Stepping into the ring

Yesterday I pointed out the voting records of the two men who wish to represent those of us who live in Senate District 38, but another thing I alluded to was the disparity in amending bills. Granted, it’s rare that Democrats have to make floor motions because much of their work can be done as a collective at the subcommittee and committee level; moreover, Senator Jim Mathias sits on the Finance Committee and that committee reviewed the smallest number of bills among the four main committees in the Senate (Budget and Taxation; Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs; Finance; and Judicial Proceedings.) All but the Senate President serve on at least one of those committees. Some members also sit on either the Executive Nominations or Rules committees, but Mathias isn’t among that group.

As I pointed out, often the only way a member (particularly a Republican one) has to amend a bill going through a committee he’s not part of is via the floor and McDermott has done so on many occasions.

But another thing Mike does well is communicate with constituents, and he also has a good way of getting to the root of the issue. Take this recent example, part of a piece he wrote called “Politically Correct Farming”:

Farmers have always been the first conservationists, even though they are often the last one to get called to a “Round Table Discussion” when policy is being crafted. Those “Round Tables” are reserved for election years. Ask any farmer about fixing the Bay and they will first point to the Conowingo Dam. The next point will be to the metro core area septic plants. They would also point out that the farming community is way ahead of the mandated time lines already placed upon them by the government.

The fact is, we do not need any further mandates on the shore. We need action in the areas that are creating the problem! The areas of the Bay which receive the best environmental scores are those adjacent to the Eastern Shore; and they rest next to the shore county (Somerset) that has the highest number of poultry operations in Maryland. Go figure!

Our water does not travel from lower shore rivers into the upper Bay regions, rather it moves toward the Atlantic. In spite of the obvious, farmers are an easy lot to blame; and politicians often do so with food in their mouths.

It should be obvious that poor water quality at the Bay Bridge isn’t being caused by a Somerset County poultry farmer, but from an Annapolis point of view untreated chicken waste flows as if magnetized toward the otherwise-pristine waters of the Annapolis harbor.

Or how about another case, this regarding gambling. McDermott called this the “Capitulating vs. Negotiating” piece, from which I excerpt:

For several years, Worcester County and Ocean Downs Casino have been paying off Baltimore City and Prince George’s County. All of that money could (and should) have been utilized for local spending. When I was elected in 2010, I was keenly aware of this wealth transfer and I looked for a mechanism to bring it back home where it belonged.

That opportunity presented itself in 2012 during our 2nd Special Session when the expansion of gaming was being sought. The issue was no longer about whether or not we would have gambling, rather it was about allowing a 6th casino to be built in Prince George’s County at National Harbor. Gambling was no longer the issue.

This bill originated in the Senate and once again, I noticed that the payoffs to Baltimore City and Prince George’s County were still embedded in the legislation. There was no attempt by Mathias to remove these provisions from the bill.

When the bill arrived in the House, the Democrats were hunting for insurance votes to pass the bill. I took advantage of the situation and spoke to the leader on the bill about the possibility of my supporting it. My demand was straightforward: return the local impact money to the citizens where the casinos are located. Depending on revenues, this could amount to $2 million each year that would remain on the lower shore.

To our benefit, they agreed to amend the bill and cut out the funding for Baltimore City and Prince George’s County as soon as Baltimore’s casino was open for business. In turn, I cast a deciding vote for the National Harbor expansion. The amendment was introduced by Delegate Dave Rudolph (D-Cecil) whose county also benefited directly from these local impact grants staying on the Upper Shore in Cecil County.

I could not help but see the irony of these two separate votes from two Delegates representing the same area:

  • Mathias casts the deciding vote that brings gambling to Maryland, establishes a casino in Ocean City’s backyard, and agrees to give Baltimore City and Prince Georges County $2 million of our money every year.
  • I cast the deciding vote that expands gambling to Prince George’s County alone and only after seeing the bill amended to strip Baltimore City and Prince George’s County from receiving one dime of our local impact money (returning $2 million to the Eastern Shore.)

Let me state for the record that both voted for this bill, a stance with which I disagreed because it punted this responsibility to the voters instead of in the General Assembly where it belongs. One could argue that McDermott sold his vote, or it can be termed horsetrading. But what horsetrading have we received from Mathias?

I also wanted to see what those on the other side of the political spectrum think. This is from a blog called Seventh State, which is a liberal site. In handicapping the 38th District races, David Lublin wrote back in March:

Backed by Rep. Andy Harris, one of my Eastern Shore sources describes McDermott as “to the right of Genghis Khan” on both social and fiscal issues. No one would confuse comparatively moderate Mathias with a Western Shore liberal but the difference between him and McDermott cannot be missed.

Actually, I would pretty much confuse Mathias with a Western Shore liberal given the preponderance of his votes. But honestly I don’t think the 38th District at large would truly mind “to the right of Genghis Khan” because it’s a conservative district. (It’s also an interesting comparison given what we know about the Mongol ruler.) Ours is also a district which chafes at the influence of Annapolis in its affairs, and considering Mathias has received a large portion of his six-figure campaign account from PACs and out-of-area donors, you have to wonder which of these two would be fighting out of our corner.

In a recent PAC-14 interview, McDermott said, “(W)e need leaders from the shore to go up there and represent our values.” Having heard Mike McDermott speak on a number of occasions, I think he would be a great addition to the Senate because he has shown over the last four years that he does the better job of that than his opponent.

