Last year, Delegate Mark Fisher did what only three others in the decade of my monoblogue Accountability Project have done: compiled a perfect 25-for-25 vote score. Unfortunately for him, 2016 brought two such scores and based on his overall record and other factors my Legislator of the Year was fellow Delegate Warren Miller, who compiled the other perfect mark.
But Fisher has put up an interesting proposal that reflects a desire to limit government, at least as part of an e-mail I received. Here are a couple excerpts:
Each year, Maryland has a 90-day Legislative Session. Over 3,000 bills are proposed each year that seek to limit your freedoms and stifle prosperity. And so the question arises: How does Virginia, a much larger state, survive with only a 60-day Session during even years – and a 46-day Session during odd years?
The answer is simple – Annapolis elites believe that your prosperity comes from government.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way. A shorter, 60-day legislative session combined with a modest salary of $18,000.00, like Virginia, is a good start. When a legislature has less time to meet, there’s less time to meddle.
It’s true that other states have differing rules on their legislative sessions, as does Congress. But in all honesty, the state legislature really has just one job, and that’s to approve the budget. Instead, they do meddle in a lot of things and more often than not, they remove county authority in favor of the state. While there’s a stated goal among many to be “One Maryland,” the reality is that the Annapolis perception of “One Maryland” is a lot different than the reality we live with. Our Maryland is slower-paced, doesn’t rely on the federal government for employment, and would prefer local control of many entities, such as planning and zoning and our schools. We also have competition that’s unique to our part of the state for business and retail establishments, as those across the Mason-Dixon and Transpeninsular lines in Delaware toil in a state known for being business-friendly and without a sales tax.
Yet if Fisher wants to cut into the sum total of legislation, he doesn’t necessarily need to shorten the session. Perhaps there needs to be a regulation in place that creates a sunset date for all new bills so that they need to be revisited every few years. (Some bills already feature this, so they have to be dealt with at appropriate times.)
I think he has the right idea on this one, but I’m sure it’s an idea that goes nowhere given the state of our state.
Sometime tomorrow the Maryland General Assembly will be gaveled back to life and your freedom and wallets will once again be at peril.
While those of us who are familiar with social media know about the push to repeal the “road kill bill” passed last year over the objection of Governor Hogan, to me it’s more telling that the very first House bill out of the chute will be the mandated sick leave bill. The next one is a bid to expand the earned income tax credit, including to those who are childless.
But in reading through the list of pre-filed bills, there’s not a whole lot of exceptionally radical stuff – although the bill to mandate “stop and frisk zone” signage in Baltimore City gives me a lot of pause. There are also a couple of mandated spending bills already on the table, which is par for the course insofar as the majority in the body is concerned.
I suspect this session will be among the most rancorous yet as Democrats, desperate to knock down Larry Hogan’s approval rating, are going to throw everything he wants in a desk drawer and toss out the key; meanwhile, they will certainly do their level best to muck up the works and prepare the state for the 2018 Democratic campaign, which will employ the tactic of portraying Larry Hogan as a do-nothing governor.
I can see this coming a mile away, and actually the direction of legislation may be an indicator of who his opponents may be: legislators always try to bring home a little bacon for their districts, but if the idea is that of making a particular county-level executive look good (think Kevin Kamenetz) then there may be even extra effort to mandate spending for the county – never mind the rest of the state.
Of course, the flip side of the equation is that a whole lot of common-sense legislation will never make it out of committee because it would limit government, enhance freedom, or make things easier for business to succeed. But that’s why I look at the legislation every so often, and doubly why I do the monoblogue Accountability Project because people should know what happens to these more conservative, pro-liberty measures and how they never make it out of committee. If mandated paid sick leave makes it to a floor vote, I would say there’s a 99% chance that becomes one of my votes.
So now is the time to be vigilant, and let’s hope that the Hogan budget holds the line on spending this year. If you’re already going to be accused of cutting everything under the sun, you may as well be blamed for something you actually do.
For years I have dubbed the annual Maryland General Assembly session the “90 days of terror,” and with good reason: no wallet or personal liberty is safe when the statists who inhabit most of the seats therein get together. Over the eight years of the previous two terms we endured tax increases, spending boondoggles, and enough new regulations to choke a horse, not to mention three measures which were petitioned to referendum by angry citizens.
While a new broom swept the governor’s office clean last year, Larry Hogan needed to get his sea legs under him as he took the helm of the ship of state so he didn’t create a huge legislative agenda last year – in a broad sense, it was about easing some of the tax burden Marylanders had been subjected to over the O’Malley administration, including repeals of the rain tax and automatic increases in the gasoline tax. Other items Hogan focused on were charter school reform and public campaign financing, which were among the few items Hogan had passed.
So since Hogan didn’t get his tax relief last year, it’s the front and center item on his 2016 agenda that kicks off later today. Democrats, of course, believe shoveling money into a bloated public education system is more important than giving hard-working Marylanders a tax break.
