Hogan’s uphill battle

For several years I have cited an annual survey of business friendliness put together by thumbtack.com. It was useful in illustrating how poor the Maryland business climate was.

Unfortunately, year one of the Hogan administration finds the state in a deeper hole, narrowly missing the bottom five of the 36 states for which the survey had sufficient data to compile. It is noteworthy, however, to point out Baltimore’s grade basically drove the state grade so they may bear a significant share of the blame.

As for what the survey asked and found specifically:

Small business owners found Maryland to be one of the least friendly states for microenterprise, though they widely approved of local training opportunities, according to Thumbtack’s annual Small Business Friendliness Survey.

Nearly 18,000 U.S. small business owners responded to the survey, including 442 in Maryland. The study asked respondents to rate their state and city governments across a broad range of policy factors. Thumbtack then evaluated states and cities against one another along more than a dozen metrics.

“Small business owners on Thumbtack have consistently told us that they welcome support from their governments but are frequently frustrated by unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles,” said Jon Lieber, Chief Economist of Thumbtack. “Maryland offers decent programs to support business owners directly, but they tell us the regulatory environment is just too hard for them to understand and navigate.”

“The taxes here are high,” commented a property manager in Baltimore. “There is no support from the government, especially the housing office.”

Here’s where entrepreneurs will pin their hopes on the new Regulatory Review Commission, which should try and reach out to as many of these businesses as possible to get suggestions.

The biggest problems with our state insofar as this subject goes is that its grade is getting worse – declining from a C- last year to its D+ this time – and Virginia got an A on the same survey. (Delaware had fewer than the 50 responses needed to get a grade.) Business owners hated the state in particular for its environmental and zoning regulations and government friendliness, both of which were given big fat Fs from those surveyed. (The former category also gets a “see, now what have I been telling you for the better part of a decade” from this writer.)

If a state is going to brag that it’s “open for business” it needs to be better than a D+ state. The work on regulatory reform should be in tandem with other avenues toward success like lowering the corporate tax rate (or, even better, figuring out a way to cut three cents out of every dollar in state spending and scrapping it entirely) and telling the liberals in Annapolis who keep whining about the need for combined reporting to pound sand. Another proposal I would have is adoping the proposed moratorium on new Chesapeake Bay regulations until the sediment at Conowingo Dam is addressed,

We have models for success all around the country so why should we be 31st out of 36? I can’t fault Larry Hogan for a lack of effort or his difficult circumstances, but we need leadership in this regard and if it means telling the people the truth about where the problems lie (hint: they hold 124 seats in the General Assembly) so be it.

What could possibly go wrong?

By Cathy Keim

Last month I wrote about Governor Hogan expanding the You’ve Earned It! subsidized mortgage program for young adults with college loans. Politicians can never resist giving away other people’s money especially if it makes them seem caring and gets votes.

For a quick review, college student loan debt is now at 1.2 trillion dollars and growing. The average debt for a four-year degree is $29,000, but it can skyrocket to $100,000 or more for a graduate degree. This debt is having huge impacts on young people that are starting their careers severely burdened with loan repayments. These young voters are prime targets for politicians. Wouldn’t you vote for somebody that promised to get rid of your debt?

Unfortunately, the politicians are aiming at the wrong target to cure the problem.

A study released in July by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was only the latest piece of evidence of what conservatives have long knew: Increasing public support for college tuition, especially in the form of federal tuition subsidies, has inflated its total cost.

Every time the politicians make student loan money easier to obtain, the colleges just raise the tuition costs. Colleges and universities have increased their administrative personnel by 60% between 1990 and 2003. The university presidents and top administrators make CEO-type salaries in the 7-digit category. And let us not forget the building programs. Many schools have swimming pools with floating rivers for relaxation. The students certainly should be stressed just thinking about how they are going to repay all the loans they took out to attend the institution.

In 2006 the cap on loans for graduate school was raised and the borrowing levels skyrocketed. Many of these students will avail themselves of the debt forgiveness programs to handle the loans. For example, Georgetown University created a clever loophole: if a law grad works for the government or a non-profit for ten years with a salary under $75,000 per year, then they can qualify for a loan forgiveness program. Who wouldn’t borrow money, not only for tuition but also to live on, if they know it will be forgiven?

President Barack Obama came out with free community college. Governor Martin O’Malley and Senator Bernie Sanders are topping that with four years of college for free.

Hillary Clinton has offered up a package that many voters with college loans will find attractive.

In a more blatant payoff, Clinton proposes not only offering new subsidies for those who are going off to college, but also new subsidies for those who already left. But “refinancing” student loans and offering more generous income-based repayment plans will do absolutely nothing to improve education attainment or economic competitiveness. It is simply a transfer from the federal fisc to Americans with above-average educations and incomes. Income-based repayment is not a bad idea per se, but Clinton’s plan includes forgiveness after 20 years, which is a huge payoff for those with the biggest loan balances.

Would you be more likely or less likely to borrow money if you knew that in twenty years the loan would be forgiven, no questions asked? For those of us that live in the real world, the answer is absolutely: not only will people borrow money, they will borrow more money. If you were guaranteed that you would not have to pay it all back, then why would you scrimp and do without when you can live in luxury?

