You know, it’s hard to come home after a nice evening and discuss bad news, but there it was on the table: Martin O’Malley finished the damage of the “90 days of terror” by signing the last of the approved bills from this year’s “very productive” General Assembly session. If it were any more productive we’d be a banana republic.
Of all the bills signed, though, it appears that just two will be subjects of a petition drive to referendum: the death penalty repeal and the gun law. The death penalty repeal is “officially” sanctioned by mdpetitions.com while the gun law is being challenged by another group, with the petition there at freestatepetitions.com.
Regardless who begins the effort, though, the rules are the same: by June 30 there needs to be valid signatures equal to 3% of the number of those who voted in the 2010 gubernatorial election (just under 56,000) with 1/3 of those required by May 31 – the end of this month. Both drives got sort of a late start.
Unfortunately, having seen the 2012 petition drives all defeated at the ballot box, the question is whether there is enough interest in seeing another potential wipeout at the 2014 election. Granted, the demographics of the vote may be more favorable to those who would like to overturn these issues but so far both petitions seem to be having tough sledding. Moreover, failure to get enough signatures for either or both petitions will probably embolden Democrats to pass even more egregious legislation – it’s bad enough we can’t petition appropriations bills and may have an even higher hurdle to overcome in the future.
There’s also the argument about the gun bill being brought to referendum because it’s placing our God-given rights to a vote. One thing a referendum would do though is delay the enactment of the bill, so there is a point to consider.
Still, it was a sad day for the formerly Free State yesterday, and I hope in 18 months we will wipe the smiles off their faces after the people take back their state.
That’s a sentiment shared by Maryland’s GOP, as Chair Diana Waterman admitted the following:
Cracking down on crime is clearly not part of Martin O’Malley’s presidential resume. Together with the Democrats in Annapolis, O’Malley has shamefully politicized the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut in order to advance his radical agenda and political aspirations. This legislation will do nothing to curb the effects of gun violence in Maryland, but instead only makes it even more difficult for law-abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
While other Governors like Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania and their legislatures are working to reform state government, Martin O’Malley, Mike Miller, Mike Busch, and the Democrat legislators in Annapolis have wasted the people’s time and money by imposing higher taxes, promoting government dependency, and assaulting the Second Amendment.
Elections have consequences. Whether it was an uninspiring top of the ticket, underperformance in filling out the ballot card, or not being effective in promoting a conservative message to the state’s voters, the 2010 election which should have been a slam dunk in t least restoring the GOP to a player in Maryland politics was, instead, a lost opportunity. In part, this led to the demise of our 2012 initiatives to roll back the welcome mat to illegal aliens and to maintain the common meaning of marriage.
Instead, we pretty much have to try again in 2014 to reinvent the wheel. Granted, there is potential at the top of the ticket for a young and dynamic presence, but the true test will be whether we can contest every race this time around. Hopefully the regressive nature of the O’Malley regime and the prominence he’s already given Anthony Brown as a hand-picked successor – and, in turn, Brown’s defense of the O’Malley record – will give the MDGOP something to build upon. A referendum drive or two won’t hurt the cause.
A week or so back I referred to one of Delegate Michael McDermott’s summaries of the 2013 General Assembly session, and he’s come back with another installment today. In this one, he laments the economic effects of those “few pennies” we’ll be paying every day to the state in additional taxes and fees by reminding us that businesses will be paying them, too. McDermott concludes that:
As the government draws more money out of the economy through these new taxes and fees, taxpayers (and) consumers find themselves with fewer discretionary dollars. This always results in fewer dollars being put back into our local economy and every point of commerce suffers. When business slows, expansion is put on hold. When business suffers loss, people lose jobs.
All this seems to be basic common sense which is lost on those who inhabit the Maryland General Assembly and vote with the majority party. It somehow never seems to seep into their consciousness that business aren’t going to pay maybe $100 a year for the so-called “rain tax” or the promised no more than $2 a month for “green” energy, nor will the effects of ever-increasing gasoline taxes be minimal for them.
The problem they have is twofold: the Maryland economy is dynamic and the geography is static. From my house I can be in Delaware in 15 minutes and Virginia in about 40. It’s worth pointing out that just four of Maryland’s 23 counties aren’t on a state border (Anne Arundel, Calvert, Howard, and Talbot as well as Baltimore City) while several border two states and Washington County touches three. Certainly it’s not like larger states where traveling to a different jurisdiction to take advantage of their business climate involves the expenditure of several hours and a half-tank of gas.
So Maryland has to compete on a playing field which is far from level, and savvy consumers know just where to go to get the best deal. It’s no wonder that neighboring states have large shopping meccas close by Maryland’s borders.
Now this isn’t all bad news for Marylanders, as some cross state lines to work just as some who live in neighboring states make up Maryland’s too-slowly growing workforce. But as critics like McDermott and Larry Hogan of Change Maryland point out, we can do better.
And don’t think Mike isn’t seeing the political reality. Note this passage in his report:
I am not sure where the disconnect lies with legislators who see nothing wrong with this tax and spend approach at governing, but I am quite sure the public is fully able to connect the dots. I was recently at a meeting of local business owners and entrepreneurs when a senator told them that what they could “conceive…the government would help them achieve.” Sadly this was repeated so there was little doubt where he was coming from in his thoughts regarding the purpose and scope of government.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the Senator in question isn’t the person McDermott will be facing next year.
Just because I didn’t feature them as prominently as I had last year didn’t mean I wasn’t interested in what Delegate Mike McDermott had to say about the recently-concluded General Assembly session. Granted, once the gauntlet was thrown away last November by an electorate more interested in glitz and glamour than seriously pondering our state’s future we figured the path was clear for Martin O’Malley to create his legacy for 2016. And if you think Democrats in Maryland don’t have those sorts of dreams of reflected glory from electing the first President from Maryland in the state’s long history, think again. Sure, there are a few who are allowed to stray from the party line in the interest of political self-preservation, but when the chips are down they will come through.
This was particularly true when it came to the idea of making the state as hostile as possible to small businesses, as McDermott points out:
Our Corporate Tax rates remain the highest in the region and our layers of government process insure that we continue to be slow to respond and costly for business start ups.
McDermott uses the obvious examples of offshore wind, the submission of our state to the effects of Obamacare, the increased gasoline tax, and the adoption of last year’s “rain tax” as examples of how our state is lagging further and further behind our neighbors. Yet aside from the outrage we exhibit in our little corner of the state, we seem to be having little if any impact on the direction Annapolis is taking.
Unfortunately for us, the majority Democrats – and some of the more centrist, “go along to get along” Republicans – are a reflection of the areas in which they live; areas which seem to be succeeding despite themselves thanks to the heavy influence of Washington, D.C. on our state. In the city of my birth, Toledo, we had a saying that if Detroit sneezed we would catch the cold because we were so overly dependent on one industry for our economic livelihood – even moreso than the Motor City. Here in Maryland the I-95 corridor, as I call it, plays the same role Detroit did for Toledo by calling its tune. My contention is we would be in the same dire straits as a state like Rhode Island or Nevada if it weren’t for having thousands of workers on the federal payroll living within our borders.
