Last year I did this in three parts, but to me that may be overkill this time around. Consider that 2017 is not an election year, so if anything we will not see much on that front until the latter stages of the year as the campaigns for 2018′s state elections ramp up. And because all but one of our local officials are first-term representatives in their respective offices, it’s likely they will wish to continue in office. Bear in mind, though, on the Senate side longtime House member Addie Eckardt will be 75 and Jim Mathias (who is in his second term as Senator after one-plus in the House) will be 67 by the time the next election comes around, so they are likely closer to the end of their lengthy political careers than to the beginning. And thanks to Wicomico County voters who passed the referendum this past November, 2017 will be the year we formally set up the elections which will net the county its first fully-elected Board of Education in late 2018.
Speaking of the local BOE, we still have an appointed board until that election and the two members whose terms expire this year are both Democrats who are term-limited. I suspect the local Democrats will try and send up names of people who will run for seats in 2018 to gain that incumbency advantage – as envisioned, though, these will be non-partisan elections. And the final say goes to the state Secretary of Appointments, who over the years hasn’t always been kind to those we preferred, either. Or, conversely, since the incumbents serve until their successors are appointed, we may see a long stalling technique, too. It will be interesting to see how that plays out, but I’ll bet those who are appointed will use that tenure as a springboard for eventual election.
Elsewhere in Wicomico County as 2016 comes to an end, it appears the city of Salisbury and Wicomico County are working out their issues rather well. The biggest sticking point remains fire service, and it’s relatively likely the city is going to see more of a reimbursement from the county when it comes to that – perhaps to the tune of up to $2 million a year. It’s possible there may be something to cut to make up for this, but as the county has increased its debt in the last few years to build several schools it leaves less room for spending cuts to make up the difference. If the city receives $2 million annually that would equate to about a 3 or 4 cent property tax increase for county residents. There’s also the chance that a tax differential or rebate may be on the table in order to reimburse city residents, as they pay the same tax rate as county residents. Wicomico is one of only three counties in the state that choose not to provide a tax differential to their municipalities.
But there is another factor to consider. Back in June the number of people working in Wicomico County set an all-time high of 52,010, eclipsing a mark that had stood for nearly a decade (July 2006.) That record lasted a month, as July came in at 53,668. While the number of jobs has finally reached where we were a decade ago, bear in mind the labor force is about 1,000 larger – so unemployment is in the 5.5% range rather than 4%. Even so, that extra number of people working – a number which year-over-year between 2015 and 2016 has fluctuated quite a bit but usually comes in at 1,000 or more additional workers in 2016 – means there’s more revenue to the county from income taxes so paying the city of Salisbury may not be such a heavy lift. The question for 2017 will be whether these economic conditions continue and whether Wicomico County will want to spend every “extra” dime on items which are unsustainable in rougher economic times.
That same question goes for the state, but the trend there has been for more spending. Democrats in the General Assembly added millions in mandated spending to the state budget and it’s a sure bet they will try again this year. Add to that the general belief that year 3 of a Maryland political cycle sees the most ambitious agenda put forth – it’s time for those incumbents to bring home the bacon and burnish their re-election chances the next year – and you can bet that paid sick leave will pass, Radical Green will have its day (perhaps with a fracking ban, which would devastate Western Maryland), and any Hogan veto will be promptly overridden. It’s certain that they will leave enough time in passing these controversial bills to do so. We’ve already seen battle lines drawn with the counter-proposal from Governor Hogan on paid sick leave and the social media-fueled drive to repeal the “Road Kill Bill” that Democrats passed over Governor Hogan’s veto in the spring of this year.
The wild card in state politics, though, comes from national politics. It’s not because we had the well-publicized answer to an extremely nosy press – if only they paid as much attention to some of Martin O’Malley’s foibles and scandals! – that Larry Hogan wasn’t going to support his (nominally at best) fellow Republican Donald Trump, but the idea that Donald Trump may actually do something to cut the size and scope of government. (Military contractors, particularly, have reason to worry.) And because Maryland’s economy is so dependent on the federal government, to a shocking and sickening degree, we know that if Trump begins to make cuts it will hurt Maryland the most. Given the typical bureaucrat CYA perspective, it explains perfectly why four of the five jurisdictions Trump did worst in - the only five which came in below his 35% statewide total – were the four counties closest to the District of Columbia (MoCo, PG, Charles, and Howard. Baltimore City was the fifth.) While I am entirely a skeptic on this, there seems to be the belief that Trump will take a meat cleaver to the budget and thousands of federal and contract workers will be cast aside because of it.
