The final hurdle

May 9, 2015 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Cathy Keim, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The final hurdle 

This is sort of a programming note for those who are interested.

Over the last week on social media I was detailing some of my findings as I went through the votes for the monoblogue Accountability Project. There was a Delegate who was racking up an impressive record of consecutive correct votes; alas, his streak stopped at 15. Anyway, I have completed the tallies and over the next few days will write up the “awards” segment.

However, one thing I cover in my summary is the disposition of bills and that depends on Governor Hogan. On Tuesday he will sign the last batch of bills he plans on making into law and hopefully will present veto statements for others which won’t. You may recall he was supposed to sign a group of them on April 28 but the Baltimore riots forced a postponement. It means come Tuesday Larry might have carpal tunnel from signing so many bills because he’s doubling up the batch. This means I should be ready for release on May 18, since I like to put things like that up to begin a week.

Speaking of veto statements, this also allows me to bring up the idea that MDPetitions.com (the brainchild of Delegate Neil Parrott) is urging people in a last-ditch effort to veto three bills. As it turned out, they were all votes in the monoblogue Accountability Project and for all three the correct vote was against passage – so I join that call to veto the following bills:

  • SB 416/ HB 838 – Insurance Mandate for same-sex wedded couples to get In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatments
  • SB 743/ HB 862 – Modified Birth Certificates for Sex Changes, No Surgical Change Necessary
  • SB 340/ HB 980 – Convicted Felons Voting without Completing Their Sentences

I go into the reasons as part of the mAP, although on the IVF and birth certificate issues Cathy Keim and I have already explained our opposition.

As regards my writing partner Cathy, she is on a little hiatus for family time. So if you miss her pieces – and I’ve noticed she’s made quite a few fans over the short time she’s been associated with this site – don’t fret because she should be back in the saddle over the next couple weeks.

Once I get through that I have a couple more pet projects. And you thought I’d take it easy on the off year.

Redefining marriage wasn’t enough. Now some in Maryland want to redefine birth.

By Cathy Keim and Michael Swartz

The twin byline is present because Cathy came to me with her thoughts on these bills, writing up a post quoting Delegate Parrott at some length along with some of her thoughts. I liked the direction of the piece, but thought I could add more and she was amenable to the changes. So here you go.

Recently Delegate Neil Parrott sent out a newsletter that had some information about two “shockingly bad bills” that are about to pass in the General Assembly. We had both heard from Robert Broadus with Protect Marriage Maryland about the first bill, but Delegate Parrott alerted us both to the second bill. Both have more or less passed under the radar in a session which has focused more on the budget, gubernatorial appointments, and environmental regulations.

In his message to constituents and other interested observers, Delegate Parrott stated:

Two shockingly-bad bills…are on their way to passing.

(snip)

HB 838/SB 416 is going to cause your health insurance rates to go up, when Maryland already has some of the highest health insurance premiums in the nation. This bill forces Maryland insurance companies to cover the cost of expensive In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatments ($12,500 each time) for same-sex married couples.

Our high insurance costs in Maryland are primarily due to the great number of insurance mandate laws already in effect, and this new bill will simply make the problem worse. Governor Hogan and I both support leading Maryland towards more fiscally-responsible laws and policies, and the voters overwhelmingly agreed in the last election. However, the majority of Delegates and Senators still voted to create more complex and unnecessary insurance mandates in our flawed health system.

(snip)

Under current Maryland law, a husband and wife must donate their own sperm and egg to be eligible to receive insurance benefits for IVF treatments. If the couple requires a donation of an egg or sperm, IVF treatments would not be covered under current Maryland law. Under this new law, a same-sex couple would obviously need to get a sperm donor to have a child. This is a very unequal situation.

Same-sex couples have been allowed to adopt or have children, but many studies have been done that confirm that children born into a family with a mother and a father do the best in all measures – economic, social, educational, and emotional. Not only does this law create an unequal and less-stringent requirement for same-sex couples, but our insurance premiums will also be paying to have a child brought into the world to a situation where they will most likely be statistically worse off than other children. By passing this law, we are intentionally putting a child into a “family” where a father will knowingly be absent.

This sort of social engineering and fiscally-irresponsible law-making, solely for the pleasure of adults without any regard for the children that will grow up in these situations, is reprehensible. What homosexuals cannot do naturally, the General Assembly has now mandated must be provided by all insurance plans, creating a false sense of equality, with little to no regard for the children who will be negatively affected.

This leads to the concern of what could come next if this bill is passed. Will the General Assembly pass a mandate requiring insurance companies to cover the costs of hiring a surrogate to carry the child for male, same-sex marriages? (Emphasis in original.)

As Cathy wrote Sunday, our culture is under attack to redefine and destroy every institution that has sustained us as a nation since our founding. Marriage and our families are worth defending. The progressives only exist to tear down. We are the ones that believe in ideals that are true and good and have stood the test of time. When this country is a faint memory, the family will still exist. They may destroy our culture, but they cannot destroy truth. The family is the basic building block of society. Despite the malice and ridicule heaped upon the traditional family with a father, mother and children living and growing together in love, the family will still survive.

Delegate Parrott has made the case, as Cathy has before, that children do best when raised in a home with a married mother and father. Why should the state pay to circumvent this?

Senator Jim Mathias and Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes both voted for this bill. When somebody says the Eastern Shore is conservative, just remember to check how Senator Mathias and Delegate Sample-Hughes vote.

The second bill that Delegate Parrott wrote about was HB862/SB743, which as Delegate Parrott notes:

…allows people to rewrite history. It would allow someone who gets a note from their doctor saying they are transitioning from male to female or from female to male to literally change the gender on their birth certificate. The new birth certificate would not even indicate that it has been “Amended,” as is the case when an individual decides to legally change their name. The change would not require that the individual has had a sex-change operation, but just relies on hormone therapy and how the person feels at the time. The change caused many of the legislators who work in law enforcement to question how they could even solve crimes given these false records. For example, suppose they are looking for the DNA of a male, but all they have is a female suspect.

Changing factual birth records without leaving a record of the change could have significant and harmful consequences for our society and is simply irresponsible policy.

Senator Mathias also voted for this bill as did Delegates Carl Anderton, Jr. and Sample-Hughes. Needless to say, we’re both disappointed with Delegate Anderton’s vote as he represents us in Annapolis. We would have expected this out of his predecessor, but Carl was supposed to be different.

At this point in time these bills are on their final step to passage, and it seems like the skids are being greased as the House versions of the Senate bills are passing without any amendments – this is important because no conference would be necessary.

Yet besides the many objections Delegate Parrott raised, both bills also raise a number of ethical questions about child rearing. Regardless of who has to pay for in vitro fertilization, there’s also the ongoing concern about the rights of the third party which needs to be involved with any same-sex attempt at creating progeny – either the surrogate mother for a gay couple or the sperm donor for the lesbian pair.

And much like the Hobby Lobby situation with abortifacient drugs, there’s a legitimate question of whether a religiously conscientious business should be forced to cover this procedure since it involves two partners of the same gender. It’s a situation which becomes quite complicated and I feel this is needlessly so.

As for the birth certificate bill, it would be more palatable if there was a notation of amendment. A law such as this may open the door to parents who are trying to raise a child as if it were the opposite gender (such as this recent case) to amend his or her birth certificate as a minor.

We believe that gender is not a mistake, nor was it an error that a person of each gender was required to create a new life. Even with in vitro fertilization, there’s no escaping the need for a male to do his part and a female to be the willing host for the embryo.

While there is an element of humanity in the selection of gender, I think I speak for Cathy when I say we believe that it was our Creator who made the ultimate decision as to whether we were male or female. Taking hormones, undergoing genital mutilation surgery, and identifying as someone of the opposite gender doesn’t change the fact one was born with the chromosomes and genitalia of a particular gender in all but a few extremely rare cases. It’s what the birth certificate should reflect.

However, it’s likely these bills will pass the General Assembly, so we call on Governor Hogan to use his veto pen on these ill-considered measures. And it’s all but certain these votes will be among those I use for the monoblogue Accountability Project later this spring.

Truing the vote: Maryland bills of interest

February 16, 2015 · Posted in Cathy Keim, Maryland Politics, Politics · 1 Comment 

By Cathy Keim.

I received a mass email from Delegate Neil Parrott a couple of days ago and he mentioned a Voter ID bill that he was introducing this session. I decided to check out what voter integrity bills were listed so far. There were three that were particularly interesting to me.

The first one concerns Voter ID (HB1017) and is sponsored by Delegate Neil Parrott. Among the co-sponsors are our own local delegates, Mary Beth Carozza and Charles Otto. Its summary reads:

Requiring an election judge to establish a voter’s identity and verify the voter’s address if the voter seeks to vote a regular ballot; requiring an election judge to qualify a voter by requesting the voter to present a current government-issued photo identification; requiring an election judge to authorize an individual to vote a regular ballot; allowing a voter who is unable to present a specified form of identification to vote by provisional ballot under specified circumstances; etc.

It is just common sense that we should know that the person voting is who he says he is. While this is less of a problem in Wicomico County where the election judges are likely to know you by name, it still encourages the citizens’ confidence in the system when they know that IDs are checked. The bill includes a provision for the citizen that forgets their ID to still vote provisionally. They can provide the ID after the election.

