A day to honor great, Divinely-inspired wisdom

September 17, 2016 · Posted in Culture and Politics, Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

It may not be as apparent to the average American as “vacation day” patriotic holidays like Memorial Day or Independence Day, but today a small band of Salisbury residents came to City Park along the Wicomico River and celebrated the 229th anniversary of the signing and delivery of our nascent Constitution to Congress for approval. Once approved, it was sent to each of the thirteen colonies for ratification (Delaware was first, on December 7, 1787) and by the middle of the next year the requisite nine states had ratified the document, which was not yet amended with the Bill of Rights. (That would come a few years later, in 1791.)

So I arrived fashionably on time and was pleased to see the turnout.

It seems like there were a few more people than last year’s gathering, and I think the morning start time (as opposed to afternoon last year) may have had something to do with that.

We were presented with a proclamation from Salisbury mayor Jake Day reiterating that the city would be celebrating Constitution Day today. Day is one of the few who could stand and say he was actively defending the Constitution as an Army officer on active duty.

The event also was the culmination of an essay contest where the top two winners were present to be honored with a certificate from the Maryland General Assembly, presented by members of the local delegation Mary Beth Carozza (who was speaking), Christopher Adams, Carl Anderton, and Johhny Mautz. The winning entry was read by Carys Hazel of Mardela High School, with runner-up Nathaniel Sansom of Salisbury Christian School also present to receive his award.

The keynote speaker was Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis.

I wasn’t really at the Constitution Day event to give blow-by-blow coverage, but I used the photos to both set the scene and cue up my own remarks, with the address Sheriff Lewis gave as a jumping-off point. Mike spoke at some length about the role of the military overseas and their fight against radical Islam. Certainly I understand the reason that they have embarked on such a mission, but to me it also begs a pair of questions for which we need an honest answer.

To a varying extent, the nation has been on a war footing since 9/11. In that time we have adopted the PATRIOT Act and sent thousands of troops overseas to fight against the proxy forces of radical Islam: the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, and the Islamic State known as ISIS (or ISIL.) But the first question I have is: where does the balance tip too far toward security at the expense of the liberty afforded to us in the Constitution?

This question isn’t really new, either: during the Civil War (or War Between the States or War of Northern Aggression, if you prefer) President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus and arrested members of the Maryland General Assembly to prevent them from meeting as a means of preserving the Union. Eight decades later, President Roosevelt interned Japanese-Americans as a result of their ancestral homeland’s attack on American soil. In both instances America was in an active war within its borders or territories, but against a nation-state rather than an ideology as we are today. However, being in a state of war such that we are should not be an excuse for excess and there are many who have pondered the “War on Terror” and its response in the PATRIOT Act and whether the government is using this Long War as a flimsy excuse to consolidate power.

The idea of the government consolidating power leads to the second question: are we truly following the Constitution anymore or is this all just lip service?

Surely there are some who believe the Constitution has been eroding practically since the ink dried on the parchment. Whether they point to Marbury v. Madison being the moment where the judiciary became the most powerful of the three branches, the Civil War being the death knell for state’s rights since they no longer had the right to secede if they were dissatisfied with the nation as a whole, or the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments that gave the federal government taxation authority on individuals specifically prohibited in the original and ended the practice of state legislators electing Senators to represent their interests in Washington, there are a fair number that think we need to start over - perhaps with a Convention of States, otherwise known as an Article V Convention. (Years ago I contributed a couple ideas for new amendments, which are still sorely needed. Back then I had good discourse, too.)

I don’t want to get into the weeds of determining the merits or problems of such a convention, but the fact that there are people who believe the Constitution needs a tune-up to fix excesses on one side or the other bolsters the argument that the government we have now is not the one originally envisioned by those men who toiled during the spring and summer of 1787 to write a replacement for the Articles of Confederation that the United States was bound to for the first decade or so of its existence. Granted, the Article V method is one prescribed in the document but there’s no guarantee the amendments proposed would pass or the resulting Constitution any better for the people.

So the occasion of Constitution Day is bittersweet. Yesterday I wrote on the subject for the Patriot Post, noting that:

Contention over – and advocacy of – limitations to government based on constitutional principles has become a theoretical exercise at best, perhaps in part because few understand the ideas and arguments that were made during the drafting of our government’s founding document.

Those who have sworn an oath to enlist in the military or (in my case) to take public office know that we swear to support and defend the Constitution as opposed to an oath to the United States. This is a clear distinction because the interests of the United States may vary by whoever occupies the offices of government at the time, but the Constitution is the set of ground rules which are supposed to define our nation. The key reason I resigned from the Central Committee was because I could not trust the Republican presidential nominee to support or defend the Constitution – rather, I believed he would tear the GOP from what few limited, Constitutional government roots it had remaining. Thus, I felt as a public official that supporting him was a violation of the oath I swore to the Constitution.

Many of those same men who pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to the American nation and survived the war that brought us independence were those who argued and debated the contents of the pieces of parchment that we consider our supreme law of the land. I pray that a group that is just as divinely inspired can lead us back to a nation that more closely reflects the intentions of these earliest Americans with respect to restoring a government that seeks the consent of the governed, and that those who are governed understand their responsibility in the equation as well. The fact that so few seem to have this inspiration or the desire to take this responsibility as citizens seriously may be what was most troubling about this day in the park.

Missing in action?

February 24, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Each day now I receive an e-mail of news clips from Allison Meyers, who is with the Hogan for Governor campaign. I don’t read every one but I peruse a number of them and one of the items the other day was from Calvert County regarding four legislators out of 26 statewide who are being honored by the American Conservative Union at the upcoming CPAC event.

Needless to say, I had to check the list to see who was on it. Unfortunately, none of our local legislators made this list of 26 – they are among the 38 Republicans who did not make the cut of an 80 percent rating. (And you thought I was the only one who rated legislators based on voting record?)

