A question of priorities

January 8, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Inside the Beltway, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on A question of priorities 

The “90 days of terror” I call the General Assembly session do not begin until next Wednesday, but once some incumbent members were safely re-elected they pre-filed a small number of bills in each chamber – 39 in the House and 15 in the Senate.

Pre-filed bills are interesting because it gives a glimpse into what those members who introduce them believe to be burning questions. In the Senate, it’s apparent Senator Joan Carter Conway is most worried about the availability of prescription drugs in a state of emergency while Delegate Cheryl Glenn believes the establishment of the Hattie N. Harrison Memorial Scholarship for “students who pledge to work in fields of critical shortage in the State on completion of their studies” is top on her list. (Harrison was a longtime Delegate from Baltimore City who died in office early in the 2013 session.) Respectively, these bills were dubbed SB1 and HB1, presumably since they were the first bills requested for filing.

This stands in opposition to our Congress, which tends to use the lowest number bills for priority items. For example, there is no H.R. 1 yet in the 114th Congress because they reserve the number for the Speaker’s use on a bill he deems a priority. (It was used for the Tax Reform Act of 2014 in the last session.) S. 1 this term is the bill to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which Congress has tried to pass on several prior occasions.

Of the 54 bills in the hopper so far, most deal with mundane issues. But there are a few interesting Senate bills which could have merit: Senator Jim Brochin is trying to eliminate the annual indexing of the gasoline tax to inflation, while bills to exempt certain non-profits from paying a state-mandated minimum wage increase and to open up the election canvassing process to outside observers were introduced by Senator Joe Getty before he took a position in the Hogan administration. (This is interesting as Delegate Kelly Schulz also pre-filed bills on the House side. I’d be curious to know who would be considered to be the lead sponsor in the cases where that sponsor is no longer in the MGA.)

On the House side, Delegate Glenn also wants to accelerate the already-adopted $10.10 per hour minimum wage from 2018 to 2015 while Delegate Aruna Miller seeks to ban e-cigarettes from indoor venues. On the good side, Delegate Schulz wants to make sure only citizens register to vote, stop Common Core in its tracks, and eliminate one piece of the gun law.

Obviously there will be a lot more than this. Just as an example, one prospective bill that aroused a spirited discussion at an event for Delegate-elect Carl Anderton earlier tonight is Anderton’s as-yet-unreleased proposal to address our tax differential, an idea for which Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton (a possible 2018 opponent) is also pushing – however, the two probably differ on how to accomplish this goal. Once the legislation is written and introduced, it can get a fair hearing.

This also gives me the opportunity to remind readers about a great organization of volunteers called Maryland Legislative Watch, for which I have read and evaluated bills the last two sessions (and would gladly do so again.) They are a key to a more informed public, so I encourage you to check them out. Chances are we will once again see over 2.500 bills introduced and if the first 54 are any guide, it will be yet another intriguing session. And we haven’t even seen Larry Hogan’s legislative agenda yet.

Example across the fence

August 28, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Example across the fence 

With all the controversy over the battle to succeed former State Senator E.J. Pipkin and take over the District 36 State Senate seat, it’s been forgotten that Democrats have a similar controversy on their side of the aisle as well in District 15.

Of course, there are some obvious differences. Because soon-to-be-former State Senator Rob Garagiola announced his resignation well in advance (almost 90 days, in fact) there’s been plenty of time for various candidates to be vetted. As well, District 15 lies entirely within Montgomery County – it comprises much of the western half of the county – meaning only one central committee is involved.

Yet don’t believe politics wasn’t at play there, and it was covered well by the Maryland Juice blog (by my left-leaning counterpart and perhaps House of Delegates hopeful David Moon.) In particular, those who represented minority communities saw this as a way to achieve something they couldn’t at the ballot box. Bilal Ayyub had submitted his name for consideration on that community’s behalf, and noted in his withdrawal letter:

The members of the Committee have been heavily lobbied from the time Senator Rob Garagiola announced his intention to step down from his seat before the end of his term. The above activism as well as my own communications forced me to acknowledge that commitments were made prior to concluding the official vetting process.

Ayyub goes on to complain:

The leaders of underrepresented communities in Montgomery County are painfully aware that never in the history of Montgomery County has even one of the county’s eight state senate seats been held by a senator representing an underrepresented community. This historic inequity was highlighted by the 2010 census, which confirmed what many had suspected for a long time: most residents of the county are racial minorities. However, relative to their numbers, underrepresented communities have remained marginalized in Montgomery County’s political life.

This was a chance to “level the playing field,” continued Ayyub.

Instead, it appears that Montgomery County Democrats will elevate Delegate Brian Feldman to the Senate seat; this after he received endorsements from some of the real powers in that county party (as evidenced by the same Maryland Juice post): Delegate Kumar Barve, who serves as Majority Leader in the Maryland House of Delegates, County Executive Ike Leggett, and – most importantly – SEIU Local 500. He also got backing from his fellow District 15 delegates Aruna Miller and Kathleen Dumais, so you would think it’s fairly cut and dried. In fact, aside from the coverage of Moon and a couple brief Washington Post pieces, you might not know the little bit of conflict on this vacancy existed because the process has been long and dissent kept private.

So the question is why the Republicans’ process has been so controversial? Perhaps because we didn’t grease the skids for one person behind closed doors?

And while I don’t know the racial composition of all of the fourteen aspirants to the District 36 seat – I presume all are white, with one woman in Audrey Scott – it’s worth pointing out that no one has made a stink about that locally. Moreover, while Montgomery County is majority-minority according to the census, I don’t believe District 15 falls in that category. So why the presumed entitlement and reparation?

In short: don’t believe the Democrats aren’t having their own catfights about their process. It’s just that the media doesn’t pay as much attention to their infighting and the process isn’t nearly as transparent as ours.

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    Maryland

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