me for calling that shot but now, who’s eating crow?…..You stupid neocons are soooooo scared about Ron Paul running as a third party….you defended this schmuck and now it looks as though he’s the spoiler!!

Everyone is entitled to change their mind and I respect that. But perhaps you might want to pardon me for thinking – like you did once upon a time – that Donald Trump is the spoiler.

Honestly, if I really didn’t think the Republican Party as a conservative vehicle was about to throw two decades’ worth of my sweat and toil away by nominating a particular candidate, would I speak out? Would I really give a rat’s rear end?

Oh, and by the way – our county does have a provision where we can withhold support from a nominee as a group. So at this point it’s still possible we won’t back Trump thanks to what’s known as the David Duke rule. And while Duke hasn’t officially endorsed Trump, he did state that voting for anyone but Trump is “voting against your heritage.”

Consider that as you continue to react.

The conservative’s conundrum

Thanks to social media, I found out my good friend and “partner in crime” Heather Olsen was leaving her post as the Chair of the Prince George’s County Republican Party. While she was not specific about her reasoning, it soon became apparent that she could not and would not support Donald Trump as the standard-bearer of the national Republican Party. So she did what she thought was the most honorable thing and resigned her post.

Seeing that news and my reaction – “I’m sorry to see my ‘partner in crime’ go, but it’s principle over party for some of us,” I had another political friend of mine ask me if I was leaving the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee. I’m going to answer that question in due course, but in answer to the later query my friend had regarding how many people would resign from their respective Central Committees if our presumptive nominee becomes the guy on the ballot, I think it’s hard to say because there is a normal turnover of members from these bodies. Our county Central Committee was a rare exception to this as the nine who were elected in 2010 all served their full term. Already this time, though, we have had one personnel shift as I returned to replace a member who had to resign due to an employment change. So the #NeverTrump group wouldn’t be much of a dent considering the number who leave for various other reasons: change of employment, loss of interest, or inability to get along with their group.

Olsen and her solution of resignation is one end of the spectrum, and it’s certainly a valid reaction. On the other hand, you have Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland, who was ready to drop the GOP like a bad habit after the primary knowing they were nominating a “sh*t sandwich” but is now in the camp of staying for the others on the ballot. But Griffiths doesn’t hold a current position in the party, so he can easily enough be a bombthrower.

My position is different, but perhaps more similar to Brian’s. The simple reason for this is that I have no intention to run for office again so that aspect will not matter to me. (Besides, since this website predates my tenure on the Central Committee it’s hardly been a secret where I stand on any political issue.) So just let me say this: there may be candidates on the Maryland presidential ballot who will exemplify the traditional three-legged conservative stool of fiscal responsibility, strong national defense, and support for Judeo-Christian values more fully than the nominee of the party who is supposed to stand for these things. Will any of those candidates win? It’s doubtful, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Maryland politics it’s that Republicans who try to beat liberal Democrats at their own game don’t stand a chance because when the chips are down liberals will vote for the real thing. I’m not convinced there is a clear distinction between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton with regard to the overall direction they will take this country.

So I stand as #NeverTrump.

But having said that it doesn’t mean I’m not for Kathy Szeliga or Andy Harris down the ballot. While Szeliga has had a disappointing voting record this year, I still see broad differences between her and her career politician opponent, Chris Van Hollen. As for Andy, I endorsed him in the primary and he won convincingly – enough said. They may be for Trump, and I’m okay with that. There’s also the local school board issue on our Wicomico County ballot where we need to achieve the desired result of a fully-elected board beginning in 2018.

And it was said at the convention that we should have tolerance for those with opposite views, so I tolerate Trump supporters as best I can. (It’s difficult sometimes.)

Naturally this leads to the question of how the Maryland GOP will react to this declaration. Well, it seems to me that a member of their Executive Committee was once a proud member of Republicans for Obama, and I’m certainly not supporting Hillary – if anything, I’m rooting for a repeat of the 1824 election that was decided by the House and praying sanity will reign therein. So it might be a touch hypocritical for them to speak out.

It’s worth repeating that I’m not standing for re-election and that my term runs through the 2018 general election. I also am quite aware that the state party bylaws spell out sanctions that “may include a vote of censure and/or a request for the resignation of that member,” but I’m not going to honor such a request unless I see fit to. I will leave the Central Committee at a time of my choosing, not theirs.

