There’s no doubt the importance of the 2014 elections in Maryland can’t be overstated. At stake will be the very direction of the state: will it continue to re-elect the same failed liberal leadership that’s been bleeding jobs (and may continue to do so) and can’t seem to balance a budget, or will it try the GOP alternative that at least promises to reduce the state’s onerous personal tax burden, depending on whether the victor is David Craig, Ron George, Larry Hogan, or Charles Lollar? And will the GOP get to those magical numbers of 48 Delegates and 19 Senators which will allow it to be a viable minority party?
To address the latter point, it’s worth mentioning that the GOP has conceded 46 House seats and 14 Senate seats to the Democrats because they couldn’t find a willing candidate. Most of these vacancies are in what I call the 10, 20, and 40 districts, which in the state’s numbering system cover areas around Washington, D.C. and inner-city Baltimore – basically the counties and Baltimore City which haven’t quite figured out yet that it would be in their best interest to divest themselves from big government and voted for Martin O’Malley and Barack Obama. Most of the areas which backed Bob Ehrlich and Mitt Romney lie in the districts with single digits 1 through 9 or in the 30s. (For reference, here on the Eastern Shore we have districts 36, 37, and 38.) In the latter areas, Democrats conceded five House seats and three in the Senate, so at play are a total of 90 House seats and 30 Senate seats. In order to get to 48 and 19, respectively, the MDGOP has to win 43 out of 90 races in the House and 16 of 30 in the Senate.
We obviously won’t know those results until November, and they will go a long way in determining the fate of the Free State. They will also go a long way in determining who will lead the party over the next
four two years, and I think Diana Waterman is working hard to overcome her early missteps – so would she be in the mix for a full four-year term starting this November? (Corrected: I forgot we changed the bylaws a couple years ago to a two-year term starting in 2014, to match the national party.)
Certainly many have been impressed with her response to the ill-considered HB1513 on behalf of the state’s Central Committees, which Joe Steffen elaborated on yesterday. But she’s also been careful to reiterate that Central Committees cannot endorse candidates in contested primaries (although individual members can) and that our terms run until the election is over. (This year’s Fall Convention doubles as the quadrennial organizational meeting for the party, when new members are officially sworn in.)
And she also reminded us:
I’m sure you’re getting tired of hearing this but our number one job is to get Republicans elected. This is our time – the stage is almost set (Primary first to determine who will be facing off against the Democrat). The only way we will be successful is by working together. We are outnumbered. We must find a way to pull together – even if don’t see eye to eye with the candidate or some of their volunteers. And I expect all of us to run clean campaigns so that they day after the Primary we can stand together and show our complete support for our ballot. I promise you, no matter who the candidate is, even if they were not your candidate, that you will have more in common with them than you will the Democrat on the other side of the ballot. I am not asking you to yield on any of your principles but to remember, even if the candidate who won the Primary is too conservative or too moderate for you – they are better than the Democrats who have a strangle hold on everything in our State. For starters, the Democrat who wins in the Legislature will case their first vote for Mike Miller or Mike Busch. And it just goes downhill from there!
Precisely. So the question is whether the grassroots and activists will follow, or take their ball and stay home on election day if their chosen candidate doesn’t win. Remember, based on the polls we’ve had so far, a majority of voters will not have their first choice be the nominee for governor; unlike other states, we don’t have a runoff to ensure majority support.
That healing process has to start June 25, because I know from experience that the other side sucks it up and gets behind whoever they pick, generally having their arguments behind closed doors.
But if Diana Waterman can pull off these electoral miracles with very little money and the more than 2-to-1 registration disadvantage with which we’re currently handicapped, the only races we may have would be for the vice-Chair positions. I can’t see the Republican winner wanting to put “their guy” in as the party chair after success like that. She’s mended some fences over her term, and standing up for the Central Committees may allow her to climb out of the hole she dug early on.
As the Maryland House of Delegates considered a bill to increase the minimum wage statewide a curious exemption was slipped in, a change in language seemingly placed in the bill to benefit amusement parks like Six Flags.
Seeing that, Delegate Mike McDermott tried to add an exemption for another tourist playground: Ocean City.
The amendment would have exempted Ocean City’s seasonal employees – defined as those who work a maximum of 120 days in a calendar year – from the new wage law, instead maintaining the current federal standard of $7.25 per hour. Said the Delegate:
“Prince George’s County wisely decided that locally this is what they needed to do. Everyone across the state is dealing with their own issues and everyone is dealing with their own different unemployment rates. (Counties) should be able to decide for themselves whether it’s higher or whether it’s lower.
We struggle right now keeping these jobs available for these kids… The lower shore is not recovering; the unemployment rate is still soaring… Our Ocean City businesses will lose out to competition in Delaware with Bethany and Rehoboth Beaches and to competition in Virginia and North Carolina. Ocean City is our world class resort and this state’s premier destination. The revenue from Ocean City paves a lot of roads in Baltimore City; the revenue from Ocean City does a lot for the state of Maryland.