Indeed, Maryland is a state where government checks aren’t just for the poorest among us but also feed a growing number of well-to-do families. Consider the fact that Maryland has been a state in the top 5 of per-capita income for all but one year since 1990 – in 2008 we were 6th. States which have outranked us have generally done so on the strength of the New York or Boston metro areas and a lack of poorer rural regions. (Note that Washington, D.C. would be far and away #1 if it were ranked, though.) It’s also worth pondering, though, that a state is now close on Maryland’s heels and threatening its position in the top five – thanks to the strength of a booming energy industry, North Dakota has surged upward 21 spots in just five years.
Yet rural Maryland lags well behind their I-95 corridor counterparts. There are areas of our state which fare just as poorly as those states in the Deep South do, and they don’t receive the economic benefits of having federal government employees on every block. Unfortunately, the policies which discourage private investment in the state hurt rural areas more than urban ones, for there are some businesses with enough economies of scale – and desire to be closer to those high-income families in Montgomery and Howard counties – which can either grin and bear the increased costs or can otherwise pass them along to end users.
And while the idea of job creation was one of the issues in the recent election here in Salisbury, the reality is that we will have to succeed here despite the state’s best efforts to stymie our development in favor of agricultural preservation. It doesn’t matter to those in Annapolis and across the bay because they already have theirs, so if it’s to their advantage to keep us as a rural backwater which has to be kept in line every so often when it gets uppity, so be it. They’ll just punish us a little more until we learn our place again.
So what is the solution? Obviously we need to convince Maryland voters to stop voting against their best interests and instead promote the benefits of limited government and liberty. Granted, there are many thousands of Maryland voters who won’t get that hint because a limited government also would limit their government-backed paycheck but as I have said before the world needs ditchdiggers too. Enhance private industry and the best and brightest will find work – if we play our cards right, it could happen here in Maryland.
Of course, it’s not with the Democrats.
This was supposed to happen several weeks ago during session, but cooler heads prevailed and pushed the vote back to last night. All it did, though, was delay the inevitable and this time Delegate Nic Kipke won. Instead of Delegate Michael Smigiel as second-in-command, though, the new Minority Whip will be Delegate Kathy Szeliga. They replace the old leadership team of Delegates Tony O’Donnell and Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, which had held their respective Minority Leader and Minority Whip positions since 2007 and 2011, respectively.
And like Delegate Ron George’s announcement last night, it seems like the center is striking back. With O’Donnell being fairly conservative in philosophy – at least as evidenced by his voting record – Kipke leaves a lot of room for improvement; in fact, for as much grief as I gave Delegate George for his choices, Kipke’s have been even worse every year since I started the mAP in 2007, and for many of the same reasons. Yet when I hear Mike Busch saying “Tony did a good job of providing the loyal opposition,” I wonder if the change wasn’t needed.
On that note, Kipke is pledging to work with center-right groups like Americans for Prosperity, Change Maryland, and the central committees to “coordinate the GOP’s push for support.” We won’t find out if this bears fruit, though, until next January.
At that point Nic may have to be the circus master as Delegates eyeing new districts or higher office add their political calculations to the already volatile mix of session business.
With new leadership in Jackie Wellfonder, the Wicomico County Republican Club re-established its routine – for one month, since we normally skip a May meeting due to its usual coincidence with Memorial Day as its fourth Monday – and had a very full agenda for its return from a March meeting truncated by an outside event.
But before the meeting began we embarked on something new, as several members and one local politician gathered down the street at Roadie Joe’s for a pre-event happy hour. This was an idea discussed by the club’s newly-installed executive committee at a meeting we had before being sworn in, and we hope to make it a tradition. While it was a modest success, it also gave me a chance to go over the agenda with our new president. Having to defer a meeting made for more business which needed to be conducted.
Leading off the meeting with Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, we soon learned we had a surprise guest who was in town. After I had read the minutes of the last two meetings, I suggested we amend the agenda to defer the Treasurer’s Report, but Congressman Andy Harris interjected, “no, hopefully your treasury is doing better than ours.” So we indeed heard the report before allowing Andy to speak.
It was “a good month to be a Republican,” Andy argued. We now had a distinct advantage on two separate issues: individual rights, as expressed with the loss of the gun bill in the Senate, and fiscal responsibility based on competing budgetary plans.
To Andy, the failure of the gun bill may be “where the President begins to lose his second term.” He couldn’t even keep his Democrats on board, Harris added, and the tactic of creating a 60-vote threshold (in order to prohibit popular pro-gun amendments from consideration) obviously backfired. Meanwhile, Obama “puts the brakes on the economy,” making him more unpopular.
And on the fiscal side, Harris pointed out that neither the President’s nor the Senate’s budget proposals ever balance. While it takes a decade for the House plan to reach equilibrium, Harris voted in favor of an alternative which would have accelerated the timetable to four years, a plan which failed. Yet Andy warned, “until we get true reform on entitlements, we won’t balance.”
Moreover, the cuts would have to come from the spending side. “There is no way a tax increase comes through the House,” said Harris.
Andy also touched on a number of other subjects during his unscheduled remarks, alluding to what should be revealed as an interesting exchange between him and Eric Holder during an Appropriations Committee hearing, talking about what could be a common-sense incremental change to ethanol regulations, and assessing Hillary Clinton’s chances at the 2016 Democratic nomination.
We also found out a little bit more on the ammunition situation, to which manufacturers labor under contracts with the government specifying they must supply indefinite quantities to the government at indefinite times, up to a certain amount, with the federal government dictating the terms. Yet there are millions of rounds of ammunition stockpiled by the government already, and Harris is looking into a way of curtailing the stockpiles in order to make more available to the general public.
Further, Harris deemed the situation in Boston as a “setback” for both the anti-Second Amendment crowd and immigration reform.
Upon the conclusion of Andy’s remarks, it was time to hear from our original scheduled speaker, Delegate Charles Otto.
Charles didn’t have a lot of good news in his brief remarks on the recently-completed Maryland General Assembly session, noting that we passed a $37 billion budget with $1.1 billion more in state debt in addition to a lot of other ill-considered legislation.
But the subsequent discussion brought out a number of questions, such as why the governor hadn’t signed the gun bill yet? Otto noted that the governor has signing ceremonies for bills, generally in May, and the bill will be signed then.
We also found out that a $900,000 earmark for the relocation of Delmarva Public Radio mysteriously appeared in the final budget, despite the fact no bill was introduced for it during the session.
Joe Holloway chimed in about a bill which passed allowing the county to decouple its personal property tax rate from its real property tax rate. (Normally the personal property tax rate had been set at 2 1/2 times the real property tax rate.) Holloway described this bill as a possible end run around the county’s revenue cap. It should be pointed out, though, that last year’s Senate Bill 848 effectively ended Wicomico’s 2 percent limit on property tax increases.
Dave Parker gave a Central Committee report which noted that our Pathfinders seminar “apparently went well,” however, it was plagued by a somewhat small turnout. He also briefly recapped the election of Diana Waterman as Chair, noting our county was evenly split between supporters of Waterman and Collins Bailey, with a vote for Greg Kline thrown in. Two great candidates ended up as officers, though, said Parker.