And in a situation where revenues are already coming up short of forecast, a recession in the state’s biggest jurisdictions, coupled with the mandated spending Democrats keep pushing through, will make it really, really difficult on Larry Hogan going into 2018. You will be able to judge who has the most ambition to be Governor by who carps the longest about these cuts.
While the Dow Jones stalled this week in an effort to breach the 20,000 mark by year’s end, the rise in the markets echoes consumer optimism - even as fourth quarter GDP forecasts turned a little bearish, consumers still feel a little better about the state of our economy. If we can get the 4% GDP growth Donald Trump promised we may see some of these fiscal crises take care of themselves.
Yet there was also a sentiment in 2016 that the world was going mad: consider all the terror attacks, the seemingly unusual number of and extended shock over high-profile celebrity deaths, and a general turning away from that which was considered moral and proper to that which fell under the realm of political correctness, wasn’t a “trigger” and didn’t violate the “safe spaces” of the Millennial “snowflakes.” (I can’t resist linking to this one I wrote for The Patriot Post.) At some point the pendulum swings back the other way, but in most cases that takes a life-changing event like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. I’d prefer a much softer transition but a transition nonetheless.
As I see it, the key word for 2017 will be leadership: if the current elected officials and new President have it and use it wisely to the benefit of our county, state, and nation “so help me God” things will be okay. If not, well, we’ve seen that movie for about eight or ten years already and we will continue to slouch toward Gomorrah.
On Wednesday night I put up a relatively quick post handicapping the various officer races for Maryland Republican Party leadership. But there was one person I may have missed, and his name is Gary Collins.
Over the last few days his social media has been on fire because he had noted his thought about trying for the brass ring, but deciding against it – only to find a lot of people want him to consider it anyway. It seems to me there can be floor nominations (although my recollection is rusty on this) so he may have something of a support base if he decides to try.
Back in the summer, though, Gary was one of the strongest Trumpkin voices screaming for my resignation, and I suppose he eventually got his wish because I did. Now he has to be careful what he wished for, though, because I’m going to give him (and anyone else who seeks the top spot) some free advice from an outsider who was once on the inside. It’s not so much on how to be chair of the party as it is a general treatise on philosophy. So here goes.
- There are two numbers for the new Chair to remember: 818,890 and 1,677,926. The former number is the Democratic vote in 2014, and the latter in 2016. We can’t count on a weak Democrat that the party can’t get excited about to run in 2018, and you can be sure that the other party will be trying to tie the person who only won in 2014 by about 65,000 votes to the guy who lost two years later, in large part from Democrats and independents voting against him as opposed to being for their own flawed nominee, by over 700,000 votes. (You can fairly say that 1/3 of Hillary’s popular vote margin came from this state.) This is true even though Larry Hogan didn’t support Donald Trump and reportedly didn’t vote for him.
- Thus, job one for the party Chair is to re-elect the governor and job 1A is to get him more help. You may not like it, and the chances are reasonably good the winner supported Trump from early on. But not everything Trump says or does will play well here, especially when 2/5 of the voters live in the Capital region.
- Legislatively, this will be the year in the cycle the General Assembly majority is most aggressive. You can bet that paid sick leave will pass and they will dare Hogan to veto it. Even other crazy stuff like the “chicken tax” and a renewed push for the O’Malley-era phosphorus regulations have a decent chance of passing – both to burnish the far-left legacy of ambitious Democrats and to attempt to embarrass Governor Hogan. Meanwhile, if it’s an administration-sponsored bill you can be certain the committee chairs have standing orders to throw it in their desk drawers and lose the key. (Of course, identical Democrat-sponsored legislation will have a chance at passing, provided they get all the credit.) Bear in mind that 2017 will be aggressive because 2018 is an election year and the filing deadline will again likely be during session – so those who wish to move up in the ranks may keep their powder dry on the most extreme issues next session until they see who wins that fall.
- Conservatives have a lot to lose. Larry Hogan is not a doctrinaire conservative, but he needs a second term for one big reason – sort of like the rationale of keeping the Supreme Court that #NeverTrump people were constantly subjected to. It’s the redistricting, stupid. They got rid of Roscoe Bartlett by adding thousands of Montgomery County voters to the Sixth District (while diluting the former Sixth District voters into the Eighth or packing them into the First) so the next target will be Andy Harris. If you subtracted out the four Lower Shore counties from his district and pushed it over into Baltimore City, you would only lose a little in the Democratic Third and Seventh Districts but pick up the First. The Lower Shore voters would be well outnumbered by PG and Charles County as part of the Fifth District (such a district split is not unprecedented.) Democrats dreamed about this last time out, and they want no part of an independent redistricting commission.