When I was sworn in as a member I took an oath to uphold both the United States and Maryland Constitutions as well as abide by the bylaws of the Maryland Republican Party “with diligence to the best of (my) skill, abilities, and judgment.” It is my judgment that supporting Donald Trump for President, despite the fact he is the presumptive Republican nominee, will be detrimental to the overall platform and positions that have generally been associated with the Republican Party since the era of President Reagan. Thus I cannot support him and will back a candidate who better exhibits these qualities.

And since I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks this way, the Maryland GOP should tread carefully. One Presidential election is not worth risking your stock of committed conservatives over.

Libertarians select two ex-Republicans

You know, for the bad reputation Republicans have politically they seem to get around.

As expected, the most major of the various “third parties” nominated onetime New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson to repeat as their Presidential standard-bearer and former Massachusetts Governor William Weld as his running mate. The biggest surprise seemed to be that both Johnson and Weld won on the second ballot, both coming up just a few votes short of a majority on the first.

It sets up an interesting situation for the party, for there are a number of purists who may be a #NeverJohnson faction of the party, although the total number of Libertarians in the country is but a small percentage of the electorate. But for those who are not thrilled with the choice of Trump vs. Clinton, Johnson has some appeal in the following ways:

  • Budget.  Johnson pledges to “submit to Congress a truly balanced budget. No gimmicks, no imaginary cuts in the distant future. Real reductions to bring spending into line with revenues, without tax increases. No line in the budget will be immune from scrutiny and reduction.” After the collective heart attack on K Street, we will certainly watch Congress begin to play the game with him and bring on a budgetary crisis.
  • Taxes. He also “advocates the elimination of tax subsidies, the double taxation embodied in business income taxes, and ultimately, the replacement of all income and payroll taxes with a single consumption tax that will allow every American and every business to determine their tax burden by making their own spending decisions. Taxes on purchases for basic necessities would be ‘prebated’, with all other purchases taxed equally regardless of income, status or purpose.” I’m cool with this, as I’ve advocated the FairTax for years. It would be something for the second term, though, and you can bet the lobbyists will fight that to the last man as well.
  • Term Limits. “Johnson is a strong advocate of term limits. Run for office, spend a few years doing the job at hand, and then return to private life. That’s what Gary Johnson did as Governor, and that’s what Senators and Representatives should do.” The libertarian purists wouldn’t be down for this since it arbitrarily limits choice, and I used to feel the same way. But since the Constitution allows for Presidential term limits (thanks to Republicans jealous of FDR) it should also allow for Congressional ones, too.
  • Role of Government. This is where Johnson takes a page from Trump’s promises to clean up Washington, but means it. “Government regulation should only exist to protect citizens from bad actors and the harm they might do to health, safety and property. Regulation should not be used to manipulate behavior, manage private lives and businesses, and to place unnecessary burdens on those who make our economy work.”
  • Foreign Policy. Johnson is not a neocon to be sure. “The U.S. must get serious about cutting off the millions of dollars that are flowing into the extremists’ coffers every day. Relationships with strategic allies must be repaired and reinforced. And the simplistic options of ‘more boots on the ground’ and dropping more bombs must be replaced with strategies that will isolate and ultimately neuter those who would, if able, destroy the very liberties on which this nation is founded.” It’s a nicer way of calling the last few military actions errant than Trump did.
  • Education. “Johnson believes there is no role for the Federal Government in education. He would eliminate the federal Department of Education, and return control to the state and local levels. He opposes Common Core and any other attempts to impose national standards and requirements on local schools, believing the key to restoring education excellence in the U.S. lies in the innovation, freedom and flexibility that federal interference inherently discourage.

Certainly there is a lot of debate whether the Johnson/Weld ticket would be good on social issues, as they dance around the idea of Judeo-Christian values. But there is the hope that Johnson will be added to the Presidential debates in order to bring these differences out to the voting public.

By virtue of being the Libertarian Party standard-bearer, Johnson is automatically included on the Maryland ballot.

A lack of ink in the veto pen

I have generally associated Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend news dumps with the party of our current President, but Governor Hogan took advantage of the impending holiday weekend to announce he’s allowing 39 Senate and 45 House bills to become law without his signature. Hogan is vetoing just six bills at the end of this session, with two of them being crossfiled versions of a bill that would increase renewable energy mandates that will be featured on my monoblogue Accountability Project. In his veto letter for HB1106/SB921, Hogan conceded the idea was sound but that this measure took things too far when ratepayers are already shelling out a collective $104 million in compliance fees in 2014, the last year for which data was available.