He also alerted those present that the foes of this year’s Senate Bill 281 are eschewing the referendum process to fight the bill in court, determining their belief that Constitutional rights should be left to a ballot. If it does pass muster in the courts, though, he is working with other counties to propose a nullification resolution.
Our next Central Committee meeting will be May 6, Parker concluded.
In other WCRC business, we also learned we would present our annual scholarship to the winners at our June meeting.
Jackie Wellfonder briefly went over some of her ideas for her term, which actually began at the March meeting cut short by the gun bill townhall meeting. With the happy hour being one proposal, she outlined desires for an additional fundraiser to supplement our Crab Feast and making upgrades to our website and social media presence.
Ann Suthowski took a moment to update us on voter registration efforts, including a Super Saturday we will hold in September – for which she’s looking for nearly 40 volunteers – and speak on behalf on gubernatorial candidate David Craig, for whom she is the “county point person.” He will be doing a three-day tour of the state in June, with our stop being June 4.
I took a few minutes to speak on candidate recruitment and its importance, passing out a list of all the offices contested next year and those who are incumbents. But we also need volunteers to help run these campaigns and to act as treasurers, I added. Next to the candidate himself, the treasurer is the most important person because of our state’s campaign finance laws.
My message was simple: I wanted to make sure every space on that paper had at least one Republican candidate. No longer can we concede offices to the other side because they’ve been there so long, because those are the Democrats who can help their fellows get elected.
While it wasn’t in my remarks last night, I should point out that most of those who have already filed for office at this early stage are Democrats. On the eastern edge of Wicomico County there is a new state legislative district, District 38C, and there’s already a Democrat in the running for what should probably be a reasonably Republican seat. Norm “Five Dollar” Conway no longer has the late Bennett Bozman to help him get votes in Worcester County, so they gave him a much more urban District 38B which mainly covers Delmar, most of Salisbury except the northwest part of the city, and Fruitland. It’s worth noting his district now includes most of the Salisbury University community, which explains the tremendous amount of pork suddenly delivered their way from the state. Amazing how libraries so quickly become a priority item.
That turned out to be the extent of our business, so we adjourned until June 24. Our next meeting will feature a few words from our scholarship winners, with the featured speaker being Dr. Mark Edney, a local surgeon who will be discussing Obamacare.
I gave her somewhat short notice, but this week’s guest came through like the trooper she is and provided me with an enlightening TQT chapter. She’s Elizabeth Myers of MD Legislative Watch, a group I was happy to do a little volunteer work for during the recently-completed General Assembly session. I had the pleasure of meeting her at MDCAN in January as well.
monoblogue: My interviewee today is Elizabeth Myers of MD Legislative Watch, a group which tried to make sense of this year’s General Assembly session. I believe this is the first year you have undertaken this venture, is that correct? What have you learned from the experience?
Myers: Yes, this is the first year (and) I learned quite a bit. First, this year before an election year saw the oppression of liberties and extraction of wealth from the people of Maryland at its peak. Of course, having a governor with eyes on the White House does not help matters and likely made this session one of the worst.
Second, I learned that some politicians respond to being called out publicly for not responding to e-mails.
Third, Assembly members don’t have consistent answers on how bond bills get into the budget – one Delegate voted for the operating budget because she wanted a “bond bill” for a pet project – these “bond bills” are in the capital budget, though. Bond bills in Maryland are similar to earmarks at the federal level. In order for one to find out how his or her Delegate voted on bond bills, one must hound the Delegate and county delegation chair since the delegations meet to prioritize the bond bill requests; that prioritization list is sent on for inclusion in the capital budget. While a Delegate may vote against the capital budget, (the question is) did he/she vote for the prioritization list?
Most Assembly members don’t receive emails from the people on bills that don’t make the news. For instance, many people sent emails about the proposed regulation of process servers, a bill which may have forced some of the smaller firms out of the industry. Delegate Smigiel said that when committee members receive a dozen or so emails about a bill, they start asking questions and pay attention. Emailing the committees is a very powerful and easy method of participating in and influencing the legislative process – once the bills are on the floor, it’s very hard to kill them.
Finally, it was confirmed that often, the rhetoric of most Republicans doesn’t match their actions – they vote for bills that increase the size and scope of government. Voting for bills that increase the size and scope of government, yet voting against the operating budget, is disingenuous. In Maryland, Republicans can vote their conscience – if the vote is to increase the size and scope of government, that is his or her conscience.
monoblogue: Having worked as part of the MDLW team and read a few of the bills, ones to which I was assigned, I know you tried to approach this from a pro-liberty perspective. How would you define your philosophy on this for my readers?
Myers: My perspective in this project is one of a Constitutionalist. We, the people, confer select powers to the government. We retain the rest. From the Maryland Declaration of Rights, Article 45: “This enumeration of Rights shall not be construed to impair or deny others retained by the People.”
I highly recommend the Institute on the Constitution – they teach courses on the U.S. and Maryland Constitutions and the proper role of the jury. The Maryland Constitution and the U.S. Constitution are not perfect documents, which is why both of them leave room for amendment.
monoblogue: And where did you get the idea to do such a study in Maryland? Was it based on something done in another state, or did you just decide to start this because you were fed up with the process?
Myers: Pure “fed up.” I got an email on October 1 about all of the new laws that were in effect that day and the idea was born. Originally, the idea was to recruit some volunteers to read legislation and alert those with mailing lists – when no one with a mailing list responded, the website was started.
I’ve long said that while most citizens are focused on one or two stories, few are watching what the other hand is doing. That is the focus of MLW – show the other bills that affect most Marylanders and extract our wealth, oppress our natural rights, or both. Tyranny does not typically march in wearing stormtrooper uniforms; tyranny creeps and creeps until it’s accepted as normal. We can’t fight some of the big stuff but we can fight much of the creeping tyranny – it’s the only way to reverse the tide.
monoblogue: I also noticed you did a triage of sorts on the bills, immediately eliminating the bond bills, for example. But what was the most egregiously bad bill to be introduced in this session? And what was the worst one which passed?
Myers: The easy answer is SB281 – begging government to exercise an inalienable, God-given right. However, more telling was HB1499, the Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2013. This act decreased transparency in candidate campaign finance reporting and enabled public campaign financing at the county level. This act was approved unanimously by the House of Delegates and only two Senators voted against it.
On the triage, that was born out of necessity – 1,500 bills were introduced in 2 weeks. There is no way I could ask people to read all of those in a short period of time, so I prioritized bills. This project was in its first year so I flew by the seat of my pants.
monoblogue: I also noticed you were a staple on local radio programs, such as Doug Gill’s WBAL show on Friday nights. Did you see the media as helpful to the cause?
Myers: Doug was exceptionally supportive and I’m so grateful for his time and the opportunity. As the Maryland Statehouse Examiner, Doug’s been fighting this fight for many years and he wanted to shed light on the legislation in Annapolis. By doing so, my website stats on Friday were better than those from most of the week. The aim of the project and my time on Doug’s show was to alert people to the legislation that might otherwise fly under the radar. Bills that increase regulations and fees on small businesses, bills that oppress liberties, and the few bills that reiterate our rights and interpose on unconstitutional federal legislation (e.g. anti-indefinite detention and anti-drone).