Jim Mathias is a nice guy, but in this instance nice guys should finish last.

If you can’t beat ’em…

On Tuesday I received an e-mail which I found had no shortage of irony, something which made an otherwise boilerplate press release worth the post.

It was a release about how Maryland horsemen are reaping the benefits from Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George’s County – purses are up and preferences are given to Maryland-bred horses, including enhanced purses when seven or more such horses compete in a race with at least eight participants. To be honest I don’t follow horse racing so that meant nothing to me.

Instead, the money quote (literally) was this otherwise throwaway line:

Rosecroft’s owner has submitted a proposal for the Prince George’s gaming license. The proposal includes a $700 million total investment that includes a hotel and first class integrated gaming and racing facility. Maryland’s Video Lottery Facility Location Commission is expected to make a decision on the award of the license sometime in late 2013.

Surely you should remember that Penn National Gaming, the entity which owns Rosemont, was just scant months ago throwing everything but the kitchen sink into an effort to defeat Question 7, the ballot initiative allowing the Prince George’s facility to be constructed. Their worry was a facility there would cut into the profits from a casino they operate in Charles Town, West Virginia. Amazing how principles go out the window when money is at stake.

It’s obvious I’m still on Penn National’s mailing list from the time when Question 7 was on the ballot, particularly since I was also against the ballot question but for different reasons. (I still contend Article XIX of the Maryland Constitution should be stricken so the General Assembly can change these parameters without the need for a popular vote.) If it weren’t for the sheer hypocrisy of Penn National possibly getting the facility they were dead-set against I would have just deleted the release.

I really have nothing against gambling; although I’ve never set foot in a Maryland casino I have enjoyed casino wagering in Delaware, Michigan, Ontario, Atlantic City, and Las Vegas. My contention is strictly one of the Maryland General Assembly not doing its job.

But it seems very fishy to me that an entity can turn on a dime like that – it would almost be like the case where the Susan G. Komen Foundation reversed course regarding donations to Planned Parenthood twice in a short span of time. There won’t be that kind of backlash in this case, but we now see where the priorities for Penn National Gaming lie. It’s all about the Benjamins, isn’t it?

A REAL Republican voter guide

Yesterday I got a mail piece that REALLY burned me up as an elected member of the Maryland Republican Party – as opposed to the two who claim to speak on my behalf. Here’s a photo:

Audrey Scott and Michael Steele don't speak for the rest of us.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have family on the payroll of the pro-Issue 7 side, but it seems to me that these two have drifted pretty far away from the party mainstream on a number of issues.

If you really want a good – conservative – Republican voter guide, you can look no further than my website since I went over all these questions last week. I don’t sell out to the highest bidder.

It is interesting to note, however, that the group which paid for this mailing is NOT the one which has paid for the numerous pro-Question 7 mailings which have found their way to my mailbox. Those are paid for by the laughably misnamed FOR Maryland Jobs and Schools, while this mailing was paid for by the similarly misnamed Republican Leaders Referendum Guide. The treasurers for each group are different as well.

Now I can understand that both Audrey and Michael have their roots in Prince George’s County and they feel the new casino would someday benefit their former home. And it just might once the conditions are set right.

But we are in a situation now where casinos being opened up cannibalize the revenues of existing facilities, and the rationale for choosing locations seems to be more about cronyism and buying votes than real market forces. It’s telling that MGM waited to jump into the market until they got a sweetheart deal they could live with; meanwhile, Penn National played by the original rules and watched their investment in Perryville go sour the minute a casino opened in Anne Arundel County. Obviously that’s the risk an investor runs.

So why should every little decision have to come down to the voters? I’ll grant that I’m not familiar with the setup of other states, but it seems to me that if we’re talking about a commission that includes both gaming and the Maryland Lottery the rules should be relatively the same – if the Maryland Lottery wants a new scratch-off game voter approval is not required.

The solution is simple: vote AGAINST Question 7 and make the General Assembly come back with a ballot issue in 2014 to repeal Article XIX of the Maryland Constitution. That ill-considered change from 2008 removed the General Assembly from making decisions more properly theirs, punting these issues to a ballot every two years as opposed to being able to make changes at least annually if not more often via a Special Session as it was this summer. If Question 7 passes then there’s no incentive to change a system that’s flawed. Let’s get gambling done right: it’s as simple as that.

And just for the record: Steele and Scott are wrong on Questions 1 and 2 as well. There’s no need to modify the Orphan’s Court in any county.

Curious: MSEA fails to endorse Question 7

According to this story by Matt Connolly in the Washington Examiner, the Maryland State Education Association – the state’s largest teacher’s union – opted not to endorse Question 7. This has to be a severe blow to the hopes of supporters who are basing much of their argument on the assertion that a new casino and table games would benefit Maryland schools to the tune of millions of dollars a year.

But the MSEA could not get the slim majority required to endorse the bill, instead remaining officially neutral on Question 7. This failure reflects the skepticism of many rank-and-file members who have heard the argument before that lottery money would be a surefire ticket to increased school funding.

While various local units have endorsed the measure – many of them in areas benefiting from either an existing or proposed casino – the lack of support from the 70,000-strong teachers’ union continues a bad week which also saw the release of a poll showing Question 7 heading for defeat by a projected margin of 15 points.