The renewable portfolio standard wasn’t the only mAP bill Hogan vetoed – two other ones had to do with transportation and the fallout from Hogan’s decision to pull the plug on Baltimore’s Red Line. Back in April, Hogan vetoed the infamous Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016 only to have General Assembly Democrats rise up and override him. The veto vote was the one I used for the HB1013 slot of the mAP.

Hogan also chastised General Assembly Democrats for their support of SB907, which would have mandated a $75 million annual payment toward a replacement for the Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge, which carries U.S. 301 over the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia. Hogan noted that this project is already in the pipeline, calling the legislation “absolutely unnecessary.” This will also be an mAP vote.

A third bill that I didn’t use as an mAP vote – but which also deals with transportation – was HB1010, which would have created the Maryland Transit Administration Oversight and Planning Board. Governor Hogan called it “a sophomoric attack on sound transportation policy,” noting also that the board would be stacked with members from the urban counties.

The other two bills Hogan vetoed were comparatively minor. One dealt with a proposed mixed-use project at Morgan State University in Baltimore, while the other claimed the proposed Maryland Education Development Collaborative ran afoul of the state constitution by placing General Assembly members in a position where they would be doing executive functions.

I’m sure some part of the equation whether Hogan vetoed the bills or not had to do with the likelihood of a veto being sustained, so here are the margins of passage for each of these bills:

  • HB1106: House 92-46, Senate 32-14. Override possible by 11 votes in House, 5 in the Senate.
  • SB921: Senate 31-14, House 91-48. Override possible by 5 votes in Senate, 9 in House.
  • SB907: Senate 33-12, House 90-50. Override possible by 7 votes in Senate, 7 in House.
  • HB1010: House 87-51, Senate 28-19. Override possible by 6 votes in House, but Senate can uphold veto if all 19 maintain their votes.
  • SB540 (Morgan State): Senate 41-0, House 113-22. Override likely: Senate would need to find 19 votes and House 35.
  • SB910 (MEDC) passed without objection in both houses, but will likely have GOP support for a veto. If so, they need 5 Senate Democrats or 7 House Democrats to join them.

Given those results, I’m quite disappointed Hogan didn’t veto more bills. Not only does it put Democrats on record opposing a popular centrist governor, but it also slows down the General Assembly and hopefully makes the more centrist members of the majority rethink their support of bad legislation. It was pointed out to me recently that Hogan won 71 legislative districts but only 50 Republicans were elected to the House – thus, in theory the GOP can get a majority for the first time in generations in 2018. Dream big. (Sometime I should look into this claim.)

One other issue with this is that Hogan’s slow veto deliberations removed any opportunity to petition the most egregious legislation to referendum. However, I say this knowing that we aren’t taking advantage when opportunity knocks – I honestly believe felon voting should have been petitioned to referendum (as an act this year thanks to the veto override vote, it could have.)  Let’s see if 80 percent really oppose it.

So it will turn out that the vast majority of bills on my mAP – all of which I opposed for the floor vote – will become law anyway. I think we’re reaching way too far across the aisle in this state considering how little we get in return, so in my view Hogan should have really played hardball. At some point a number of these bills are going to bite us, but now we won’t even get the luxury of a repreieve for a few months. Thanks, Larry.

The third party alternative

For decades, millions of Americans have complained that their Presidential choices consist of someone more evil against someone slightly less evil. Since we don’t have compulsory voting, those people have taken the option to skip voting altogether, with Presidential election turnout in 2012 estimated at 57.5%. Put another way, “none of the above” trounced both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama as they each only picked up around 29% of the registered voters.

But the fact that neither Democrats nor Republicans seem to be completely pleased with their presumptive nominees has brought out those who believe the Libertarian Party is best poised to make a little bit of inroads among the voting population. This seems to happen every cycle, but by the time the votes are cast the Libertarians are usually stuck with between 1/2 and 1 percent of the vote, By comparison, independent efforts from Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 garnered a vastly larger percentage of the vote, and those of us who are a certain age recall liberal Republican John Anderson and his 1980 Presidential bid, which got 6.6% of the vote against incumbent Jimmy Carter and eventual winner Ronald Reagan. (Perot received 18.9% in 1992 and 8.4% in 1996, both times denying Bill Clinton a majority of the vote.)