HB1076 concerns proof of citizenship to vote and is also sponsored by Delegate Parrott. The summary reads:

Requiring individuals who apply to register to vote after June 30, 2015, to submit proof of United States citizenship; providing that individuals who are not citizens of the United States are not qualified to be registered voters; requiring an applicant for voter registration to submit specified documents or information to prove United States citizenship; etc.

Currently, when a person registers to vote in Maryland, the Voter Registration Form has a two-part question:

Are you at least 16 years old?  Yes No
Are you a U.S. citizen?  Yes No

IF you answer NO to either question, do not complete this form.

It clearly states in bold letters to not proceed if you are not old enough or are not a citizen. That is the only thing that keeps a non-citizen from registering. The local board of elections cannot check an applicant for citizenship and now the Washington Times reports:

President Obama’s temporary deportation amnesty will make it easier for illegal immigrants to improperly register and vote in elections, state elections officials testified to Congress on Thursday, saying that the driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers they will be granted create a major voting loophole.

But don’t worry:

Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, Massachusetts Democrat, said he doubted illegal immigrants would risk running afoul of the law — which could get them deported — just to be an insignificant part of an election. (Emphasis mine.)

Never mind that we have an elected public official denigrating the responsibility of each citizen to vote. How can he be sure that it is an insignificant number? It could certainly be enough to swing close elections, especially on the local level. Every illegal vote cancels out a legitimate vote.

The final bill of interest is HB253, sponsored by Delegate Pat McDonough. The summary reads:

Requiring the State Board of Elections to execute a memorandum of agreement to participate in the Interstate Crosscheck Program for purposes of identifying possible duplicate voter registration records and instances of individuals who voted more than once in the same election; requiring the State Board to utilize the data obtained through the Interstate Crosscheck Program for specified purposes; etc.

This bill makes great sense. We have our own local evidence that some citizens break the voter laws. Wendy Rosen was the Democrat candidate for Congress in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District in 2012. She had to withdraw when it was discovered that she had voted in both Florida and Maryland in the 2006 and 2010 elections. She pleaded guilty and reached a plea agreement for five years of probation and a $5,000 fine for her illegal voting. It is unlikely that this would have been discovered had she not been a high profile candidate.

No matter how valid the concerns of the citizens of Maryland that their elections are not being protected by reasonable precautions, the Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee are likely to agree with another Democrat quoted in the same Washington Times news article:

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s nonvoting member of Congress, accused Republicans of an effort at voter suppression.

“The president’s executive order gives immigrants the right to stay — immigrants who have been here for years, immigrants who have been working hard and whose labor we have needed,” Ms. Norton said. “The Republicans may want to go down in history as the party who tried once again 100 years later to nullify the right to vote. Well, I am here to say they shall not succeed.”

This is the usual method that is used to avoid addressing the real concerns of voter integrity. First, Ms. Norton says that the immigrants have been here for years and that they have been working hard – neither of which are necessarily true, then tops those with the winning claim about needing their labor. We have millions of Americans out of work and yet we need illegal immigrants to do those jobs? Then she switches gears to decry the Republicans as the party who wants to nullify the right to vote. Excuse me, but wasn’t it the Democrats that were in charge when black citizens were being excluded from voting by Jim Crow laws?

Since the voter fraud deniers cannot come up with valid reasons not to secure our voter integrity, they just lie about our history.

It is unlikely that these voter integrity bills will pass because there are too many people in power that are committed to blocking any and all reasonable measures.  That alone should make you wonder why?

Let the campaigning begin

Now that the General Assembly has made it to sine die, the transition to regular campaigning can begin. Certainly there will be posturing over one issue or another, and there are rumblings that the “bathroom bill” and perhaps even marijuana decriminalization could be placed on the ballot. But for better or worse, the General Assembly has completed its work for the year, and at least 37 members out of the 188 will not be back – many are retiring, but some are seeking other local or statewide offices.

So for those who are looking for greener pastures, as well as the 150-odd who are willing to serve another term – with many among them trying to move up from the House to the Senate – the campaigning can begin in earnest. Only seven Senators (three Republican, four Democrat) have a free ride to re-election, barring a late write-in entry. Two Democrats running for the House of Delegates will enjoy the same freedom, and both will be newcomers – Will Campos in District 47A (Prince George’s County) and Sheree Sample-Hughes from right here in Salisbury. Both had opposition, but the one filer against Campos was disqualified and incumbent Delegate Rudy Cane from District 37A withdrew from his race, leaving it for Sample-Hughes.

Some in difficult races have been chomping at the bit to go out there and press the flesh, along with once again having the chance to raise funds. An e-mail from Delegate Neil Parrott greeted me this afternoon in my e-mail box, and certainly many others were making plans to raise some dough.

While he didn’t serve in the General Assembly, Larry Hogan is making a push to look good on his initial campaign finance report. Messages like this have been appearing on his Change Maryland Facebook feed:

Thanks to the generous support of engaged and informed Marylanders like you, we are EVEN CLOSER to hitting our fundraising goal before tonight’s finance report deadline! We have less than TWELVE HOURS to hit our goal – Can we count on you to help us get there? Any contribution you can afford, whether it’s $5, $50, or $500, will make a big impact on our campaign and could be enough to put us over the edge to reach our goal!

Of course, since they’re not letting on exactly what the goal is, I highly doubt they’ll actually fall short. Yet what would be success in fundraising? Back in January, it was revealed that David Craig raised just under $250,000 in 2013 after a similar performance in 2012. Since we’re closer to the election, I would have to assess success as whether Hogan raised the amount required to qualify for matching funds, which would come pretty close to matching Craig’s total 2013 take. Since Hogan has media up already with a cable television buy, it’s likely he’s raised at least $200,000.

(It’s worth pointing out as well that Hogan is slated to appear at our Lincoln Day Dinner on Saturday, as are Ron George and Charles Lollar. Jeannie Haddaway will pinch-hit for David Craig, who has another engagement. So if you’re coming you can ask the tough questions, although we don’t plan this as a debate.)

For us, the event will serve as a kickoff to the serious campaigning to come since it’s likely we’ll hear from a number of Republicans who are running, even if we have to drag out the egg timer to make sure they keep things short for our featured guests. If we let all of the District 37B aspirants go, we’ll be there all night! (Yes, that was supposed to be funny. You are allowed to laugh.)

After all, not that I’m trying to hurry it along by any stretch of the imagination, we’re just 30 weeks away from the November election (and 11 weeks from the primary, which I have a vested interest in.) Lots of time for good things to happen.

So what is the New Fair Deal?

If you are one of those who follows conservative grassroots activism, it’s likely you may have heard about the New Fair Deal rally being held in Washington tomorrow afternoon to coincide with tax day. While it will certainly be a modest event by the standards of other TEA Party rallies such as the 9/12 rally in 2009 or various Glenn Beck-led gatherings since, organizers believe a few thousand will attend with many staying around after the speeches to buttonhole various members of Congress about this new legislative program aimed at reining in government.

But the better question is: what is the legislative program? The four planks can be summarized as follows:

  • No corporate handouts
  • A fair tax code
  • Stop overspending
  • Empower individuals

The eight Congressmen who will be authoring the legislation in question, some of whom are among the most libertarian Republican conservatives in Congress, are Reps. Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Doug Lamborn of Colorado, Tom McClintock of California, Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Dr. Tom Price of Georgia, and Reid Ribble of Wisconsin. Mulvaney, Pompeo, and Price are among the speakers tomorrow at the event, which will also feature Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, Senator Mike Lee of Utah, activists Rev. C.L. Bryant, Deneen Borelli, Julie Borowski, Ana Puig, and Maryland’s own Dan Bongino. Borelli is featured in this video decribing some of the features of the New Fair Deal.

“The New Fair Deal is a four-part legislative package that ends corporate handouts, closes loopholes in a simple tax code, balances the budget, and empowers Americans with the choice to opt-out of Medicare and Social Security,” explained FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe. “Individual freedom, economic empowerment and equal opportunity are the ultimate fair deal for Americans. No more pitting us against each other while politicians and big business pick winners and losers in the marketplace at the expense of everyday individuals,” he added.

It goes without saying, though, that the devil is in the details. For example, ending corporate subsidies is great for avoiding the next Solyndra or Ener1, but my friends at the American Petroleum Institute would argue that the tax package for oil exploration is vital to the industry’s success. They may have a point, so perhaps the best solution is to prioritize which subsidies would be axed first and which ones would have more of a transition. Being a fairly mature industry, it may take somewhat longer for the oil and natural gas companies to deal with these changes, as well as the sugar farmers who were targeted in the video. I could see a time window of three to five years for these industries, but green energy? Cut them off yesterday.

As far as a “fair tax code” I honestly don’t think there is such a thing, particularly with the proposal of a two-rate system as specified. I like the idea of a “skin in the game” tax where everyone has to pay at least 1 percent (for someone making $20,000 a year that’s $200 – not a back-breaker if you know it’s coming) but I disagree with the progressive rate change from 12% to 24% at $100,000. If we are to have a flat tax, it should be one rate regardless of income. Why would I take the overtime which would push me from a salary of $98,000 (and an $11,760 tax bill) to $101.000 only to have that and much more – since the tax bill would steeply jump to $24,240 – entirely eaten up by taxes? I understand the populist idea of the secretary paying less than the billionaire, but the solution proposed would be ripe for complication because of situations like the above. I’d rather work on repealing the Sixteenth Amendment and creating a consumption tax, which would be the most fair of all because one can control their level of consumption to the greatest extent.