- One place to play offense: vulnerable Democrat Senators. I live in Jim Mathias’s district, and it’s very interesting how much more of an advocate he was for an elected school board after 2014. He’s always tried to play up his somewhat centrist (compared to most Democrats. anyway) voting record, and I suspect there are a handful of other D’s who may try to do the same. Don’t let them get away with it, because over years of doing the monoblogue Accountability Project I’ve found (with a couple rare exceptions) that even the worst Republican is superior to the best Democrat as far as voting is concerned.
So whoever wins Saturday can feel free to use these ideas. As for me, I have far better plans for my weekend – I’ll wave in the general direction in Frederick as we go by. Fair warning: comment moderation may be slow or non-existent.
The other day I received a reminder that Heritage Action had updated its Congressional scorecard. And for those who believe that our Congressman Andy Harris isn’t as conservative as he makes himself out to be, it should be noted that his 90% rating puts him in the top 20 on Congress overall, or the 95th percentile if you will. It’s a score that Harris currently shares with some of the more libertarian heroes of Congress, such as Justin Amash and Thomas Massie, as well as Presidential candidate Marco Rubio. (Ted Cruz was among the top 3 at 100%, along with Mike Lee and Ken Buck of Colorado.)
But one weakness I’m finding with the Heritage Action scorecard is just what issues they consider important – there’s no easy way to determine what bills and votes they deemed important enough to include. Certainly I trust the Heritage Foundation to be a conservative watchdog as they have been for many years, but it would be nice to have their scorecard reflect what the scores are based upon.
On the other hand, I present no such problem with my monoblogue Accountability Project because I explain just why I vote as I would. (By and large, it’s opposition to the lunacy Democrats put out on an annual basis, although I am also far more of a budget hawk than most as well.) In this year’s roster of legislation, there were anywhere from five to fifty-odd votes per bill on my side in the House and two to twenty per bill in the Senate. None of those I sided with this year became law, unlike last year where I won a couple.
If you follow monoblogue on social media (and you should) you’ll notice I’m making steady progress on this year’s edition, which I am slating to release June 6. Actually, what pushes this into June is a fairly recent phenomenon.
Back when Martin O’Malley was governor, I never had to worry about vetoed bills and pretty much everything that was placed in front of him by the Democratic-controlled Maryland General Assembly was signed in short order. But with Larry Hogan in office, I have to pay attention to what’s called the “date of presentment.” This tripped me up last year in discussing the post-session because I thought Hogan had 30 days after session to sign/veto bills, not realizing there was a date of presentment involved. (O’Malley always seemed to sign things as quickly as possible.) This year the date of presentment was May 1 (20 days after session) so the drop-dead date for a Hogan veto is May 31, or 30 days after presentment.
Where this affects me is what I call the “disposition” of each bill. Not only do I tally the votes, but I make sure readers know the fate of each bill. It was easy (if depressing) when MOM was in office because I could simply write something along the lines of “Governor O’Malley signed this bill May 5.” Now I have bills that are allowed to become law without Hogan’s signature and actual vetoes to deal with, so it makes me wait until the coast is clear June 1 to figure out final disposition. Hence, I have to wait to put it out. In truth, the compiling is easier than ever because I’ve done it so long and can fill out the spreadsheet I use rather quickly.
So you are two weeks away from getting your hands on this hot little item, which so far has been a great horse race as I compile votes and find multiple members still have a chance at a perfect score. Now if we could only get that number of perfect scorers up to 188, or at least a good working majority in each chamber, this state may be getting somewhere.
I really had to blow a lot of dust off this series – its last installment was in July of 2013 – but I will be on the internet radio tomorrow morning at 11:00 thanks to radio hostess (and new monoblogue contributor) Marita Noon. She asked me to come on this week’s installment of her “America’s Voice for Energy” program to discuss a post I did last year.
It came about because she was doing a piece on where the candidates stood on energy (which will be her debut post here tomorrow morning) and I noted to her via social media that I had done quite a bit of research last summer on that very topic as part of my “Dossier” series. She wanted to discuss that piece and other thoughts I had on the subject, thus early this morning we recorded my segment of her show, which will be the opening segment. Thirteen minutes may seem like a long time to fill on the radio, but we were rolling so well I almost didn’t get to promote my site.