If you can see it for a sector like Six Flags, or Jolly Rogers…if you can capture a vision for how [minimum wage] impacts that industry…Can you not see how that impacts an entire region like Ocean City?
This is about creating an atmosphere where people can still afford to come and the employers can still afford to keep people there.
Needless to say, McDermott’s argument fell on deaf ears, as the amendment failed on an 89-47 vote. The bipartisan support for the amendment included six Democrats (Bromwell, Conway, James, Kevin Kelly, Minnick, and Wood) and all 41 Republicans who voted (Cluster and Frank were absent.) The original amendments to exempt Six Flags and other like businesses were added at the committee level and not through a floor vote, including one by committee Chair Delegate Dereck Davis of Prince George’s County.
But as the process goes on, it appears low-wage Marylanders will get a raise come January whether they deserve one or not, which probably means more layoffs than normal after the holiday season.
Of course, McDermott’s amendment was nothing more than symbolic because there wasn’t much of a chance of it passing anyway. One thing it did, though, was give local Delegate Norm Conway a chance to vote against the minimum wage bill on that particular amendment. It wouldn’t surprise me if he voted against the entire bill since it’s an election year and he needs to look business-friendly to the good conservative folks on the Shore – surely his union supporters can give him a hall pass since the votes will likely be there. It’s just another example of the BOHICA form of government a state which finds itself in yet another budget shortfall will enact upon its citizens.
Over the last few years, Delegates Susan Aumann and Kathy Szeliga have generally tag-teamed on announcements and updates for their respective districts, which makes sense because they’re representing adjacent areas of Baltimore County.
But recently they did a video which sort of represents the last seven years in Maryland.
No, it’s certainly not the most slickly produced video but I thought it got the point across relatively well – through a little here and a little there, the state is nickel-and-diming us into the poorhouse in the name of wealth redistribution. What, you thought it was government services?
But the wealth redistribution isn’t necessarily from rich to poor; instead it flows from politically incorrect to politically correct, non-connected to crony, and independent to dependent, with the sole aim on enriching the latter listed groups at the expense of former ones. Those at the bottom of the economic pile have to watch out as people fall into their group from above, because it seems like those standing at the top plateau are sawing off the ladder at a fairly low point and pulling it out of reach to the rest of us.
Government isn’t supposed to be like that. As a matter of rule people aren’t excited about paying taxes, but where they tend to object most is when the benefits seem dubious at best. The rain tax is a perfect example of this: we know property owners will pay it and supposedly it will help clean up Chesapeake Bay, but we have no clue how they’ll get from point A to point B.
That’s why this video seems to work.
There are occasions in life where everything goes full circle, bringing you back to where you began – just older and (hopefully) wiser.
So it is with the political journey of Carmen Amedori, who’s been quiet on these pages for some time as she tried to build a real estate business in Ocean City. It was a well-deserved respite after a tumultous few years which took her from the House of Delegates seat she won in Carroll County in 1998 to an appointment by then-Governor Bob Ehrlich to the Maryland Parole Commission in 2004, where she served five years.
But 2010 was Amedori’s year of chaos, pinballing between an abortive run for the U.S. Senate, a 10-day stint as gubernatorial challenger Brian Murphy’s running mate – a move she later regretted – then, after winning a seat on the Worcester County Republican Central Committee in September 2010 she considered a run for state Republican Party chair before later backing out.
So imagine my surprise when I saw this linked on my Facebook page:
Former state Delegate and Maryland Parole Commissioner Carmen Amedori has filed her candidacy for the Maryland House of Delegates Legislative District 5 Carroll County. Amedori represented Carroll County in the House from 1999 to 2004. In 2004, she was appointed to the Maryland Parole Commission where she served five and a half years as a Parole Commissioner.
“It would be an honor, once again, to work for the citizens of Carroll County and serve as their voice on issues such as no tax increases, protections for the unborn child, and the Second Amendment for gun owners, and defeating Common Core curriculum in our schools,” Amedori said. “Under the eight years of O’Malley-Brown administration citizens have been overburdened with more taxes and fees which the current House delegation did not fight hard enough against. As a knee-jerk reaction to rogue school shootings one of the most restrictive anti-gun legislation packages was passed hindering law-abiding citizens from exercising their right to purchase and own a firearm. We need to do more and do it better. We need a stronger voice in Annapolis from our House delegation.”
“Our House delegation has had problems getting legislation passed in Annapolis such as the non-profit Casino bill. This is a revenue issue and our non-profit volunteer fire companies will benefit by it. I would work to eliminate the current gridlock on local legislation and would enjoy working with our Senate delegation as a unified voice for Carroll County. I am excited to begin my campaign to put Carroll County first.”