Through the session, it’s estimated that the website facilitated 15,000 – 22,000 emails to committee members about legislation. Many Assembly members complained about the volume of emails they received. I hope we were a good part of that.
monoblogue: Finally, now that the session is just about over, to where will you turn your activist energies during the next few months? And can we expect MD Legislative Watch 2.0, the sequel, next year?
Myers: I will continue the project. I and a few friends will meet, discuss lessons learned, how we can improve and automate things, and we’ll be back stronger next year. I’m undecided on my activist energies for the coming months but it is likely they will be directed at a more local level.
monoblogue: I appreciate the time, particularly since I gave you such short notice. Thanks, and I hope this keeps you in mind for new volunteers next year.
Myers: Michael, I appreciate your activism and very much appreciate your volunteer time on and promotion of the (MDLW) project. Your monoblogue Accountability Project is wonderful; at a minimum, this is something that all Marylanders should read before they vote.
Obviously my goal in doing the mAP was for voters to learn how their legislators represented them and soon I will start working on the 2013 version. But speaking of seat of the pants, I haven’t nailed down my guest for next week. Be assured I’m working on him.
As the General Assembly session – that annual event I have dubbed the “90 Days of Terror” – winds down, it’s looking more and more certain that a day of reckoning is coming. For Delegate Don Dwyer, the straw which broke the camel’s back was the House passage of a draconian new gun law by 78 Democrats, mainly those hailing from the I-95 corridor. In an unusual move, even reliable local Democratic stalwarts Rudy Cane and Norm Conway couldn’t bring themselves to vote for the bill, saving them from an act of pure political suicide in this part of the state. None of the nine Eastern Shore delegates voted for the measure.
But in Dwyer’s case, the result meant one thing: it’s time to unite in an act of non-compliance:
Dear Maryland Patriots, I was certain that the time would come when there would be a need to organize the “Voluntary Militia.” That time has come. The voluntary militia is recognized in the Maryland Constitution under Article 9, Section 1, and the Declaration of Rights under Article 28 that notes “a well regulated Militia is the proper and natural defense of a FREE Government.”
Please know that I am NOT calling for insurrection of any kind, I am simply calling for you to join me in establishing an organized effort to establish a Voluntary Militia in every county of the State.
It is the intent of the Maryland Voluntary Militia to protect the law abiding Citizens of Maryland from any form of confiscation of firearms from April 3, 2013 forward. The Maryland Voluntary Militia members will not participate in any form of insurrection unless forced to do so to by the tyrannical acts of the Legislature, the Governor and of the federal government upon the Citizens of Maryland.
(Emphasis in original, although I took a small bit of editorial license with formatting.)
And when you add to that the declaration by our Sheriff Mike Lewis that, “I will not allow any deputies to go into any law-abiding citizens’ houses (to confiscate guns),” it’s clear the battle lines are starting to be drawn. Maryland was spared much of the fighting in the initial War Between the States, but seems to be ground zero in a battle over guns.
The worst thing, though, is how they determined the ends justified the means. Not enough people have seen this video of the joint Judiciary and Health and Government Operations committee meeting last week, where an amendment went from being passed to killed in just a few short minutes (and twisted arms.) It was almost criminal.
In fact, former U.S. Senate candidate and rising conservative media star Dan Bongino charged Delegate Joseph Vallario, who chaired the proceedings, with “thuggery and bullying tactics” in getting two Delegates to change their orginal votes to set up a scenario where he could vote to kill the amendment with the tie vote, as the video showed. As Dan explained:
First, political cowards in the Maryland Legislature scheduled a gun bill hearing on Good Friday to avoid media attention after a massive public outcry against this overreaching legislative firearm grab. Then, they crossed a line that should never be crossed in a civil society, and forfeited any semblance of dignity, ethics, or respect for their oaths of office by brazenly violating their own parliamentary procedures in order to punish legal firearm owners and protect criminals.
We are moving into a dangerous place in both Maryland and national politics. One where a political end justifies an unethical and undemocratic means. Marylanders of all political stripes should be outraged at this naked display of political cowardice and legislative malpractice.
Unfortunately, too many of them either don’t know about these tactics or will shrug their shoulders because it doesn’t affect them because they don’t own a gun. These people forget that perhaps the next act of chicanery may affect them more directly, and that some of us are going to look out for their liberty whether they’re deserving of it or not. Yes, you are free to be an idiot and I would assess 78 members of the General Assembly qualify under that banner at the moment.
The signs were pointing to a contentious night, but most of the anger was directed toward Annapolis and Washington.
I will grant that I arrived a little late because we had a truncated Wicomico County Republican Club meeting – one which literally lasted five minutes, long enough to swear the new officers in – so I did not hear any introductions or opening remarks from event host and Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis, who had a show of support from several other local sheriffs.
When I picked up on the proceedings, Congressman Andy Harris was speaking about the lack of NICS prosecutions at the federal level, with a particularly appalling lack of enforcement in Maryland. “States like Maryland will not enforce the law,” Harris charged. “Maryland is one of the worst states” in reporting mentally ill people to NICS.
“This is not about stopping Newtown,” Harris added. Instead, we should enforce the laws we have before adopting new ones.
While Harris drew a very good response from the audience, it was no match for the reaction to always-outspoken Delegate Mike McDermott.
Senate Bill 281, he said, is “not redeemable…it needs to die on the vine.” McDermott added that “if it needed pulmonary resuscitation, I’d stomp on its chest.”
“This is about feeling like you’re doing something,” McDermott continued.
And while there have been “behind-the-scenes negotiations” on the “most intrusive” parts of the bill, the Delegate believed “this is the week to watch” regarding its fate. We still need a good display of public outrage every day the bill doesn’t advance, until April 8. He also noted the bill was assigned to two different House committees, a tactic occasionally used “to water down votes” of confirmed opponents who sit on a particular committee. Not only is the bill being heard in the Judiciary Committee McDermott serves on but it’s also been placed under the auspices of the Health and Government Operations Committee.
He also believed the bill sends “a mixed message” by creating criminals out of law-abiding citizens, and exhorted us to stand firm and make our voices heard.
Event host Lewis began by repeating his testimony on behalf of the Maryland Sheriffs’ Association on House Bill 294 (the crossfiled companion bill to Senate Bill 281 now being considered in the House.) He also repeated his oath of office, further pledging “we will fight for you to the end on this issue.”
“This is the right thing to do for the right reason,” Lewis added.
A representative from State Senator Jim Mathias’s office spoke on his behalf, saying he “sends his deep regrets” about not being able to attend due to the Senate session. While the statement contained his point about assisting with the abortive Senate filibuster of the gun bill and his hope that it would be defeated in the House, Mathias also swerved off-point a little by his boast about being “able to work across the aisle” on topics like the gas tax and death penalty repeal.
Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello made the case that “armed thugs in Salisbury don’t care about these laws.” He advocated for an armed deputy in each school to keep them from being “soft targets” and asked us to “hit the pause button on emotion.”