Yet there are some other things which were sadly left on the cutting room floor, so to speak. Something I would have liked to fill her audience in on further but didn’t have the time to this morning was the unique situation we have here in Maryland with regard to energy. I did get to discuss a little bit about the proposed offshore wind that Martin O’Malley was trying to push, but I wanted to mention that there are hundreds of other jobs at stake in Maryland’s energy industry. (I actually did a little looking up last night because I was curious.)
According to the most recent state report available (2013) there are 401 coal mining workers in the state of Maryland, all based out of Allegany and Garrett counties in Maryland’s western panhandle. No, we’re not West Virginia or Kentucky by any stretch of the imagination but the Obama administration’s “war on coal” isn’t going to help their employment situation, particularly since these coal fields lie close to shale deposits ripe for fracking – unfortunately, a short-sighted General Assembly and Hogan administration put that resource development on hold until 2017.
The other fascinating thing I didn’t get to was the fact that cities up and down the coast are being intimidated into opposing seismic exploration of the ocean floor for the purposes of oil and gas exploration - but had no objection when they went out and did the same thing to map the ocean floor for siting wind turbines. Apparently that was a noble enough cause to kill a few fish over. Honestly, I think the opponents are very aware what is really out there and that’s billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas, all within easy reach of our shoreline and extractable at a cost that would blow the renewables out of the water. (Yes, the pun was intended.)
So take a listen, either live as it happens or later on when it becomes available as a podcast. I believe there are three other guests on the show, so I’ll be curious to see what they have to say as well when I catch the podcast (I’ll be at work when it’s on live.)
Let’s just hope that the long radio slump is over. Thanks to Marita for having me on as a guest, albeit a little reluctantly since I have been under the weather the last few days. But I managed to avoid a Hillary-style coughing jag and pushed through.
By Cathy Keim
Editor’s note: While I was off on my honeymoon, Cathy Keim took the lead and attended Congressional challenger Mike Smigiel’s Second Amendment townhall meeting Saturday. She filed this report on the proceedings.
I dropped by the 2A Townhall on Saturday, February 6, at Headquarters Live here in Salisbury. Former Delegate Mike Smigiel, who is running for Congress as a Republican in the First Congressional district, is holding 2A Townhall meetings around the district to address the ex post facto confiscation of guns for old offenses prior to the passage of the Firearm Safety Act of 2013 (SB 281).
First to speak at the Smigiel event, though, was Justin Trader, a former Marine who now runs D. I. Strategic, LLC, here in Salisbury. “The Second Amendment is the ultimate safeguard to protect our rights,” said Trader, adding that it is not just about hunting or collecting guns; instead the amendment’s main purpose is to safeguard us from tyranny amongst us. He quoted Abraham Lincoln that the enemy which destroys America would not be from far away, but from amongst us. Justin also believed that today we are under the government that our founders warned us about.
Next up was retired Maryland State Police (MSP) Captain Jack McCauley, who was the former commander of their Licensing Division. That agency is the one which oversees background checks for firearms in the state. McCauley spoke about being asked to testify before the House Judiciary Committee about SB281 back when it was being debated in 2013. Smigiel, who was a Delegate at the time, asked him if the ban of certain guns would have an effect on crime. But when McCauley tried to answer the question, Governor O’Malley’s lawyer advised him not to. McCauley was shocked because he thought the whole purpose of his appearance was to answer questions.
The hearing erupted in arguments, but Captain McCauley did not answer the question in order to obey the direct order of an agent of the governor’s office. Later, after the hearing, the agent told him that she directed him not to answer because the bill was “not about policy - it is just votes.”
This served as the wakeup call for McCauley, who realized the Firearm Safety Act was all politics and had nothing to do with the safety of the citizens. The Governor’s office was only interested in the number of guns seized, so it really didn’t matter whether manpower was wasted doing work that would not increase safety or decrease crime.
Had McCauley answered Smigiel’s question at the committee hearing, McCauley would have answered that the law would not decrease crime at all. For one thing, the banned weapons were rarely used in crimes. Secondly, the restriction on the magazines to only ten rounds would not stop people from buying larger magazines from out of state, but would only restrict which guns and magazines could be bought in Maryland by law-abiding citizens.
The O’Malley administration was only concerned with the political capital to be gained by passing the law, continued McCauley, and not whether it was a good law or whether it would actually achieve any reduction in crime. McCauley contends that by forcing the MSP to do three background checks on every citizen that wants to buy a handgun, valuable manpower is being wasted doing paperwork instead of being out on the streets.