Just to save you some of the agate type, here are the scores our local delegation received, in rank order:

  • Christopher Adams (R – House 37B) 78%
  • Charles Otto (R – House 38A) 78%
  • Johnny Mautz (R – House 37B) 72%
  • Carl Anderton (R – House 38B) 67%
  • Mary Beth Carozza (R – House 38C) 67%
  • Addie Eckardt (R – Senate 37) 50%
  • Jim Mathias (D – Senate 38) 43%
  • Sheree Sample-Hughes (D – House 37A) 33%

Eckardt was the lowest Republican in the entire General Assembly, while Mathias was tied as the top Democrat in the Senate for the second year in a row. [I also found 2014 ratings. Last year Mike McDermott would have received an Award for Conservative Excellence (90% or better) while Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio was due an Award for Conservative Achievement (80%-89%).]

In looking at the ACU list, many of the bills also found their way into the monoblogue Accountability Project; however, my list is a little more broad since I took 22 floor votes and include the budget. But if my memory is correct the ACU and I saw eye to eye on every bill they scored so I would have had a perfect 100. (The only one to do so.)

Normally when Republicans fall down my list it’s for one (or more) of three reasons:

  1. They vote for bloated spending bills. I haven’t liked a budget yet since I began the mAP, so voting in its favor always works against them. I’m leaning against this year’s budget only because I think 5% growth is excessive.
  2. Civil libertarian laws. Two key examples this past year were marijuana and civil forfeiture. I’m for stopping crime but if someone can brew their own beer they should also be able to grow their own marijuana. Regulate it like alcohol. Meanwhile, government greed is leading them to police for profit rather than safety.
  3. Environmental bills. They get too cozy with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other backers of Radical Green. Let the regulations in place have a chance to work before dreaming up new stuff.

So I was a little disappointed to see none of the local legislators make the list, although had they had two more bills to score Adams and Otto may have made the 80 percent threshold. But it is tough to score well in any such rating system so hopefully we will see better in the 2016 edition.

Odds and ends number 75

It’s been almost three years since this was a regular feature on my site, but it appears I may have to bring this back to deal with all the stuff that I receive and deem to be somewhat newsworthy - just not enough to devote an entire post to. Ideally I can use it to clean out an e-mail box that gets too full of stuff that otherwise sits for awhile. As always, we’ll see how it goes but it’s been long enough that I had to go look up where I was in the series.

If you recall when I discussed the state convention last week, Maryland National Committeeman Louis Pope was pleased with the national GOP’s fiscal situation and it was also announced that the state party was finally out of debt. So it’s interesting to find out our national Democratic counterparts are doing what they do best: spending money they don’t have. Even with Martin O’Malley still in the race, they can’t just raise taxes to cover the difference.

It’s doubtful that Hillary’s campaign will be hurt, but Democrats are also salivating over retaking the Senate as the seats won by the GOP in the first TEA Party wave of 2010 come up for re-election in a Presidential year. That’s where a shortfall could come into play.

Speaking of the state convention, the sponsor of the amendment which actually stripped the voting rights of three auxiliary organizations now questions his own standing in introducing the amendment in the first place. It’s the ultimate in do-overs, but we have to ask whether he would have been as honest had the proposal passed.

Now Tony Campbell wants a special convention to right what was made wrong.

In discussing this with a former Chair, one thing that I learned is that seldom does an individual vote matter on the Executive Committee – there is rarely a time when a vote is close enough to make a difference. The only instance he could think of where a vote was close like that was the vote of no confidence in former Chair Jim Pelura back in 2009. That was still a relatively lopsided vote, 20 to 10, but the county chairs only voted 14 to 10. It was the six leadership and auxiliary votes that padded the margin.

(It’s also a rare time of late that I cite the balky and ad-bloated Red Maryland site, but you’ll notice the reason for the exception.)

So I think we should deal with this in due course. Perhaps we can do like we do for government “shutdowns” and give the auxiliary organizations their votes later as back votes once we rectify the situation, as I know we will.

Staying with the Maryland GOP, a few days back I received a list of 61 Republican leaders throughout the state who are backing Delegate Kathy Szeliga in her U.S. Senate bid. As you may expect, there are a lot of General Assembly members on the list: locally it includes Delegates Christopher Adams, Carl Anderton, Mary Beth Carozza, and Charles Otto as well as Senator Addie Eckardt and County Executive Bob Culver. 42 of 50 Republican Delegates and 13 of 14 GOP Senators are on the list. (George Edwards of western Maryland is the recalcitrant Senator.)

But I noticed one name among the local delegation was missing: it looks like Delegate Johnny Mautz has kept his powder dry for the moment. I can’t figure out if he just didn’t want to sign or if he’s backing someone else – with his Congressional staffer connections, he would be a logical backer of Richard Douglas. Just grist for the mill.

I haven’t even started to make my mind up on the race, but I will say Kathy has a long way to go to get my support – if only because her campaign website is still bare-bones a couple weeks after she jumped into the fray. That’s the type of lack of attention to detail that can sink a campaign.

Ethanol hasn’t been in the news much lately, but I thought it was worth pointing out that one of my favorite energy writers, Marita Noon, recently detailed how Ben Carson has moved to the right side of the issue. API’s Linda Rozett adds her two cents as well, making the case that dairy subsidies didn’t work out well so neither are ethanol carveouts creating the desired effects. Look, when we have plenty of oil there’s no real need to use food for fuel, despite what the corn growers who are enjoying the artificial price support may say.

Of course, people like me who believe food shouldn’t be used as fuel tend to fall into the category of climate change “deniers.” The folks at Organizing Against America For Action are excited about events in Paris. (Not the Friday the 13th ones, although this could be just as detrimental to millions.) In an e-mail exhorting supporters to “call out” skeptics, they say:

Remember when getting an elected official to even mention carbon pollution or climate change was a big deal? We’ve come a long way.

Today, the momentum for action has never been greater. Climate change denial in America is at an all-time low, and hundreds of companies have come out to support rules on power plant pollution. As if that wasn’t enough, religious leaders like Pope Francis are insisting that there is a moral obligation to address climate change.

In just two weeks, more than 160 nations, representing more than 90 percent of the world’s carbon pollution, are joining together for an international conference to tackle climate change, while we still can.