“If you want to protect yourself, the government shouldn’t stand in the way,” concluded Matt, who later called the event “a very cathartic night for me.”
While the opening remarks took around an hour, the bulk of the meeting – which lasted well over three hours – was taken by a number of citizens engaging in a question and answer session with the participants.
Right off the bat, questioners were accusatory in tone toward the state and federal government. “We need to cut (Governor O’Malley) short…he is dangerous,” the initial questioner said. On his mind was the most recent ammunition shortage, to which Congressman Harris responded “we’re not getting a good answer” on Congressional inquiries. He was trying to speak with various ammunition manufacturers to see whether the large government orders were curtailing general consumer availability.
Others were adamant about maintaining their rights in other ways. Here’s a selection of quotes from citizens I jotted down.
“Law-abiding citizens don’t want to be outgunned.”
“Anyone who is naive enough to believe registration doesn’t lead to confiscation is out of their minds.”
“The issue has nothing to do with public safety…(it’s) subverting the Constitution.”
“Once the defensive weapons are gone, you can kiss everything else goodbye…the Second Amendment is our final reset button.”
Another questioned why we don’t adopt the Eddie Eagle program in our schools, with many speakers relating their early introduction to guns.
Yet schools held another manifestation of the problem. A thirty-year veteran teacher recalled the days when kids would come to her class prepared for hunting after school, including being armed with hunting knives inside the school and loaded weapons in their vehicles outside. Now, however, convicted felon juveniles given the choice between “school or prison” are in her classroom without her knowledge. Delegate McDermott chimed in to note he had drafted bills addressing this concern, bills which would have allowed armed school guardians (whether with weapons or tasers) and permitted off-duty officers to carry their guns on school property.
McDermott added his own dig at the gas tax as well, quipping we should use the new funds to “pay for the roadways leaving Maryland, because that’s where the congestion will be.”
There was one well-dressed gentleman who disagreed, believing assault weapons should be banned. However, he was “willing to compromise,” in part because “I don’t understand guns.” Lewis was among many who would be happy to make that introduction.
Matt Maciarello may have believed he would get away without some questioning, but I wondered, knowing that Lewis had pledged not to send his deputies on what he later termed a “suicide mission” at our Lincoln Day Dinner, whether Matt would refuse to prosecute anyone charged with violating the law. Obviously I put him on the spot because he couldn’t make such a blanket promise – I can understand the reasoning since all cases are different, and hopefully the question will be moot.
Another asked him about when civil disobedience was appropriate, which brought up another response Matt had to think about.
One final statement I want to relate was one made by Sheriff Lewis in answer to a question, as it’s also answering something I’ve brought up here. Said Lewis, “I don’t aspire to be a Delegate, I don’t aspire to be a Senator. I aspire to be a sheriff.”
Well, Mike, if you plan on continuing to be my first and last line of defense against tyranny and supporting my right to keep and bear arms against the overreaching arm of the state, brother, you’ve got my vote. One less office for the local Republicans to worry about.
One disappointing aspect of the night, though, was how few local politicians attended. However, Salisbury City Council member Debbie Campbell came after the conclusion of the Council meeting and I was told County Councilman John Hall was also there. But that was it, and that’s really disheartening.
I really didn’t intend to have a month-long hiatus in this series, but it now returns with my chat with 2014 state Comptroller hopeful Bill Campbell. Campbell also ran for the job in 2010, and it appears that, should he be successful in the GOP primary, he will have a rematch against incumbent Peter Franchot.
monoblogue: Let me bring my readers up to speed here. You are already in the ring for Comptroller next year, 2014; you ran in 2010, and, assuming you get through the primary – which is not a given, but I would say you’re the odds-on favorite – you’re probably going to have a rematch with Peter Franchot, who thought about running for Governor and decided not to. I guess the first thing I want to know is, since you’ve already ran for the office, do you have any lessons you’re going to move into your 2014 campaign?
Campbell: Absolutely. If there was anybody who was ever a novice, it was Bill Campbell in 2010. I started way too late, I had no organization, I got into the race where the Governor’s race was sucking all of the donations out of the air – it was like there was no oxygen in the room – so when I talked to other candidates who were running for office they said the same thing: they couldn’t raise money because the Ehrlich campaign was basically sucking up all of the money that was available for Republicans, the Republican donors. I started way too late; I started in April or May (of 2010)…
Campbell: …and I only raised a few thousand dollars, I can’t remember the exact amount.
I spent most of my money in the primary, I think about $11,000 in the primary. Now some of the money I was able to get benefit of in the general election, like my signs, my palm cards, and so forth, but in the general election I only spent $4,000, give or take a few bucks, and I had to make up for that – money’s important, but it’s not the most important thing. The thing I really learned is that people have to know you, they have to like you, and they have to trust you. If you can get those three things, you get their vote.
monoblogue: Well, the question is, you’re running against guy who’s probably got – I don’t know how much Peter Franchot has in the bank, but I’m sure he’s got quite a bit…
Campbell: He’s got a little over $2 million.
monoblogue: …yeah. It’s almost certain, and this is true of almost any Republican in Maryland, practically, that you’re going to be -you’re going to have to work harder and smarter because you’re not going to have the money available to the incumbent.
Campbell: No, and I figured that if Franchot ran for governor I could probably beat somebody who wasn’t an incumbent by only raising about $125,000. I think I have a good shot at Peter if I could raise $250,000. That’s one of the reasons I started early, I’m asking for money, I’m getting donations, it’s not a huge amount right now – at the end of the year when I filed I think I had just a hair under $2,000 – but I had just started asking people for money. So I’m going to get fundraisers this time.
You bring up a good point. Peter raised $1.9 million the last time – and got a million votes – but he spent $1.5 million. I didn’t see where he spent it wisely. Do you remember seeing anything about Peter Franchot except an occasional 4×8 sign?
monoblogue: No. The thing about this race, since it’s an open seat for governor, you’re going to have an all-out war in the primary on both sides.
monoblogue: You’re going to have, most likely, a very competitive race as far as the general election goes, but it’s going to be a little bit like Question 7 was last year. I think it’s going to take up a lot of the available airtime, so you may be right – you may not have to raise a lot of money. Peter Franchot may have a lot left over at the end of this campaign because he’ll have nowhere to spend the money except maybe consultants and what-have-you, the professional political class that we have in Maryland.
Campbell: I like to say that he’s a twice-elected incumbent Democrat. He presently has $2 million in the bank, he beat me once – I have him right where I want him. He’s overconfident.
monoblogue: Yeah, I noticed when Franchot dropped out of the governor’s race, you said ‘good, I don’t have to face the junior varsity now.’ Obviously you knew what you were going to be up against.
Campbell: I was always – I plan on the worst-case scenario. If I didn’t think I had a fair chance – I’m not in this to make a point. I’m not in this to posture or try to get myself well-known for some higher office later on – I’m a pragmatist. I think that it’s very difficult to win as a Republican any time. But I got a lot of non-Republican votes the last time, and Mr. Franchot didn’t get very many non-Democratic votes – I think he got about 10,000 votes that weren’t Democratic. I can’t swear to it because it’s been two years since I looked at it, but I got well over 100,000 votes that weren’t Republican.