Another area which suffers from being too broad is the concept of “overspending.”  Even if you cut off all discretionary spending tomorrow we would still have a deficit. Yes, we do need to eliminate the concept of baseline budgeting posthaste but we also have to lose the mindset which makes people fear their budget will be cut if they don’t spend their full allocation. While thousands and thousands of federal workers are superfluous to the task of good government, we have to educate the public as to why they need to be let go – you know the media will be portraying them as victims just like they tried to make a huge case that sequestration would be devastating.

Of the four planks presented, though, I really like the idea of the last one as expressed – the power of determining your own retirement and health care needs. In just 14 years I will be eligible for Social Security, but to be quite honest I don’t expect a dime from it because the system will be bankrupt by then in my estimation. (My writing was intended to be my “retirement” but real life intruded a little more quickly than I imagined it would.) The same goes for Medicare. If I had the choice, I would tell the government to give me back the money I paid into Social Security and Medicare – let me decide how to invest it best. This legislation may well allow me that option, although I suspect it will be tailored more to those under 40 who still have plenty of time to weigh all their retirement choices.

(Remember, though, I am on record as saying “Social Security should be sunsetted.” Nothing they can propose would eliminate that stance.)

The key to any and all of these changes taking place, though, is to remember none of this happens overnight. As it stands right now, the earliest we can make lasting national change in the right direction is January of 2017. Moreover, these Congressional visionaries and any other allies we may pick up along the way will be standing for election twice before a new President is inaugurated – and if the Republicans nominate another milquetoast “go along to get along” Beltway moderate who doesn’t buy into this agenda, the timetable becomes even longer.

But there is an opportunity in the interim, though. What statement would it make if Maryland – one of the most liberal states in the country according to the conventional wisdom – suddenly elected a conservative governor and confounded the intent of the heretofore powerful liberals in charge by electing enough members of the General Assembly to foil their overt gerrymandering attempts? No doubt it’s the longest of long shots, but let the liberals think they have this state in the bag. Wouldn’t it be nice to watch them fume as a Governor Charles Lollar, Larry Hogan, Blaine Young, or Dan Bongino is inaugurated – this after the stunning ascension of Speaker of the House Neil Parrott and President of the Senate E.J. Pipkin? Those who survived the collective hara-kiri and cranial explosions throughout the liberal Annapolis community would probably be reduced to bickering among themselves and pointing fingers of blame.

Our side often points to Virginia as a well-run state, but I think there are even better examples to choose from. Certainly there would be a transition period, but why not adopt some of these ideas as well as other “best and brightest” practices to improve Maryland and create a destination state for the producers as opposed to the takers?

If this sort of transformation can occur in Maryland, I have no doubt Washington D.C. would be next in line.

No referendum on death penalty? Why not?

I didn’t catch this Washington Examiner article when it came out, but perhaps I can make up for lost time.

According to Delegate Neil Parrott, the person who spearheaded the petition and referendum effort for several bills in the last election cycle, there’s no grassroots effort to kill the death penalty repeal bill through a referendum. This is perhaps true to the extent that there aren’t specific groups tied to the issue like there were for illegal immigration or the preservation of traditional marriage, but there are thousands of individuals who believe that Maryland should maintain the option of executing criminals who callously take a life in a premeditated fashion. I happen to be one.

Frankly, I’m saddened Parrott is rolling over that easily – if he believes that the death penalty is something worth preserving as an option he should stand on those beliefs. If the petition doesn’t draw enough interest, so be it – apparently Maryland has spoken and it’s wrong once again. Just pray none of your loved ones are ever hurt or killed by someone who now knows the worst punishment they can face is being supported by Maryland taxpayers for the rest of their lives behind bars. Three hots and a cot for them, a lifetime of suffering for the families of crime victims.

But then the question comes up – what if Parrott looks at the poll numbers and believes there’s no use in fighting the O’Malley gun bill, either? Of course, there IS a grassroots movement interested in preserving the Second Amendment rights of Americans – even those living in Maryland – but we could lose that referendum so why bother? (Yes, that was a facetious question.) Nor is there an organized grassroots movement for maintaining the very right to go to referendum as it stands but one would hope he’s willing to fight the effort to make that all but impossible too.

It’s very disappointing to see him say this after we heard from Parrott at our MDGOP Fall Convention and elsewhere that mdpetitions.com had these ambitious plans to expand their efforts based on the failure of having the resources to counter the liberals’ demagoguery and deceit when it came to several 2012 ballot questions. And what happened to “we won by getting them on the ballot?”

This is also important to Maryland voters because those who voted to make these disastrous policies the law of the state will be on the ballot at the same time. I still believe the reason gay marriage was passed last year was that they knew it would be on the ballot and wanted to not be on the docket in the same election as that referendum. (Remember, the traitorous GOP Delegate Wade Kach sold out his vote in return for an amendment to make the effective date January 1, 2013 – after the referendum he knew was sure to come.) Moreover, the death penalty repeal was originally intended to be referendum-proof through the inclusion of a small appropriation; proponents knew it wasn’t very popular with the public.

Frankly, I would be quite happy if the death penalty never had to be used again because people finally learned how to deal with their personal issues in a non-violent way. Unfortunately, I know there are evil people in the world who make the conscious decision to murder and I believe there needs to be a punishment befitting those who forfeit their right to live among the rest of us in civil society by carrying out their plans and being convicted beyond the shadow of a doubt by a jury of their peers. Maryland will no longer have that option.

I know the other side tries to equate the death penalty as carried out here with the policies of less savory nations around the world which also routinely execute people. But the argument is a red herring because these other countries don’t have the safeguards for the accused that we do, so dismiss it out of hand.

Surely there are over 56,000 people in Maryland who believe we should keep the ultimate punishment on the books. Bring me a petition and I’ll sign it and be happy to try and distribute it. I believe in the right to life, and certainly it’s a sad commentary on our society that most of those in the Maryland General Assembly who voted to spare those convicted of first-degree murder their lives feel no compunction or irony in allowing a mother the “choice” to end an innocent life in an execution chamber called an abortion clinic.

New House of Delegates GOP leadership could be on tap

A story by John Wagner which ran online at the Washington Post website earlier this week suggested that changes could be in order for Maryland House Republican leadership, with an election held after this year’s session ends in April. In his piece, Wagner suggests the caucus could be leaning toward Delegate Leroy Myers, Jr. (R – Washington) as the new Minority Leader and Delegate Kathy Szeliga (R- Baltimore County) as the Minority Whip. They would replace current Minority Leader Delegate Tony O’Donnell (R – Calvert) and Minority Whip Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio (R -Talbot). O’Donnell has held the Minority Leader post since 2007, while Haddaway-Riccio took over as Whip in 2011. One Delegate who wished to remain anonymous confided that 22 Delegates are on board: “Enough to do it,” said the Delegate.

Leadership struggles in Maryland’s perpetual minority are not uncommon; most recently, in the summer of 2011, Mark Newgent at Red Maryland reported on an uprising featuring Delegates Nic Kipke (R – Anne Arundel) and Michael Smigiel (R- Cecil). At the time, the disagreements stemmed from a perceived lack of fiscal conservatism, with Kipke being quoted as being encouraged to run by a “contingent of delegates from the Anne Arundel County, the Eastern Shore, and Western Maryland.” It just may be the same restive group wishing for change this time, but just like I pointed out when I criticized Kipke’s anemic record of conservatism, the same can be said about Delegate Myers.

In looking at his overall record, Delegate Myers lags behind a number of other conservatives in the General Assembly. For example, he has often voted for Governor O’Malley’s budgetary plans as well as a number of other steps toward a Radical Green agenda, such as solar energy portfolio standards and overly broad coastal buffer zones. He’s also missed a large number of votes over the years for various reasons, including his son’s 2009 death in a motorcycle accident which occurred as that session was reaching its close.

Nor has Myers been an outspoken advocate for conservative causes, which makes the prospect of support from the body surprising unless that bid is coming from the more moderate members.

On the other hand, conservatives who are unhappy with O’Donnell’s leadership have a number of good, outspoken leadership choices:

  • Delegate Neil Parrott (R – Washington) is best known for his leadership on the petition drives which brought three ballot questions to the voters in 2012. Although none succeeded at the ballot, the petitions motivated tens of thousands of voters to vote in the election; for example, opposition to both Question 4 and Question 6 outstripped the 971,869 votes cast statewide for Mitt Romney.
  • Delegate Michael McDermott (R – Worcester) has developed a reputation as a fiery orator, one who can speak extemporaneously on a number of subjects. Chief among his initiatives this session is a bill to repeal the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Prreservation Act of 2012, better known as the “Septic Bill” or “Tier Map Bill.” McDermott was considered enough of a thorn in the Democrats’ side that his district was redrawn to place both him and Delegate Charles Otto (R – Somerset) in the same single-member district.
  • Since both Parrott and McDermott were elected in 2010, members may want a more veteran presence as leader. If they want one with a lengthy and solid conservative voting record, they could choose Delegate Warren Miller (R – Howard), a member since 2003. In this term he is primary sponsor of both a right-to-work bill and enacting a statewide E-Verify program.

While the current situation suggests there’s “enough to do it,” April 30 is a long way away. A lot can change in that time: deals can be made, Delegates get cold feet, or leadership reads the writing on the wall. Whether any or all of these happens remains to be seen, but it’s probably best that any leadership struggle waits until after the session to occur.

