Last year, Delegate Mark Fisher did what only three others in the decade of my monoblogue Accountability Project have done: compiled a perfect 25-for-25 vote score. Unfortunately for him, 2016 brought two such scores and based on his overall record and other factors my Legislator of the Year was fellow Delegate Warren Miller, who compiled the other perfect mark.
But Fisher has put up an interesting proposal that reflects a desire to limit government, at least as part of an e-mail I received. Here are a couple excerpts:
Each year, Maryland has a 90-day Legislative Session. Over 3,000 bills are proposed each year that seek to limit your freedoms and stifle prosperity. And so the question arises: How does Virginia, a much larger state, survive with only a 60-day Session during even years – and a 46-day Session during odd years?
The answer is simple – Annapolis elites believe that your prosperity comes from government.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way. A shorter, 60-day legislative session combined with a modest salary of $18,000.00, like Virginia, is a good start. When a legislature has less time to meet, there’s less time to meddle.
It’s true that other states have differing rules on their legislative sessions, as does Congress. But in all honesty, the state legislature really has just one job, and that’s to approve the budget. Instead, they do meddle in a lot of things and more often than not, they remove county authority in favor of the state. While there’s a stated goal among many to be “One Maryland,” the reality is that the Annapolis perception of “One Maryland” is a lot different than the reality we live with. Our Maryland is slower-paced, doesn’t rely on the federal government for employment, and would prefer local control of many entities, such as planning and zoning and our schools. We also have competition that’s unique to our part of the state for business and retail establishments, as those across the Mason-Dixon and Transpeninsular lines in Delaware toil in a state known for being business-friendly and without a sales tax.
Yet if Fisher wants to cut into the sum total of legislation, he doesn’t necessarily need to shorten the session. Perhaps there needs to be a regulation in place that creates a sunset date for all new bills so that they need to be revisited every few years. (Some bills already feature this, so they have to be dealt with at appropriate times.)
I think he has the right idea on this one, but I’m sure it’s an idea that goes nowhere given the state of our state.
Naturally the news came with an appeal for financial help, but the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance shared some good news on the pro-life front for next year. They announced that newly-elected Senator Michael Hough will sponsor the Women’s Late-Term Pregnancy Health Act (WLTPHA) in the upcoming session.
The bill is described by MPLA as having several purposes:
- Documents the undisputed medical risks to a pregnant woman’s health when an abortion is performed at 20 weeks gestation.
- Substantial medical evidence verifies that an unborn child by at least 20 weeks gestation has the capacity to feel pain.
- Based upon medical evidence of the risks to women’s health and the pain felt by unborn children, this bill will prohibit abortions at or or after 20 weeks gestation.
Without knowing the text of the bill, it sounds markedly similar to the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HB283/SB34 in 2014) which went nowhere in the last two sessions. I doubt this bill would pass in Maryland, but there are purposes for introducing it in the upcoming session.
First and foremost, this bill surveys the lay of the land in the Senate. How many co-sponsors does it get? To use last year’s examples, the House version had 43 co-sponsors but the Senate bill had none other than its original backer, Senator Ed Reilly. Certainly there are more pro-life members there than just Senator Reilly but apparently no one wanted to step forward in an election year. That pressure is eased this time around.
And while the sponsors in the House for last year’s version included four Democrats, only one (Delegate Ted Sophocleus) returned for another term. Conversely, a handful of Republicans were not co-sponsors but of those only Delegates Wendell Beitzel and Mark Fisher came back. A companion cross-filed House bill could be important because there are now enough Republicans to force a floor vote if desired through the process of bypassing the committee it would be assigned to. Whether the WLTPHA is an important enough issue to use that option will also be a story that develops, especially if the fiscal portions of Governor-elect Hogan’s agenda have a difficult time getting a committee vote.
It will be many years before Maryland becomes as enlightened as other states about the physical and psychological hazards that freely available abortion carries. But the first step has to be made somewhere, and just as bad legislation sometimes needed to be introduced year after year to break down the barriers to passage, so do bills like this. Progress in Maryland for this year would be getting non-sponsoring legislators on record as to their support or lack thereof.
I don’t often get praise from the quarters of Red Maryland these days, so I was surprised to see their kind words about my monoblogue Accountability Project last week. They cited it in analyzing the Senate District 4 race between David Brinkley and Michael Hough. As it turns out, I used that race as an example of why it’s needed in certain primaries when I wrote my summary for the mAP.
So let me extend those remarks with a little more research I did. While I’ve done the mAP for seven years, I had never established an average score by party – until I decided to figure it out for 2014 the other night. So when you look at a ballot with a Republican and a Democrat on it – particularly if the Democrat has tried his or her best to convince you they have a streak of conservatism in them – remember these numbers.
On the average, Democrats in the Senate score 8.77 on a 100-point scale while their GOP counterparts average 56.75 – and this year was really, really bad for GOP senators.
In the House, Democrats average just 7.40 while Republicans average a more respectable 71.86. In most years, it’s about where the Senate would be.
So on 25 issues, which I score at 4 points apiece, the average Republican will vote the correct way somewhere between 12 and 16 more times. Granted, there are exceptions, and as a percentage of the vote both parties do somewhat better than their numbers because my overall scores deduct for absences and ducking votes. In general, a Republican gets about 18 to 23 of my 25 votes right.
Here’s another example I could have used from southern Maryland. In District 27C, current Delegate Mark Fisher is paired up with former Delegate Sue Kullen. Since my records now go back eight years, I can (and did) add to my scoresheet her lifetime score of 4, compared to Fisher’s lifetime mark of 84. Out of 25 issues, it’s likely Fisher would vote correctly 20 more times than Kullen would and that makes a huge difference.
In my District 38, the Senate race is between Democrat incumbent Jim Mathias (lifetime Senate score of 28) and Delegate Mike McDermott, with a lifetime 85 score in the House. Who would be better to represent a conservative district?
If you look at the mAP, I have several other examples where comparisons can be made. The point is that there can be a significant difference between candidates, even within their own party. For those with primary decisions to make, my guide can be a useful tool in studying the record of incumbents and working out some general election matchups – even if your candidates have no record, the average “generic” Democrat or Republican should provide a good indicator of how they’ll do.