So, for one, his name recognition I don’t think is terribly good. He didn’t do a good job spending his money the last time, he’s fighting with people in his own caucus – you know, there are bills in the General Assembly right now to take some of his functions away. He doesn’t seem to be allied with either Mr. Gansler or Lt. Gov. Brown, so I think that he is more vulnerable than the other candidates that we’re going to have to put nominees up against.
And, to be perfectly honest with you, I think that our chickens are about to come home to roost. The reason I ran the last time I got in was the deficit in our state employee and teacher pension fund, and the retiree health care. It has gotten worse. We’ve gone from being funded about 64% to around 60%, and the deficit on the pension has gone from $18.5 billion to $20.5 billion. The retiree health care fund is still around $16 billion in the hole.
So I think that a lot of things are going to come home to roost, I think that the public may be numb after eight years of constant tax increases, taking the budget from about $29 billion – it will be well over 40 (billion dollars) by the time these clowns are finished. And I think that the realization that the Affordable Care Act is neither affordable nor does it provide good care – I think people, even in Maryland, may be at the point where they’re willing to try something different, and by that elect more Republican elected officials.
monoblogue: Well, in Franchot’s case, he’s always tried to portray himself as a fiscal conservative, but in this case – it’s kind of the opposite of the old saying where Republicans can’t win if they try to be liberal because there’s already a liberal party out there. Democrats who try to be conservative, maybe they can’t win because there’s already a conservative in the race and his name is Bill Campbell.
Campbell: Right, and the thing with Franchot – I like Peter, I’d like to have him as a brother-in-law, or a neighbor, or a lodge brother, or something – but he’s not a good Comptroller. He doesn’t have a grasp of the financial issues. And we’re going to need somebody who has an excellent grasp of the financial issues to help get us through.
Part of that is, we’re probably, in my lifetime, going to have a Democratic-majority General Assembly. Thankfully, in Maryland, because of the way it’s constituted, to control the state you only need two offices: you need the Governor and you need the Comptroller so that you can control the Board of Public Works.
Campbell: If you control the Board of Public Works, then you can control the spending, and you can control the priorities, and you can control the trajectory that Maryland is going to have economically. So whoever our nominee is for Governor, I am going to try to work as closely with them and try to come across as a tag-team that will improve Marylanders’ economic future, the future for their children and their grandchildren.
I think we can have, if we have a good gubernatorial candidate, I think I have more than a fair chance.
monoblogue: Yeah. The other thing that I actually – as I was listening to you, is that, we also need a strong (Republican) party, and it kind of brings me to the next area I wanted to get into. Now I know you ran for state party Chair…in 2010 – you didn’t win, you were third, I think, in the first ballot and then withdrew…
monoblogue: …Obviously you’re not going to do it this time because you’ve already announced for the Comptroller’s race and you can’t do both at once, but what’s your take on the candidates who are in it so far?
Campbell: You mean for party chair?
Campbell: The only one I know who’s really been announced is Diana Waterman. Is there another one?
monoblogue: There are actually two: one is Greg Kline, who’s…
Campbell: Oh, I’m sorry, I did see Greg Kline. I don’t know an awful lot about Greg. I know that he’s been really active in – I read something that was posted, he had a position paper?
Campbell: When I ran, the reason I ran was, after campaigning statewide, I had been in every jurisdiction at least four times. I talked to people on all ends of the spectrum from the Republican party, and I was very concerned because I thought at the time we needed to replace an establishment figure, Audrey Scott, with somebody who was not in any one camp but could reach across the boundaries between the camps and make a cohesive, unified party. I’m afraid – I liked all of the people who ran before, I liked Alex, I liked Sam Hale, but I’m afraid that if you have somebody who is identified only with one faction, the other factions are going to withdraw and we’re not going to be very successful.
That was why I ran, but if somebody had come to me and said – and I had talked to Alex when he ran, and I am 99% sure he assured me he would stay for four years. That was one of the reasons I thought, well, okay, and then I saw where he was raising money, he was using the party imprimatur of the chairman to raise money for a potential run for Roscoe Bartlett’s seat, which I thought was improper.
monoblogue: Right. (laughs) Go ahead, I keep interrupting you.
Campbell: When I ran, I was going to make it a non-paid full-time job, because I think whoever our chair is, until we start to get on a roll, we need to have somebody who is going to work full time, who is going to reach outside the party to constituencies like the businessmen in Baltimore City who have property that’s being adversely affected by the Maryland State Center project – we need to go in and proselytize people that we don’t normally talk to. Whoever is going to run and be our Chair needs to do that, in my opinion.
monoblogue: Well, actually you’ve answered the next question I was going to ask. The other gentleman, by the way, who’s in the race is Collins Bailey – I think he’s out of Charles County.
Campbell: Oh, I know – I know Collins Bailey. I met Collins when he was running against Charles Lollar to be our nominee for the Fifth Congressional District. I like Collins, he’s a nice guy, he’s conservative, I don’t know what kind of support he has among the Central Committees, because as far as I know he’s just widely known in southern Maryland.
monoblogue: Yeah, that’s my impression of him, too. I mean, I know who he is, I’ve probably talked to him once or twice, but – any of those candidates, and I know Diana, too, has actually done this and Greg Kline is in the process of doing this – they need to get out and get to all 23 counties if they can before the race. That’s the key.
Campbell: I think – isn’t there going to be in Montgomery County…isn’t there going to be a panel discussion with all of them?
monoblogue: There could be, I’m not sure. I know, for example, Greg Kline is coming to our Lincoln Day Dinner Saturday – I think Collins Bailey is trying to get there too. Diana Waterman will be there too, I’m sure, because she’s from the Eastern Shore. So I think – I don’t think anyone else is going to get in, I would be surprised if they did now. And you kind of answered my next question, I was going to ask what advice you had for the winner, but you’ve already kind of given that, so let me turn to one other thing real quick: I wanted to talk about – and I know you have a little expertise on federal matters because you used to run Amtrak, and you probably have a little bit of insight into the budget process…
Campbell: Yes, I had 30 years in the federal government, 19 as a career senior executive, and two years as a Presidential appointee as an assistant secretary for management at the VA. So I know a lot about the federal government.
monoblogue: So what do you think about all this talk about – obviously we started with sequestration, and now we’re talking about the possibility of some shutdown or other, and getting a budget out because they have to – they have to get a budget out or they don’t get paid. If you wave a magic wand, what does Bill Campbell do about this whole deal?
Campbell: Well, here’s the thing you have to remember. I’ve been looking at it through the lens of ‘how is this going to affect Maryland?’ I want to run for Maryland office, and – if I succeed and I win – I’m responsible for the finances of the state. And I look at it – Maryland, over the past four decades, has become a ward of the federal legislature. We get approximately 40% of our state revenue to run our government directly and indirectly from the feds. We get 27% directly, and then we get about another 13% indirectly through income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes from federal employees, federal retirees, and federal contractors and military retirees, and to some extent property tax from perhaps military – active-duty military.