Something else to keep an eye on, though, are the department-sponsored bills, which now will bear the stamp of Hogan’s departmental appointees. Just like the governor, this is their first full legislative session as well and I’ve noticed a number of interesting measures coming from various departments that have already been pre-filed.
But the tension will be thick as Hogan tries to enact the agenda he promised while Democrats strive to make sure he’s another one-term Republican governor. As of 2018, it will have been 64 years since a Republican was re-elected as Maryland governor; however, Hogan has began his term as one of the most popular governors in the country and this session will occur with the backdrop of a Presidential race in which the Democrats aren’t utterly sold on their potential nominee. (Tellingly, the previous governor couldn’t even be a “favorite son” Presidential nominee from his own state.) In a contest over pocketbook issues, Hogan may have the public on his side.
We will know quickly just how the session will go as several of Hogan’s vetoes will be up for override. This was a rarity in the previous administration, but it’s worth recalling that the Democrats didn’t give Bob Ehrlich much of a honeymoon so I expect there to be at least one Hogan veto rebuffed. Democrats want to raise taxes, give felons the right to vote before completing their full sentences, make some reforms on civil forfeiture, and decriminalize marijuana paraphernalia. Out of those four vetoes, only the civil forfeiture bill originally had enough House votes to override a veto.
On a local level, we will be very interested to see what becomes of our elected school board bill. Will this finally be the year the state relents and lets the voters of Wicomico County decide its fate?
With a projection that we will have a large increase in filings over last session, it should be a year worth watching. I suspect I will have a difficult time keeping it to just the 25 votes I use for the monoblogue Accountability Project given that the veto votes will likely be included. But with a little help from my friends I look forward to the challenge.
As last year’s General Assembly session wore on, I found that freshman Delegate Mike McDermott’s weekly field notes were a very perceptive and comprehensive look at what was going on in Annapolis. So this year I’m making the executive decision to feature his notes (and my commentary on same) on a weekly basis, generally Sunday evenings.
McDermott is the one Delegate I voted for, although in future elections I won’t have that opportunity to re-elect him as Delegate unless I move to Somerset or southern Worcester county – the Democrats’
redistricting gerrymandering changed what was a two-delegate district based primarily in Worcester County, with the eastern half of Wicomico County added to create the requisite population, into two separate single-member districts with the existing District 38B truncated to be a district mostly based in the eastern portions of Salisbury along with Delmar and Fruitland. A new District 38C made up of eastern Wicomico and northern Worcester counties was then created, splitting Worcester County in two for the first time in recent memory. Oddly enough, we already have one prospective candidate there, but either Delegate McDermott or current District 38A Delegate Charles Otto of Somerset County – both freshman Republicans – will have to move up (to the Maryland Senate) or move out.
Now that you have a little bit of background on the man, I’ll go through what he had to say.
Mike begins by describing Wednesday’s opening session and the remarks by Governor O’Malley and House Speaker Michael Busch. I probably find it even more insulting than he does when it’s said that the state is better when it has the views from the right and the left in government – perhaps I’d be less insulted if that wasn’t so hypocritical on its face. If they really wanted views from the right, all the legislative districts would have been single-member districts done in a strictly geographical fashion – no little peninsulas to place one favored Delegate in a “friendly” district or districts which could pass for inkblots to make sure mainly minority voters get a district for themselves. I prefer the best, most conservative candidate no matter what color he or she is.
As for Thursday’s remarks, I found them interesting as well. Obviously the General Assembly gets into some seriously mundane issues, but I am surprised no one is clamoring for the inmates to get free calls because to do otherwise would be ‘unfair.’
Regarding a meeting by the Eastern Shore delegation with Secretary of Planning Richard Hall, McDermott related his opinion that:
It was quite clear that we are at polar ends of the specter (sic) with the O’Malley administration when it comes to PlanMaryland, but the concerns expressed were bi-partisan in nature. Maryland has operated for decades with a State Department of Planning that has worked to provide guidance to local government. This plan will turn that “guidance” into direct oversight.
Not only that, PlanMaryland places the state in a position to usurp local authority by withholding necessary funding if development doesn’t meet their (somewhat arbitrary) standards of ‘sustainability.’ Obviously if a county or municipality wants to “go it alone” that may be feasible for now, but I’m sure eventually the state will tie other funding, like the stipends they send for educational funding, to compliance. While it’s claimed the state has had the authority to enact a PlanMaryland since 1974, there was no reason to go around the legislative branch to come up with a plan that’s a key offensive of the War on Rural Maryland.
I’ll be interested to see what becomes of McDermott’s compensation bill, but I suspect Governor O’Malley will tell that committee head to lock it away in a desk drawer someplace until about the middle of April.
I look forward to receiving this weekly update from Delegate McDermott, but what I don’t look forward to is the assault on our wallets and our liberty sure to come from this body as the months wear on and the items enacted during the “90 Days of Terror” become law.
We might have to get that referendum pen ready.