McCauley concluded by noting that he resigned so that he could tell the truth. It was his belief that there was only one legislator working for the people and that legislator was Mike Smigiel.
Once those two speakers set the stage, Smigiel came up to present his concerns about Maryland’s treatment of the Second Amendment. Smigiel revealed that he had come to Headquarters Live at the request of Jeremy Norton, the man who runs both that venue and Roadie Joe’s, the location of the fundraiser that followed the townhall meeting.
Mike explained that Jeremy had contacted him in response to an event which had occurred to Norton, but one which was occurring all across Maryland. As a businessman and a gun owner, Norton was given clearance to own his guns. But after SB281 was passed the MSP began checking the records for prior offenses that would not have precluded legal ownership prior to SB281′s passage, but now would affect their legal right to own a gun. Smigiel alleged that the MSP was showing up at gunowners’ homes, without warrants, and asking for their registered guns.
In Norton’s case, a juvenile conviction for selling a small amount of marijuana was enough to give the MSP reason to confiscate his guns, alleging that under SB281 he was now disqualified. However, since it was a juvenile offense, he will be eligible to reclaim his guns when he turns 30. (Isn’t that just charitable of the state of Maryland?)
This provision of the law also traps those who may have committed a crime decades ago; when the penalty changed to require a longer sentence some were suddenly retroactively determined to be unfit to possess a gun according to the state of Maryland. Needless to say, Mike is concerned that this law will lead to an unnecessary tragedy because the MSP sends plainclothes police to confiscate guns. Smigiel has spoken to Governor Hogan’s office and asked him to intervene before a tragedy occurs.
Mike has also written an article in the Maryland Bar Journal that covers the issue, where he concludes:
In light of the Doe court’s position prohibiting the ex post facto application of the law against convicted sex offenders, it is unconscionable that the Maryland State Police could continue applying gun laws, ex post facto, against citizens who are merely wishing to continue exercising their Second Amendment rights.
Jack McCauley stated in the Q&A that followed that gun confiscation schemes are ineffective in reducing crime, so why waste time harassing law abiding citizens?
Yet the whole mindset of the progressives in their battle to disarm America seems to be their pure-hearted conviction that the only way to make us safe is to disarm everybody. Facts to the contrary do not impinge upon their plans.
Once again we see that the battle for our country is waged in the hearts and minds of citizens that have opposing views of reality. The progressive supporters have embraced the propaganda that is being churned out daily by the media, the leadership, the schools, and Hollywood. Just as they will believe in global warming despite the lack of evidence, they will confiscate guns in spite of the abundance of evidence saying it will not make us safer.
While he’s actively trying to win a Congressional seat, Smigiel really didn’t speak about his campaign at the townhall meeting. But his determination to follow his principles and to fight for our Constitutional rights came through loud and clear. From his record as a Delegate, one can see that he will stand his ground if elected to Congress. Personally I have no doubt that he would continue to be a Constitutionalist despite the pressures of the lobbyists and donor class.
The lack of results in the Iowa caucuses have seen two candidates for President exit the race.
On the Democratic side, the rest of America found out what Marylanders already knew: in a race of any significance without Bob Ehrlich to beat up on, Martin O’Malley is a terrible candidate. Now the audition for being a running mate begins for O’Malley, who never had traction in the polls – the question is just who does he audition to?
So the good people of Iowa did the job Marylanders wouldn’t do and eliminated O’Malley from contention, just in time for him to strap the guitar back on for “O’Malley’s March” or whatever he calls that band.
Oddly enough, maybe bass player Mike Huckabee can call MOM up for a jam session since he no longer has a race to run either. While Huckabee had a great campaign in 2008, his “sell by” date obviously passed and the religious Right decided Ted Cruz and Ben Carson were more their style.
I said a few days ago that the bottom five in Iowa as polled were Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Huckabee, and John Kasich. The polls pegged them as the also-rans correctly, but I didn’t count Jim Gilmore, who “won” bigtime by getting 12 votes in a state he didn’t campaign in. As of the time I’m writing this, Rick Santorum is staying in by placing his hopes on South Carolina while Fiorina will doggedly continue in New Hampshire – a state where Christie and Kasich are expected to do far better than they did in Iowa.
So we will re-convene in New Hampshire next Tuesday and see how the field reacts. The question is whether Cruz or Marco Rubio can dent Donald Trump’s lead there now that we know The Donald is no longer invincible.