“I have been encouraged by many of Carroll’s constituents and friends to run,” Amedori said. “They are looking for conservative representation in the House from a person they can trust, and who will uphold their oath to honor the Constitution and vote accordingly.”
At this moment, Amedori joins a field with three incumbent legislators, two of whom were redistricted into the revamped District 5. Donald Elliott was elected in District 4B, which covered both Carroll and Frederick counties, while Susan Krebs hails from the Carroll side of District 9B, which also covered a portion of Howard County. Justin Ready already represents Carroll in the former District 5A. The new map somewhat resembles the district Amedori was originally elected in, a time when she served with both Elliott and (later) Krebs in the General Assembly. Ready was first elected in 2010.
Of course, the obvious question for voters in Carroll County will be whether Carmen’s heart is in this, given her recent tendencies. Then again, she won two elections in Carroll County so she had some appeal to voters back then. Will everything old become new again, and if so, at who’s expense?
I’m glad conservatives are playing the game liberals in the Maryland General Assembly play – if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Many of the restrictions and regulations we’re currently saddled with came on the second, third, or later try in the General Assembly.
So it’s nice to see that a PlanMaryland repeal bill is being introduced again, by Delegate Michael Smigiel. It was pre-filed this session as HB74.
Understandably, the Maryland Liberty PAC was pleased to see this:
Plan Maryland is a statewide development plan designed to consolidate everyone’s property rights into one simple document.
Centralized government planning has never and will never work, but that won’t phase (sic) Martin O’Malley.
The agenda behind Plan Maryland is not to improve our state, it’s to kill all new development that doesn’t match the left’s green agenda.
Many of you, especially those who are property owners or business owners in the development industry know all too well the headaches caused by Maryland’s radical land use policies.
Well now, Plan Maryland is just another headache that we have to deal with statewide.
I used to talk about things which were in the category of “duh” and the last three sentences of this portion of their notice fit the bill. But this bill will get a hearing in the Environmental Matters Committee on Thursday, January 30 at 1 p.m. Delegate Maggie McIntosh is the chair of that committee, and she is definitely the keeper of all things Radical Green in this state.
The MLPAC notice goes on to note the bill introduced last year, but in reality this is the third straight year a similar bill was introduced. However, the 2012 version had many more co-sponsors.
In both cases, though, the votes were there to kill the bills in committee. And even though they were both 17-6 against the side of good, it’s worthy to note that Delegate Herb McMillan switched sides between 2012 and 2013, voting to kill the bill in the latter case. Delegate Patrick Hogan, who was excused from the 2012 vote, voted the correct way in 2013.
Bear in mind this is not the same bill as the one which attempted to rescind the 2012 Septic Bill, a proposal which was introduced by Delegate Mike McDermott last year but failed. The Smigiel bill simply tries to eliminate the aspect of a statewide plan in favor of leaving things to the local jurisdictions which best know their own situation.
There are a lot of bad ideas which eminated from the General Assembly over the last several years, so many more repeal bills need to be introduced. This is one which has merit – if a county wishes to be less than developer-friendly it’s their right. But don’t impose those restrictions on places which may seek to utilize their resources in the highest and best manner.
It’s obvious the Democratic Party is all for “feel good” legislation, but this one probably takes the cake. I received a press release today from State Senator Brian Frosh, who has the ambition to be our next Attorney General. I won’t bore you with the whole story, but here is the upshot:
Senator Brian Frosh (D-16) and Delegate Curt Anderson (D-43) have introduced legislation to rescind Maryland’s ratification of a constitutional amendment to preserve slavery in America.
In January of 1862, the General Assembly of Maryland ratified an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, proposed by Thomas Corwin of Ohio, that would have prohibited any future abolition of slavery. After its adoption by Congress, only the Ohio and Maryland state legislatures ratified the Corwin Amendment before the Civil War made further state action irrelevant.
Ohio rescinded its ratification in 1864, but Maryland alone has allowed its approval to stand for 152 years.
Senator Frosh said, “Ratification of the Corwin Amendment is a stain on our state’s history. I think the legislature owes it to the victims of slavery and to those who marched, fought, and died for freedom to set it right.”
This sort of meaningless legislation is nothing new. Two years ago Maryland finally got around to ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment, which (sadly) became law in 1913, with only a handful of Delegates (and no Senators) properly objecting.
I’m sure these bills sponsored by Senator Frosh and Delegate Anderson will pass unanimously – after all, who wants to be on record as supporting slavery? – but what I really want to know is: which party supported the ratification in the first place? Secondly, and since we’re talking about cleaning up a few Constitutional loose ends here, will Frosh be as circumspect about the Second Amendment should he become Attorney General? I doubt that.
If you didn’t read my piece on public financing the other day, you may have missed Ron George’s response in the comments section. Since I set my links to open up in a new window, you can easily leave the post up for reference.