That perception of politicians not being able to keep their promises is perhaps the strongest argument opponents have in their bid to defeat Question 7, but there’s also the controversy over the entire Special Session made necessary because the two sides failed in a last-minute push to resolve the gambling issue (or even pass a budget to their liking) in the regular session last April. That disastrous ending led to both the “doomsday” and gambling Special Sessions and may have sown the seeds of mistrust for anything sponsored by this edition of the Maryland General Assembly.

Unfortunately, while we can defeat Question 7, we are pretty much stuck with the cast of misfits and miscreants we call the Maryland General Assembly until 2014. Of course they will probably come back with a second attempt at building the National Harbor facility, legalizing table games, and allowing 24-hour operation on the next general election ballot in 2014, but perhaps the better thing to consider would be the repeal of Article XIX of the Maryland Constitution. But that won’t happen because common sense is as rare as the MSEA looking past a projected pot of state money.

Republicans swimming against the tide

I received an interesting letter today and it regards Question 7. I’m not going to reprint the whole thing (since I’m sure a number of my Republican readers received it as well) but I think the first few paragraphs are worth reprising. You’ll find out who wrote it after I finish – I’m saving that tidbit of information:

Dear  Fellow Republicans,

Just like 5 years ago, West Virginia interests are flooding Maryland airwaves with false advertising trying to fool us into putting West Virginia’s interest first, even though it hurts Maryland.

Why West Virginia? Because that is where Penn National’s casino is located. A casino that West Virginia reporters call a “cash cow.” They can’t say that directly, so they hire fancy marketing companies to try and fool us – spending almost $40 million so far to defeat Question 7.

Penn National’s meddling has cost Marylanders hundreds of millions (of) dollars in lost revenue, and would cost us much more if they win in November. It is time we told Penn National to butt out!

 We are FOR Question 7

We have teamed up to explain the history of Question 7 and why we are both voting FOR Question 7.

Ten years ago, when gaming (slots) was first introduced to the State Capital (sic) by Governor Bob Ehrlich, we were enthusiastic supporters, as were most Republicans. After years of back and forth, the Maryland Legislature in 2007 passed a slots bill, which was then ratified by the voters in 2008 (passing in every Republican jurisdiction in the State.)

Unfortunately, the 2007 legislation was hastily put together. It put our gaming industry at a decided disadvantage to surrounding states. To put this in perspective, Pennsylvania, which began gambling the same year as Maryland, received $1.5 billion per year in tax revenue while Maryland lost money.

Maryland Republicans supported bringing gaming to Maryland. But, as many of you have said, “if we’re going to have gaming in Maryland, we should do it right.” Well, we agree.

You know, though, it’s uncanny how often my fellow Republican Audrey Scott and I find ourselves on opposite sides of an issue. Her and co-author Michael Steele have exactly diagnosed the disease, but fail to come up with the correct cure.

But before I get to the meat of my argument, allow me to pick out a few points.

It’s worth mentioning that Penn National indeed owns the Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, West Virginia but also owns the Hollywood Casino in Perryville, so they’re not a completely out-of-state entity. That Perryville casino has requested 400 slots be removed so the facility didn’t look as barren and devoid of players, as an empty casino discourages patrons.

On the other hand, MGM wants to be a party-crasher. This comes from a story I found in the Baltimore Business Journal:

MGM decided not to bid for a Maryland casino in 2007 when the state first opened the door to gaming, (MGM CEO James) Murren said. Maryland’s high — 67 percent tax rate on gambling revenue — the state’s resolve to own the video lottery terminals (VLTs) and its refusal to allow table games drove MGM away.

To me, this seems like a form of crony capitalism at its finest, and I wish the state would be as accommodating to securing productive jobs for Maryland residents as it’s bent over backwards for MGM despite their alleged ties to organized crime. The $40 million Penn National has spent has been matched by MGM and casino backers, potentially making this question a nine-figure bonanza for media and other related interests before it’s all said and done. (Hopefully Steele and Scott received a nice little cut for their efforts. It doesn’t hurt to have Prince George’s County ties as both authors do, either.)

The argument about Penn National “costing” Maryland hundreds of millions is also a red herring. Certainly a number of Maryland gamblers go to Charles Town, but there’s no guarantee they’ll suddenly cease to do so if and when a casino at National Harbor opens. And those who flock to National Harbor may well come from other Maryland properties, particularly the Maryland Live! facility in Anne Arundel County. (In turn, that Anne Arundel facility is blamed for cutting Perryville’s business once it opened.) The rosy revenue projections often given to Maryland gambling have seen their bloom fade when reality hits, and there’s no reason to expect this round to do any better.

The crux of the Steele/Scott argument, though, is the request for Maryland to “do it right.” They correctly point out that Pennsylvania is raising far more money – with lower tax rates – than Maryland has. In fact, Maryland’s tax rate on casino operators is among the highest percentages in the country (based on 2010 data) with only New York and Rhode Island in the same neighborhood, although Pennsylvania is above average as well.

But the problem Maryland alone has is the inefficient method of making changes. It’s a point I made back in 2008 to no avail, and we’re now stuck with the folly of needing voter approval to build a facility and place equipment inside.