I dare them to call me out. YOU ARE A FRAUD. We’ve been holding steady on global temperature since the turn of the millennium, and if anything the indications are we are getting colder, not warmer. Throttling back the economies of the developed world will only weaken the rest of the planet.

Yet there are people talking common sense:

Climate change deniers are trying to spoil this big moment by undermining America’s commitment to act on climate change.

Some senators, like James Inhofe and Mitch McConnell, are going out of their way to undermine American commitments. Senator Inhofe, famous for bringing a snowball onto the Senate floor as proof that climate change doesn’t exist, has committed to crash the talks and be a “one-man truth squad,” telling the international negotiators how little he believes in climate science.

Senator Inhofe isn’t alone. Back at home, climate change deniers in both chambers of Congress are working to overturn the carbon pollution standards for power plants.

Good. I hope they succeed in overturning the job-killing restrictions. Just call me the Republican uncle, except I can do more than recite talking points.

Killing – not of jobs, but of fellow public housing residents – may not be out of the realm of the 6,000 drug convicts the Obama administration is releasing, and thanks to Judicial Watch we also know that they will be welcomed into public housing. I will grant that probably 99% of them will be more or less model citizens, but that still leaves a few dozen miscreants to cause trouble. I think Judicial Watch has reason to be concerned, as do those residents who get them as neighbors. Perhaps the same sort of notice granted when sex offenders move nearby is in order, at least to start. Call it a probationary period.

Finally, let’s end on a happier note. I wrote about a similar event last year, but over the weekend we were encouraged to participate in the Made in the USA Christmas Challenge by the Patriot Voices advocacy group. While most of the electronics we use are made overseas, it is possible to purchase gifts made in America. (One familiar group has some suggestions.)

It’s worth noting, though – as of this writing, just 116 have signed up at Patriot Voices. That’s not very many patriots, so hopefully more people than that are conscious of the advantages of supporting our businesses.

So there you have it – you are more informed and I have a clean inbox. I love it when a plan comes together.

WCRC meeting – November 2015

November 24, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

We didn’t have the biggest crowd on a Thanksgiving week, but Delegate Christopher Adams made his points during the final scheduled WCRC meeting of 2015.

Adams was down the agenda this time, as we chose to do our usual opening routine with the exception of me giving the treasurer’s report for the absent Deb Okerblom. We slotted the Central Committee report first, which meant Mark McIver could detail the “huge success” of the Lincoln Day Dinner.

McIver chalked up the success to a couple factors: good profit from the silent auction and the use of several database lists – and 150 hand-written personal invitations – to target our advertising.

Briefly going over the state convention, McIver detailed how we heard from the three leading Republican U.S. Senate candidates. Ann Suthowski chimed in that Muir Boda was mentioned twice during the convention for his success and Mark Edney did a good job explaining the succession by-laws amendment. The Salisbury University College Republicans were also mentioned as part of the state CR report for co-hosting the Lincoln Day Dinner.

McIver also announced he would host a joint club and Central Committee Christmas Party next month.

Finally, we heard from Delegate Adams. He was pleased to see the change in government in Salisbury, which he said has more sway than he does locally.

Adams noted that with $20 trillion in debt, it was likely the GOP would win this year’s election. He suggested they make cuts to the “fourth branch,” as cost-saving measures.

In Maryland, Adams continued, the Augustine Commission determined that federal spending accounted for 25% of the state’s GDP, so government cuts would affect Maryland disproportionately. The state needed to develop an “entrepreneurial ecosystem,” he added.

Most of Chris’s message dealt with legislation he was introducing to allow counties to opt out of sprinkler system requirements once again. It’s something they’ve been asking for, Adams added, but they were up against a powerful firefighter lobby. Adams noted he had a meeting slated with the state!s deputy fire marshal.

Yet the $5 to $7 per square foot cost for a small, affordable home was one that couldn’t be added to the value. Mandates like this are putting new homes out of reach for young families,

He explained that the 2012 International Residential Code had this mandate, but prior to last year counties were allowed to opt out. Taking back local control “has to be a grassroots effort,” said Adams, and it requires action on a local level.

Adams was asked if many new home builders voluntarily put in sprinklers, but few did. He added that some states prohibit the mandate, including several neighboring states.

Mark McIver noted that the state was “taking away the American Dream…it’s bankrupting the younger generation.”

Adams was also asked about sprinker systems affect insurance rates. He believe they made little difference in the rates, because alleviating the fire risk was balanced against the leaking and water damage potential.

Finally, Adams was asked about last year’s bill, introduced by Delegate Jeff Ghrist, to address this. He noted it was late-filed, so it never got a hearing. His bill is pre-filed.

Christopher concluded by announcing he has a unique fundraiser at the OC Hilton December 12 and 13. You would get 2 nights’ stay and lunch with special guest Bob Ehrlich for one price.

Since we had a number of other state legislators in attendance, we got brief updates.

Carl Anderton spoke with Delaware officials, trying to get their perspective on agricultural issues. He also has a fundraiser coming up at the Delmar VFW on December 3.

Johnny Mautz believed “this year will be different than last year” in the General Assembly, with “a lot of activity.” Federal campaigns will drive some of that activity, so it would be up to Eastern Shore Republicans to kill bad bills as they could.

Addie Eckardt thought it would get “testy,” with pressure to spend our new-found surplus on items that were cut from last year’s budget. The idea was not to let ourselves get splintered, she concluded.

All in all, it was a nice little pre-session update – and timely, since we won’t meet again until after the session starts in January. To be exact, the WCRC will reconvene on January 25, 2016.

The start of something good?

November 16, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2015 - Salisbury, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

Tonight the City of Salisbury embarked on a new chapter in its government as its City Council changed hands. Ironically, the person running the meeting at the beginning would shortly become the city’s mayor – Jake Day wielded the gavel for the last time, departing slightly from the agenda to ask for a moment of silence for the people of Paris.

But the first to make comments was outgoing mayor Jim Ireton, who credited the “unsung heroes” who voted for him twice as mayor but “await(s) the incredible things we’ll do together” during the next four years. Ireton also noted later that changing just one person on council can make a profound difference in the body.