The upshot of what George argues – repeatedly – is that “public financing” is somewhat of a misnomer because no tax dollars are used; the funding was from a line item where taxpayers could add a contribution to their tax payment. In looking at recent tax forms, though, the last year that option was in effect was for tax year 2009. In 2010 it was replaced by a solicitation for the Developmental Disabilities Waiting List Equity Fund. So I’m quite surprised Martin O’Malley didn’t empty the campaign financing fund during the interim.
Anyway, it’s money collected from the people of Maryland and placed in a fund maintained by the state government. Personally I think people would have been better off keeping their cash but it is what it is.
The other point Ron makes comes with this statement:
As a delegate, my ability to fundraise will be limited so I accept limits in the amount I will raise and I receive some money while concentrating on the session.
Obviously this makes a lot more difference during a campaign season where the break between the end of session and the primary is compressed to just 10 weeks, as opposed to the old calendar where there were five months between session and primary. Given Ron’s argument that the Virginia election took valuable resources – perhaps tenuous; then again look at what the Maryland-based Conservative Victory PAC did – it’s likely that fundraising could pick up and this is Ron’s opportunity to keep the lights on and concentrate on his job serving the people of his district for one last session.
Yet one still has to ask why the state (and eventually, counties) should be involved in the process. I can understand the “political machine” argument, but the problem with public financing is that it’s just as likely a donated dollar can go to a politician I disagree with as it can one with whom I’m foursquare. I have no control over the recipent as I would with a direct donation. So I would encourage counties not to adopt the practice, and judge Heather Mizeur and Ron George (if he chooses the option) accordingly.
Because the General Assembly session begins next Wednesday, a number of local and statewide politicians who cannot legally raise money during the session are cramming fundraisers into the last few days before the session begins. Originally I was going to focus on a luncheon fundraiser being held in Ocean City by Delegate (and Senate candidate) Mike McDermott on Monday which will feature Congressman Andy Harris.
But at the same time at the BWI Marriott, Delegate (and gubernatorial candidate) Ron George will host what he calls a “Pre-Session Business Legislative Luncheon” with Anirban Basu of the Sage Policy Group. As is the case for McDermott, Ron’s hosting a fundraiser, and an important one. While others in the gubernatorial race on both sides can still raise funds through various means, Ron would be stymied for 90 days – unless he went through an unusual route, one which fellow Delegate Heather Mizeur is already taking.
A loophole in state campaign finance laws allows guberatorial candidates who accept public financing to raise their “seed money” during the legislative session, and Ron is reportedly considering the idea. It would place a spending cap on his campaign (as it would Mizeur’s) but where Mizeur would be dwarfed in spending by her Democratic primary counterparts who already have millions to spend, George wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the amounts his competitors are expected to raise in the primary.
Campaign finance of a different sort has grabbed the headlines of late, but while Ron George is within his legal right to do so why does he feel like he’s perhaps forced to dip into taxpayer funds to run a campaign? The flip side of pay-to-play – besides limiting the government in an effort to starve the beast – is that I think there should be no restrictions on political giving except one, that being rapid disclosure. This would eliminate the artificial wall of separation between a politician in session and fundraising – do you honestly think a large donor isn’t going to expect his back scratched whether he gives on September 1 when the legislature is off or on March 1 during session?
Interestingly, the campaign finance reform George sponsored last year will allow counties to have their own public campaign financing (see page 39 here). So we may be dealing with more taxpayer financing of campaigns in the future, and not less. Yet we’ll still be stuck with the slow campaign finance reporting process where, for example, a contribution made January 1, 2012 isn’t reported until mid-January the next year. Granted, the reporting pace is faster during election years but still runs weeks to months behind.
We have an internet – why not use it and put campaign treasurers to work supplying us information we can use in a timely fashion?
Finally we have arrived at the end – well, sort of, as I’ll explain.
Basically what this part is about are those other issues which don’t rise to the level of a full portion of this vetting, but I think are worth mentioning. Unique among the sub-portions of my evaluation is that I can add or subtract up to three points in this section, so it makes a pretty good difference. Another difference is in format, as I will respond to each point in turn.
David Craig: I will fully fund Program Open Space, stop raiding the funds and stop spending the money on pork barrel projects like artificial turf fields for high school sports stadiums. (campaign website)
Sorry, David, I can’t support this. Program Open Space is a great way for the state to take up more land it doesn’t need at a loss to both the local entity the parcel is part of (via lowered taxable area) and remaining taxpayers who take up the slack. If anything, Program Open Space should be defunded and excess state property returned to the private sector. Bob Ehrlich tried this and was pilloried, but the concept was sound.
When queried about social issues, particularly being pro-life, Craig related that he didn’t push the issue with his children, but was pleased that they turned out as pro-life as they did. David also pointed out that he voted in a pro-life fashion during his time in the General Assembly. But he would rather have 5 million Marylanders decide than 188 in the General Assembly. Jeannie echoed the overall stance, adding for her part she was “conservative, Christian, pro-life.” (WCRC meeting, July 22, 2013)
Being pro-life isn’t as much of a litmus test for me as it is some others, but I brought it up because I thought it was important.