Turning the Tides 2013 in pictures and text (part 2)

I covered the events of Saturday morning in part 1, so if you enjoyed the “lunch break” I pick up the events with one of the most popular conservative politicians in Maryland.

Yes, on the far right of the picture is Dan Bongino. He was the star attraction of a panel discussion called “Changing the Ground Game in Maryland.” Moderated by Kari Snyder, the other participants were 2012 Congressional candidate and author Ken Timmerman and Delegate Neil Parrott.

As he stated in his interview here, Bongino had some definite criticism of the MDGOP’s efforts and suggestions for improvements. For example, “if you’re not registering voters at the gun shows in Maryland in the next two months, you should be arrested for political malpractice.”

Obviously Dan harped on the voter registration aspect – “they’re kicking our butts” – and how badly we were trounced there, although not to the extent he did in our conversation. But he also spent a lot of his time on the concept of message vs. marketing, rhetorically asking “do you know what the most dangerous branch of government is right now? The media!” Dan also restated the point that “(Barack Obama) ran on our message.”

“We’ve never had a message problem,” continued Dan. “We’ve always had a marketing problem.”

Meanwhile, the effects of economic neglect are apparent in Baltimore. “Baltimore City is in a catastrophic economy. There is no economy in Baltimore City,” added Bongino.

Another facet lost in this recent campaign was the school choice issue. He called on us to “isolate and humiliate every one of our opponents” who don’t support the issue. “It is the civil rights issue of our day,” Dan stressed. Yet he had the awareness to realize “we’re in the echo chamber now…action matters.”

After Bongino received a standing ovation both at the introduction and the close, Ken Timmerman had the unenviable task of following Dan. He chose to focus on his race with Chris Van Hollen, noting that opposition research is very important. Van Hollen “did not know what hit him” when portions of his record were released, so much so that he stopped doing joint appearances.

Other observations made by Timmerman were somewhat obvious to us: first, “Democrats will not vote Democrat lite,” and second, “the media is not our friend….don’t let them get away with anything.” (The easily ascertained evidence of that was the camera crews showing up for the protest outside.)

Ken also spoke on the role of the Maryland (and national) GOP, stating that “They didn’t give me any assistance to speak of.” It would have been helpful to get good, reliable voter data, for example. Timmerman also warned that “it’s easy to introduce malicious software into these electronic voting machines.” The technology simply isn’t secure.

Timmerman also made the statement that “we have to start with trench warfare” in the Maryland General Assembly and “hit their core beliefs.” Ken then went through a list of proposed bills, many of which I noted to myself have been tried. “It doesn’t matter if they fail,” he went on to say, because “we force them to engage.” It provided a nice transition to Neil Parrott’s remarks.

However, Neil began by rehashing the previous ballot initiative campaign, saying “we won by getting (them) on the ballot.” He went over the several steps to get a referendum on the ballot: approval of the ballot language by the Board of Elections, gathering of signatures, the inevitable defense in court, and finally the writing of the language by the Secretary of State – often that can require another trip to the judicial system to clean up misleading statements, like 2012’s Question 5 on gerrymandering which alluded to the Constitution, making it sound like the ballot issue had that imprimatur.

The one thing missing was any sort of campaigning. One obvious problem was a lack of funding; for example on Question 4 we were outspent $1.7 million to $60,000. All that money allowed the proponents of Question 4 to successfully shift the narrative from one of illegality to one of “fairness.” “We need to reinvent MDPetitions.com,” Parrott explained.

One other well-taken point by Parrott was that Question 7 “sucked the oxygen out of the room.” More money was spent on that than the 2010 governor’s race.

Activists were well-aware of most of these facts, though. The next session turned our focus to energy issues.

Moderator Andrew Langer of the Institute for Liberty was joined on this panel by journalist Mark Newgent, blogger of Junkscience.com Steve Milloy, and Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute – a source which regularly appears on this page.

Newgent opened by making a salient point: despite the push by the O’Malley administration and the adoption of ill-advised renewable portfolio standard goals, the 1.6% of electricity provided by renewable sources at the turn of the century was now a punier 1.3% as of 2010. Mark also explained that the purchase of a “renewable energy credit” was a purchase of “absolutely nothing,” but it was a fine excuse for crony capitalism. Sometimes it even had a negative effect, like a (now-expired) federal tax credit for the usage of the “black liquor” by-product of the wood pulping process; one which produces more carbon dioxide than burning coal or natural gas because they mix black liquor with diesel fuel to burn it.

Newgent followed the money to the Town Creek Foundation, an Easton-based environmental organization. “We’re up against some stiff competition,’ he added.

“This is the game that’s going on,” Mark concluded.

Milloy derided the concept of global warming as an excuse to advance policy. “They don’t want to know anything about science,” he opined. But the small number of people on our side concerned with environmental issues had to deal with a swarm of so-called experts on the Left. “Their fondest dream is to saddle the country with some sort of climate legislation that enables them to have control of the economy,” said Steve. “Climate is the best scam they’ve ever worked.”

One statement I enjoyed was Milloy’s call to rip your ‘Save the Bay’ plates off your car. The point was that there’s nothing we can do about carbon dioxide emissions, or to fix the Bay, so save your $20.

CEI’s Ebell bluntly assessed that “the (energy) myths are winning; in particular, they’re winning in states like Maryland.” But there was some good news: unlike other states, there was very little potential for vastly more expensive wind or solar power here in Maryland. Other states had much more ambitious schedules for renewable standards; for example, California’s goal is 33 percent renewables by 2020. As a result, “they’ve already driven out most of the manufacturing in their state,” said Ebell.

“This is the level of intelligence you’re dealing with…you should be shocked, but you should also be really angry,” he added.

But the problem with any renewable source of power, explained Myron, was that they weren’t terribly reliable. Wind costs more because you also had to build a natural gas plant for the 3/4 of the time the wind didn’t blow, particularly in the summer when demand was higher but winds were generally calmer.

Even on the oil front, Myron noted that the 3% of the proven reserves it’s claimed we have is a number so low simply because we can’t explore many other areas which could potentially have large reserves, such as the North Slope of Alaska.

Speaking of energy, my friend Jackie Wellfonder happened to return with some goodies about this time.

These were handed out at the CC4MD table, an organization for which Jackie serves as treasurer. She must have sensed that I like my chocolate.

As opposed to me not being cheated out of some goodies, the next group was dubbed “The Cheated Generation.”

Blogger and radio host Jimmie Bise was the moderator for this group, which included Gabby Hoffman of the Leadership Institute, Baltimore Area Young Republican president Trae Lewis, Brandon Cooper, a campaign coordinator for Dan Bongino, and businessman Brian Meshkin.

Bise opened his segment a little differently, urging people to turn on their cellphones and spread the word on social media using the #TTT13 hashtag for Twitter. (I did, quite a bit.) He added that entitlements are shifting the cost burden from older Americans to the youth, from a group which can’t afford this because, among other things, there’s $1 trillion in college debt.

Cooper opened up the remarks by remarking on a handout he passed around, one which explained the economic realities younger people face. These mainly stem from student loans, which hamper the average student to the tune of $23,300. “Government spent $500 million on student loans in 1978; $115.6 billion in 2012,” the handout revealed. Brandon went on to add that, because the federal government was now the sole distributor of student loans, there were no more price control incentives.

Brian Meshkin chastised the government’s tendency from our kids to pay for “selfish excesses.” As the only elected Republican in Howard County (a member of the school board) he told us that “education was a huge, huge winning issue.”

“No child should be held back by the street they live on,” said Meshkin to raucous applause.

There was more cheering as Gabby Hoffman revealed her story as the daughter of Lithuanian immigrants, parents who were now seeing “too many parallels” to the situation they grew up under in the former Soviet Union. And she saved severe criticism for Sandra Fluke, who she called a “repugnant human being…no young woman should look up to that trash.” Obviously it followed that Hoffman also believed that giving up on social conservatism was “a completely BS move.”

But her message overall was blunt: if you don’t learn from communism’s failures, we will have it in America. We have to scare young people with the truth, Hoffman concluded.

Trae Lewis began by giving us some bad news: if Martin O’Malley is the Democratic nominee in 2016, we are likely spotting him 215 electoral votes. (Actually, we are doing so regardless of the nominee.) The reason: “he’s hitting us where we ain’t,” meaning the urban centers of America. “The American city is the epitome of what liberal leadership will do for this country,” warned Lewis, and there’s no reason not to harp on wedge issues like school choice.

“You can’t turn a tide from the middle of the ocean,” Trae pointed out, “you have to start at the shore and work your way out.”

That wrapped up the “cheated youth” segment, but there were several other “cheated” groups. With so many speakers and panels and only a one-day timeframe, there were bound to be some issues which received less coverage so we had what was called the “coalition round-up.” This had representatives of groups focusing on immigration, election integrity, the General Assembly, school choice, pro-life issues, and the Second Amendment.

While much of his ground was covered by previous presenters, Paul Mendez of Help Save Maryland repeated the fact that 90,000 more people in Maryland voted against Question 4 than voted for Mitt Romney. And there was an economic benefit even in failure: not only did they delay the implementation of the bill by over a year – saving Maryland taxpayers thousands – over $1 million was pumped in from out of state to pass Question 4.