The generation that fought World War II is considered by many modern pundits as our “greatest generation.” Those who were born in the 1920s were the ones who grew up with the adversity of the Great Depression and came of age as America was attacked at Pearl Harbor.
But the generation they spawned upon their return from the battlefields of Europe and war throughout the Pacific has made their own impact on the American culture, turning their collective noses up at an unpopular war in Vietnam and becoming the narcissistic subject of what was termed the “me” generation. In general terms, a Baby Boomer is one born between 1946 and 1964, although the peak of the boom occurred in 1957. It took a half-century before the total number of births in a calendar year eclipsed the total of 4.3 million we had in 1957.
Yet in the area of Presidential leadership the Baby Boomers are represented only by our last three Presidents, two of whom were born at the very beginning of that era in 1946. Together, however, they represent 24 years of our history as Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have served two terms apiece. One can argue whether or not they’ve had a positive impact on the country, but with the propensity of our nation of late to elect a President twice, it’s likely that if we elect a President who was born during that 18 year span in 2016 he or she will be the last of that generation to hold office. The tail end of the Boomers will be 60 by the time that election occurs, but most of them will be older than 67.
I bring this up because this election has the potential to be the same generational shift as we had in 1992 when Bill Clinton (then 46 years old) defeated the incumbent George H.W. Bush (then 68 years of age) – albeit not to that extreme of a degree since Obama is only 54. And if you recall the 1980 election as I do, there was a great deal of concern about Ronald Reagan’s advanced age – at the time of his inauguration he was just a few weeks away from his 70th birthday. Previous to Reagan the oldest President to take office was William Henry Harrison, who was 68 – and died in office a month later. So I think people became a little gunshy about electing a man of advanced age.
If you look at the ages of the remaining contenders, you’ll notice that nearly half of them are already eligible for Social Security as they have passed their 62nd birthday. While the average age of the Republican contenders is 58, it’s worth noting that for the Democrats it’s nearly 65, with Martin O’Malley dragging the average out of the 70s. All three Democrats fall within the Baby Boomer range.
On the other hand, the top three Republican contenders are the two youngest in the group (Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio) trailing the oldest Republican running, Donald Trump. I had no idea Trump was the oldest until I looked it up but he is 69 now and would be 70 by inauguration day, making him the oldest President to take office. So where are the people concerned with his health and advanced age? (Hillary Clinton would be just a few months younger than Reagan was if she won, while Bernie Sanders would shatter the age record as he is already 74.)
While I identify more readily with the Generation X that followed the Boomers, by birth year I’m lumped in with them. By being a few years younger than the peak of our generation, those born in the early-to-mid 1960s like myself have always dealt with the hand-me-downs we received, and they were often worse for the wear. (Having a brother who was two years older this was literally true in my case.) So it is with America, which has seen the decline in morality brought to us by the Clintons, the questionable attempts at nation-building we tried under George W. Bush, and the trainwreck of “if you like your plan, you can keep it” Obamacare under its namesake. If you ask the question, “are you better off than you were 24 years ago?” the number of people who say no might be shockingly high.
Perhaps it’s time for the Boomers to leave the stage, but I’m sure they’ll have to dragged off kicking and screaming because it will always and forever be about them.
For years I have dubbed the annual Maryland General Assembly session the “90 days of terror,” and with good reason: no wallet or personal liberty is safe when the statists who inhabit most of the seats therein get together. Over the eight years of the previous two terms we endured tax increases, spending boondoggles, and enough new regulations to choke a horse, not to mention three measures which were petitioned to referendum by angry citizens.
While a new broom swept the governor’s office clean last year, Larry Hogan needed to get his sea legs under him as he took the helm of the ship of state so he didn’t create a huge legislative agenda last year – in a broad sense, it was about easing some of the tax burden Marylanders had been subjected to over the O’Malley administration, including repeals of the rain tax and automatic increases in the gasoline tax. Other items Hogan focused on were charter school reform and public campaign financing, which were among the few items Hogan had passed.
So since Hogan didn’t get his tax relief last year, it’s the front and center item on his 2016 agenda that kicks off later today. Democrats, of course, believe shoveling money into a bloated public education system is more important than giving hard-working Marylanders a tax break.
Something else to keep an eye on, though, are the department-sponsored bills, which now will bear the stamp of Hogan’s departmental appointees. Just like the governor, this is their first full legislative session as well and I’ve noticed a number of interesting measures coming from various departments that have already been pre-filed.