So regardless of whether you call it sequestration, the fiscal cliff: no matter what you do any – any – reduction in federal spending will adversely affect Maryland. That said, we desperately need to cut back on the spending. That’s going to be painful, but if we don’t do with everybody, even the liberals agree that our spending is on an unsustainable path.
We are borrowing 42 cents on every dollar that we spend at present, and we – the debt service right now is, I believe 200 or 300 billion dollars and we are paying historically low rates on that debt. In a couple of years, when the fed stops doing quantitative easing, even Bernanke has admitted by about 2015 the interest rates that we are going to be paying – which are all pegged to the 10-year Treasury note – are going to jump up to the historic value of about 4 or 5 percent. What that means is that the largest single budget item to the federal government will be debt service. That will crowd out spending we need for infrastructure, defense, clean air, safe food, safe drinking water, public health – everything will become secondary so that we have to cut the spending.
And there are smart ways to do it and dumb ways to do it. Sequestration, when you look at it, isn’t that bad, particularly if you put, as they are right now, flexibility for the federal agencies in there. The Department of Defense’s budget this year is $711 billion – you think, oh my God, under sequestration we’re going to go to 522 (billion dollars.) Well, 522 might be absolutely fine because the difference between 521 and 711 is fighting two wars. As we get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and we avoid going into places like Iran and Syria, and Africa – then we can absorb that reduction well.
So I’m not afraid the sky is going to fall, I think what has happened is that the Obama administration has tried to make sequestration as painful as possible – you know, letting 2,000 illegal aliens loose that were in custody, closing down tours of the White House – they are doing everything humanly possible to make this appear a big problem. Well, I just came back from Florida and, you know, except for an occasional little mention of sequestration it’s not on anybody’s radar outside the Beltway, and it doesn’t seem to be having much of an effect because, rather than a cliff, it’s kind of a slow, gentle slope with the cutbacks and spending and you probably won’t really see it until next year and next year is when the Affordable Care Act costs are going to start to really hammer people, so I think 2014, because of these things, is going to be a decent year for Republicans, even in Maryland.
monoblogue: Well, that’s a good place to wrap it up. So I appreciate the time, Bill.
We actually talked a little bit more regarding the 2014 race, but for the purpose of this exercise I’ll keep that off the record. One thing I will share is his opinion that “Maryland’s finances are terribly broken.” Seems to me that’s a good reason to get into the race, and I wish Bill the best of luck in his uphill fight.
I should also note that I recorded this interview on Friday, so I had the opportunity to speak with all three Chair candidates at our Lincoln Day Dinner subsequent to recording this post.
Next week’s guest will be another Maryland political figure, with the question being which one of the two records his interview first.
I almost hate to be the bearer of this bad news, but hopefully the word will spread and be a wake-up call for a state where wallets are being plundered and freedoms eroded: Change Maryland is just now out with a new listing of taxes.
I actually had a chance to check out an advance copy of this scary reading, with the Change Maryland release excerpted below:
Change Maryland released today an updated list of tax, fee and toll increases enacted under the O’Malley Administration. This latest report shows 32 increases that remove $2.3 billion out of the economy annually and includes only measures that have been enacted. As final passage of increasing motor fuel taxes and offshore wind resulting in higher utility bills appear imminent, the list is a reminder of the ever-increasing amount struggling Marylanders are being asked to pay for the big-government ambitions of politicians.
Fully sourced using Department of Legislative Services analysis, executive branch budget documents and fiscal notes from bills, the list is the only comprehensive analysis of what Marylanders are paying in levies over and above existing taxes and fees since 2007.
“This will not be a slide in the Governor’s power point presentations,” said Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan. We’re finding yet again, it’s time to pull the curtain back on this Administration. Elected officials and bureaucrats don’t want their tax, fee and toll increases to be public and understandable, so we did it for them in the interest of promoting fiscal responsibility and transparency.”
The group went on to detail a year-by-year, blow-by-blow rendering of all the additional taxes and fees we are subjected to, and added:
The General Assembly’s presiding officers and the Governor are making a unified push in 2013 to raise motor fuel taxes and to pay for offshore wind by increasing utility bills to customers. Change Maryland will footnote those proposals as they work through the legislative process and add those in another list to be released separately. The grassroots organization periodically updates this list based on newly-discovered measures often buried in legislation and counts separate revenue-raising components individually when they are rolled into omnibus legislation.
“It’s hard to believe but they’re not even done yet,” said Hogan.”The Governor and his enablers in the legislature are asking for even more tax increases in the next few weeks, This may very well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. One-party monopoly rule is just too expensive. We need balance and a healthy and competitive two party system. The taxpayers of Maryland have had enough.”
Bear in mind that the state’s budget has surged by nearly a third since Martin O’Malley took over in 2007; although he likes to speak about phantom “cuts” made in the state’s spending docket, the fact is that we spend more dollars now in 2013 than we did in 2007 when Governor O’Malley took over. The increases outstrip the state’s population growth and the rate of inflation.
Moreover, several conversations and speakers I’ve heard over the past few days allude to the fact that a significant portion (up to 40 percent) of Maryland’s budget comes from the federal government. The gentleman I spoke to for Ten Question Tuesday, in particular, has some eye-opening assessments of Maryland’s economy on tap – it may be a considerable struggle for the state to maintain its breakneck spending pace; meanwhile, Free State residents are staring down the barrel of tax and fee increases #33, #34, #35, and perhaps #36 as explained below in previous recent Change Maryland releases, beginning with Change Maryland’s Larry Hogan on offshore wind:
With a proposed motor fuel tax increase this year and several years of raising taxes on everything else, now is not the time to experiment on unproven energy sources with other people’s money. Once again, the priorities of our top elected officials are not aligned with regular, working people who overwhelmingly reject any further tax increases.
This offshore wind scheme requires a tax to make it possible. The private sector does not get to tax people to experiment with projects and with very few exceptions neither should government. This will be a huge waste – assuming anything gets built at all. Governor O’Malley has been focused on increasing the cost of electricity and gasoline for struggling Maryland families and small businesses. He has now accomplished half his goal, and is working hard to increase the cost of gas in Maryland to the highest in the region.
That’s increase number 33. But as Larry alluded to, the gasoline tax passed in the House of Delegates last week:
A proposal as unpopular as this one must be hidden from public view and carefully timed to avoid news cycles. In fact, this proposal is so unpopular that the Governor announced it in the evening, the first hearings were held on a Friday afternoon the same day as the death penalty vote, House passage is on a Friday afternoon, and final votes are taking place in the closing weeks of this legislative session.
Just as unpopular is Governor O’Malley’s record of raising taxes and fees. There are currently 32 enacted measures that remove $2.3 billion out of the economy annually. Marylanders are now faced with the prospect of paying another $800 million on top of the $2.3 billion a year we’re already paying in new taxes if this passes the Senate without substantive changes from the Governor’s proposal.
Hogan also bashed the gas tax for its effect on rural areas.
Committee leaders provided yet another platform for the big county executives, who time and again have pleaded for more revenues that help their urban areas. Missing from this were elected officials from rural parts of the state. Instead, we heard the tired argument that we need more transportation money to attract the FBI headquarters to Prince George’s County. Here we go again – relying on the federal government instead of putting in place policies that attract Fortune 500 companies and small businesses back to our state. Moreover, nobody at the FBI is conditioning the move on Maryland increasing gasoline taxes, and this argument is simply pathetic.