Cathy Kelleher of Election Integrity Maryland gave a short history of the group, which was inspired to begin after activist Anita MonCrief appeared at the first Turning the Tides conference in 2011. It “started with four people at a kitchen table,” but after pointing out thousands of voter roll irregularities over the last year EIM could claim the success of removing 15,000 1,500 dead people from Maryland voter rolls. (Thanks to Cathy for pointing out my overexuberant typo.)

On the flip side of the electoral process was the legislative process, and Elizabeth Meyers introduced her Maryland Legislative Watch group to the audience. This group of volunteers (of which I’m one) reviews every bill introduced to the General Assembly to determine if it’s an anti-liberty bill.

While activist and writer Doug Mainwaring wasn’t affiliated with a particular pro-traditional marriage group, he worked closely with them in an effort to defeat Question 6. And when asked how an openly gay man can possibly be against same-sex marriage, he quipped “You’re an adult. You have children. How can you possibly be a liberal?” Needless to say, Doug brought down the house with that remark.

But Doug was concerned that Republicans and conservatives “are crumbling on this issue.” Some examples were National Review, the Washington Times, and Newt Gingrich.

David Spielman, the outreach coordinator for National School Choice Week, told us he was “giddy” about all the school choice talk at this forum. But the problem we had was deeper than just one issue, for Spielman assessed that “Obama was talking to everyone; we were talking to ourselves…we were outmatched, we were beaten.”

School choice will take outreach, he continued, but so far over 3500 events had been held over the period School Choice Week had been celebrated. (The 2013 edition begins January 27, but there are no events on Delmarva.)

Jack Ames of Defend Life, who was wearing a shirt emblazoned with the pro-life message he said was free for the asking, but with the promise it would be worn in public regularly, claimed that most people are philosophically pro-life, they’re just not actively pro-life. Still, “we’re literally killing God’s creation.” The Defend Life organization, he went on to say, works in three main areas: a lecture tour with several speakers which is available for groups, a magazine, and the “Face the Truth” tours, which feature photos of aborted fetuses. He urged pro-life activists to “be fearless” and do what we can to embarrass Martin O’Malley. (Isn’t he Catholic? Wonder how he reconciles his pro-abortion stance in his church?)

Finally, decorated Vietnam veteran and retired NRA attorney Jim Warner gave a roundup of the Second Amendment. He also gave us some sage advice: the only way to stop a bad person with a gun is to have a good person with a gun. Finally, we should “tell the Marxists to go to hell!,” Warner shouted.

The “words of encouragement” to wrap up this long day were delivered by 2010 U.S. Senate candidate Jim Rutledge, who took the stage to the chant of “A-G, A-G!” Many (myself included) would like to see Rutledge make a run for Attorney General in 2014.

Rutledge pointed out that “a storm…cannot be avoided. We’re getting ready to learn some very profound, painful lessons. And that lesson is this: unlimited, centralized power cannot coexist with liberty.” Jim blasted the concept of machine politics, one which Maryland had lived under “for far too long.” Baltimore City was “a great example” of this; a philosophy where Jim postulated that the machine asks “what you’ve done to serve the machine?”

On the other hand, liberty asks what your rulers have done for you, Jim thundered in his distinctive, appealing style. Yet too many in Washington, D.C. are “uncomfortable promoting liberty.” To that he strongly asserted, “Washington, D.C. cannot fix Washington, D.C.”

Meanwhile, Maryland is no better: “We’re on our own in this state,” said Jim.

There’s no doubt that Rutledge was a good choice to motivate the crowd and renew their spirit. It’s too bad he’s not utilized by the Republican party here in Maryland, but his may be a case of alienating the wrong insiders.

Finally, the day was done. Well, there was a Happy Hour sponsored by the Conservative Action Network, Conservative Victory PAC, Constitutional Conservatives for Maryland PAC, and the Montgomery County Federation of Republican Women. I was also cheered to see some of the Maryland GOP leadership dropped by, as First Vice Chair Diana Waterman and National Committeewoman Nicolee Ambrose were present for at least part of an event where the party wasn’t always shown in the best light.

But the question is one of continuing the effort beyond the walls of the Doubletree Hotel. There were perhaps 300 of us who attended the event, but, for example, in 2010 1,044,961 voters were foolish enough to re-elect Martin O’Malley. On the other hand, only 67,364 Republicans voted for the more conservative Brian Murphy in the primary election and just 74,404 voted for the aforementioned Rutledge in his Senate bid. Indeed, we have a problem with our message insofar as not enough people are making the educated, real world proven choice of conservatism.

Yet if 300 people can both reach one voter a month and, in turn, convince that voter to reach one other voter a month, the force multiplier will get us to the 1.2 million votes we will need in 2014. But we have to step beyond preaching to the choir and get in the faces of the opposition. Stop being afraid.

Several people at the conference, both speakers and in general conversation, suggested reading and studying how the Democrats succeeded in several areas, with the closest parallel being the state of Colorado. Obviously they had the weaker message, but the better techniques of making people believe in voting against their interests. So it’s our job to remind Maryland voters that the government which is large enough to give you everything is also powerful enough to take it away – don’t say we didn’t warn you when the excrement hits the fan.

Turning the Tides 2013 in pictures and text (part 1)

Yesterday was a good day at the Doubletree Hotel in Annapolis.

Somehow I had managed to miss the first two renditions of Turning the Tides, but when this year’s date was announced I pounced on making my way into the event this year. Part of this was the opportunity to network with over 200 of the state’s finest conservative minds, but part of it was a guest list dotted with nationally recognized speakers.

Unlike the many GOP conventions I had attended in the same building, there were no hospitality suites on Friday night. Turning The Tides was a one-day affair, which started with a breakfast I unfortunately missed. But I was set up on bloggers’ row next to a variety of state and local bloggers (including my “biggest fan” Jackie Wellfonder,) which gave me the opportunity to live-Tweet the event throughout.

The Tweets didn’t take long to build up steam once we dispensed with the preliminaries and heard from our first guest speaker, the exceptionally quotable Pamela Geller. Most people know Geller from her website Atlas Shrugs, which briefly covered TTT here, but she has been a tireless leader in the ongoing battle against radical Islam. (If you follow the link you can also see the extent of the crowd in the conference.)

Pamela praised the conference attendees, who she termed “smeared, defamed, and marginalized for standing in defense of freedom” by the “enemedia.” Her key point was defending the freedom of speech, without which “peaceful men have no alternative but to turn to violence.”

“Evil is made possible by the sanction you give it,” she continued, “Withdraw your sanction.” She also called Delegate Nic Kipke, who ignored a boycott call by the pro-Islamic group CAIR, a “rare bird in today’s environment (because) truth is the new hate speech, and just telling the truth is an extreme act.”

She went on to explain how she purchased ad space on the New York subway in response to anti-Israel ads, but was rebuffed because “the word ‘savage’ was demeaning. So I had to sue…and I won on all points. Freedom of speech protects all ideas.” Ten of her ads were destroyed within an hour, which she termed “a physical manifestation of this war on free speech.”

She also detailed her battle against the Ground Zero mosque, telling us the images of 9-11 have been “embargoed” because they offend Islamic sensitivities. “You defeated that mosque (when) everyone was against you.”

Yet there is a “sea change” occurring in attitude, she said, citing how comments used to be highly stacked against her, but now run strongly in her favor.

“No war has ever been won on defense,” she continued. She begged us to use our “spheres of influence” to fight this fight. “Silence is sanction.” We have to contest acceptance of Shari’a, since Mohammed “ain’t my prophet.”

Geller finished by taking a number of great questions on anti-Shari’a legislation, a nuclear-armed Iran, and the “cultural war” of politics which will include the sale of Current TV to Al Jazeera.

The next speaker, author Diana West, touched on the Current TV sale in her opening remarks as well, as well as the foreign ownership of Fox News. But her remarks centered on her choice in foreign policy, of which she remarked “I’m debuting it here” – with one option to follow the “neoconservative” foreign policy based on universal values. “This has been a disaster.” The other side was a more libertarian-style idea: “I subscribe to ‘coming home America,'” said West, but they suffer the same flaw in that negotiations with Islamic nations “worse than fruitless (and) dangerous to our liberty.”

It begins with love of country, said West, and we would keep the allies with the closest philosophical views. But it would require one radical change: “It would…require leaving the United Nations.” (That was perhaps her best applause line, which she said did far better here than the “blank stares” she gets at the Washington Times.)

It would also be designed with the interests of the American people in mind. “We should fight for the American people.” Instead, we’ve begun to negotiate with terrorists, defend Shari’a-based regimes, and tell our military to look askance at “absolute outrages against American beliefs and sensibilities” in Afghanistan and other Islamic nations.

“And why? Why – nobody’s answered this – why did the Obama administration lie for two weeks that lawfully-protected free speech in America caused the Benghazi attacks?,” asked West. “Why didn’t Mitt Romney ask any of these questions?”

The key question, said West, was whether we were fighting abroad to protect liberty at home. “American interests have been blown to smithereens” by leadership, Diana asserted. Our borders are “essentially open” while National Guard troops protect Afghan citizens. Moreover, this is a contradiction to American values because 3/4 of Hispanics want bigger government while just 2/5 of the population at large feels the same.

West outlined a number of changes she would make, from a secretive foreign policy without much Congressional oversight over “a President run amok.”