Hillary’s plan is almost entirely silent on controlling total costs, and, by increasing the supply of low-cost loans, the level of funding from state governments, and increasing other subsidies, proposes to lower out-of-pocket costs in the way that we’ve already seen will backfire.

Every time Washington proposes to fix something, it usually gets worse. They are already micromanaging the public school system from DC with mandate after mandate. The more they get involved in the university system, the more of a quagmire it will become. The college marketplace needs to be subject to local and free market forces. Then it will be able to react to the demands of the students and parents, not to the mandates of the feds.

The increases in tuition are not going to hire and pay more professors. Professors’ pay has not increased; in fact, more college instructors are poorly paid adjunct professors that teach by the course for far lower salaries than tenured professors. Just like with our public schools, much of the money gets eaten up by administration costs to ensure that the mandates are met.

While these plans will not contain college costs, they will achieve their goal of bringing out self-interested voters for the presidential election.

Mission impossible?

Consider this an open letter to the 16 or 17 Republican presidential campaign teams.

From the sound of it, we are planning to do our Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner in early November. Originally we wanted to get Larry Hogan as our speaker, but so did everyone else and then he announced he’s fighting stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Given the length of the course of treatment, it’s not likely he’ll be doing a great deal of traveling and public appearances during that time – however, should he decide to drop by the door is certainly open. I’m sure Larry would be gracious, even if it wasn’t his endorsee Chris Christie doing the talking.

Yet it’s always been puzzling to me as to why we in Wicomico County can’t get a better “name” speaker. After all, we are the “crossroads of Delmarva” and that has to count for something, right? Not only that, we have a wonderful venue at Salisbury University that we have used for several years – the food is always good.

So I look at this as a great chance for a presidential candidate who wants to think a little bit outside the box and perhaps swipe a few votes with some retail politics. We’re not all that far from New Hampshire and there are several attributes the schedulers may want to consider:

  • Between Maryland and Delaware there will be 54 Republican convention delegates (38 for Maryland, 16 for Delaware.) Even though Iowa and New Hampshire have a more advantageous position on the primary calendar, they only account for 53 delegates between them.
  • There is a potential audience of 102,793 Republicans within the four counties that make up the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland and Sussex County, Delaware. That doesn’t count unaffiliated and crossover Democrats who are desperate to not vote for Hillary.
  • All of them are within the Salisbury media market, and it’s not like the news in Salisbury has a lot of content. You may get wall-to-wall coverage if you show up.
  • We have a pretty good fundraising scheme in place which we used for the Patriot’s Dinner with Lt. Col. Allen West last year.
  • Lastly, not every Lincoln Day Dinner actually has a Lincoln. We do. He might even bring some Union troops along.

Generally our Lincoln Day dinner gets between 100 and 150 people – but I see no reason we couldn’t get 300 to 400 with the right candidate. The optics of a sold-out venue would be a shot in the arm for any campaign, so why not take advantage? You can’t let Donald Trump be the last one to show up at a Maryland event.

Back in 2012, the all-but-lost cause of Newt Gingrich came to Salisbury and drew plenty of regional attention, so here’s my earnest plea on behalf of the good Republicans of Delmarva: retail politics may well go a long way here. Do it while you’re still in the race this November and it may pay off in a year’s time.

Besides, isn’t the old adage “ask and you shall receive?” I’m asking nicely.

Larry Hogan’s maintaining an O’Malley legacy

July 17, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Cathy Keim, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off 

By Cathy Keim

So who needs Martin O’Malley when Larry Hogan will carry on his work?

I was astonished to read that Governor Hogan is expanding the You’ve Earned It! mortgage assistance program from the original $20 million to an additional $70 million. (Hat tip: Gwen Cordner.)

The program is aimed at assisting potential buyers, particularly members of the so-called “Boomerang Generation,” who are employed and have good credit but are saddled with student debt that is proving a barrier to homeownership. These young people are more likely to live with their parents than were young people one or two decades ago and they are saddled with significantly more student loan debt than their predecessors.

The student loan debt in America is over $1 trillion dollars and growing. The federal government supports 95% of student loans and is making billions of dollars of profit on them. There is no incentive by the Feds or by the colleges and universities to cut the spigot. As tuition rises each year, the students borrow more money only to find out when they graduate that there are no jobs for them to earn enough to support themselves and pay their loans.

Another neat trick is that you cannot get out of paying back your student loans by going bankrupt. There is no escape. Is it any wonder that young people who are graduating with a national average of $29,000 in college loan debt must live in their parents’ basement because they cannot pay their loans and live independently on a barrista’s salary?

In a Wall Street Journal interview, Dr. Richard Vedder of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity links the tuition increases to “the 50-fold growth in federal student financial assistance programs since 1970. Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett was mostly right when he said federal aid programs enabled colleges to raise tuition fees, helping to fuel the academic arms race.”

Why do so many people need a college degree? Many of the jobs that require a college degree did not require it in the past. We can thank the government for that also. Businesses used to administer tests to see if the potential employee had the skills necessary to fill the position. The government struck down testing as unfair, so many businesses switched to a college degree requirement as a way to screen applicants without running foul of the government.