But the tension will be thick as Hogan tries to enact the agenda he promised while Democrats strive to make sure he’s another one-term Republican governor. As of 2018, it will have been 64 years since a Republican was re-elected as Maryland governor; however, Hogan has began his term as one of the most popular governors in the country and this session will occur with the backdrop of a Presidential race in which the Democrats aren’t utterly sold on their potential nominee. (Tellingly, the previous governor couldn’t even be a “favorite son” Presidential nominee from his own state.) In a contest over pocketbook issues, Hogan may have the public on his side.
We will know quickly just how the session will go as several of Hogan’s vetoes will be up for override. This was a rarity in the previous administration, but it’s worth recalling that the Democrats didn’t give Bob Ehrlich much of a honeymoon so I expect there to be at least one Hogan veto rebuffed. Democrats want to raise taxes, give felons the right to vote before completing their full sentences, make some reforms on civil forfeiture, and decriminalize marijuana paraphernalia. Out of those four vetoes, only the civil forfeiture bill originally had enough House votes to override a veto.
On a local level, we will be very interested to see what becomes of our elected school board bill. Will this finally be the year the state relents and lets the voters of Wicomico County decide its fate?
With a projection that we will have a large increase in filings over last session, it should be a year worth watching. I suspect I will have a difficult time keeping it to just the 25 votes I use for the monoblogue Accountability Project given that the veto votes will likely be included. But with a little help from my friends I look forward to the challenge.
I don’t want to write a long post tonight – fortunately, I don’t think I’ll have to. Let’s take a look at what’s become an all-too-common assumption from the media, thanks to today’s Baltimore Sun.
The lead from writer Erin Cox states:
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday he will ask the General Assembly to grant “modest” tax cuts to working families, small businesses and retirees.
But the Republican governor offered no details on his proposed cuts nor on how he would pay for them. (Emphasis mine.)
First of all, I seriously doubt the budget will actually be reduced in real dollars – although that would be nice. No, a “cut” is now a situation where spending is less than the increase assumed to be granted. Back in the O’Malley (and Ehrlich) eras it was not uncommon for the annual budget increase to be between three and five percent, so each line item was figured as increasing by a commensurate amount. If you spent $1 million one year, you figured the budget for the next would be $1.05 million.
So when Hogan came along and nearly level-funded the budget last year with an increase of barely one percent, this was considered a “cut” because instead of the $5,000 increase the mythical agency expected, they “only” received $1,000. They got more than the previous year but $4,000 less than they thought. It’s why we spent the most on education ever yet Democrats whined about “cuts.”
But more important to this lesson is how easily the writer makes the implication that government spending less money is something that has to be paid for. We who are on the outside, with our incomes limited by how much skill and worth we have to our employers or customers, indeed have to worry about how we have to pay for expenses both expected, like rent or insurance, and unexpected, such as the extra heating oil you need. But we don’t think of cutting our family vacation out of the budget as paying – to us, it’s spending less money so that income and expenses come closer to evening out.
So if Larry Hogan wants to spend less on particular line items in the budget, these don’t have to be “paid for” because the tax dollars are already coming in. And it’s not like there’s not a long list of secondary items to consider such as paying down the state debt that O’Malley dramatically hiked or making up for raiding the pension funds.
Now that Larry has had a year to consider a budget, instead of being forced by the vagaries of the political calendar and state law to have one ready just days after taking office last year, we will see just how fiscally conservative he really is. Pushing it back under $40 billion may be a pipe dream, but since he has the most executive power over the budget of any governor in the country he may as well use it for good and point the state back toward fiscal sanity.
What do you think the narrative pushers will say about that?
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.
I haven’t gotten around to fixing the widget yet, but now I can scratch the name of Joe Biden off the possibilities for President in 2016. In a Rose Garden speech, Biden vowed, “while I will not be a candidate, I will not be silent.” Given his penchant for malapropisms, it may be a blessing for the Republicans if Biden keeps talking.
Look, John (McCain)’s last-minute economic plan does nothing to tackle the number one job facing the middle class, and it happens to be, as Barack says, a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S, jobs.
That may be my favorite, but there are a lot of them.
Yet Biden, despite not being an official candidate, was drawing around 1 of 6 primary voters and they have to go someplace. (Surely Joe was a shoo-in in the all-important Delaware primary.) It’s not enough to close the gap between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, but I imagine the bulk of Biden voters were most interested in him because he seemed like the logical successor to Barack Obama, as opposed to a woman whose claim to fame was being married to a President last elected nearly two decades ago.