“I have not seen terrible damage from Wikileaks,” she continued. “I have seen much corruption and lies on the part of our public officials.”

“I don’t believe that’s the way a republic functions. That needs to change,” said Diana. The war of our next generation is not the one we’re fighting, but a war against Shari’a. “Liberty is imperiled right here in our back yard,” said West, who also called the Islamization of Europe “the great uncovered story of our time.”

Our first group discussion panel, moderated by writer and columnist Marta Mossburg, featured a solid bank of speakers: Frederick County Commission president (and 2014 gubernatorial candidate) Blaine Young, writer and author Stanley Kurtz, and Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild.

Young started out in a jovial manner, joking about the Geller controversy and about once being a Democrat: “Well, everybody can be misinformed, ill-advised, and brainwashed.” But he turned more serious about his assigned topic, telling those gathered “I’m a very pro-property rights person, always have been…property rights is where I’m at.”

Stemming from the very first attack on property rights, zoning, which began in the 1920s and has been accepted in most places – Young pointed out Garrett County is an unzoned exception – Blaine turned to the state as it stands and told us “we’ve never seen an attack like this on the state level,” referring to PlanMaryland. “This is a tool, to slow down the rural areas for growth.”

But Young’s most brilliant point was equating things done “for the Bay” with laws passed “for the children.” As I Tweeted:

 

Indeed, I have mentioned this a number of times over the years – here’s one. Great minds think alike?

Stanley Kurtz quickly asserted that “President Obama is not a fan of the suburbs.” As a community organizer, those who mentored Obama had the main goal was to abolish them because they were drawing away tax money rightfully belonging to the cities. To that end, Obama “has been a huge supporter” of that movement. “Barack Obama wants to redistribute the wealth of America’s suburbs to the cities,” said Stanley. He identified the philosophy as the “regional equity movement.”

But among the federal programs imposed on the state, the Sustainable Communities Initiative is perhaps the one affecting Maryland the most. “Nobody pays attention to the Sustainable Communities Initiative,” despite the fact Baltimore was a “regional planning grant” recipient. It’s a program where the federal government pays for regional planning, such as PlanMaryland but on a smaller scale. The goal, though, is to make the receipt of federal aid contingent on adopting these plans, much like schools which accept federal money do so with stipulations placed on them.

And while everyone has heard of Agenda 21, not so many are familiar with the workings of the Smart Growth movement, concluded Kurtz. “Conservatives are missing where the real threat is coming from,” warned Kurtz, “We haven’t studied the home-grown (regional equity) movements.”

But Rothschild was the most strident speaker. “The question of the War on Rural Maryland begs a bigger question: why does this happen?” Richard went on to postulate that it happens “because we let them.”

“Those people that disrespect the Bible and the Constitution are invariably the ones who know the least about either of them,” said Rothschild. “We (conservatives) are abdicating our responsibilities at all levels of government to do what needs to be done.”

“Being a Constitutionalist requires practice,” opined Richard. Elected officials need to ask themselves not just ‘what would Jesus do,’ but a second question: what would Jefferson do?

Elected officials aren’t trained to uphold their oath of office and the Constitution. “We’re not thinking the right way.” As an example, he stood alone in his county in an effort to nullify SB236. A further test was when he went to the recent Maryland Association of Counties meeting and asked six random county officials about what they would do if an order was passed down to confiscate guns in their county.

“Three of them said they don’t know, and the other three said they would resign from office,” Richard charged. “Not one said they would nullify, interpose, or engage their locally elected sheriff to defend their citizens’ Constitutional rights.” That was the fundamental problem.

Richard even spoke on comments he made regarding the SB236 Tier IV opt-out provision proposed right here in Wicomico County. (The original post is on the Conduit Street blog.) “They do this because we let them…we are tolerating the intolerable.”

“I don’t negotiate one-sided contracts…we shouldn’t even engage,” Richard opined, “Constitutional rights are non-negotiable.” Rothschild vowed to work with the Institute on the Constitution to put together a training course on how to uphold their oath of office.

“(Liberal groups are) going to spend a fortune to try to defeat like Blaine and people like me during the next election because they hate us,” Richard concluded to a raucous standing ovation. And he’s right.

The final session of the morning discussed the “War on Jobs,” with Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton and Delegate Nic Kipke, who was introduced as a member of the Maryland Health Reform Coordinating Council. Fitton focused on illegal immigration while Kipke naturally looked at Obamacare. “Nic knows more about Obamacare than the legislators who voted for it in 2010,” noted moderator Paul Mendez of Help Save Maryland.

Fitton described his work with Help Save Maryland and other legal groups interested in upholding the idea that workplaces should have workers here legally. But that fight began with Montgomery County Community College giving in-state tuition to illegal aliens. “They thought they could get away with it,” noted Fitton. A nice thing about Maryland law, he continued, was that it has a provision allowing citizens standing to sue the government to prevent illegal expenditures of funds.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been given to illegal aliens who can’t work, stated Tom, “Maryland is a magnet for illegal immigration, and the impact on jobs is obvious.” Most affected were the construction trades where the majority of contractors, who are law-abiding, are “competing against crooks.”

“It’s a racket” to keep certain politicians in office, Fitton charged. And speaking of Maryland politics specifically, Tom also alleged there was corruption behind the passage of the ballot initiatives. “(O’Malley) was using his office to promote the approval of the referenda,”

Tom also had kudos for Delegate Neil Parrott, who he’d worked with on the ballot issues, calling him an important figure in Maryland democracy. “We’ve been proud to stand with him,” Fitton beamed.

The lesson here, Fitton said, was that the illegal immigration issue is not automatically a turnoff to Hispanics. He cited polling data which said, in the most recent election, 40% of Hispanics “agreed with the idea of an Arizona-style approach to illegal immigration.” It was 13 points more than Romney received among Hispanics at large. “This is a majority issue for us,” Fitton claimed.

“We’re really in a battle for our lives in a lot of ways,” Kipke opened. “It used to be we were in a battle for our rights, but we’re also in a battle for our way of life.”

He went through a couple examples of the “trainwreck” of Obamacare, one being the fact that the age breakdowns – lumping everyone from age 21 to 60 in a group – will create a spike in rates making insurance unaffordable to young people. (One estimate pegs the additional cost as anywhere from $280 to $400 a month.) “It’s almost designed to fail,” said Kipke.

The second problem is that the exchanges will essentially all offer the same programs – health insurance has to be approved by and purchased from the state – generally these are the “richest packages available.” At this time, Maryland is one of just eight states with an exchange in place. “If Obama is successful, health insurance will be purchased through the state, and it will be the state design,” Kipke said.

The Delegate urged us to use him and Delegate Parrott as a conduit to the General Assembly. “If you have access to technology, you should see the stuff that goes on. Bring a camera, we’ll tell you where to stand and we’ll put you up in front of the next Delegate who embraces socialism. We’d love to get that on video.”

That brought us to the lunch break. While most of us grabbed a quick bite to eat, there was a lot going on both inside and outside the lobby.

On the inside, a total of fifteen groups had information tables and other items set up. Here are a few of those:

In order, these were Accuracy in Media, Defend Life, Maryland Republican Network, and Election Integrity Maryland. Other groups in attendance were the Franklin Center (sponsor of Bloggers’ Row), the Red Maryland Network – which did a live broadcast from the lobby – Institute on the Constitution, Americans for Fair Taxation, Montgomery County Republicans, Stop Agenda 21, Help Save Maryland, the Leadership Institute, Maryland Legislative Watch, Constitutional Conservatives for Maryland PAC, and Conservative Victory PAC.

There were also merchants, with event T-shirts and Breitbart design shirts on sale.

We also had a chance to meet some of the speakers and purchase their books.

From left to right, represented were Stanley Kurtz, Diana West,  Pamela Geller (crouched), and Tom Fitton. Dun Scott (husband of organizer Cathy Trauernicht) is standing in the center; thanks to Ann Corcoran for the correction.

As I noted, there was also action outside the building. The CAIR protest of Pamela Geller finally showed up two hours after she finished speaking. (Photo by and courtesy of Jackie Wellfonder.)

Yet the ten protesters got media attention. If it weren’t for them, I doubt the TV stations would have showed up.

So that’s where we stood as lunch concluded. In part 2 I’ll cover the four intriguing seminars which occurred afterward and the closing remarks by Jim Rutledge.

2012 Maryland GOP Fall Convention in pictures and text (part 2)

When I last left you in my narrative, I had just gone to bed after several hours of fun and carousing with many people, some of whom had names and faces I sheepishly admit I couldn’t keep straight. But I think I can get all of these right.

My alarm I’d set for 6:30 never went off so I was a little late for breakfast, and regrettably only caught the end of Ken Timmerman’s remarks. He used a Biblical parable to conclude, saying “we are coming from the desert” and in the process of “picking our Moses for 2014.”

“Organize, organize, organize…never, never, never give up!” exhorted Ken.

He was the lead-in for Delegate Neil Parrott, who’s pictured above. His remarks centered on what’s in the future for MDPetitions.com.

Thanks to the passage of Question 5, Maryland now has the “distinct honor” of having the most gerrymandered Congressional districts in the nation, Neil claimed. But in all of the questions, Neil pointed out in his experience that having someone at the polls influenced the results in our favor to some extent. We could have used more poll workers, said Neil.

