Dealing with facts in Senate District 38 (last of four parts)

October 24, 2018 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2018, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on Dealing with facts in Senate District 38 (last of four parts) 

Late edit: Need to get up to speed? Here are parts one, two, and three.

In this final installment comparing the differences between District 38 State Senator Jim Mathias and his challenger, District 38C Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, we have the second-smallest number of voting differences between them for this term. But as I wrote in my wrapup of the legislative year for the monoblogue Accountability Project (mAP):

Turning to this year’s session, one conclusion is inescapable: the last four years have been a steadier and steadier test of wills between a governor who is trying to promote a particular agenda and a state majority party that had its apple cart upset and is being begged by the special interests that control it to put those apples back and bring back the regular order of things where everyone was fat and happy except the private-sector working families and taxpayers. We’re at the point now where political victories are more important than improving the citizens’ lot, on both sides of the aisle.

In 2018, Mary Beth got just 12 votes correct out of 25, although she stumbled into the twelfth by changing her incorrect vote on HB1302, the “red flag” gun bill. Jim Mathias may have always intended to vote the correct way, but the 22-day hiatus between Mary Beth’s vote and Jim’s tally was punctuated with a loud outcry from the 2A community that Mathias had to hear. [However, despite the NRA support Mathias joined Carozza on a vaguely-written ban (HB888/SB707) of so-called “bump stocks.”] Jim’s only other instance of getting a vote correct (a term-low 2 correct out of 25 votes) was sustaining the veto for HB694 – but that was the “ban the box” bill he originally voted for!

Is it any wonder that people like me can be cynical about Jim’s record?

A major bill that the pair parted ways on will also be decided in this election – same-day voter registration is already in place during early voting, but HB532 established a referendum for this year that mandates its inclusion on Election Day, presumably beginning in 2020. Jim Mathias may not mind this extra work for poll workers and increased risk of voter fraud, but Mary Beth stood against it.

That government we elected last time around kept trying to usurp power from the executive branch, and they succeeded with a pair of measures that Carozza and Mathias voted opposite ways on: Mary Beth was correct in attempting to stop HB230/SB290 (a bill requiring legislative approval to pull out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative scam) and the sour grapes represented by SB687, laughingly referred to as “state vacancy reform.” Unfortunately, Jim Mathias backed an effort that succeeded in creating an unelected board to distribute school capital funding, removing the duty from the partially-elected (2 of 3 members) Board of Public Works – a slap at Democrat Comptroller Peter Franchot, who apparently votes too often with the Republican governor. (To his credit, Mathias voted for a floor amendment to restore the BPW to its place, but its failure was not enough to either dissuade him from voting for final passage or overriding the veto.)

The Big Labor interests that have supported Jim Mathias to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars over the last twelve years got their money’s worth this term – bills that dealt with making new hires opt out of being harassed to join the union rather than having to opt in (HB1017/SB677), another allowing disgruntled employees disputing prevailing wage decisions being allowed to take their suit directly to court (rather than to a state arbitrator, part of HB1243/SB572), and a huge gift as the precedent was set (with Jim’s support) for paid parental leave in SB859. This was on top of getting the veto override of HB1 from 2017, in part thanks to Mathias.

Mary Beth stood with providers by opposing a bill written by the insurance companies (HB1782) establishing a re-insurance program through a renewed assessment (formerly on a federal level, but being shifted to a state one) on those same insurers. Jim Mathias obviously isn’t into fee relief.

Finally on the environmental front, Mary Beth was on the right side of a proposal (HB1350/SB1006) that mandates certain state-funded construction projects be adapted to conform with weather conditions brought on by supposed global climate change. It may be prudent in some instances, but will certainly bust the budget elsewhere.

Because District 38 is my home district, I have been paying particular attention to the race. But it’s worth noting that a similar race exists in Senate District 8 which pits Senator Katherine Klausmeyer against Delegate Christian Miele.