Over time the value of the bachelor’s degree was diminished and now many jobs require a master’s degree forcing more students into school longer and causing more debt.

This situation is a serious problem for all of us. We need our younger generation to be buying consumer goods, especially cars and homes, to keep the economy humming. They must do their part, even if the government has to step in to “help” them again. It helped them acquire student loan debt and now it can help them acquire mortgage debt.

But the story doesn’t end there. These mortgages must be for homes in a certified sustainable community. And who determines what is “sustainable?” This group:

Sustainable Maryland is a certification program for municipalities in Maryland that want to go green, save money and take steps to sustain their quality of life over the long term. Sustainable Maryland Certified is a collaborative effort between the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) at the University of Maryland and the Maryland Municipal League to replicate the success of theSustainable Jersey initiative throughout the Mid-Atlantic States, beginning in Maryland.

To become a certified sustainable city, the city must have a green team comprised of municipal workers, city leaders/businessmen and diverse citizens. This is a standard tactic to get leaders onboard a project and others will follow because if “Joe” is on it, then it must be ok. The city can apply for tax credits and grants to bring improvements such as bike paths or renovating old buildings. The municipal workers on the green team get paid for their efforts (it is part of their job), but the citizens are volunteers because their hearts are in the right place.

(Note: Salisbury is registered, but not certified yet. Snow Hill and Berlin are certified sustainable cities.)

(Editor’s note: one of the Sustainable Maryland “primary partners” is the Town Creek Foundation, which never met a Radical Green program it didn’t like.)

Once these debt-laden former students are ensconced in their subsidized mortgage home, they will be ready to marry and produce the next generation of liberty-loving citizens. The next generation will be taught in the fully implemented Common Core method, which will ensure that they never hear of their heritage as Americans. They will be assessed and evaluated from pre-school to the workforce. The thousands of data points gathered will ensure that they are nudged gently into the correct attitudes so that they will fit into the new world order. Teamwork and cooperation will be their strong suit while individuality and thinking deeply on any subject will be discouraged.

The water in the pot is almost to a boil. If we don’t jump this presidential election, I fear it will be too late.

Regulatory reform comes to Maryland

I harbor no illusions that my post from the other day regarding the declining optimism of Maryland business owners goaded him into action, but today Governor Hogan announced the formation of a Regulatory Review Commission (RRC), charged over the next three years with “(f)ixing our burdensome antiquated, broken and out-of-control regulatory environment in Maryland.” The ten members of the RRC are volunteering their time to “focus like a laser beam on these issues”, said Hogan.

It’s interesting that the Democrats are claiming the Augustine Commission (which was created in the waning months of Martin O’Malley’s second term) was intended to address these issues and saying Hogan shouldn’t need three years to address the problem. How soon they forget that Larry’s Change Maryland organization was convening business summits over the last three years to gain the business perspective, not to mention the fact it was their administration which put out a number of these job-strangling regulations in the first place.

To me it’s just sour grapes. Ask yourself: had Anthony Brown won, would curtailing regulations be a priority? Thought not. The Augustine Commission report would have been filed and ignored.

But I hope the RRC has the latitude to go beyond just regulations and into other areas like taxation and, more importantly, looking into where other states succeed. Take a state like Texas, where hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created (as a net gain over jobs lost, not as a one-for-one swap) over the last decade. What attracts these entrepreneurs and leaders, and what assets can Maryland use to emulate their gains? Granted, a good portion of the Lone Star State’s gain came from abundant energy resources that Maryland can’t match, but there are other areas we may be able to do as well or better if we make that a goal. Unfortunately, over the last eight years our state took its cues from states like California and New York, places where capital and population have been fleeing.

Another question is just how cooperative these Democrats, who are already trying to take credit for the little bit done in 2015, will be to the RRC’s agenda as they submit their findings.

Take the “rain tax” as an example – a Democrat introduced the vastly watered-down bill that eventually passed, so they will surely henceforth try and take credit for ending the “rain tax.” But the mandate for affected counties to have a watershed protection and restoration fund did not go away (page 4 here) – it’s just up to the county to fill it, and most will likely retain some version of the “rain tax.” The actual repeal of the “rain tax” on this Hogan-sponsored bill was killed in committee by the Democrats therein on a straight party-line vote. (I used that vote as one of the committee votes on the monoblogue Accountability Project.) So it’s a fairly safe bet the Democrats are only paying lip service to the issue of regulations now because to them more is better – that’s how they’ve run Annapolis for most of the decade I’ve lived here and probably my whole life before that.

So the RRC can’t just exist in a vacuum. Now that Larry Hogan has experienced the way Democrats in the General Assembly basically gave the finger to his mandate, he will need in the coming months and years to take a page from the Reagan handbook and go straight to the people. Democrats may claim the last election was about “divided government” but the motivation was clearly behind a more conservative direction for the state.

While I would have preferred a more rapid formation for the RRC, this is a definite feather in the cap for Larry Hogan. Let’s hope that it’s not just for show but instead gives us an agenda even the Democrats can’t stop.

Is the Hogan business mojo wearing off?