We also could have used more money to spend as we were well outspent on each issue, particularly Question 6. Proponents also shrewdly changed the message; for example, Question 4 was made to not be about illegals but about kids. And because the petition was done last summer, the “passion wasn’t there” against Question 4 after a one-year lapse while proponents had the money early on to quietly spread their message.

“What we need to do is reinvent ourselves,” said Parrott, claiming we had winning issues but no campaign. In the future – and there were at least a couple bills which would probably require a petition to attempt to overturn coming out of this year’s session – there had to be a four-pronged strategy for victory: get the petitions out, defend them in court, challenge the biased ballot language (Question 5 was a good example of this, said Neil), and run full-fledged campaigns.

A more full-fledged campaign might be more like those on either side of Question 7, as the campaigns for and against expanding gambling spent twice as much on that issue than Bob Ehrlich and Martin O’Malley combined for in their 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

One other item Delegate Parrott touched on was a privacy bill for petition signers, which he’ll reintroduce this session.

While the groups went off into their individual seminars, I wandered around the Turf Valley facility where I found tables for the aforementioned MDPetitions.com and the similar effort to keep the petition process from being made more difficult.

Right behind the MDPetitions table was a large-scale and signed copy of a “no confidence” resolution sponsored by Baltimore County Chair John Fiastro, Jr.

I also peeked into the convention hall where the action would begin after lunch.

Yep, placed in the back again. But this room was well set up for such an event because it was wide but not deep. Eventually my only complaint would be that we needed a second projection screen for our side of the room because the county signposts would be in our line of sight of the one provided.

Others were also skipping the seminars to work out issues, such as the Maryland Young Republicans. From the snippets I overheard, they were working out details of their own upcoming convention June 1st in Montgomery County.

Before we met for the convention we had to be nourished, so lunch featured speaker and “unusual political consultant” Brent Littlefield.

Littlefield focused mainly on running the campaign of Maine Governor Paul LePage in 2010, noting that a political campaign was “not just tactics, but strategy.” He explained how he microtargeted certain blocs of voters to effectively compete in a seven-person primary where his candidate was outspent 21 to 1.

As for 2012, Brent told us the message was lost, but there was still a reason we’re all here – we believe in certain principles. But we have to expand our circle of influence, not just talk to friends.

Brent also related an amusing Twitter incident he helped to bring about involving Martin O’Malley and his trip to Maine, leading O’Malley to call Maine Gov. Paul LePage a governor who “worship(s) the false idol of tax cuts.” It was great because he took the fight directly to the enemy, infiltrating their own Twitter feed.

It’s worth exploring as well that the Pledge of Allegiance at lunch was led by two-time Congressional hopeful Frank Mirabile. By itself it’s not newsworthy, but Frank took advantage of Alex Mooney’s invitation for further remarks to note the average age in the room was “well above what we need to be” and that we had to break out of our comfort zone. Obviously he had to do so to campaign in portions of his district.

That snippet brings me back to the Maryland Liberty PAC suite and the younger people I saw there. The convention hall could have used some of those younger folks with energy – as one example, I’m 48 and I’m one of the younger members of our Central Committee. Let’s not drive the youth away.

I’ll step off my soapbox now, since this point in the narrative is where the convention fun begins. And like the Executive Committee meeting the previous night, it began with a special guest.

“It’s good to be around friends for once,” said Dan Bongino. But he wanted to take a few minutes to thank us for our support and ask how we can fix this moving forward. “We can win this,” Bongino concluded.

But to win it will probably take a little more money than party Treasurer Chris Rosenthal said we had. And while we had whittled down our line of credit significantly during the fourth quarter of this year, Chris told us “we’re not out of the weeds.” This year will feature a “tight, but conservative” budget for party operations.

Chair Alex Mooney was pleased to see the full workshops, but again cautioned in his report that this meeting could be a long one. We have “things to discuss and air out,” said Alex. He related the story of the bitter RNC meeting he attended where several new officers were elected, a process which took multiple ballots for each. Yet at meeting’s end, there were no “bad sports.”

“If you don’t intend to walk out after this meeting and fight the Democrats, then walk out now,” said Alex. I didn’t see anyone leave so I guess we can turn our guns in the right direction – outward.

As Alex said, there is reason for optimism going forward. And it seemed like he understood that the petition process needs to be followed through on, saying that getting them to the ballot was one success but we need to “take the next step.”

We then had a presentation from party Executive Director David Ferguson on the goals established for this year: financial stability, a modern political infrastructure, successful petitions, and planning for 2014. Something about that presentation I found interesting: of the petition signers for each question, only 59% of those opposing in-state tuition for illegal aliens, 72% of those who opposed the gerrymandered Congressional districts, and 52% who signed the petition against gay marriage were Republicans. Questions 4 and 6 had fairly bipartisan opposition, at least at the petitioning stage. We can build on that.

But now, said Ferguson, “our job is to take out every Democrat in ‘red’ counties.” As I look at that task, it means we work on solidifying the 18 that support us now and start to erode our advantage in the five which most heavily vote against their self-interest as time goes on.

He also announced a new program in the works based on the national “Young Guns” program. It will be tailored not just to candidates, though, but to Republican organizations as well. “Our money should go back to your candidates,” concluded Ferguson.

The legislative reports on the Senate and House, respectively, were given by Senator E.J. Pipkin (above) and Delegate Tony O’Donnell (below).

Pipkin was proud to address the “irate, tireless minority,” and took advantage of our attention to once again call Martin O’Malley the “2 billion dollar man.” That’s how much working Maryland families pay extra each year thanks to the tax increases O’Malley and Democrats in the General Assembly passed over GOP objections. And while Republicans put together a balanced budget each year – one which doesn’t require any tax increases at all – it’s ignored by the majority party. They “won’t stop digging the hole,” said Pipkin. Instead, they want to raise the gas tax – not to fix roads like they might claim, but because $4 billion has been promised to expand the Red Line and Purple Line.

“We provide a different vision for Maryland,” explained Pipkin, one which provides a state where you want to live and not a state you want to leave.

Tony O’Donnell started out his remarks with a movie review – go see “Lincoln.” It made him proud to be a member of the Republican Party. After seeing the infighting end in an effort to pass the Thirteenth Amendment (over Democratic opposition, he slyly added) he realized once again that “Maryland is worth continuing to fight for.”

Tony alluded to his own Congressional campaign, pointing out he had received 95,000 votes and that was the highest vote total for a Fifth District Republican since Larry Hogan in 1992. O’Donnell believed that “we can go to 50 seats (in the House of Delegates) – we can go to 60 seats.” One mistake from 2010 he didn’t want to repeat was having to recruit candidates in the summer before the election. It was a team effort to find 141 House of Delegates hopefuls, but we had to “let no seat go unchallenged.” (In the 2010 election, Democrats got a free pass for 34 seats – almost half of what they needed for the majority.)

Nicolee Ambrose spoke in her first National Committeewoman’s report about the Super Saturday program and lessons we could draw from it. While it had its successes, we needed to rebuild our campaign infrastructure and focus on targeted voter contacts with a eye toward long-term outreach as well.

For 2013 she suggested the Super Saturday concept work more toward voter registration. Other projects on her wish list was IT training for local party leaders (something the RNC is willing to do) and ramping up a grassroots committee which Faith Loudon had volunteered to head up.

Louis Pope was far more blunt and expanded on his “painful” theme from the evening before by revealing some of our losses: Obama won single women by a 67-31 count, Hispanics 71-28, blacks 93-5, and Asians 73-22. He also garnered 60% of the under-30 vote and a majority of those who made under $50,000. Obama “changed some of the issues on us,” said Pope. Instead of the jobs and economy, it became the (so-called) ‘War on Women.’

“We’ve reached a turning point,” said Pope, who believed the one silver lining we had was that we’ve “reached the bottom.”

After all these external political reports were concluded – a process which took nearly two hours – we then turned to several internal committee reports.  For the first time in several conventions, though, we had no prospective bylaw changes so the newly created Bylaws Committee could simply note that fact and alert us at the county level that some possible revisions may come at us next spring.

Similarly, the Nominations Committee had no report. So it was up to the Resolutions Committee to provide the day’s final drama.

Interestingly enough, the order Resolutions Chair Andi Morony presented these in was supposed to be least to most controversial, but the very first resolution presented by Cecil County Chair Chris Zeauskas drew heavy debate. This was a resolution condemning newly elected Cecil County Executive Tari Moore for changing to unaffiliated status; a resolution which contended, among other things, that her election “was obtained through deception and false pretenses.”

And while proponents of the resolution – not just in Cecil County, but in other Republican circles – believed Tari Moore had “sold out” Cecil County Republicans, there were those who noted her principles hadn’t changed but the stalemate which exists between her and some of the four remaining members of the Cecil County Council (all Republicans) could only be broken and her agenda implemented if she was allowed to select her own replacement. Meanwhile, this was described in one media report as a proxy battle between Republicans E.J. Pipkin and Andy Harris, with Pipkin in favor of demanding Moore resign and Harris confident of her return to the GOP fold after her replacement is selected.

Once several had spoken on both sides, a motion was made to table the resolution. With our weighted voting system and the fact I couldn’t tally the vote as it was going, I can’t give you the split in actual bodies but the motion to table passed by a 285-230 voting margin. Thus, the resolution was killed for this convention, although it could theoretically return in the spring.