While on Steiner’s show, Craig sidestepped a question about whether he would have vetoed a bill passed last year legalizing same-sex marriage.
He noted that as county executive, he has rarely used his veto powers and said that he thought it was good for Marylanders to have a chance to vote on the measure.
The marriage law was petitioned to the ballot by opponents after O’Malley signed it last year.
“I think it’s important that the people of Maryland spoke on that,” Craig said.
He also took issue with the state’s repeal of the death penalty, which he said prosecutors see as important tool. (Washington Post, May 31, 2013)
Here is a place where I disagree with the philosophy of Craig.
If you’re going to make a stand on an issue, it’s entirely appropriate to use the veto pen. If he wouldn’t have vetoed the bill, I’m led to assume he supports it. By the same token, where was he in supporting the death penalty when something could have been done? This could have gone to referendum but the effort died.
I’m fine with civil unions, but not gay marriage. Yes, it’s more or less a question of semantics but to me marriage between opposite genders is an apple and a union between those of the same gender is an orange. They shouldn’t share the same term. Just because the slim majority of voters supported it on a day when disillusioned conservatives stayed home because they didn’t care for their presidential nominee doesn’t mean it’s really settled. What if there had been a special election on the matter – would conservatives have been the ones to show up and vote it down?
Furthermore. I pointed out when the bill passed committee that legislators may not have wanted it on the ballot with them in 2014.
There’s a reason we have 188 legislators to represent 5 (actually 6) million Marylanders. If they do their job wrong, it’s up to you to correct it, not leaving it to the whims of 5 million Marylanders. That referendum backstop is for the times when the General Assembly gets it egregiously wrong with the governor’s approval, such as gay marriage.
Ron George: Demanding the highest standards of ethics and conduct creating a government that is more responsive to individuals regardless of income or party affiliation.
Require the automatic forfeiture of retirement benefits for any elected official that is convicted of abusing their office for political gain.
Reforming our prisons to make them true rehabilitation facilities with drug and alcohol rehab, education and financial literacy courses.
Create and enforce drug free zones around community recreation centers, schools and public housing with stiffer penalties. (campaign site)
I can live with points one and two, but the third and fourth points seem to work at cross purposes with each other. Not only will it cost a lot more to run our prison system if the additional features are included, the additional drug penalties will create more inmates. The more I see the effect of the so-called War on Drugs, the more I tend to favor decriminalization, if not legalization.
“Don’t believe a Republican can’t get anything done,” George said. “People think the enemy is the Democratic Party. It’s not. It’s apathy.”
He added that in a legislature controlled by Democrats, it is important for Republicans to not be ambitious. George said Democratic lawmakers will kill Republican legislation that they like, only to then introduce and pass a near-identical version with their own names on it. He added that it’s happened to him several times, and said he still would testify in favor of the bills if he supported them.
“It doesn’t matter if your name is on the bill or not. I don’t care,” George said. (SoMdNews, June 26, 2013)
To me, that doesn’t exactly scream Reaganesque leadership. If something is a good idea, we should be ambitious about it; after all – to use a recent news headline – if a small fraction of the population can get a television show cancelled, a tireless minority can turn this state around as well with the proper inspired leadership.
“I bristle at how much partisanship gets in the way of getting things done,” George said. “I have no problem working with people.” (Washington Post, June 5, 2013)
Then you should be ambitious about attaining your goals. Seize the bully pulpit and make the public demand the opposition fall in behind you.
“I never ran to the middle,” Ron reminded us, “I spoke to the middle.” (WCRC meeting, September 23, 2013)
In other words, you brought the other side to you. Now I definitely disagree with some of the ways you accomplished this – particularly the “Green Elephant” phase of your first term – but at least you have some street cred to use for better purposes.
And the outcry for Dwyer’s resignation is strong – particularly from fellow Anne Arundel County Delegate and gubernatorial candidate Ron George, who advised, “out of concern for others who could be harmed and for Don Dwyer himself, I call on him to resign and get help. His constituents deserve good representation.” (monoblogue, August 21, 2013)
Since Dwyer wasn’t convicted of a crime which requires his dismissal from the General Assembly, I have to disagree. The voters of his district will probably speak just as loudly and have a more final decision.
Charles Lollar: Charles Lollar believes in human dignity and recognizes the importance of religious freedom to the people of Maryland. The State of Maryland was founded to enable its settlers to practice their religion free of government interference. It is our heritage and Maryland’s gift to the nation. (campaign website)
I have a little trouble reconciling that statement with the one in the second part below about not running to be a priest.