Jack Heath, who won election to a full term, noted he “came to know the power of the city and the goodness of its workers.” The man he defeated, Tim Spies, said the last 4 1/2 years were “good for me” and believed the city had a terrific future, with high expectations. He encouraged more people to make a Monday night of getting to Council meetings, adding afterward it was half-price burger night at the Irish Penny to cap off the evening. Public service for him was “fulfilling” with no end to opportunities, Spies said later.

Outgoing Mayor Ireton noted on Spies, “We would be well to have 33,000 Tim Spieses in the city.”

The other Council member leaving, Shanie Shields, vowed “I’m not going anywhere.” Not only would she be there for her successors, she planned on using her newfound time to make County Council meetings. In speaking of Shields, Ireton noted that the Salisbury he grew up in was a “place of 1,000 moms” and Shields was one of them. Shields, he added, reminded him never to forget our best work is ahead of us.

Noting the overflow crowd in the garage of Station 16, Laura Mitchell also hoped they would stay involved. “I would love to see more of this.” Day wrapped up that portion of the evening to noting Council had “exceeded my expectations.”

Ireton and Day, with help from Delegates Christopher Adams, Carl Anderton, and Sherrie Sample-Hughes, and Senator Jim Mathias, presented certificates to Shields and Spies. Anderton also revealed to the audience that Governor Larry Hogan had come through his cancer treatment successfully and was deemed cancer-free, which brought rousing applause from the gathering.

Once those who were leaving were honored, it was time to turn the page and swear in the new members. The Council went first, then Jake Day, with his wife and daughter by his side.

Our featured speaker was Comptroller Peter Franchot, who let us know “I’m a huge fan of Jake Day.”

In his relatively brief remarks, he praised Salisbury as “a city on the rise” with “fresh talent (and) new energy.” We were crucial to the state’s economic fabric, concluded Franchot.

The Council did have a little work to do, though: electing officers. In what turned out to be uncontested votes by acclamation, Jim Ireton nominated Jack Heath to be Council president and Muir Boda nominated Laura Mitchell to its vice-president.

Once again, we heard remarks from the new Mayor and Council. Day made a laundry list of promises, concluding with a vow “we will give you a Salisbury we can be proud of.”

It was noted that Muir Boda had won after multiple tries for office, to which he responded, “I’m finally here.” Even though it was a long process for Boda, he was nowhere near as emotional as April Jackson, who choked up when she said, “I wish my dad could be here.” A well-known community leader, Billy Gene Jackson died earlier this year. Once she regained her composure, she told the crowd, “I’m ready to go. Not to go home, but to get to work!”

As the new Council President, Jack Heath said mutual respect and inclusion was “his pledge.” Once he spoke, he rapped the gavel and declared the meeting to be adjourned.

Because it comes on board at this point in the year, the Council will get to ease into its duties a little bit – the city’s budget isn’t due for a few months. But we will have crime and economic development to deal with, and that’s a pretty full plate as well.

I think they’ll do just fine. To wrap up, here’s a guy I’m proud to call friend, Muir Boda, and his wife Briggit.

It took six years, but I’m pleased my support finally helped make him a winner. My advice to him? Get used to having your picture taken.

To borrow a phrase from Delegate Carl,Anderton, let’s get to work!

The process of change (part 1)

October 19, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Last week the state wrapped up a series of hearings on the state’s redistricting process. Unfortunately, the local hearing was neither local (held in Easton) nor convenient (held on a weekday afternoon.) While the Eastern Shore is well-ensconced in the First Congressional District, it endured plenty of change in the last state redisrtricting as boundary lines were shifted dramatically and former multi-delegate districts broken down for single delegates.

To be more specific about the points I mentioned above, the Democrats in charge of the 2010 census redisrtricting placed two Republicans in a single-member district based mainly in Somerset County. To form the revamped District 38A, they chopped off the southern portion of Wicomico County that freshman Republican Charles Otto was elected to represent in 2010 and pushed the district eastward into Worcester County to include fellow freshman GOP member Mike McDermott. Otto kept the seat in 2014, but McDermott lost a bid for Senate to incumbent Jim Mathias.

The part of Wicomico County formerly represented by Otto shifted mainly to District 37B, a fairly safe GOP district then represented by Delegates Addie Eckardt and Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio. After neither sought re-election in favor of higher office, the district became home to two freshmen Republican Delegates: Christopher Adams of Wicomico County and Johnny Mautz of Talbot County.

The rest of the old 38A was placed into a greatly diminished District 38B, one which encompassed territory from Delmar to Fruitland through the eastern half of Salisbury. Removing the rural portions of a former two-delegate seat was supposed to make it easier for incumbent Democrat Norm Conway, but he was still ousted by Republican Carl Anderton. The rest of District 38B not taken by Otto’s district was rebadged District 38C, a fairly solid Republican area now represented by Delegate Mary Beth Carozza.

The only district that stayed relatively the same was District 37A, a majority-minority district where Delegate Rudy Cane retired and left the field to freshman Democrat Sheree Sample-Hughes. As it turned out, the only incumbent Delegate to survive out of the two districts was Charles Otto. Wicomico County is now represented by five freshman Delegates, four Republican and one Democrat.

Yet the cynicism wasn’t just limited to our area. According to Delegate Jeff Ghrist, there are 71 districts that have an above-average population while 70 fall below the average. It’s just amazing that 44 of the 50 Republicans represent districts in the larger-than-average category, while 64 of 91 Democrats come from “small” districts. Given that a variation of 5% is permissible, there could be 4,000 more residents in a GOP district than a Democratic one, allowing the party in power an extra 6 or 7 seats across the state.

Ghrist also complained about the size of the districts. He lives near the border of District 36, but noted adjacent District 37B spans from Denton to the Somerset County line and from the Delaware border to the far reaches of Oxford and St. Michael’s as a two-member district. His District 36 takes in the northern part of the Eastern Shore as a three-member district. While most of the counties on the Shore are too small to support their own district, it is possible for the Shore to fill four full three-member districts with a little help from the eastern end of neighboring Harford County.