Voting for Question 7 only repeats the mistake made because, sure enough, someone will come along and promote the next “can’t miss” venture and have to suffer through both a legislative process and voter approval to receive it. Many casino operators don’t like those odds (or those tax rates) which probably explains why just three of the five proposed facilities are in operation four years after voters approved them the first time. A valid question raised by opponents is why the casino authorized in Baltimore City is being promised now when ample time has elapsed to build a slot barn – are they holding it hostage to a better deal? And what’s to stop MGM from demanding a better cut down the road and holding National Harbor hostage?

Maryland casinos should have the flexibility afforded to the Maryland Lottery. When they wanted to join up with MegaMillions and Powerball they didn’t need voter approval; instead, they just went ahead and did it. Certainly there are a few Maryland residents and businesses pleased that a ballot question was unnecessary.

I believe the best way to give the state this sort of leeway is to reject Question 7 and force the state to come back in 2014 with a ballot measure repealing Article XIX of the Maryland Constitution. By repealing Article XIX, it once again frees the General Assembly to make necessary law adjustments because these lines will no longer be in effect:

(d) Except as provided in subsection (e) of this section, on or after November 15, 2008, the General Assembly may not authorize any additional forms or expansion of commercial gaming.

(e) The General Assembly may only authorize additional forms or expansion of commercial gaming if approval is granted through a referendum, authorized by an act of the General Assembly, in a general election by a majority of the qualified voters in the State.

So the game plan is simple: say no now and say yes to repeal of Article XIX in 2014. The National Harbor project is not slated to come online under its current schedule until 2016 anyway, so a two-year wait wouldn’t hurt the state much in the long run.

I’m not naive enough to believe that gambling can be eliminated in Maryland, for three of our neighboring states have let that genie out of the bottle. But if we really want to do it right, the small-d democratic idea of voter involvement has to be eliminated from the process. While the power of the referendum is a useful one, it shouldn’t be a substitute for a General Assembly doing the job it’s appointed to do in a republic.

Question 7: Money vs. money

Regardless of supporters’ pleas that money that’s currently fleeing to West Virginia will, as if by magic, return to Maryland if we only allow more gambling and another casino, the question about Question 7 remains: who do we believe? Their question about what Maryland loses can be flipped on its head and asked: who gets the real benefit?

Of course, those who oppose Question 7 call it:

…a massive rip off for Maryland families because it shifts hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts to multi-millionaire casino operators while sticking working families with a $260 million tax increase and shortchanging Maryland teachers and students.

The questions really come down to those of trust and responsiveness.

Back in 2008, when the law was first passed by Maryland voters, a number of parameters were set. The two most key were setting the locations for the five proposed casinos and the cut each entity would get. Many said then the proportion which was slated to go to casino operators was too low, and that theory may have been borne out when few takers were found for the various slot barn licenses. The state figured all five facilities would be online by now; instead just three (Perryville, Ocean Downs, and Arundel Mills) are in operation.

This referendum allows the state to change the proportions for return to licensees to suit particular situations as well as correct what some obviously perceived as an oversight, with a proposed facility near Virginia and Washington, D.C. But it’s not like the casino in Charles Town wasn’t there when the original bill was passed.

It points out the weakness I warned about when the Constitutional amendment was considered in 2008: there’s very little flexibility to adapt to changing conditions. Had the General Assembly done its job like it was supposed to, Maryland may well already have table games and whatever number of locations the market could bear. Instead, we’ve learned the hard way that there isn’t much of a market for slot machines in rural areas (Perryville and Ocean Downs are lagging) and we’ve given other states a huge head start on table games. All these could have been addressed by the General Assembly but they punted.

Indeed, supporters of Question 7 may make it seem like we’re leaving millions of dollars on the table – a very dubious proposition when you consider the total costs of gambling. Virginia seems to do just fine without casinos. But voting no also rebuffs a General Assembly which hasn’t done its job. The opponents make a good point when it’s stated that, while the money raised by gambling goes into the educational pot, the money is taken away at the other end and sucked into that black hole known as the General Fund.

The 2014 ballot should have a provision which removes the section of the Maryland Constitution specific to slot machines and instead authorize casinos in the general sense that horse racing tracks and the Maryland Lottery are already allowed. Then any needed changes can be made during a regular or special General Assembly session rather than waiting until November of an even-numbered year (while other states progress merrily onto table games and sports betting.)

Frankly, the only people who seem to be profiting off this particular battle are the political consultants, advertising agencies, and media outlets who put out and broadcast the dozens of spots we see during the week on both sides. If we vote yes, MGM stands to gain millions; if not, Penn National maintains its market share. Personally I’d rather the state concentrate on good manufacturing jobs which actually create things than entertainment jobs which depend on the regressive tax gambling truly is.

In Maryland, the gambling genie is already out of the bottle. Honestly I have no issue with the ability to wager, which doesn’t cost me more than the few dollars I occasionally spend on Powerball or MegaMillions tickets. But if they were going to adopt casino gambling it should have been done right. Let’s step back, take two years to write the proper legislation, and remove voters from the equation in 2014.

Poll results disappointing to MD conservatives

The most recent Maryland Poll by Gonzales Research came out on Wednesday, and the results can only be described as disheartening to Maryland conservatives, who have their work cut out for them in the last month of the campaign. (Hat tip to Maryland Reporter for the link.)