“It’s a tragedy what partisan politics is doing to this country.” (appearance at Mike Blizzard fundraiser, September 16, 2013)
This is a favorite straw man to burn. There’s a distinction between partisan politics based on principles and partisanship based on power. The debates of old between Republicans and Democrats centered on the former, but Maryland as a one-party state for so many decades is an example of the latter, where politicians join the Democratic machime to help themselves and not their fellow man.
“I’m not running to be your priest. I’m running to be your governor.”
“I think that every Marylander should have the right to be with whomever they want to be with….I don’t think government should be involved in marriage at all – that’s not government’s business.”
“I’m not going to propose any legislation centered around marriage; that’s not my job…nor would I lead a charge to change what the people have already done.”
“The people of the state have already voted to pass the law.”
“I am an advocate of helping organizations that help women sustain their lives…What I would not fund is money to provide an abortion.” (blogger interview, June 24, 2013)
I guess I have a problem with this picking and choosing which laws to advocate, unless the idea is to disengage entirely from all these personal decisions, which is a very libertarian approach. If government shouldn’t be in the arena of marriage, then I suppose we can bring back common law marriage. Moreover, there is also the aspect of taxation based in large part on deductions married couples are allowed to take, child custody, and many other issues where government has involvement in marriage. Do those go away as well?
I also have an issue with the lame excuse “the people of the state have already voted to pass the law.” That doesn’t stop activist courts from overturning a vote, which was done in California. Nor did it stop Obamacare, which the people didn’t want but Congress passed anyway. If you want the people to pass laws, then there should be a push to have citizen initiatives like other states do. Unfortunately, the masses aren’t always proven to be correct and we may rue the votes we took in 2012 a decade or two down the line.
“It’s very important that I’m non-partisan. We’re not going to win with Republican bully politics in this state. You’ve got some folks that want to win that way. We can’t win that way, we won’t win that way.” (interview, Raging Against the Rhetoric, July 2013)
He said he is frustrated with “the Republican brand,” but chose to run as a Republican because his character and ideals most align with that party, he said. (SoMdNews, November 1, 2013)
These two actually go well together, so I will comment on both at the same time.
The first step in winning any election in Maryland is to win your party’s nomination, and in Lollar’s case that is the GOP. We saw what happened the last time an unaffiliated candidate tried to win statewide – he spent a lot of money to get 15% of the vote, and 15 percent isn’t going to cut it.
So maybe this is reality according to Charles Lollar, but that’s not the way to get party activists on your side. Granted, there are many who are fed up with the GOP brand but that’s because they look for conservative principles while many among the party regulars believe the MDGOP should be a pale pink pastel in a deep blue state, so as not to offend anyone in the middle. All that does is disillusion the base, which is why we don’t always get better turnout than Democrats – something which we must have to succeed.
I don’t think Republican principles equate to “bully politics.”
In looking at these various factors, I end up deducting a little bit of score from two of the three candidates. Ron George is pretty much a wash as far as I’m concerned.
David Craig ends up losing one point because he’s just not willing to lead on social issues, even a little. They’re not the most important issues, but damn it, take a stand.
I deducted the full three points from Charles Lollar; not only for the unwillingness to run as a Republican and falling into the “non-partisan politics” trap, but also for running an abysmal campaign which has squandered the good will of a lot of potential activists, made a lot of unforced errors (the lack of a website for over a week was fairly glaring), and exhibited a terrible lack of discipline among staffers and supporters. Some of these have been straightened out, but tremendous damage is done. It’s a shame because the presentation by the candidate is generally good, which is why I initially supported him.
But when I added up all of the totals, even without the three-point deduction, Lollar was trailing badly. At this point, the totals are as follows:
- Ron George, 61.5 points
- David Craig, 58 points
- Charles Lollar, 49.5 points
- Larry Hogan, 0 points
Frankly, none of these totals are all that great. I realize I’m a difficult taskmaster, but I would have hoped for at least a couple scores in the 70s. But as more and more is learned about the candidates and their positions – particularly on some of the more esoteric issues I used, like the impact of Obamacare – perhaps one or more will reach the 70 to 80 point range and I can get behind him. At this time, I can’t be like the folks at Red Maryland and do the Larry Hogan pig in a poke. I tried that once already and was disappointed.
What I think I will do instead is make this an ongoing process. I really didn’t mean for this to be a one-shot deal as I have done before because I suspect the race will be in flux for awhile yet. Moreover, I’m not convinced I’ll see four main contenders on the June ballot, just like Blaine Young’s exit from the race after Charles Lollar got in. Sooner or later, once Larry Hogan gets in someone probably has to get out because there’s only so much money out there.
So I want to revisit the process around the first of February, the first of April, and the beginning of June. This way I can review what the candidates have said over the preceding 60 days or so and adjust accordingly. I might like a lot of what Larry Hogan says and it may vault him into the lead, or Lollar could stage a comeback with some subtle policy changes. It seems fair to all, and there’s no real rush for a monoblogue endorsement.