It’s only one survey of 280 small (perhaps micro-scale) businesses in Maryland, but a recent poll conducted by a company which should be familiar to regular readers calls into question the effectiveness of Larry Hogan’s efforts at improvement in Maryland’s business climate in his first few months in office.

In cooperation with the Kauffman Foundation, Thumbtack.com has done annual, quarterly, and now monthly surveys of small business sentiment around the country. (I’ve written about their surveys on business friendliness in the past.) While it comes in a more graphical form than I can readily share here, some items I gleaned from the most recent Maryland and national data follow:

  • In terms of revenue and overall financial outlooks, Maryland businesses are less positive than the rest of the nation in the former and fall right at the national mean for the latter. The good news, though, is that over 70% of these businesses have a positive outlook over the next quarter.
  • Less than half, however, rate their financial situation as “very good” or “somewhat good.” Maryland’s total is 45.9% compared to 48.1% nationwide.
  • Maryland businesses are more pessimistic about profitability than their national peers; still, over 60% think they will do better. On the other hand, their perception on business conditions is actually better than the national average – 53.4% in Maryland think they will be better in three months’ time, while only 51.9% nationally share that outlook.
  • Finally, 24% of Maryland micro-businesses anticipate hiring over the next three months, while just 22.1% do nationwide. But while only 2.1% of businesses nationwide thought they would need to furlough workers, that percentage was 2.5% in Maryland.

As I noted above, this data was compiled at different intervals. Until March, this was done as a quarterly survey; now it is monthly. But one asset of this approach is that I can go back to the beginning of the year, and in their release accompanying the information Thumbtack.com noted:

In June, respondents nationwide indicated reduced optimism about the economy for the third month in a row, though sentiment about current and future conditions continues to be higher than that reported one year ago.

Key findings for Maryland include:

  • Maryland small businesses reported a sharp decline across each of the metrics tracked by Thumbtack, with the strongest declines coming in their expectations about future financial conditions and the economy.
  • Maryland experienced one of the largest overall business sentiment declines in the country in June; the state is now below the regional and national averages for small-business sentiment and ranks 30th overall nationwide.
  • Sentiment is still higher than it was one year ago, reflecting a broad-based increase in perceptions of economic conditions by small businesses across the country.
  • For the second month in a row, small businesses nationally expressed increasing pessimism about future economic conditions, which have been the largest contributors to the decline in overall sentiment.

Thus, it sounds like Maryland is reflective of a national trend.

But it’s also worth noting that the 2015Q1 survey showed broadly higher numbers across the board – revenue outlook has declined 10.9 points, financial outlook 5.2 points, profitability 11 points, and business conditions 8 points.

In addition, those who thought they may be hiring declined from 26% to 24.1%. Only the respondents’ assessment of their financial condition stayed relatively unchanged, declining just 1/10 of a point.

Unfortunately, these were the types of numbers we came to expect in the O’Malley administration. Obviously Hogan apologists would argue that their guy has been in office less than six months and it takes time to turn the ship of state around. And they would be correct, as the Augustine Commission agenda sailed through the General Assembly with its effective date in October.

Yet to me much of that was a simple rearrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic. While we can’t do a whole lot about the national economic climate, one thing Maryland could have done was allow these entrepreneurs to keep a little more of their money by reducing personal income tax rates; meanwhile, they could accommodate the entire elimination of corporate taxes with modest budget cuts of 3% or less. (The corporate tax brings in just over $1 billion of a $40 billion budget.) This would encourage larger businesses to consider Maryland for their growth and create more spinoff work for these micro-businesses.

Think of it this way under my scenario – Justin relocates from New York to work at the new Maryland corporate headquarters of XYZ Company, which was attracted here by the zero corporate tax rate as well as the other benefits Maryland brings. He needs a guy to fix his laptop, someone to watch the kids while Justin and Mrs. Justin are at work, and so on and so forth. Imagine what 250 Justins can do for a community and how many extra jobs they create. (I’m sure someone somewhere has done a study on this but today I’ll work without a net.)

The point is that addressing regulation and red tape is great, but the financial incentive has to be there as well. Among states with flat corporate tax rates, Maryland ranks among the highest. On a personal income level, Maryland’s rates appear to be a little better but that doesn’t add in the local county tax. (Granted, other states may also have the same practice.)

Let’s just say this: with an agenda that includes financial incentives as well as some cooperation from thoughtful Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly, by this time next year we can have a far more optimistic business community and in a few months after that they can better enjoy the results of hard work because the state takes a smaller cut.

State’s rights? Hardly.

Simply put, it’s been a brutal week for those who believe in right in America.

First of all, those of us in Maryland who had been anywhere from pleased to excited that the state elected a Republican governor when it was thought impossible found out Larry Hogan was not superhuman, just flawed and prone to health ailments like the rest of us. We all hope that he can beat back cancer and finish out his term, but the nagging question will surely remain if he chooses to run for re-election in 2018.

But that paled in comparison to having a Supreme Court which can’t read plain language in the law but can elect to reshape the meaning of words to suit a politically correct fancy. Aside from Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas, the SCOTUS blew it twice.