The key, though, is single-member districts. A county like Wicomico could have two members to itself, while sharing the majority-minority district in existence with Dorchester County. Geography may dictate some crossing of lines, but the districts can be made much more compact and contiguous.

Obviously Senate districts will need to span several county lines. The remedy to this is to go back to a system which, unfortunately, was dealt its mortal blow by the ill-advised passage of the Seventeenth Amendment and formally died with the Reynolds vs. Sims decision in 1964. Until then, each Maryland county had its own Senator to represent county interests. The right thing to do would be place the Senate in the hands of each county’s legislative body, allowing them to choose two (for a total of 48) and staggering the terms to having them pick a new one every two years. (Like the U.S. Senate, it would be the job of the Lieutenant Governor to break tie votes.)

If they had the cojones to challenge the 51-year-old Reynolds ruling Maryland can be a leader in moving forward into the past, restoring the original intent of our founders in balancing the interests of the people and local governments.

In part two, I want to consider our Congressional districts.

2015 Good Beer Festival in pictures and text

October 13, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items · Comments Off 

For six consecutive years I’ve been a part of the Good Beer Festival. After getting its legs under it and enduring a couple years of subpar weather in 2013 and 2014, the hopes were high for a banner event.

They didn’t take credit for the weather, but as always a number of local politicians crowded around the ribbon cutting. Accompanied by the fine folks of Wicomico County’s Recreation and Parks were (from left to right) County Councilman Marc Kilmer, County Council President John Cannon, County Executive Bob Culver, Senator Jim Mathias (in back), Delegates Carl Anderton (in back), Christopher Adams, and Sheree Sample-Hughes, and County Councilman John Hall.

One thing I liked was the schedule boards they added to alert those who came to the GBF to the various events going on that day. The event is focusing more and more on the home brewers, so the talks from local brewers were popular with that set.

As usual, Saturday drew the larger crowd. I took the photos at 1:30 and 3:30.

It didn’t seem quite as busy as last year, but not for lack of trying. Ever try human foosball?

Looked like fun, although it was a little cutthroat. On the other hand, the VIP tent seemed like it needed a little something – like people.

The local beer area is always a favorite, though. It features the ever-amusing chalkboards.

So went Saturday. As you may have noticed, Sunday was a clear, lovely day. But the crowd was far smaller.

Granted, I took these photos a little later in the day, but the attendance was probably half or less. Personally, I liked not having to deal with the larger crowds.

As long as they stopped by our tent…

…and participated in our corn poll.

Those who had the fullest Mason jars were Ben Carson and Donald Trump.

This was the perspective we had, as the sun was setting on another edition of the GBF.

So I close with this photo, just because I liked it.

In a few days I’ll do my look at the bands of the GBF.

WCRC meeting – August 2015

It was via a roundabout route, but we finally heard from the man who’s presumptively Salisbury’s next mayor, Jake Day. Because Jake had another place to be this evening – the Salisbury City Council meeting that he ran as their president – we had a succession of speakers to fill the time. It was interesting to note that several of these speakers dropped in as our meeting was going on, which told me they were looking forward to hearing what Jake had to say.

But we began as we always do, with the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introduction of distinguished guests, all done by our first vice-president Muir Boda, who filled in for our under-the-weather president Shawn Jester. We then did the swearing in of new second vice-president Dave Snyder, who pledged to be “a very good listener” and work to recruit 100 new GOP voters and new club members.

I took a little time to thank people for helping out at the Wicomico County Fair, as did Dave. My one suggestion was to perhaps look into a spot for outside next year.

In a Central Committee report, Mark McIver called the elected school board “one of the biggest things on our plate.” He added there was a new initiative called “We Decide” that was a non-partisan group to back an all-elected school board, and related the urging from County Council that we should participate in these hearings. It was going to be “an 8-week push.”

Mark Edney added his two cents, informing us that there will be an initiative this fall to address the issue of vacancies in the General Assembly through the state party’s bylaws. Noting the issues faced by Carroll County, Edney intoned that it was “important that we get this right” because members of both parties in the General Assembly sought to take away the power local Central Committees had to choose successors.

Joe Ollinger updated us on the Crab Feast, which had most of the items in place except a silent auction coordinator. It’s still on schedule for September 12 at Schumaker Park.

Speaking of food, Muir Boda announced his own, more modest event this Saturday at Doverdale Park. His community barbecue was slated for 3-5 p.m. but volunteers could show up at 2:00. Boda remarked he had three opponents in the election, so getting out the vote was paramount.

He also commented that the proposed city curfew was a “big issue” but questioned whether it would be enforceable given current resources and the spread-out geography of Salisbury. By itself, a curfew “won’t solve youth crime,” Muir said.

Senator Addie Eckardt, who had arrived after we began, spoke briefly about her upcoming annual bike ride through the district that will cover Wicomico County on Thursday. She also praised Governor Hogan, who has “put a great team together.” It would help government become, as she put it, more responsive and cost-effective.

Delegate Christopher Adams remarked about his attendance at the defund Planned Parenthood rally in Easton as well as a stop last week at Wallops Island in Virginia. They were expecting to resume launches at the pad damaged in an explosion last fall by March, he said.

Looking forward, though, he wanted to concentrate on regulatory reform, as some needed changes could be done more easily through that avenue than through the legislative process.

Fellow Delegate Johnny Mautz predicted “a really busy session” next year but expressed his disappointment in getting a low 25% score from the League of Conservation Voters. I looked up the floor votes they scored: two were anti-fracking measures and the other was the “repeal” of the rain tax sponsored by Mike Miller. So pro-business was not going to meet pro-environmnet with the LCV.

Bunky Luffman stood in for Delegate Carl Anderton, commenting to an earlier point made about regulation by bringing up the sprinkler mandate that is halting construction locally. One local developer lost a builder who refused to build more dwellings – they weren’t able to make money with the mandate and additional costs.