First, the terrible topline numbers here in the state:

  • President: Barack Obama (D) 55, Mitt Romney (R) 36
  • U.S. Senate: Ben Cardin (D) 50, Dan Bongino (R) 22, Rob Sobhani (I) 21
  • Question 4 (in-state tuition for illegal aliens): For 58, Against 34
  • Question 6 (legalizing gay marriage): For 51, Against 43
  • Question 7 (expanding gambling): For 45, Against 46
  • President Obama has a 54% favorable rating, with 32% unfavorable
  • Vice-President Joe Biden has a 47% favorable rating, with 34% unfavorable
  • Mitt Romney has a 35% favorable rating, with 50% unfavorable
  • Paul Ryan has a 36% favorable rating, with 38% unfavorable

Gonzales did not poll on Question 5 (redistricting) or any of the Congressional races; in the latter case it’s likely because the sample sizes would be too small for reliable results. 813 self-proclaimed likely voters made up this sample.

One thing I have always liked about the Gonzales surveys is their willingness to provide the actual numbers. Instead of massaging the results to a certain turnout model, the Maryland Poll is set up to reflect the electorate based on party registration – so 56% of the respondents were Democrats, 30% Republicans, and the remainder unaffiliated. This closely matches the state’s current voter registration totals.

Because of that, some trends can be determined. For example, as a percentage fewer Democrats are behind Barack Obama (81%) than Republicans backing Romney (86%). This is because there’s always been a percentage of Democrats in Maryland who are simply registered as Democrats but often vote for Republicans. It’s President Obama’s 88% approval rating among black voters (which matches their lockstep 88% support) that saves his bacon in Maryland.

On the other hand, though, Democrats strongly back political lifer Ben Cardin (74%) while Republicans are just 60% behind Dan Bongino, their U.S. Senate nominee. The presence of onetime Republican-turned-independent Rob Sobhani is all but destroying GOP chances of posting an upset in the race, since Cardin is only at 50 percent. This is because Sobhani is taking more votes away from Bongino (22% of Republicans) than Cardin (16% of Democrats.) More troublesome is that these numbers are undermining Bongino’s stated intention of making inroads into the minority community, because just 8% of black voters support him but 15% back Sobhani, who was born in America but is of Iranian origin.

Meanwhile, the political correctness bug seems to be biting some of the squishier members of the GOP. While the state party has come out against these issues in a broad manner by supporting the idea of “repealing O’Malley’s laws” the Maryland Poll finds 29% of Republicans are for in-state tuition for illegal aliens, 17% support gay marriage, and 35% are in favor of expanding gambling. Could this be the Bradley effect manifested in a different manner? There’s no way to tell.

Overall these numbers are quite disappointing, but the silver lining which exists in them is now we know where to focus our efforts. For one thing, we are close enough on some races that enhancing GOP turnout could turn the election, particularly on Questions 6 and 7.

It’s also important to remember that a number of Congressional races could hinge on turnout as well. Simply based on voter registration numbers it’s clear that Eric Knowles, Faith Loudon, and Frank Mirabile have the steepest uphill battles but there’s more possibility of an upset from Tony O’Donnell, Nancy Jacobs, or Ken Timmerman. Even Roscoe Bartlett could fall into the “upset” category based on the gerrymandering Democrats did to make his seat endangered for Republicans.

There is one other observation regarding the races I need to make. Given the 19-point advantage Barack Obama enjoys here in the formerly Free State, it’s clear he probably won’t be spending any money in the local Baltimore television market. (Washington, D.C. is a different story because Virginia is in play.) Yet that commercial time is being vacuumed up by the millions of dollars both sides are spending on debating Question 7.

Because of that simple fact, it will be harder for those advocating other ballot issues and downticket candidates to afford television time, and that works against both sides equally. This makes the retail and social media campaigns that much more important because one easy outlet is no longer as readily available.

You may ask why I’m so strident on some of these issues. In my case, there’s a lot of areas where they crossed my line in the sand a long time ago and I’m simply fighting a sort of guerrilla war trying to beat things back where I can. But like Benjamin Netanyahu, we need to pull out our red Sharpie and draw our own line this time around because once that’s passed there is no putting the genie back in the bottle.

Once we allow illegal immigrants in-state tuition, the next thing they’ll want is full amnesty and voting rights – never mind they have broken numerous laws by crossing the border (or overstaying their visa) while thousands who try to do things the correct way are denied or face long delays in receiving what’s due for them. Crime is not supposed to pay.

Once we tell Democrats it’s okay to ignore geography and cynically make up Congressional districts which place people with little in common together for base political interests, there’s no telling what other steps they’ll take to dictate what they determine is fair representation. Obviously political affiliation is a fickle standard, but when only 56% of voters are registered Democrat should they have 88% of the Congressional representation? Obviously it could work out that way even if the state was scrupulously and evenly divided based simply on existing geographic lines, equalizing population, and contiguity, but I suspect it would not.

Once we allow gay marriage to pass, then the question becomes what will be legitimized next: plural marriage, marriage between adults and children, or some other bastardization of the concept? Where does the line get drawn? Despite common misguidance, marriage is NOT a right and despite the best efforts of the gay lobby to promote the idea this quest shouldn’t be equated with the civil rights movement of a half-century ago. As this group points out, there are no “gay only” drinking fountains.