Put me down as still undecided.
The other night on Facebook I wrote a statement, which was somewhat off the cuff and just a little tongue-in-cheek, but to my surprise and delight a number of people took it more seriously than I thought they would. This is what I wrote:
Thinking about Jackie Wellfonder and her poll about salaries…I think certain members should get an increase. But how about this radical proposal?
In year one after election, you receive $80,000 in salary. It may seem like a lot, but surely there are expenses a freshman legislator has to pay.
In year two, though, the salary drops to $70,000…then $60,000 in year 3 and $50,000 in year 4. Still want another term? Well, the salary will go down in $5,000 annual increments from there to a stipend of $10,000 a year for veteran legislators.
My hope is that this would encourage the average person to run for political office, serve their term, and then return to private life – just as our Founders intended.
Bear in mind the Maryland General Assembly members get just over $40,000 in salary, plus a stipend for living expenses during the session. I don’t think the latter part is completely unfair considering a large portion of them don’t live that close to Annapolis and the hours during session are irregular.
But to me there’s something wrong with the system where members (of both parties, although Democrats tend to be the worse offenders) feel they should serve twenty or thirty years – or even longer. The current Maryland poster child for this phenomenon is State Senator Norman Stone. At the age of 78, he has spent almost 2/3 of his life in the General Assembly – elected to the House of Delegates in 1962, he moved up to the Senate in 1966 and has served there since. (Stone decided in July to forgo yet another term.)
There’s something to be said for institutional knowledge, but a half-century is way too long in public office.
So I came up with my idea, for which I really didn’t do any math. But I think the ideal legislator for me would be someone who has spent a little bit of time in local political office (perhaps 4 to 8 years) but much more time building a business, raising a family, and being active in the community outside the political arena. He or she would spend 4 years in Annapolis, or perhaps 8 on the outside, and then return home.
Or I can use a personal example. I have spent almost 12 years overall as a member of a local Republican Central Committee – about four years in Ohio and I’m into my eighth year here. I am planning on running one more time next year – win or lose, it’s my last election because I promised myself I would not run again for office after I turn 50. To me, being on the Central Committee is a good place to get a political start and I’d like to see some younger people occupy that office after I’m through. I’m not going to be a Central Committee member in my nineties, as we have now. (Out of nine in our local group, the three youngest among us are all in our forties, with the average somewhere around retirement age.) Once I win, I will be set up for a total of about 16 years of political service and four wins on the ballot. (I also lost once, but I was shortly thereafter appointed to serve an adjacent precinct.)
Simply put, the idea was not to stay in office forever – it seems like we tried to set ourselves up NOT to have elected royalty. So I figured if the financial incentive gets smaller, perhaps people would think twice about making politics a career. Of course they still could since my state restriction wouldn’t apply to federal office. Then again, we only have ten such posts available.
Obviously there’s another method of achieving this goal, and that’s term limits. Like the federal government, our state’s chief executive is limited to two consecutive terms but legislators have no such restriction. While I understand the libertarian argument that people should get to elect whoever they want – even if it’s for a tenth or twelfth term – the abuse of this system led me to change my mind about this issue, for I was once opposed to term limits on those grounds.
Once we take care of the political side, the next step is to shrink the size and role of government so that career bureaucrats can’t run the show, either. That’s a more difficult path to take, but it’s the item we have to explore in order to rightsize government.
Today the state’s Spending Affordability Committee allowed Maryland to increase its debt load another $75 million and to grow the state’s budget by 4 percent, both over Republican objections. This comes from the House Republican Caucus Facebook page, a note which will likely be prominent in an upcoming release:
Today Republican leaders in the House & Senate voted unanimously AGAINST supporting dramatic increases in state spending & debt.
Ultimately the Spending Affordability Committee passed a resolution to support allowing state debt to increase by another $75 million and spending in the state budget to increase by 4%. “After nearly 80 increases in taxes, tolls, and fees over the last seven years it is irresponsible to lay the foundations for yet another tax increase”, said Delegate Addie Eckardt of the Appropriations Committee. “Voting to expand our debt is basically voting to increase Maryland’s property tax; maybe not today, but certainly in the not-so-distant future.”
With structural deficits widening and lackluster growth in Maryland’s economy, Republicans also supported a measure for zero growth in the State’s operating budget.
While the state struggles with the aforementioned structural deficit – predicted to be nearly a half-billion dollars despite gleeful assurances we had eliminated it, both after the 2007 special session and after another series of tax hikes last year – the decision by the Spending Affordability Committee means that spending can increase as much as $1.5 billion next year, based on last year’s $37.3 billion state budget. Needless to say, the slow growth in the state’s economy will likely force the O’Malley/Brown administration and Democrats in the General Assembly to conjure up new sources of revenue.