Here’s the problem with both instances: in each we had a varying number of states that chose to do their own thing. In the former instance, most of the states elected to go with the federal Obamacare exchange; in theory giving up the premium subsidy that was supposed to be a sweetener of the pot for Obamacare. Most of these had no desire to set up a state exchange, while a few saw the trainwreck that was Obamacare coming. (Just look at all the issues Maryland had in setting up its state exchange as a prime example.) It was a key flaw among many in the law but six Justices decided the intention was there and states without their own exchanges could still take advantage of the federal tax break. I guess it all depends on what the meaning of “is” is.

So now we’ll have Democrats crowing that it’s the law of the land and that we should deal with it. If this is so then I guess all those exemptions built into the law for various groups and businesses should be immediately eliminated, too. (I also wish they felt that way about illegal immigration.) I’m not naive enough to believe that has any chance at occurring, but it seems to me that states should be taking the lead. After all, the first state to have an Obamacare-style insurance mandate was Massachusetts and that was their right.  No one from the federal judiciary stopped them from trying it, but let Arizona try to enforce federal law on border security and immigration and all hell breaks loose.

And then we have the gay “marriage” decision. No court is going to tell me that marriage is anything other than between a man and a woman, period, end of sentence. Granted, some churches accept that particular ceremony and I suppose that’s their right, as far-fetched as that may appear to be. I’m not ashamed to meet my Maker and say that I believe marriage is only between a man and a woman – some may call me a bigot, but they can hang on to any delusion they want.

Yet we went through this in Maryland – the gay lobby tried and failed a couple times to get the same-sex marriage bill through the General Assembly before they conned a couple centrist RINOs into voting for the bill (note they had more than enough Democrats who could have voted for it, but there were some who wouldn’t touch it.) It passed by one or two votes, thousands upon thousands of concerned citizens managed to get it on the ballot via a referendum, and it squeaked by after a President changed his mind and it had the good fortune to be on the ballot in a high-turnout year. (If it was on the ballot this year I suspect the referendum would have gone the other way.) The point is, though, that Maryland made this decision. It was the wrong one, but now in all but one or two cases (Maryland being one, and I think Minnesota the other) the will of the people has been thwarted somewhere by a state or federal court. Either you had a case like California where voters ended the practice only to have it restored by an activist court or you have the SCOTUS decision today that eliminated the preference of the 14 states where same-sex “marriage” was not on the books.

And again I come back to the fact that states don’t seem to have any autonomy anymore when it comes to social issues. Over the last half-century states that had laws against abortion, gay marriage, and various other “blue laws” have had them taken away by societal mores and activist judges. The question is where this all stops. Are states now just lines on a map as Maryland counties seem to be as they are sucked deeper and deeper into the Annapolis-based morass?

The other sad event held over from last week was the Charleston church shooting, which was apparently caused by a Confederate flag. At least this is what you would be led to believe from the coverage. If South Carolina wants to remove it from their statehouse lawn it’s their business – however, if any state is tied in with the War Between the States it would be South Carolina since the battle began there. So being in the Confederacy is part of their history, just as the behind-the-scenes struggle to keep Maryland in the Union is part of ours. Both Maryland and Delaware were slave states.

Yet there’s something else about this whole scenario that I find interesting. The stated purpose of Dylann Roof in opening fire in that church was to begin a race war. In most cases where someone strikes out against oppression, though, it is generally from the side being oppressed – hence, you have groups which range from relatively peaceful like the NAACP  to more radical entities akin to the Black Panthers all working to advance the black race. Roof may have felt intimidated by his perception that whites were getting the short end of the stick, but in the wake of nonstop coverage of Ferguson and Baltimore it’s not a giant leap to come to that conclusion.

But rather than postulate about the typical role reversal and saying what if a black gunman entered a white church, perhaps you should ponder this: whites kill hundreds of blacks a day all over the nation and hardly a word is said. The biggest race war being perpetrated right now is blacks killing themselves, whether through homicide or abortion. Instead of going on a wild goose chase and blaming the flag of a failed insurrection of 150 years ago – during which the slaves that were freed were only those in states which had seceded, not the border states which stayed in the Union – each of us needs to look inward and ask ourselves if this is really the republic we intended to live in.

America has changed while most of us were sleeping. It’s time to wake up.

WCRC meeting – June 2015

As it turned out we didn’t have a speaker for tonight’s meeting so the agenda was on the light side. Still, there was plenty of discussion at our gathering.

We did the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance as we always do, but in between we had a silent moment of prayer for Governor Hogan. I had not heard the news about his cancer diagnosis, so I was quite shocked. It was definitely a somber way to begin the meeting.

With no speaker, we jumped to Julie Brewington’s Central Committee report. She recounted our appointments to the Board of Elections and Board of Education and revealed we were in the process of working on a fundraising event. We were also seeking a mayoral candidate for Salisbury as the filing deadline approaches in August.

Representing Somerset County’s GOP was Matthew Adams, who came up to sell tickets to the Tawes Crab and Clam Bake. Readers of mine know all about this annual event, which this year has increased its ticket price to $45. Between the state party and our two counties, we have half of one of the large tents for a total of 120 tickets. Adams expressed his interest in having Andy Harris make an appearance, but we were at the mercy of the House voting schedule for that one. Harris may be able to do a morning event, though. (I would assume that Harris’s primary opponent, Michael Smigiel, already has Tawes on his calendar just as Harris was able to do when Frank Kratovil held the seat.)