Certainly people of any gender can be in a loving relationship with one of their own gender, but as far as the legal concepts of marriage our state already covers it. What was wrong with civil unions? I could live with that as a compromise which preserves, as much as possible in this day and age, the sanctity of marriage.

I’ve seen elections where people down double-digits in polling have come back to win in the last week, and a month is an eternity in political circles. Just a month ago Wendy Rosen was a game but underfunded challenger to Andy Harris until the startling allegation she voted twice in two consecutive elections, and now Democrats are reduced to pinning their hopes on a write-in candidacy. So anything is possible, good or bad.

But polls make news, and this poll certainly garnered a lot of attention across the state. The question is whether we can make it a “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment.

WMSOP hosts meeting on ballot questions

On this coming Thursday the Wicomico Society of Patriots will reconvene for a meeting to discuss Maryland’s ballot questions; in particular Questions 4, 5, 6, and 7.

But instead of the usual local speaker, a special guest will address these topics from his unique perspective.

The meeting will be held on Thursday, September 27, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. at the Legacy Restaurant, 1801 N. Salisbury Boulevard in Salisbury. Guest speaker will be Bradlee Dean; here is a link to his website The Sons of Liberty.

As WSOP stresses:

Come learn about the issues so that you can share the information with friends and relatives. As we draw closer to the election, more people will begin to think about what they need to do. We can be there to help. Be the GO TO PERSON for information on the ballot questions. There will be seven statewide questions and four Wicomico County ballot questions. This is a long ballot and some of the questions are poorly worded, so we need to be prepared to explain the issues.

Bradlee Dean is described as a “firebrand minister, heavy metal drummer, and talk show host.” His appearance is mainly aimed at Question 6, which is the same-sex marriage question, but certainly there will be speakers to discuss all four of these important statewide issues: in-state tuition for illegal aliens (Question 4), Congressional redistricting (Question 5), same-sex marriage (Question 6), and expansion of gambling to include a sixth casino and table games (Question 7).

About the Sons of Liberty:

They are educating and equipping America with the knowledge of what our nation was truly founded upon – “The Bible is the Rock upon which our republic rests.”

The Sons of Liberty not only talk about the issues at hand, but lead by example with the ministry, You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International. (Emphasis in original.)

Interestingly, there may be a second guest speaker as Bradlee’s fellow Son of Liberty Jake McMillan is listed on one flyer but not the other. Both are coming from Minnesota to do a whirlwind tour of the region:

  • September 26: Barefoot Bernie’s, Hagerstown, MD (in conjunction with the Washington County Republican Club)
  • September 27: Legacy Restaurant, Salisbury, MD
  • September 28: Big Vanilla Athletic Club, Pasadena, MD
  • September 29 (morning): Millard Cooper Park, Sykesville, MD
  • September 29 (evening): Marco Polo Restaurant, Vienna, VA

Dean may be best known for his radio show and involvement with the Christian band Junkyard Prophet, a band which would be best described as a mix of rap and heavy metal. Now that would make the meeting interesting – and perhaps a bit uncomfortable – for those attending.

Who really gets the Maryland casino jobs?

One of the selling points proponents of Question 7 have tried to stress is job creation, claiming that 12,000 positions in the areas of constructing the new facility, working inside, and tourism in general would open up once the issue is passed.

But a serious question has been raised on the construction job aspect: who will get them? It’s a question posited on a mailer I obtained yesterday.

If you’ll notice in the first box on the back side (the second page of the .pdf file), there’s a question as to who can actually take these jobs. Quoting from the mailer:

Given that developers will operate under a ‘Project Labor Agreement’ that limits who can be employed during construction, most able-bodied Maryland workers will never even have a shot at getting a job there.

In other words, non-union contractors need not apply. Is it any wonder it was the building trades union who sent me a letter to convince me to support the measure passing the Special Session? (They dropped a lot of money on that effort, according to the Baltimore Sun.) The most cynical among us might do the math: more union jobs = more union dues = more money into Democrats’ coffers.

And then we have the promise of permanent jobs. Certainly there will be jobs to be had at a new facility, as it will host its share of service workers to maintain the video slots, run the table games, and serve food and drinks. Yet there’s a legitimate concern about jobs being lost in other nearby gaming venues such as Maryland Live! in Anne Arundel County. The opening of Maryland Live! has already prompted the management of the Hollywood Casino in Perryville to ask for the removal of 400 slots so their facility doesn’t look too empty and unused.

While the National Harbor facility may draw some business away from the Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, West Virginia and perhaps entice a few gamblers up from Virginia and out of Washington, D.C., the net effect on Maryland’s existing facilities is likely to be detrimental as the overall gaming participation growth is only predicted at 1 to 2 percent. Adding more Maryland facilities will shrink the pie for existing casinos more than it would add to the market, and as business declines elsewhere facilities like Maryland Live!, the Perryville Hollywood Casino, and Ocean Downs will have no choice but to shed jobs.

And let’s talk money. Oddly enough, arriving in my mailbox yesterday was another mailer which pointed out an obvious flaw covered in several other venues: money spent by gamblers in the hope of garnering a better education for our crumb-crunchers is really only replacing what’s already taken out of the general fund. So the net effect of Maryland’s education system may well be zero.