It’s also likely the Republicans in the General Assembly will put together their own budget alternative which holds the line on spending, only to be ignored as they always are. A 2% across-the-board cut in this year’s budget would have saved Maryland taxpyers around $750 million. With that savings, for example, the sales tax could have reverted back to 5%, as it brings in $4.3 billion annually.
Eckardt, who represents a portion of Wicomico County as well as parts of Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot counties in the General Assembly, isn’t the only local member of the SAC. Democrat Norm Conway is also an ex officio member based on his being Chair of the Appropriations Committee, and I’m told all the Democrats voted for this budget busting.
While the budget is created by Governor Martin O’Malley, it’s considered one of the most executive-heavy budgets in the country because of the lack of power the General Assembly has in changing it. Thus the emphasis on winning back the governor’s seat next year.
Since Martin O’Malley introduced his first budget one day after taking office in 2007 (the FY2008 budget) the FY2015 budget he’ll introduce early next year will be his last. Whether a dose of sanity is present for the FY2016 budget will be up to voters next November.
In 2013 I participated in a group which was a natural fit for me. Since I do the monoblogue Accountability Project on an annual basis, the fact that a group of volunteers took on the task of studying every bill which eminated from the “90 Days of Terror” – my pet name for the Maryland General Assembly session – was a task I felt right at home working on for Maryland Legislative Watch. I think I studied and commented on about 10 or 15 bills, although several volunteers did a lot more.
Well, I’m pleased to receive word from Elizabeth Myers that year two is in the works for 2014:
Thank you for everything you did in the 2013 legislative session. It takes a tireless, irate minority to keep an eye on the Maryland legislature – good government requires the People’s oversight.
Looking at the website statistics, we have tens of thousands of views to date. That means there is a lot of interest in the work we’re doing!
I hope you will be able to come back to volunteer again in the 2014 session. We’re more organized and more determined.
This project was put together in a short span of time for the 2013 session. We learned a lot and made some changes. For 2014, one change is more robust information storage.
In 2014, bills will be assigned via email. The request to read each bill will include:
- Link to the bill
- Title of the bill
- Brief synopsis
- Number of pages
- Link to form with 3-4 questions to answer (plus any additional comments you wish to add)
You’ll be asked to let us know if you cannot read the bill (if you can, we ask that you read it within a few days). The whole process should take 5 – 10 minutes per bill and we ask that you commit to reading at least 15 bills during the session.
No Google account will be required. No more searching a Google doc for your name.
In the 2013 session, we found that 1,500 bills were introduced in 2 weeks – this is a function of the calendar and will happen in 2014, too. They turn on the fire hose and we will try our best to miss fewer bad bills.
We are presenting the project to groups in Washington, Harford, Cecil, Carroll, Howard, and Baltimore Counties, in an effort to get Maryland Legislative Watch a wider readership. We’re gaining more followers on social media and lots of subscribers to MDLegWatch.com. Please tell your friends and family about the project!
What we learned in 2013:
- Once a bill gets out of committee, it passes. Bills must be fought IN committee.
- It takes relatively few people to make an impact on a committee – 15 or so.
- There is little opposition to bills once they get to the floor – in the House, 75% passed unanimously.
- We will not win on big bills, we can have an impact only on small bills and build.
Please let us know if you can volunteer again in 2014. We’ll be thrilled to have you back!
Questions/comments – please let me know.
By my count, there were 2,619 bills introduced in the Maryland General Assembly last year; however, in reality the number of separate measures is somewhat smaller because a percentage of the bills are crossfiled between bodies. Those bills are introduced as identical copies in both the House and the Senate, and are assigned bill numbers in each which rarely match. (For example, the gun bill was Senate Bill 281 and its companion House bill was introduced as House Bill 294.) This shaves the number down to a large extent, although not in half as one may gather.
One other thing I seem to recall being done as part of the triage from the deluge of bills was ignoring the “creation of a state debt” bond bills. That also makes up a significant fraction of the proposed legislation, although by themselves the bills are rarely acted upon. Normally these are just considered as requests for funding in the portion of the budget reserved for such bills.
When you boil all these out you are talking about perhaps 1,200 to 1,500 bills of significance. If each person commits to reading 15, that means we need 80 to 100 volunteers. (This would be most useful around the early part of the session in January, when much of the legislation is introduced in the hopes of getting hearings scheduled fairly early on.) In fact, a number of bills are pre-filed for introduction on the opening day of the session and, according to the General Assembly website, these will be available in late December – so some can get a jump.
The frenetic pace of the session in the early going sometimes seems to be the hiding place for bills which are destined to be controversial – seemingly sponsors figure it’s like Obamacare and if it can just be passed we will find out what’s in it once it takes effect. Maryland Legislative Watch intends to shine a light on the process and keep bad bills from becoming law.
Additional reading: last April, just after the 2013 session concluded, I interviewed Elizabeth on the group and its intentions. I’m looking forward to adding my perspective this coming year as well. You can check out their website as well, or contact Elizabeth.