In a realistic sense, though, Biden was the last obstacle to Hillary seizing the nomination. While we on the Right like to believe the Democrats are to the left of Stalin, in reality they have their moderates and centrists, too. Hillary can afford to let Sanders run to her left because that wing isn’t a majority of Democrats. Hillary also has an advantage because most states are using the primary system to determine the nominee, and those that caucus tend to be more moderate states out west.
Moreover, the cynics among us believe Hillary will skate by on whatever legal issues she has regarding Benghazi and her e-mail server. Every day she walks as a free woman reduces the chance Hillary will be campaigning from a cell. That and Bernie Sanders crumpling over from a coronary are all that Martin O’Malley (he of the 0.5% polling average) has to hope for.
So Joe Biden’s political career seems to be entering its final chapter, where he’ll be remembered as a longtime Senator, plagiarizing two-time Presidential candidate (remember, he began the 2008 campaign as one of Obama’s opponents), and two-term vice-president.
Silver-tongued would not be one of those attributes, though.
The first one in is the first one out – or is he?
Back in November of 2014, the world basically ignored Jim Webb when he became the first serious 2016 Presidential candidate to form an exploratory committee. And after that ignorance extended through a “debate” where his speaking time paled in comparison to the frontrunners, Webb saw the writing on the wall and announced the possibility of a different direction.
Some people say I am a Republican who became a Democrat, but that I often sound like a Republican in a room full of Democrats or a Democrat in a room full of Republicans. Actually I take that as a compliment. More people in this country call themselves political independents than either Republican or Democrat. I happen to agree with them. Our country is more important than a label. Democrats in years past like Sam Nunn, Scoop Jackson, Mike Mansfield and John F. Kennedy understood this.
And I know I’m going to hear it, so let me be the first to say this: I fully accept that my views on many issues are not compatible with the power structure and the nominating base of the Democratic Party. That party is filled with millions of dedicated, hard-working Americans. But its hierarchy is not comfortable with many of the policies that I have laid forth, and frankly I am not that comfortable with many of theirs.
For this reason I am withdrawing from any consideration of being the Democratic Party’s nominee for the Presidency. This does not reduce in any way my concerns about the challenges facing our country, my belief that I can provide the best leadership in order to meet these challenges, or my intentions to remain fully engaged in the debates that are facing us. How I remain as a voice will depend on what kind of support I am shown in the coming days and weeks as I meet with people from all sides of America’s political landscape. And I intend to do that.
I am not going away. I am thinking through all of my options. 240 years ago the Declaration of Independence from our status as a colony from Great Britain was announced. It’s time for a new Declaration of Independence – not from an outside power but from the paralysis of a federal system that no longer serves the interests of the vast majority of the American people.
The Presidency has gained too much power. The Congress has grown weak and often irrelevant. The present-day Democratic and Republican parties are not providing the answers and the guarantees that we can rely on. The financial sector represented by the Wall Street bankers is caring less and less about the conditions of the average American worker for the simple reason that their well-being depends on the global economy, not the American economy.
Our political process is jammed up. It needs an honest broker who respects all sides, who understands the complicated nature of how our federal system works, who will communicate a vision for our country’s future here at home and in our foreign policy, and who has a proven record of getting things done.
While Webb was a non-entity in the polls, over the weekend when I checked the RCP averages he was ahead of the little two of Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee, who combined were barely beating Webb. In reality the Democratic side is a three-person race between Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden, who polls about 17% as a non-formal candidate. Compare that to the less than 1% Webb had and it’s no surprise he’s frustrated with the process.
Webb’s 2016 candidacy reminds me a little bit of Gary Johnson’s 2012 run. Johnson, the libertarian-leaning former governor of New Mexico, got an early start but could never catch fire among conservative voters, so he dropped out in order to secure the Libertarian Party nomination, which he received. He ended up getting just under 1% of the vote, which was roughly the support he was getting among Republicans.
The last time a candidate siphoned a significant number of Democratic votes was when Ralph Nader picked off enough far-left voters to tip the 2000 election to George W. Bush. Webb is running a centrist, populist campaign that if left unchecked could draw votes away from Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, though, he could also hurt Donald Trump if Democrats who don’t like the thought of voting for a Republican decide an independent Webb is the better choice. This would be especially true if the Democrats play the class envy card on Trump as they did for Mitt Romney.
So far it’s been a year where voters have coalesced around outsiders. Webb isn’t exactly an outsider as he served a term in the Senate and as a Reagan administration official. but he has been away for awhile. People tired of politics as usual may give Webb a chance if he has the means and money to get his message out. That wasn’t going to happen in the Democratic process.