Of course, with the unpopularity of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, who both have significant shares of voters on the principled edges of their respective parties declaring their intentions to not vote for the nominee, there is the luster of an independent run by a conservative like Ted Cruz or a socialist like Bernie Sanders. The idea falls apart, though, thanks to early ballot access deadlines in several states and “sore loser” laws preventing defeated Democrats or Republicans from going back on the ballot a second time in a particular cycle for the same office.

So here in Maryland there are only four party lines: Republican, Democrat, Green Party, or Libertarian. Each has a place on the ballot, and since I’m nowhere near caring who runs for the Green Party my focus for this is on the Libertarian ticket, where their nominating convention will be held in Orlando this weekend. Their field of 18 recognized candidates actually exceeds the original GOP field, but for all intents and purposes the balloting is going to come down to three: Gary Johnson, John McAfee, or Austin Petersen.

Johnson has the highest profile, but I suspect the purists of the LP are a little leery of him because he ran and governed as a member of the Republican Party. He originally sought the GOP nomination in 2012, but left early on to pursue and secure the Libertarian nod, getting the LP past the million-vote barrier in a Presidential election for the first time. He’s already selected former Massachusetts Governor William Weld as his running mate, making it a ticket of two former governors.

John McAfee is the guy whose name is synonymous with computer software, and in some respects is the Trump of the Libertarian field. He seems quite brash to me and of the three I would give him the least chance of winning. But it’s a convention and anything can happen.

There are a number of conservatives openly rooting for Petersen to win (Erick Erickson is the latest) for various reasons, not the least of which is a platform which is rather tolerable to those Republicans disgruntled with Trump. (One example: “Encourage a culture of life, and adoption, and educate Americans about the ‘consistent pro-life ethic,’ which also means abolishing the death penalty.”) I could get behind the pro-life portion, although I differ with Petersen on the death penalty believing there are circumstances where one forfeits his right to life by committing heinous deeds. Another more in a mainstream libertarian vein (that I can agree with): “Allow young people to opt out of Social Security.” I give Petersen the outside chance of winning, but I suspect there’s just enough support for Johnson/Weld to give them the nod.

Regardless of who wins, though, the pattern will probably work this way: over the summer the LP will poll in the high single-digits and may crack 10% nationally in some polls. But sometime around October these campaigns reach a point where voters decide they really want to back the winner, not some guy polling 10 percent. They’ll forswear their allegiance to the LP for the chance to say, yes, I backed Trump or Clinton in the election. Or in a lot of cases they’ll just say, “screw it, I’m staying home because my guy has zero chance.” Given that the support for the LP seems to be coming more from the Republican side right now, that attitude could lose the Senate for the GOP.

So on Tuesday we will know just who the LP nominee is, and the #NeverTrump group will have to decide if he (or, the slight possibility of she) is worth losing party privilege over.

WCRC meeting – May 2016

The fact that Memorial Day occurs on a somewhat rare fifth Monday of the month this year provided the WCRC with an “extra” meeting this year, and they took advantage by scheduling something that’s becoming a tradition: the annual Legislative Wrapup. All six Republican members of our local delegation (from Districts 37 and 38) were invited – but thanks to a number of calendar conflicts, only two of them came. It was ladies’ night for the delegation as Delegate Mary Beth Carozza and Senator Addie Eckardt gave their accounts of the recently completed session. (Delegate Chris Adams made the attempt to stop by, but came just after we wrapped up.)

So once we did our usual Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introduction of distinguished guests, Eckardt got the meeting underway by praising the state’s $42 billion budget, which needed no new taxes for balance. The reason for this was that the Hogan cabinet was finding more efficiencies in their respective departments, enabling the state to become more business-friendly. One way they were doing this was through fee reduction, although Eckardt noted that some Democrats were fretting that fees were getting too low. Yet the budget allowed for a reduction in the structural deficit and did not feature a BRFA, the omnibus bill where spending mandates are often buried. This year’s spending had “full transparency,” said Addie.

But the push to reduce taxation was one goal of the Augustine Commission, explained Addie. Sadly, the broader tax reform package could not pass thanks to the question of passing a package mandating expanded paid sick leave - despite the fact changes to the earned income tax credit would have helped thousands of working Maryland families that I thought the majority party deigned to represent.