Yet the Diamondback piece also has some interesting quotes from Comptroller Peter Franchot, who chastises his fellow Democrats for hopping aboard the gambling train:

It’s a sad exercise to watch Democrats approve gambling, which everyone knows is a regressive tax. [Gaming] is a predatory industry.

It’s also likely to be another failed effort in a state which tried and failed to enact punitive taxes on millionaires, who simply laughed and moved to a state with lower taxes. Unfortunately, poor people – who are already stuck with underperforming schools which won’t see any true benefit from the money they’re wishing away – don’t readily have as many options aside from not gambling at all. And who’s going to pass up the allure of easy money?

If only they could get more benefit from the money being spent on passing or killing Question 7.

Aggressive ‘No on 7’ campaign continues with pair of ads

Pounding home the main point that there’s no guarantee local jobs will be created or the money will go to education, the advocacy group against Question 7 released a pair of advertisements late last week. The first is dubbed ‘Not Really’ and the second ‘Blatantly.’

It will be interesting to find out where the money to finance these ads is coming from (the Sun story used in the latter commercial points to Penn National, which owns the Hollywood Casino in Perryville) as my presumption would be that both the education and construction unions are bankrolling the pro-Question 7 effort with an assist from MGM, the gambling concern who would build the new National Harbor casino.

The Sun op-ed also notes:

In reality, Question 7 is a massive giveaway to the casino owners at the public expense. It guarantees steep tax cuts for most of the state’s casinos and allows the possibility for even greater reductions in the future. The Department of Legislative Services estimates that the casino owners stand to reap a $525 million windfall if Question 7 passes.

I know, it’s hard to believe that Democrats voted for a tax cut but that change in direction is tempered by the fact Democrats don’t necessarily mind using the tax code to regulate behavior. If Question 7 is approved, you could actually give more to the state’s education fund by playing (and losing) at certain casinos rather than others, and give less to the state by losing at table games – which would have a 20 percent tax rate – than video slots. (See page 51 of the bill.)

In all honesty, my opposition to Question 7 isn’t based on a prudish desire to eliminate gambling, but that the Maryland General Assembly be forced to do its job and not punt the specifics of the issue to voters. As I’ve said before, all they really had to do was amend the Constitution (more specifically Article III, Section 36) to allow casino-style gambling in addition to lotteries. Just repeal Article XIX and substitute appropriate language in Article III, and let the General Assembly have at it. They would likely pull all the same tricks anyway, but they themselves would be accountable to voters for this and all their other actions; meanwhile, they could be more adept at changing rules for a fast-moving industry.

The ‘No on 7’ campaign begins

First out of the gate in terms of issue advocacy is the “No on 7” group which announced its presence Thursday with a new website and television ad.

Their chair, Jacqueline Goodall, had this to say about their effort:

We are excited to get the facts out about the merits of Question 7. This ad is only the beginning of a serious effort to inform Maryland voters on the consequences of the proposed gaming expansion. The costs of another casino in Maryland exceed the benefits, and voters do not deserve to be misled by false promises and misinformation.

Question 7 is the result of a rushed special session and secret negotiations that have ignored the concerns of our residents and communities statewide. Between now and November, we look forward to an open and honest debate on the facts.

The facts, as they have them, pay particular attention to the tax rates which will be paid by casino operators and lack of transparency in the process. Compare this to the jobs-based approach being used by casino proponents and they could have an uphill battle.

They don’t need to convince me to vote against Question 7, but my opposition is more to the ignorant process the state is using by the need to change the Constitution every time another casino or table games are needed. Isn’t that what a General Assembly is supposed to do? Instead, they get the fun of changing tax rates at whim and moving the money promised to education around – and they didn’t need the voters to do that.

What should have been done in this General Assembly was to submit a Constitutional change rescinding the restrictive language passed in 2008 and replace it with language similar to that which allowed the Maryland Lottery. That agency has the freedom to change games at will, select whatever outlets it wants, and so forth. No need to vote on whether the corner store can start selling Powerball tickets.

If we vote against Question 7, perhaps the General Assembly can get to work on rectifying the problem knowing that voters are watching what they do.

It’s also interesting to note that one of the largest voting blocs in the state – Democrats in Montgomery County – has a leadership which, on balance, opposes the bill, according to David Moon and Maryland Juice. Needless to say, they’re unanimously supporting gay marriage and in-state tuition for illegal aliens, so the split on gambling is quite intriguing. I guess they really don’t want tax cuts for anyone, even casino owners.

Meanwhile, we now know the air war has been joined.

Odds and ends number 57

A lot of little (and big) stuff to talk about in this edition of odds and ends. I want to start local as a follow-up to something I wrote last weekend about the Wicomico Board of Education. Wicomico GOP Chair Dave Parker believes the headline originally placed in this Daily Times story was “misleading,” and it was indeed changed online to that which you see in the story.

The original, however, was “Wicomico County GOP committee protests Board of Education nominee.” Yes, the Daily Times got that one wrong – the protester was me, speaking on my own behalf. Maybe Jennifer Shutt is familiar with my work and I suppose I have my share of influence, but I don’t speak for the committee as a whole.

Now that I have that cleared up, I can add a note sent to me by the “pretty in pink” Delegate Addie Eckardt, whose Crab Feast & Sausages fundraiser is rapidly approaching – Sunday, September 9 is the date. It’s going to be held at J.M. Clayton’s in Cambridge from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and the cost is $50 per person.