Most of the legislators had come late to hear Jake Day, who spoke for about 15 minutes and answered questions for another 20. Apologizing both for being late and a lack of sleep as a new dad, Day told us he was “very excited” about becoming mayor. As a Council member he was pursuing a pro-business agenda, but noted “I have found a roadblock in the current administration.” Like the state of Maryland, his effort would be to attract business: “I want us to be competitive,” said Day, citing Delaware under Jack Markell as a “more friendly and welcoming environment.” Perdue’s decision to move some of its corporate operations to Delaware “sent a message,” said Jake. “The economy will be first and foremost on my mind each day.” His idea was to grow jobs “locally and organically,”

One area he saw as a job creator was downtown, for which revitalization was important to Jake. It’s “part of the renaissance” of Salisbury, said Day. He criticized the “lack of active leadership from the top” and sought a City Council that was cordial, but aggressive. He also announced the intention to continue divesting the city’s surface parking lots, believing successful downtowns do better with infill rather than surface parking.

Crime was another top issue. Day observed that criminal activity was starting at a younger and younger age, so the city could have to “pick up where the parents left off.”

It was an enlightening address, but the questions were good, too. The first one out of the chute was about the “rain tax.” Jake disagreed with the state mandate, but believed it was necessary for a city which had ignored the issue for over a century. He was willing, though, to reduce property tax rates and scrap the city’s inventory tax to help even things out.

And when I asked why the city couldn’t use its water and sewer fund surplus, Day said the surplus was being depleted too quickly. Basically the relief would be short-term at best.

Corollary to that initial question was a discussion about the closing of Labinal, which will cost the city hundreds of jobs. While the popular opinion was that the state’s difficult business climate drove them away, Day said the answer was more simple: Texas (and Mexico) were closer to their main customer base, and Salisbury mainly served military clients whose contracts were winding down.

A second concern was the issue with fire service. Rather than the “big mistake” of giving ultimatums through the media, Jake was working closely with county officials in coming up with a long-term solution. He conceded it probably wouldn’t be all the city wanted, but noted that he and County Executive Bob Culver were “working well together.” The key was making things more fair in a way that doesn’t alienate non-city residents.

Our wastewater treatment plant was the subject of a question. Calling its saga “a scar on Salisbury’s history,” Day announced the next phase of renovations would begin in October. Bunky Luffman, who formerly worked at the plant, pointed out it had reduced the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorou, but not enough to meet more stringent state standards that changed midstream.

A final questioner tested Day on his “number one challenge – is my (business) location safe?” Crime was a concern for local businesses, and “a lot of solutions to our challenges are economic,” Jake said. He vowed to show leadership and compile more data on the current conditions.

We finally let Jake go, so that Boda could announce our next meeting would be September 28. Hopefully it will be as chock-full of information as this one was.

Pastors and politicians punctuate Planned Parenthood protest

This morning I got up with the sun to help cover one of around 300 coordinated local rallies aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood in the wake of their sale of baby parts exposed in a series of investigative videos from the Center for Medical Progress.

The Easton site was selected because Salisbury’s office had closed last spring. And while detractors claim the facility, which is located in a nondescript office complex with several other tenants, doesn’t do any abortions, they still support the overall brand.

As you will hear in a bit, the facility is not the only one which provides its services. Plenty of care is available and accessible. (It’s ironic the facility was closed today, but the protests were intentionally scheduled for off-hours.)

The rally began at 9 a.m. with about 50 people lined along the street in front of the facility.

In all, there were a dozen speakers, mainly representing the pastoral community. We had clergy representing churches from Berlin to Centreville and several points in between. First up was Keith Myer, from Harvest Baptist in Salisbury.

As he spoke, the gathering was growing, spilling into the front yard of the facility and later across the street.

Another Wicomico County minister who spoke was Shawn Seldon, who represents a church in the small hamlet of Tyaskin.

He lamented Planned Parenthood as “the largest morgue in the country.” But when it came to those on the other side, it was not our job to cast stones but instead “love the hell right out of it,” he said.

If the Seldon name rings a bell, it should because his wife Jackie runs the Eastern Shore Pregnancy Center here in Salisbury. Both she and her counterpart from the Choices Pregnancy Center in Easton were there.

Jackie noted that when women come to her center and take advantage of their services, “things change in the ultrasound room.” They see that their baby is not a tissue mass, but a living human being developed in the womb.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get photos of all of the pastors but I did get a number of quotes. For example, John Abbott of Faith Baptist in Berlin reminded us that “thou shall not kill” means you don’t kill innocent life. Chris Williams of Covenant Family Church in Centreville added that, “our hearts should be broken as a nation,” and called abortion “the antithesis of the good news of the gospel.”

Also representing his congregation was Eric Olson of the Oasis Covenant Fellowship in Easton, who spoke early as I was taking photos. We also heard from Barbara Kelly, a post-abortion counselor who told us “abortion doesn’t have to happen.” She added that women come to her decades after their procedures, a “trauma” that happens as they grow old and wistfully think about the child they never had.

The only minor bit of controversy came when the lone tenant who was open at the time, a pediatrician’s office, asked us to move back onto the sidewalk. As you’ll see in the videos, we were larger than the right-of-way.

I think their issue was twofold: supposedly people were cancelling appointments this morning and “the children are upset.” I suspect it was parents who simply didn’t want to face the facts.

So our last speakers, pastor Jason Shelton of Providence Presbyterian Church in Salisbury and the lady representing Talbot Right to Life (who secured the permit for the event) did their speaking from the street.

Sheldon cited heavily from 2 Timothy 3, adding that we have become “a bloody and callous people.”

I noted above that we had politicians as well. One who spoke was local Delegate Christopher Adams.

Citing his own experience with his kids, Delegate Adams opined that “parenthood means life” and described the connection between abortion and profit as “disgusting and immoral.” He continued that we weren’t on the slippery slope here in Maryland, but “the bottom of the chasm.”

There were two other political speakers of note, who both happen to seek the same office. Congressman Andy Harris spoke early on, followed a few turns later by challenger and former Delegate Mike Smigiel. I fired up my moribund Youtube page to share the videos of their remarks, Harris first.