After careful consideration, I voted to table the resolution; however, our county split 6-3 in favor of tabling. The reason I decided to do so was figuring that she was trying to stand by both conservative principles and trying to better Cecil County. There’s little chance a Democrat or liberal would be put into office, but if she does select one I would be more inclined to support a similar resolution in the spring. Call it a “wait and see” approach for yet another item which could divide the overall party over a county issue.

Resolutions two and three were both very easy to pass and worthwhile to do so. The second introduced condemned the passage of Senate Bill 236 and its resultant attack on property rights, while the third was a Resolution of Commendation for Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild and his battle against the UN’s Agenda 21. Both were introduced by Scott DeLong of Harford County and both passed by unanimous voice vote.

The final resolution was the one I showed the mockup of earlier; authored by Baltimore County Chair John Fiastro Jr., it advised our three Republican National Committee members to oppose the re-election of RNC Chair Reince Priebus.

That also drew a lot of debate on both sides, but in watching those on the “anti” side line up it was apparent that not enough people were willing to rock the boat. The resolution ended up failing by a 223-286 count.

Yet Wicomico County was one which unanimously supported the amendment. While others had their own reasons and I was advised by a few people that there was a hidden agenda at work, my take on this was that I knew it was utterly symbolic at best. Opponents argued that having the Chairman mad at Maryland could hinder the state in getting national funds, but right now we pretty much get along without them anyway. If Reince Priebus doesn’t understand there are legitimate reasons we and others are unhappy with him and can’t put on his big boy pants and deal with them, well, then there’s not much hope he would be a successful Chair come 2014 either.

The dual themes of our convention were a look back at what really happened in the 2012 election and what we can do to improve our lot in 2014. To a significant number of us in the Maryland GOP, that soul-searching has to occur at a national level as well – after all, when Mike Duncan ran again for RNC Chair after the 2008 blowout we suffered there was no shortage of people calling for his head and he withdrew after just a couple ballots. So why the rush to bring back Priebus after failing to defeat the worst incumbent since Jimmy Carter, losing two Senate seats to shrink our minority to 45, and eight House seats including one here in Maryland?

But with the defeat of that resolution, our Fall Convention was over. And it made me realize a few other things are over as well.

The time for playing games is over.

The time for accepting the status quo and “this is how we’ve always done it” is long past over.

It’s time to go to war. If the Democrats think we’ve put on a “war on women,” well, let’s actually give them a war. I call it the “war on voting against one’s self-interest” (yes, a little wordy but it will have to do) and it starts today.

Conservative reaction to Obama’s amnesty predictably outraged

June 18, 2012 · Posted in DC Examiner · Comments Off on Conservative reaction to Obama’s amnesty predictably outraged 

In a state which will be debating the issue this fall as a ballot initiative, it was a sure bet that conservatives and Republicans would angrily denounce President Obama’s Friday Executive Order allowing certain illegal aliens between the ages of 16 and 30 to obtain work permits.

Some of the strongest criticism came from Delegates Neil Parrott and Pat McDonough, two of the leaders in the fight against Maryland’s DREAM Act, passed last year and petitioned to referendum in November.

(continued at Examiner.com…)

Doomsday rally quotables from notables

Some of what was said Monday evening in Annapolis:

Delegate Michael Smigiel:

“Did anybody here vote for somebody to create a quarter-billion dollar slush fund for you?” – reaction to a provision in the BRFA called the “Budget Stabilization Fund.”

“They’re telling us to move forward into a tax bayonet, pointed right at the heart of the middle class.”

“We’re going to be one Maryland united against these tax increases that they’re trying to put on us.”

“Only in ‘entitlement math’ is the fact that you’ve got a $700 million increase (but it becomes) a half a billion dollar cut.”

“A triple A bond rating means one thing: you’re willing to tax anybody, any amount, anytime. I would much rather have my freedom, I would much rather our counties have their sovereignty, then to have the burden of having to pay that $35 billion (in teacher pension liability) coming due.”

Introducing Delegate Mike McDermott: “Our next speaker has changed the way things are done in the legislature as far as speaking goes. They had to repaint the walls after Mike spoke the first session because he peeled a little of the paint off.”

U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino:

“Frankly, I’m tired of hearing about how Republicans – we’re this anti-government, anti-tax crowd. Folks, that’s nonsense. You know it and I know it. I will proudly give you my last dollar to fund our fighting men and women overseas…I will proudly fund our police, our fire, our teachers, our court system. But folks, I will be damned if I pay one more dollar to fund a cowboy poetry festival in Nevada.”

“We have all the gifts in the world (in Maryland.) Why are people leaving? It’s not us, it’s them…it’s him (Martin O’Malley.)”

“They like to classify people into ‘us’ and ‘them’, because if they don’t have victims they don’t have anything.”

State Senator E.J. Pipkin:

“(As of Wednesday, when the revenue bills pass) Martin O’Malley is officially the $2 billion governor.”

“One thing (Democrats) can never, ever stop: that’s the idea that we can have better ideas than what’s on the table, and we have the right to put them forward, and eventually our better ideas will win out.”

AFP Maryland head Charles Lollar:

“We have the arrogance of an administration that wants to take more money from you and I…it doesn’t work, you’re wasting more of our money.”

“It’s an issue about taking money from those who create opportunity and trying to give it to those who simply don’t want to create opportunity.”

“Whether it’s five people, 15,000 people, or 500 people – this is our state, this is our country, and you’re not going to take it without a fight on your hands.”

“We created the greatest economy on God’s green earth with sweat equity, an American spirit, and a belief in God that was greater than our own. And now my fear is…my daughters are going to inherit a state that does not understand the American spirit.”

“You cannot pursue happiness sitting on your rear end.”

To Governor O’Malley: “On our watch, you will not be able to continue to raise taxes and sleep peaceably because we’ll stand right outside your window…until you understand this is our state.”

David Craig, Harford County Executive and 2014 candidate for Governor:

“This is actually a doomsday session, not a doomsday budget. I could live with the budget that was proposed.”

“If you look at our history, we were called the Free State. Now we’re the Fee State. I’m surprised they didn’t charge you a fee to come here and stand and listen to this.”

“Please don’t die, because it’s going to cost you twice as much to get your death certificate.”

“We don’t have Democrats in this state – I get along with Democrats. We have ‘monocrats’ in this state. They just want a one-party state so they can run things.”

Delegate Mike McDermott:

“We have a governor that is increasingly putting the burden on our children’s children. Nonstop. It is the kids – today we were inside, and all the kids are taking the tour, and they’re walking around looking at history, and I’m thinking ‘you know what, every one of you poor kids is getting tagged for this.'”

“We’ve got the best schools that debt can buy.”

“When the governor moves you forward, just remember you’re walking a plank. That’s where we’re moving forward on, we’re moving on a plank.”

“Governor, if you’re not going to change your ways – if you’re not going to cut our taxes, if you’re not going to control our spending – then the next time you bring a budget in here, and we strike it, you strike the colors of the state of Maryland and you run up the Jolly Roger! Because this is nothing but a pirate ship! The only thing missing from the Governor and his staff is a patch over one eye and a parrot on his shoulder.”

Delegate Neil Parrott:

“Washington County, I look across the border – I see West Virginia. I see Virginia. I see Pennsylvania. And I see businesses, unfortunately, relocating or locating to those other counties instead of coming to Washington County.”

“We’ve got to stop this tax and spend attitude. It’s out of control. We also need to stop the one-party system in Maryland; it’s not working.”

“One other way – besides just winning elections – that we can change our state is something we haven’t used very much, but we just used it last year for the first time. They wanted to raise our taxes to give it to illegal aliens – that’s what they wanted to do and they still want to do it. Thanks to you all, last year we stopped that.”

“This year, I came to session thinking ‘you know, we’re (in a) $1.2 billion structural deficit,’ which just means this: we came to session thinking we’re spending $1.2 billion more than we’re taking in. That must be Governor O’Malley’s top priority…instead, he spent over half the session pushing through a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland.”

“This (Congressional districting) map is an example of politicians choosing their voters. We don’t want politicians choosing their voters, we the voters want to choose our politicians.”

Senator Nancy Jacobs, a 2012 Congressional candidate:

“Governor O’Malley does not live in reality. When was the last time this man bought a gallon of gas? Before he was here – on our taxpayer dime – he was in the City of Baltimore and they paid for his gas. When was the last time he bought a loaf of bread, or a gallon of milk? We should put him on one of those game shows and see if he knows the price of any of these things, because I don’t think he does.”

“I always thought that when (O’Malley) said we’ve got to move the state forward, that’s code for here comes another tax.”

“(O’Malley) has higher aspirations and they are costing the citizens of Maryland so he can go to Washington.”

Delegate Cathy Vitale:

“We didn’t pick the cuts. We didn’t select what was going to happen. The doomsday budget was carefully selected to cause you to come back here to fix the problem. Anybody figure out there’s a problem?”

“Decisions were made, it’s time to live with them. Go home.”

Delegate Gail Bates:

“Our beautiful State House dome is made of wood…do you know they don’t have a single nail in that? It was all put together with wooden pegs. Do you know why? There was a tax on nails, and they refused to pay it.”

**********

As far as actual results go, the protest didn’t do much. We’ll get the income tax on those who make a middle-class living, the tax on certain tobacco products, and other “revenue enhancements” we don’t need. But now we have them on record again, and you can bet votes from this Special Session will find their way to the monoblogue Accountability Project.

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