On the other side of that Augustine coin, Addie continued, was the idea of being responsive to constituents; to “change the tenor of government.” This went with a drive to bring things to the county level, as Addie noted “local control is important to me.”

One complaint Eckardt had about the session was the “crusade to get the Red Line back.” It led to the passage of what’s known as the “Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016.” (I call it the “Revenge for Not Funding the Red Line in Baltimore” Act.) While the bill overall is terrible, Eckardt noted it was amended somewhat to give local jurisdictions a little more priority.

And while she was pleased Wicomico County would be receiving an additional $8.7 million from the state for various projects, Addie was more passionate about a series of initiatives to bolster mental health and combat addiction around the state. She was also happy to see the Justice Reinvestment Act pass, which was a bipartisan effort at criminal justice reform. The state was also doing more to address mental and behavioral health, particularly since she claimed later in the evening it took someone who was addicted and incarcerated two years to re-integrate fully. This led to a discussion about what the state and local governments were doing to deal with the issue of homelessness, to which Muir Boda revealed the city of Salisbury would be embarking on a Housing First program modeled after one in the state of Utah.

Between Eckardt’s main presentation and the later discussion about mental and behavioral health issues, we heard Delegate Carozza’s perspective. She began by praising the club for being a group of workers and doers when it came to advocacy, with the optimistic view that “this is our time…Governor Hogan is turning the state around.” But that was a process which would take at least eight years, said Mary Beth. As an aside, she also believed that Kathy Szeliga was “the candidate that can win” the U.S. Senate seat, which would also lay the groundwork for Larry Hogan’s re-election campaign.

Both she and Eckardt, added Carozza, were in the position to support the budget thanks to their respective committees. They could succeed making suggestions for “walling off” funds for supplemental budget proposals, of which there were two or three each year. And while this budget allowed for what Carozza termed “a well-rounded tax package,” only a minor tax break for Northrop Grumman made it through. But the “good news” out of that was that it was making Mike Busch and Mike Miller talk about tax relief, making it a stronger possibility we may see some in 2017.

As for some of her priorities, Carozza was happy to see the bomb threat bill she sponsored make it through the General Assembly in its second try. (A similar proposal was introduced by then-Delegate Mike McDermott in 2013, said Mary Beth.) She commented about how the broad community support, combined with the “sense of urgency” provided by a series of bomb threats making the news earlier this year, allowed the bill to pass easily. Another bill she was happy to shepherd through was the ABLE bill, which allows the disabled to save money for dealing with their medical-related expenses without jeopardizing their means-tested benefits.

She also stressed that killing bad bills was a part of the job as well, citing the defeat of the poultry litter and “farmer’s rights” bills where she praised Delegates Carl Anderton and Charles Otto as they “led the charge” against those measures. Mary Beth also took the unusual step of personally testifying against the assisted suicide bill and worked to amend the sick leave bill to exempt more seasonal employees. On that bill, she predicted “we’re going to see it again next session.”

Even after hearing all that information, we had some business to do, like the treasurer’s report and Central Committee report that Dave Parker delivered. He called the recent state convention the “get over it, people” convention, noting the party seemed pretty well unified afterward. Even local radio host Don Rush had difficulty finding disunity among a group of Republicans who were his guests last Friday, Parker added. On the other hand, “Hillary can’t close the deal” on the Democratic side.

I added my two cents about the convention to his report, pointing out the National Committeeman race was perhaps the biggest bone of contention and that was relatively minor. But the Fall Convention may be interesting because we will be electing a new Chair, and the question is whether it will be someone who will work more for Larry Hogan’s re-election or to bolster the GOP numbers in the General Assembly. A Hogan win, I added, would make redistricting the key focus for the second term – personally, I think we should strive for single-member districts and Eckardt agreed based on its impact to minorities.

Shelli Neal updated us on the Greater Wicomico Republican Women, who would be holding their next meeting June 16 at Adam’s Taphouse. They had two tickets to the Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in Crisfield to raffle off as part of a membership meeting for the newly-christened organization.