We also got the pleasure of meeting Patty Miller, who is the incoming president of the Salisbury University College Republicans. Their big task this year, said Miller, was to recruit new members. When asked about the atmosphere on campus Miller admitted that it was hard to overcome the liberal bias of the faculty, but it helped that many students came from rural areas. Adams noted that a good percentage of SU students come from Somerset County and was hoping to use them to gain inroads into UMES.

Some good news came from Muir Boda, who announced the beer license for the Crab Feast on September 12 should be secured this week. The issue was our non-profit status, which was resolved by (of all people) the IRS. Boda was working with Josh Hastings of the Democratic Club, who have the same issue with their event, so there is bpiartisan cooperation around here. He also announced he had filed for City Council last week.

Another upcoming event is the Wicomico County Fair in August, and we were in the process of getting our space there. Dave Snyder asked about voter registration and we encouraged him to do so.

Our most recent appointees to the Board of Education were then asked to speak, as their first meetinnd wg will occur tomorrow morning. And while the reaction to John Palmer’s appointment was “righteously fearful,” according to Julie Brewington, Joe Ollinger struck a more optimistic tone – although he admitted “public education is a tough job.” But it’s not a money issue, he added.

Some of his ideas for change were efforts to instill more discipline in the schools while encouraging more respect for the public school teachers. But he also wished to move as much responsibility as possible to the local board, hoping the state would cede some power.

One other item on the club’s agenda is a new officer. Since Joe Collins took a position on the Board of Elections, he can’t serve as an officer for the WCRC. Dave Snyder volunteered to be nominated but we would like to have other candidates step up, too.

Marc Kilmer filled us in on the public hearing process for an elected school board. Five hearings will be held beginning in September – wonder where they got that idea? It was also suggested that we hold a straw poll at the Wicomico County Fair to gauge support.

Marc also was lauded by Joe Ollinger for how he explained how he came u with his votes, and it was incumbent upon us to demand that same forthrightness from the others on County Council.

Shawn Jester passed along word from Delegate Carl Anderton that his district office was now open. We also learned from Cathy Keim that we would be using the optical scanner machines beginning in 2016. Of course, that brings a headache because the machines and paper ballots have to be kept in a conditioned space the county doesn’t have yet, so they will have to lease or build one.

Next month we will have two speakers. It’s no surprise that our old friend Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio is coming to address us, but having Jake Day speak is definitely different. He sought us out, though, and we’ll give him the forum on July 27.

Playing with trains

June 8, 2015 · Posted in Business and industry, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Perhaps you can add “centrist Republican governors” to that list.

There’s a very good reason that America doesn’t have a similar system to Japan’s – we prefer to do our travel in automobiles. If passenger rail was truly successful, we would not have a government-subsidized corporation (Amtrak) running it but a system more like air travel, with a number of carriers competing for business. (Granted, the amount of railway is much more finite than airspace but if demand were there more would be built.)

Yet this latest proposal is interesting in one respect: how the operation would be conducted.

Nazih Haddad, executive vice president of the Rapid Rail company, said his company would bear all of the operating costs once the line was running. He said the construction costs would be split between the Japanese government, the Central Japan Railway and the U.S. government, with no need for a state contribution.

One truly has to wonder why the Japanese government would want to be involved – if they have a TEA Party in their country I would think those taxpayers would be complaining about spending their tax money on a project in America. (Of course, Uncle Sam has to get its mitts into it as well.)

But pardon me if I’m a little skeptical about Rapid Rail “bear(ing) all the operating costs” when just the study will cost $28 million and supposedly it will be $10 billion to build. California got this high-speed rail idea a few years ago (using more conventional technology) and its price tag has tripled since voters approved the bonds. Based on that it wouldn’t surprise me if construction for a maglev ended up costing something like $30 billion. (In comparison, the Purple Line and Red Line were tabbed to combine for $$5-6 billion. That’s why our gas tax went up a couple years ago – and continues to increase every 6 to 12 months.)

While I understand it’s not the state money funding this study, it’s still taxpayer money. Naturally I suspect that the study will make the rosiest predictions on benefits and somehow overlook vast areas where costs could creep up. The results will fit the agenda, as they often do.

It may well be possible to get from Baltimore to Washington in 15 minutes via maglev – but are you willing to pay $200 a trip to do so? Something tells me this will be how the process would work. Call me a Luddite, but I think the tax money could be more productively spent.

Critical of the process?

Don’t look now, but the critics are out again.

I was looking through social media and my friend Jackie Wellfonder linked to this Daily Times article from writer Phil Davis. While he correctly notes that the Wicomico County Republican Party appointed two new members to the board, there was less emphasis on the third member added back to the body as Democrat Donald Fitzgerald was reappointed. The GOP didn’t have that option because one of the three vacant seats was that of Larry Dodd, who was elected to County Council and resigned his post mid-term, another was ceded by the Democrats upon the election of Larry Hogan, and the third turned out to be a reappointment of Fitzgerald.