To his credit, Smigiel and his aide Cody Leach stayed for the whole thing.

As with a rally such as this, there were a number of good signs. You’ll see a number of pink ones which remind us Planned Parenthood sells baby parts, but there were other descriptive ones too.

The fine folks from Worcester County opted to take a group photo.

Fortunately, there was some media there to spread the word (besides me.)

Nicole Edenedo of WBOC-TV filed this report, which managed to avoid me until the very end when it showed my good side. It was interesting observing her work – I guess reporters don’t bring cameramen anymore, and she did well memorizing her wrap at the end that she repeated to herself a couple times.

From what I was told, yet another CMP video was released today. With 300 protests scheduled nationwide today, even if they only averaged the 125 or so we had that’s 37,500 people who came out on a summer weekend to make their displeasure known.

You may have noticed a police car in the background of my videos. Despite the fact we were on a quiet street and had a rally Myer described as one where we were “calm, peaceful, left no trash, respected the police, stayed consistent with the time allotted for the protest, stayed out of the street, and didn’t damage any property,” we had an officer spend his morning watching us. I suppose it was SOP given the chance of a counter-protest, but none was to be found.

As I noted, the only issue was that we were too many for the sidewalk. My colleague Cathy Keim took the lead in getting this together, with a lot of help and maybe a dash or two of divine providence, and as such deserves kudos.

This is the first step along a road that leads first to the defunding of Planned Parenthood by the federal government but ends when abortions are no longer commonly accepted as the law of the land. Remember, even Hillary Clinton said abortions should be “rare.” I just disagree that they are “safe” – especially for the unborn – and their legality should be at the very most a state matter.

The best time to be pro-choice is making the choice not to create kids if you’re not ready or willing to take the responsibility. As a method of birth control, it’s worth remembering that, unless you are destined to carry the son of God, abstinence works every time.

A further obstacle

Perusing social media last night, I saw that Delegate Christopher Adams linked to an article by Bob Zimberoff in the Easton Star-Democrat. Since I have a website, I’m revising and extending my remarks in my comments therein.

Zimberoff’s article talked about the rush to get building permits in Caroline County. It wasn’t thanks to a business boom or new economic opportunity – terms for which neither apply in the Eastern Shore’s sole landlocked county – but a deadline builders were rushing to meet.

(Developer Blaine) Williamson wasn’t the only one to hurry to get a permit. In all of 2014, the Caroline County Department of Planning and Codes issued 40 total permits for construction of new residential units. In 2013, 34 permits were issued.

Already in 2015, 46 permits have been issued in Caroline as of June 30. Of those 46 permits, 30 were issued in June. According to Sara Visintainer, chief of staff for the Caroline County Commissioners Office, another 30 applicants started the permitting process in June but failed to receive permits because of financial burden or other considerations.

Every few years, the state of Maryland adopts the most current editions of several building codes, including the International Residential Code. While the code has mandated that new homes have fire sprinkler systems, previously counties were able to opt out of the requirement. (I thought I had written about one such effort before, and it turns out I was right.) Apparently that exemption is no longer allowed, and it’s sending a chill throughout the housing industry. I return to the Star-Democrat:

At Williamson Acres, modest starter homes list for $150,000 to $160,000.

“That’s the market value. That’s all I can sell them for,” Williamson said. “It costs so much to build them now, I’m not making much money. When you add the sprinklers on, I would actually be losing money.”

(snip)

With five vacant lots and three permits to build, Williamson said he intends to leave two lots undeveloped until regulations change or the housing market improves. Even with the BAT septic mandate, Williamson could profit $5,000 to $10,000 from selling new homes, but the sprinkler mandate effectively eliminated a chance at financial gain.

“I’m not going to build a house knowingly losing money on it,” he said. “The sprinklers are the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

So here is the situation. You will have a rush of construction over the next few months as those houses which got their permits prior to June 30 get built out, but then in a few months the market will slide as the dearth of new permits takes hold. In other words, this artificial boom will be short-lived.

My previous piece on the controversy here in Wicomico County back in 2011 noted the dubious benefits against the costs of the home sprinkler systems, but there is also the issue of how the cost may discourage rural development because it’s more expensive to use a well as a source as opposed to a municipal water system. To Radical Green, though, that’s a feature and not a bug, and you can bet your bottom dollar those who write the codes are squarely in the Radical Green camp – after all, those who believe we can build our way to absolute safety regardless of cost would also be the most fervent believers in the nanny state. We obviously want some element of safety and energy efficiency in our construction, but there comes a point when cost outweighs benefit and in a single-family residential setting sprinkler systems can be a deal-breaker.

Delegate Adams and his counterparts will be well-served in attempting to restore the exemption counties used to enjoy. Something tells me it wasn’t the rural legislators and regulators who took the exemption out, so you can call this a side skirmish in the War on Rural Maryland.

WCRC meeting – April 2015

We ha an unusual meeting tonight. It wasn’t devoted to club business; after we did the usual Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introduction of several distinguished guests we were a treasurer’s report away from the first of three main events of a packed program.

Our first event was the presentation of the WCRC Scholarship to Andrew Boltz of Mardela High School. Boltz is active in the community, including an Eagle Scout project involving backpacks for the homeless. Boltz plans on attending Salisbury University to begin his pursuit of an engineering degree.

Sarah Rayne next addressed the group on behalf of 1st Saturday, a “free, family-friendly” event in downtown Salisbury intended to focus on the performing arts, as opposed to the visual arts highlighted at 3rd Friday.

She noted that the event was timed to be after Saturday chores but allow for patrons to partake in the downtown entertainment venues and restaurants afterward, adding that no food trucks would be present to help with steering business to local eateries – in turn, they would be encouraged to make known their specials for the evening. It’s a “bring your own chair” event, modeled on a similar set of gatherings in Georgetown, Delaware, Rayne added.

Just as clarification, I asked if it was an all-year event. Sarah responded that 1st Saturday was “a warm-weather event” which would run April to October.