Another fairly new creation was the Wicomico Teenage Republicans, which had “a great start of a club” according to Nate Sansom. While their next meeting was slated for this coming Friday, they planned on taking a summer break and reconvening in August once school started back up. With a group of “passionate people, happy to be involved,” Sansom believed his group would focus on statewide campaigns like Kathy Szeliga’s as well as the local We Decide Wicomico campaign for an elected school board.

Representing the statewide College Republicans, their Chair Patty Miller was hoping to reach each county Central Committee at one of their meetings over the next few months and “see what they need from us.” Her first stop will be this week in Calvert County.

Jim Jester reminded us the Crab Feast would be September 10, but stressed the need for more volunteers – particularly to handle admissions and the silent auction.

Shawn Jester pointed out the WCRC Scholarship winners had a brief story in the Daily Times. But, since the subject was volunteering, he was also looking for people to help out at Third Friday, which we missed this month because no one was available. On that note, a signup sheet was passed around. (We will also need help for upcoming events such as the Wicomico County Fair, Good Beer Festival, and Autumn Wine Festival.)

After all that discussion, and seeing that we had a legislative update where the topic wasn’t addressed, I added one thing to the conversation. General Assembly Democrats sponsored a large number of bills this year that mandated spending. To me, this is an effort to handcuff Larry Hogan when it comes to budgeting but also leaves less room for tax reform. Many of these bills may become law without Hogan’s signature, but they will be law just the same. It’s an issue that I think needs a strategy to address, perhaps a reverse BRFA to eliminate mandates.

We are going to try and get the guys who didn’t show up this month to come to our June meeting, so stay tuned. It will be June 27.

A different sort of accountability

May 22, 2016 · Posted in Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

The other day I received a reminder that Heritage Action had updated its Congressional scorecard. And for those who believe that our Congressman Andy Harris isn’t as conservative as he makes himself out to be, it should be noted that his 90% rating puts him in the top 20 on Congress overall, or the 95th percentile if you will.  It’s a score that Harris currently shares with some of the more libertarian heroes of Congress, such as Justin Amash and Thomas Massie, as well as Presidential candidate Marco Rubio. (Ted Cruz was among the top 3 at 100%, along with Mike Lee and Ken Buck of Colorado.)

But one weakness I’m finding with the Heritage Action scorecard is just what issues they consider important – there’s no easy way to determine what bills and votes they deemed important enough to include. Certainly I trust the Heritage Foundation to be a conservative watchdog as they have been for many years, but it would be nice to have their scorecard reflect what the scores are based upon.

On the other hand, I present no such problem with my monoblogue Accountability Project because I explain just why I vote as I would. (By and large, it’s opposition to the lunacy Democrats put out on an annual basis, although I am also far more of a budget hawk than most as well.) In this year’s roster of legislation, there were anywhere from five to fifty-odd votes per bill on my side in the House and two to twenty per bill in the Senate. None of those I sided with this year became law, unlike last year where I won a couple.

If you follow monoblogue on social media (and you should) you’ll notice I’m making steady progress on this year’s edition, which I am slating to release June 6. Actually, what pushes this into June is a fairly recent phenomenon.

Back when Martin O’Malley was governor, I never had to worry about vetoed bills and pretty much everything that was placed in front of him by the Democratic-controlled Maryland General Assembly was signed in short order. But with Larry Hogan in office, I have to pay attention to what’s called the “date of presentment.” This tripped me up last year in discussing the post-session because I thought Hogan had 30 days after session to sign/veto bills, not realizing there was a date of presentment involved. (O’Malley always seemed to sign things as quickly as possible.) This year the date of presentment was May 1 (20 days after session) so the drop-dead date for a Hogan veto is May 31, or 30 days after presentment.

Where this affects me is what I call the “disposition” of each bill. Not only do I tally the votes, but I make sure readers know the fate of each bill. It was easy (if depressing) when MOM was in office because I could simply write something along the lines of “Governor O’Malley signed this bill May 5.” Now I have bills that are allowed to become law without Hogan’s signature and actual vetoes to deal with, so it makes me wait until the coast is clear June 1 to figure out final disposition. Hence, I have to wait to put it out. In truth, the compiling is easier than ever because I’ve done it so long and can fill out the spreadsheet I use rather quickly.

So you are two weeks away from getting your hands on this hot little item, which so far has been a great horse race as I compile votes and find multiple members still have a chance at a perfect score. Now if we could only get that number of perfect scorers up to 188, or at least a good working majority in each chamber, this state may be getting somewhere.

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