But some forgot that elections do matter. ”Tea Party Governor appoints Tea Party person that was hand picked by Tea Party County Executive. I think that about sums it up,” said local Democratic activist Chuck Cook.

“Democrats don’t appoint Tea Party people who want to destroy education,” he added later.

Naturally I had to respond:

You say TEA Party like it’s a bad thing. The Central Committee was looking for people who would bring accountability and discipline to the board.

I suppose not giving the teachers everything they want and then some is considered to be hating kids. How about “money follows the child” and call it a day?

As I have noted on numerous occasions, though, my preference would be for actual voters to determine who sits on the school board. That was an angle another observer had when she learned who was appointed:

I would like to thank our local Republicans for convincing me that maybe an elected School Board is the way to go. The latest appointment has me thinking they obviously aren’t up to the task.

We’ll take ‘em by hook or by crook.

Since Joe Ollinger is a known quantity who ran for County Executive in 2010, I’m going out on a limb and guessing the objections center around John Palmer, who has been a longtime advocate for fiscal accountability in the county.

But seriously, if you consider the problem to be the people who want to make the Wicomico County Board of Education become leaner and more accountable for the $190 million of our tax dollars (federal, state, and local) that they will spend in FY 2016 – well, I’m glad we send our child to a Christian school. Too bad I still have to pay some of the other freight, though.

And I have some news for the critics: guess who gets to make the next two appointments? Why, it’s the Wicomico County Republican Party you know and love!

Now. they will have the option of re-appointing the two Republicans already on the board (Carolyn Elmore and Kim Hudson) but something tells me a lot of the sentiment toward granting them another term will come from seeing just how well they work and play with the two new Republicans on the WCBOE. Remember, there’s nothing that says that once appointed a member is automatically re-appointed, and it bears noting that the local Republicans played a much smaller role in the process when Elmore and Hudson were appointed – in fact, I seem to recall that the local Democrats wanted the Republican aspirants to interview with them because they controlled the process at the time. Imagine the caterwauling the GOP would have received in the local media if we played that card with the Democrats’ seat, with Chuck Cook screaming the loudest.

I don’t know if either Elmore or Hudson went to speak with the Democrats, but the WCRCC did not interview Kim Hudson. She submitted her name separately when the vacancy she filled came up – Hudson is finishing an unexpired term brought about by the 2012 resignation of Michelle Wright.

(This is the great thing about being the WCRCC secretary – I have the minutes of the meetings. We interviewed six great people for the Wright opening and Hudson was not one of them.)

So there will be some interesting times over the next year insofar as the Wicomico County Board of Education goes. I am very sure the most recent appointees will be the subject of some testimony whenever the county gets around to scheduling its hearings regarding an elected school board, which was on their agenda Tuesday. Just remember: the ones who are complaining about the “TEA Party” choices are among those who thwarted the idea of an elected school board for the better part of a decade.

The easy way out

A couple weeks ago I pointed out that about two dozen bills passed by the Maryland General Assembly this year were still pending after Larry Hogan had his final bill signing session May 12. Here was the list of bills I urged him to veto:

If he wishes to let the decriminalization of marijuana become law without his signature, that’s quite all right.

So I’m very disappointed to report that the deadline came and went while Hogan was away in Asia, and only two of those bills were properly vetoed: HB980/SB340 and SB190.

Yet while he turned aside the travel tax, Governor Hogan increased a number of court fees and kept an additional O’Malley fee increase scheduled to sunset this year for another five years.

The governor who claims to be business-friendly and who wanted to create jobs went against the wishes of his party on flexible leave and thwarted the introduction of fracking to Maryland for another two years. This after announcing during the campaign:

States throughout the country have been developing their natural gas resources safely and efficiently for decades. I am concerned that there has been a knee-jerk reaction against any new energy production.

Now we have our own knee-jerk reaction.

He also added yet another unnecessary mandate to health insurance with in-vitro fertilization coverage for same-sex couples, and if Bruce, uh, “Caitlyn” Jenner were born in Maryland s/he could legally have his/her birth certificate changed to reflect the “fact” he bills himself as a female.

Perhaps you believe Hogan was making the political calculation about whether a veto could be sustained. With the Senate in Democratic hands by a hefty 33-14 count, it’s not likely a veto could be sustained there. However, a 50-seat group of Republicans in the House only need seven Democrats to keep a veto in play, and given enough political pressure there are still a handful of centrist Democrats who could go along with the governor.

These were the House votes on the eight measures I advocated a veto for. I’m also adding the votes on the handful of bills he vetoed for policy reasons.

  • House Bill 51 passed the House 97-40. It would have difficult to uphold this one.
  • House Bill 54 passed the House 82-58, after originally failing on third reading. This veto could have been sustained.
  • House Bill 345 passed the House 86-52. This one was right on the cusp of a maintaining the veto; definitely doable.
  • House Bill 449 passed the House 93-45, and its crossfiled SB409 passed 103-36. But if Governor Hogan had vetoed this and put the whip to his department heads to come up with regulations by next January they may have upheld this veto.
  • The margins on HB838/SB416 were 94-44 and 93-45, respectively. That’s iffy but the onus should have been placed on the General Assembly to vote on it again.
  • Similarly, HB862/SB743 only won the House by margins of 85-50 and 91-49. Still unlikely to hold, but should have made them vote again.
  • HB980/SB340 only had 82 votes apiece in the House, which makes these good candidates to be upheld.
  • SB190 only passed 84-56, which means it’s also a good possibility to be sustained.
  • SB517, which decriminalized marijuana possession but was vetoed, is right on the cusp of overturn as it passed 83-53.
  • Similarly, SB528, which dealt with seizure and forfeiture (also vetoed), passed the House 89-51 so it’s also a possible overturn.