I know Larry lives somewhere on the Western Shore, but I’m glad to see he’s alert to the War on Rural Maryland those of us who choose to live out here have to deal with.
And, if you’re keeping score (I’m sure they are) the gasoline tax increase counts as three increases: not only will the gasoline tax increase, but there will be farebox increases for those who use mass transit and a $3.50 increase in vehicle registration fees. So there you have increases 34 through 36.
It would be one thing if Maryland spent its money wisely, but we really don’t. I was going to write that an interesting case study would be one figuring out what state spends the most per capita, but I found out to my pleasure someone beat me to it. It’s data three years old, but as you can see Maryland was higher than the norm then and it’s doubtful we’re closer now. Just bringing spending down to the nationwide per-person average would save Maryland taxpayers about $4 billion annually – wiping out the extent of O’Malley’s tax increases each year and, even better, allowing its citizens to direct economic growth to where the market leads it rather than have it foisted upon us.
Perhaps with a new Republican team at the top in Annapolis come 2015, we can rebuild the state’s economy to one not so dependent on the largess of Uncle Sam. When the federal bubble bursts, we don’t want to be the ones who have to clean up the mess.
With a vote in the House of Delegates, the state of Maryland removed the ultimate punishment and allowed criminals to live out the rest of their lives in prison, at taxpayer expense. Two House Republicans split from the pack in the 82-56 vote, joining one GOP Senator in listening to the siren song of those who would mistakenly believe our society becomes more civil with the punishment’s repeal, forgetting that knowingly committing a heinous, premeditated crime is supposed to come with the realization one would forfeit their right to life in doing so. Nothing like giving a hardened criminal animal free reign to kill a corrections officer – after all, what now does he have to lose?
Perhaps the one saving grace in all this was that the false flag amendment which would have made this an appropriations bill and not subject to referendum was stripped out, so it appears to me that this bill could be placed on the 2014 ballot with many of the same people who foolishly voted for it.
Meanwhile, in this age of austerity when hard-working families have to watch their pennies and learn to do with less, the House also passed Governor O’Malley’s bloated budget by a 101-36 vote. By those tallies, it’s obvious that at least three Republicans have turned their back on fiscal conservatism and must believe the state will continually be a spigot for goodies, courtesy of the taxpayer. I wouldn’t expect the O’Malley budget to fail as the bulk of Maryland continues to vote against its best interests and sends more big-spending liberal Democrats to Annapolis, but I would hope for at least a united front of Republicans – there should have been at most 98 votes for the bill, and I’ll be interested to hear the excuses when those Republicans are called out on the carpet. A vote for an O’Malley budget pretty much exhausts my 20 percent of slack I’m willing to grant.
Certainly I will update this post as more becomes available, but what a lousy way to start a weekend. Beware the ides of March, indeed.
Update: Joe Steffen writes that the four (!) Republican Delegates who voted for the budget were Wendell Beitzel, Kathy Afzali, Robert Costa, and our own Addie Eckardt. The lady in pink has some ‘splainin to do.
First the bad news: the Pathfinders program scheduled by the Maryland Republican Party for Wicomico County for Saturday, March 23 has been rescheduled for two Saturdays later, April 6. Conservatives who would like to learn more about the process of running for office will have to wait two more weeks for this valuable training.
This news, however, came as a minor annoyance on a day when the Maryland GOP was embarking on a new initiative. This from interim Chair Diana Waterman:
As Interim Chair of the Maryland Republican Party, it’s no question that Maryland matters to me, and if you’re reading this note it matters to you too. That doesn’t mean Maryland has been at its best lately. Between 2007 and 2010, 31,000 Marylanders have left the Free State thanks to the burdensome taxes–which get worse every year. These tax increases have gone hand-in-hand with a 30% increase in spending and growth in state debt payments of 50%.
In short, to make the Free State free again, we must get off this unsustainable path.
To make sure we play a critical role in Maryland’s turnaround, we are proud to launch our “Maryland Matters” campaign.
The initiative is a survey, which greeted me with the message that my input was “critical to the future of the Maryland Republican Party.” Well, I certainly hope so, since I went through a contested election to secure my position for the next 18 months or so.
So I filled my copy out, which took a few minutes and definitely gave them my two cents; in fact, I think I approached a quarter.
I can tell you what I thought the number one priority was in my eyes: candidate recruitment. Let me give you an example from 2010.
In that year, we had two Republican candidates for Governor, three for Comptroller, eleven for United States Senator, and 28 would-be Congressman (the actual number for each district varied from one to five.) But we didn’t manage to have an Attorney General candidate and we left nearly 50 General Assembly seats unopposed.
Now I understand there are people out there who believe they would be the perfect person to move from citizen to Congress or to the governor’s chair. I’ll grant it’s somewhat possible, and God bless people like Brian Murphy, Dan Bongino and Jim Rutledge for making their first try for elective office a statewide bid.
But there is something to be said about building a farm team, which is how the Democrats have managed to corner the market in this state. It really doesn’t matter if three or four of their local officeholders are defeated in a primary for a higher position, such as the situation which may develop in their primary for Governor between a sitting Lieutenant Governor, sitting Attorney General, sitting County Executive, and sitting Delegate – there are several more than willing to move up from local and small-district positions to take their place. In turn, there are those local campaign workers and volunteers being groomed to take the positions vacated at the bottom.
While I disagree with the words of some who think we have no shot in a statewide race, I do agree with the aspect of working on local races. In Wicomico County we have the majority of officeholders, but we allowed too many Democrats to slide by without a contest last time. Granted, here in Wicomico we had very few primaries for Republican nominations – while we had to run a primary in 2010, it was only necessary to eliminate one would-be aspirant in Council District 3 and one for the at-large Council seats. On the other hand, 13 of us ran for 9 Central Committee seats.
If we can get some good young candidates to run in seats where we need people willing to be the state leaders of the future after getting some valuable experience in the trenches, we can build up our own farm team. That’s not to say we don’t want those who have reached a certain age to run for positions where experience is desired (such as Orphans’ Court, Register of Wills, Clerk of the Court, and the like) but generally political futures are built on the legislative end of the spectrum.
Just to use myself as an example, the fact is I’m 48 years old and the second-youngest on my Central Committee – all of us have seen 40 come and go. I realize where my political future is and it’s not in the legislative arena – win or lose, I’ve decided the 2014 election is my last as an officeseeker. (I figure 12 to 16 years on Central Committees between two states is plenty, since I served four years in Ohio before moving here and was elected to my current post in 2006.) But those who would like to build up a political resume may be well-served by serving a term on the Central Committee.
So when Pathfinders training comes around, I encourage you to take advantage. Nearly 60 years ago President Dwight Eisenhower said:
Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage.
For most of the past two decades, politics has been my part-time profession and I think it’s made me a better person. Conservatives and pro-liberty freedom fighters: if you’ve been on the sidelines, it’s time to step out onto the field.