The final part of the evening was something that turned out to be a roundtable discussion of the latest General Assembly session by the Republican members of the Wicomico County delegation: Senator Addie Eckardt and Delegates Christopher Adams, Carl Anderton, Jr., Mary Beth Carozza, Johnny Mautz, and erstwhile member Charles Otto, who was redistricted out of the county.

Each representative began by speaking a few minutes about their perspective on the recently-completed session. As the one with the most experience, Senator Eckardt assessed our group as “a wonderful team…this is not a shy group.” She was pleased to have the opportunity to try and get our highway user revenues back, and called it “exciting” to have a Republican governor to work with on the budget. And while the goals of the administration were to cut spending, taxation, and regulation, the sad fact was that most of the governor’s initiatives did not pass.

Some of the budget battles that were fought included funding for the Geographical Cost of Education Index and maintaining the promised $300 million catch-up payment for state pensions. While the budget passed wasn’t fully in line with the initial expectations, Eckardt thought the governor “was in a good position going forward.”

Getting PMT regulations as opposed to statutes and repealing the rain tax law allowed Addie to declare a couple victories. “From my perspective, I was floored” with the things accomplished during the session, Eckardt concluded.

From the House perspective, Delegate Otto was rueful that Wicomico County residents could no longer vote for him, but added he still represented us as the chair of the Eastern Shore delegation – a group that was expanded to include residents in the 35th District, covering Cecil and part of Harford counties. He was pleased the budget grew by less than projected revenue growth, a departure from the previous administration.

Otto noted that “everything bad for agriculture” came out at the House this year, including the “chicken tax” bill and a measure eliminating sales tax exemptions farmers can employ.

Delegate Adams felt “blessed to be a Republican in Maryland” right now because it enabled him to stop items detrimental to our interests, especially at the committee level. One highlight to him among the bills passed was several enacting the recommendations of the Augustine Commission, which included a cabinet-level Department of Commerce. His assessment that Maryland was too dependent on federal employees made him hopeful that the business climate could be changed.

“What a strange, fun, exciting ride it’s been,” said Delegate Anderton. He urged us to ignore people who say “you can’t do it” because he did get things accomplished: the Evo bill which will add 50 jobs in Salisbury while preventing 70 others from leaving, a grant to Three Lower Counties to assist them with a new OB/GYN clinic, and money for improvements to Perdue Stadium essential to keeping the Shorebirds here. And while he was “scared” about the PMT regulations, Anderton believed we had “built a great foundation.” Overall, his first year was “an experience better than I could have imagined.”

Delegate Mautz said the Eastern Shore is “working closely together” and trying to get leverage for its legislative goals. However, he noted that watermen and seafood producers were “under tremendous pressure,” detailing abuses by the Department of Natural Resources. As it turned out, watermen, hunters, fishermen would have been the beneficiaries of many of the bills Mautz worked on, while cheese producers will get a boost.

Yet while Mautz believed Governor Hogan “controlled the debate” on fiscal issues, there was still “serious partisan divides” in the General Assembly. He predicted “a lot of legislation” in the next session.

Johnny also called the events going on in Baltimore “a major setback” for the area and state as a whole. Delegate Carozza picked up on that, asking the group to take a moment of silence and prayer for the city, adding the National Guard had finally been sent in.

Mary Beth also believed we had a “terrific Shore delegation,” agreeing that Governor Hogan had “set the tone’ in his first session. While the budget had a smaller increase than previous years, though, she only voted for the original House budget. She voted against the conference budget because of the raids it made to the pension funds.

“We still need your help,” she added. “Divided government is really tough.” We were encouraged to express our opinions on issues like charter schools, tax relief, and regulations because opponents were relentless and having the constituents as backup strengthens our position. And Democrats “are already coming after (Larry Hogan),” she said.

She gave a couple examples of bills she worked on. One that passed with ease was a bill allowing Seacrets to move its distillery operations to Maryland – Mary Beth got support from Senator Jim Mathias and convinced lawmakers that bringing jobs back from Delaware was worth fighting for.

On the other hand, a veterans procurement bill which sailed through the Senate had a tough time in the House for several reasons, at least one of them territorial as a particular committee chair wanted to do a more large-scale procurement bill next session. She learned that she had to sometimes sell bills, and ended up with a compromise that doubled veterans procurement from 0.5% to 1%.

Once this part finished, we opened the floor to comments and questions. Naturally, a perspective was sought on why we did not get an elected school board vote and what we had to do.

“It’s an easy fix,” said Delegate Anderton. “Eliminate the excuse.” By that, he meant have the public hearings Senator Mathias sought, as two people noted he was on record as supporting the idea with public input. We also learned the Wicomico County Education Association actually supports a fully elected board.

But Senator Eckardt added we “need both Senators in agreement” to get the bill through.

A related question came about school vouchers, which weren’t brought up in this session. Rather, a lot of discussion went toward charter schools because it was the governor’s initiative, said Delegate Carozza. Delegate Adams added charter school reforms enjoyed bipartisan support, while Senator Eckardt noted the BOAST tax credits had been introduced again – these would allow private businesses to direct funding to private and public schools.

On that same front, it was asked if a Religious Freedom Restoration Act-style bill was introduced, and none was to their knowledge.

Turning to taxation, Senator Eckardt stated that few tax rollbacks were surviving the Ways and Means subcommittees.

Farming issues were the subject of a couple queries, and the industry as a whole was considered “low-hanging fruit” by environmentalists, said Delegate Adams. Even though 27 percent of Chesapeake Bay’s phosphorus could be traced to the silt behind Conowingo Dam – according to the Army Corps of Engineers, a fact which came out in a hearing on one of the PMT bills – environmentalists still demanded more regulations on agriculture.

Finally, Anderton responded to a question about road funding by noting he had helped bring it back to some extent through his memory of where the money was placed last year. The state found it again, to the tune of $19 million to municipalities and $4 million for counties. However, he added, some counties were reticent about full restoration because they wanted to use it as an excuse to have their own gasoline taxes.

All in all, it was a chock-full meeting you should be kicking yourself for missing. Because the next fourth Monday of the month is Memorial Day, we next meet June 22.

Hogan’s first veto?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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