I suppose I should be happy with the half a loaf I have received from Governor Hogan considering the absolute disaster we’ve had to endure under eight years of Martin O’Malley. But the leftists are crowing about the fracking ban, and see it as just an initial step to a permanent halt.

The only way to curb an ambitious, leftist agenda is to put up a conservative one of your own and stomp out any attempt to sneak things through. Instead, what we are receiving is a leftward drift in lieu of pedal-to-the-metal liberalism. However, to borrow the words of a former governor, we really need to turn this car around and not using the veto pen as much as it should be won’t get us going in the correct direction.

Refuse to Comply. Decline to Test. Petition Governor Hogan to Cancel Membership in PARCC.

By Cathy Keim

The Worcester County Tea Party recently sent an email out requesting that people sign the petition entitled: Immediate Repeal of Common Core State Standards and Cancellation of Membership in the PARCC Consortium in the State of Maryland.

As both Michael and I have mentioned previously, Governor Hogan has the ability to remove Maryland from the PARCC Consortium. The time for action on his part is running out, so Antonio Piacente is gathering signatures on a petition to give the governor the political courage to pull out of the contract. Go here to read and sign the petition, and then send it on to all your friends.

It would be a shame to lose the opt out clause in the PARCC contract. However, without massive pushback from parents, nothing will be done. Governor Hogan has appointed two new members to the Maryland State Board of Education, Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Andy Smarick, both of whom have connections with the ‘Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a think tank with ties to the Gates Foundation that supports education reforms such as the Common Core State Standards, school choice, and accountability testing.”

Since Gov. Hogan appointed new state school board members that are supporters of high stakes testing, it seems unlikely that he will drop out of the PARCC agreement without intense pressure.

If the governor and our legislators do not listen to the parents, then it may be time for the civil disobedience option.

Charles Murray’s book, By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, makes the case “that American government today is so far divorced from the nation’s founding principles of limited government and individual liberty that it can’t be returned to those principles through normal political action. No presidential administration, congressional turnover, or set of SCOTUS appointments will restore the Commerce and General Welfare clauses. Thus, he writes, supporters of liberty should try to effect change through carefully chosen but broadly adopted acts of civil disobedience against publicly unpopular regulations.”

The Federalist follows up with an article saying that widespread resistance to Common Core could be just the wedge that Charles Murray was hoping for.

As more and more parents become aware of the follies inherent in the premise behind common core, we may finally reach a critical mass of citizens that are willing to say no to the federal government’s grab for control over the public schools.

It’s time for a governor to say, “To heck with Congress’s inability to send our federal education dollars back with fewer strings attached. The cost of compliance with federal regulations is higher than the funds we get back from the feds. They can keep our stinking money. We don’t need the A-PLUS Amendment. We don’t need federal education funds at all. We can run our schools better, on slightly less money, without federal micromanagement.” Local school boards could do the same thing, especially those who don’t get much or any federal funds.

The costs to comply with all the government mandates are enormous. Just trying to get all the technology in place to implement the testing regimens is going to bankrupt the school system. And as we all know, technology has to be replaced frequently, so it is not a one-time cost per student. Then you realize that not only is the technology expensive, but it is helping to implement the data mining of your student’s every move which is then kept in his permanent record to track him from pre-school to the work force.

One other important point is that there is a difference between a test and an assessment. The two words are used interchangeably, but parents should be aware that what is occurring in the schools now is not the type of tests they were used to taking. A test measures a student’s grasp of facts such as 2 + 2 = 4. It can be graded the same for everybody. However, an assessment is to measure change such as can the student cooperate in a group better this month than last month or has the student’s attitude “improved” on a certain subject matter.

Teachers are not trained to evaluate attitudes, but these assessments will follow your student right into the workplace. Combine them with all of the personal information that the assessments ask about the student’s family, religion, and other areas that are not the school’s business, and the data mining that is done by businesses and the government and soon you have a system where everything about your student’s abilities, beliefs, and weaknesses are carefully documented in a neat little file. Some bureaucrat can use that information to send your child to a good college or to block him from attaining his goals.

Parents need to realize that even though they do not have any spare time, this education crisis needs their attention. Sometimes things are big enough that we must make time for them right now. This presidential election cycle is the time. Bring Common Core front and center. Parents need to insist that the presidential contenders address their concerns.

The thousands of parents across the country that are standing up to the educational leviathan need you to join them. Sign the petition and encourage Governor Hogan to be a leader against the federal takeover of our schools. Without your input, it seems clear that he will just follow the Common Core path that is before him. Parents can make the difference. Speak up now while you can.

Editor’s note: I signed on Friday evening and was number 622. We need to do better, people.

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