But if you’re a local Republican and don’t have the $50 lying around, you can still help. Our erstwhile headquarters coordinators Cynthia Williams and Bonnie Luna are looking for a few good men (and women, too) to staff our party headquarters from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. (We’re not opening on Sundays.) You can stop by the headquarters at 800 S. Salisbury Boulevard or call (410) 742-0308. We’re not picky in that respect.

Libertarian Muir Boda was kind enough to pass along a note regarding candidate forums he’s been invited to. One in particular is local:

“The Eastern Shore Farm and Environment Candidate Forum”  presented by the Maryland Farm Bureau and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. September 24, 2012 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM at Salisbury University’s Great Hall at Holloway Hall. PAC-14 will be recording the forum.

Unfortunately, I’m sure I can’t be there to tell you what really happened because that’s also the night the Republican Club meets. (I wonder if the CBF knew that when the date was selected.) But it will be interesting to see what softballs they lob up there for Democrat Wendy Rosen to answer – from what some non-biased observers have told me, that’s about all she can handle. After all, anyone who brings up the eeeeeevil Koch brothers in conversation may be worth the price of admission in entertainment value, but the scary thing is: some people believe her.

Hopefully more believe this:

This shirt is available for 15 dollars from the Worcester County Republicans.

This comes from Worcester County and I have one of these shirts. And yes, I get good comments from it. You can do the same for a $15 donation to the Worcester Republican Women’s club – contact Joan Gentile: joanierags (at) verizon (dot) net.

More local reaction comes from the Wicomico Society of Patriots, which sent me a sampling of opinions on the movie “2016: Obama’s America” that’s now playing locally:

  • I…went to today’s 1:05 show, and although (as a TEA Partier) I consider myself  ‘informed’, it was well worth the ride from Ocean Pines.  The production was excellent, entertaining, factual, and to some was probably shocking.  I’m glad to say that it was a big crowd for a matinee.  Even if your mind is made up, you should attend if only to show your support for the efforts of the conservatives who made this movie possible.
  • I was there also… sitting on the point of my chair and asking, “how was that possible?”
  • Bring your friends, especiallly if they are a kind of democrat, or don’t know what (way) to vote !!!
  • Thank you Cathy for the update.  I had a friend go see it at 3:00 this afternoon, and she said it was very unsettling.  She also said the attendance was good, but very few young people.  The time of day may have had something to with that.  We will definitely be going to see it.
  • We went with two other couples tonight and all of us were motivated to keep up the fight, and even for those who “pay attention” we all learned some new things.
  •  Saw the 5:30 show…packed…I’ve put out the word too…we are going to have to work, but good will prevail over evil!

I have not seen the movie yet, but probably will before it goes away next weekend. Whatever the attendance is – even if they’re selling out theaters around the country – you can bet your bottom dollar that pressure is being brought to bear to get that movie out of there by next week.

Speaking of upcoming events but looking at a state level, while Maryland and Virginia have had a family feud of sorts through their respective governors, a guy who knows something about family feuds is doing a fundraiser for Maryland businesses.

I’ll let Jim Pettit pick it up from here – he’s good at this sort of thing:

Legendary comedian Louie Anderson will headline Maryland Business Leadership Political Action Committee’s second annual fundraiser at the Baltimore Comedy Factory Wednesday, October 17th, for one show only.

“We don’t think politics and business in Maryland is a laughing matter,” said MBLPAC Chair Cal Ewing, “but we do think it is important for business to come together and support a shared goal – a better business climate in Maryland to create jobs.”

The PAC is an offshoot of the Maryland Business for Responsive Government group which is frequently cited on this site. Eventually they’d like to raise $250,000 for the 2014 election and Anderson’s appearance will help them get there $100 at a time.

Finally, I thought it was worth pointing out that Democrats seem to make up rules as they go along. I know that’s not news to many of you, but Senator E. J. Pipkin and Delegate Michael Smigiel believe the recently-passed gambling bill violates the Maryland Constitution on two fronts:

  • the Maryland Senate adjourned for more than three days and without the consent of the House, violating Article III, Section 25 of the Maryland Constitution, and, more importantly…
  • “The (gambling) bill combined revenues, tax rates, and gambling expansion into one piece of legislation.  Allowing for the referendum in November violates Article XVI, Section 2,” said Pipkin.  Smigiel added, “In the past, we have sought to allow voters take to referendum fiscal matters like tax increases and spending by removing Article XVI, Section 2 from the Constitution.  Every time Assembly leadership has rejected these efforts. Now, the General Assembly has passed a bill that in addition to expanding gambling, puts tax matters and appropriations up for a vote.”

Of course, since the Attorney General is a Democrat that complaint, however valid, will get nowhere fast. It’s another reason to vote AGAINST the gambling amendment, Question 7. Let’s make that an unlucky number for a General Assembly majority disinterested in proper process of law.

Somehow I made it through without mentioning Dan Bongino or Andy Harris. Oops, I guess I just did, didn’t I? That’s quite all right, both are worth mentioning.

Oh, one more thing as I toot my own horn. Tomorrow afternoon in the 4:00 hour (around 4:15 is what I’m told) I will be a guest on Blaine Young’s WFMD radio show. We’ll be discussing my book So We May Breathe Free. I asked about the possibility when he was here and we made it happen.