While the differences aren’t as stark between those two as they’ve been between Carozza and Mathias, they are still there: over the last four years where they have served together, Klausmeyer has racked up annual mAP scores of 32, 2, 24, and 4 for an average of 15.5, while Miele has scored 58, 44, 60, and 26 for an average of 47. On the average, then, Miele would get 7 to 8 more mAP votes correct than Klausmeyer each term, which can mean more money in your pocket and more opportunity for businesses to thrive and create good-paying jobs. The records are there for inspection on the sidebar.

One final word. We can talk about voting records all day, but there are those who swear by Jim Mathias because he “works hard for the district” or some variation of that remark. As proof they can point to social media, where Jim is often going live at some event or gathering – even if it’s walking in a parade 100 miles outside his district. Look, I’m into hometown pride as much as anyone given my affinity for particular sports teams and number of my friends still hailing from mine, but the whole “look at me” attitude seems a little artificial and contrived after awhile.

Over this campaign I’ve pointed out the perceived flaws in Jim’s record in both the votes and money he takes for and from special interests, groups that seemingly are more concerned with combating the good things Governor Hogan does (yes, there are a few) and keeping the state as the East Coast’s answer to California and Chicago than they are with the needs of our diverse district. It’s telling that the latest charge by the Annapolis Democrats against Mary Beth is that she’s a “Washington insider” because she’s worked for several members of Congress and in the George W. Bush administration. If the party roles were reversed, they would call that “a career of public service.”

I noted four years ago that many of Mary Beth’s former cohorts provided the seed money for her campaign, but in this round it’s become far more local as she has gained the confidence of those who donated to her. Mary Beth wasn’t someone I knew well prior to her 2014 campaign: I met her years ago when she worked for the Ehrlich administration, but it’s not like our paths crossed a lot.

One thing I’ve noticed as she’s run her two campaigns, though: that woman is everywhere. But she isn’t one to plaster it all over social media, opting to be more of the work horse than the show horse. Maybe that costs her a few votes among those who like glamour and popularity, but the thoughtful voters notice.

I saw Jim on Sunday at the Autumn Wine Festival, just as Kim and I were leaving. While he probably shook more than a few hands while he was there, the reason he came was to sing with the band that was playing to close out the event – more on that band in a future post. It’s nothing new, as Jim has sung with On The Edge before at the AWF and, in general, has been around the local music scene as long as I’ve been aware of it. Obviously that’s something he enjoys doing, and I don’t see a thing wrong with that – in fact, I wouldn’t mind him having more time to sing after this November.

In short, the reason I’ve been on this race so much and for so long is that I think Jim’s a fine enough and likable fellow, but is also a political mismatch as a representative of this district – he seems to be much more suited for a district across the bridge, a place from where a significant portion of his financial support comes. Here we have a district that is much more right of center than he is.

So while she’s not as far to the right as I would prefer, I think that in order to make a better team for local success throughout District 38 we need to promote Mary Beth Carozza to be our next State Senator. I urge you to vote accordingly, whether at early voting beginning tomorrow and running through next Thursday or on the traditional November 6 date.

Maryland: contrarian again

April 29, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off on Maryland: contrarian again 

It’s been awhile since I looked at the energy industry, what with legislation, riots, and other general mayhem. Fortunately for me, I have several sources in that industry to return me to speed and one is writer Marita Noon, whose piece on NetRightDaily today detailed the efforts of forward-thinking states to repeal their renewable energy mandates – some by whopping margins in their legislature. In those states, the market-bending allocations to renewable energy are coming to an end, leveling the playing field and perhaps saving their taxpayers millions of dollars.

Unfortunately, Maryland isn’t one of those states rolling back its mandates; in fact, the only piece of legislation dealing with the renewable portfolio was a liberal Democrat-backed scheme to expand it some more. House Bill 377 and Senate Bill 373 both were aimed at significantly increasing the percentage of renewables up to 40% by 2025 – current law peaks renewables’ share at 20% by 2022. (Both these figures are a pipe dream.) The Senate version lost in the Finance Committee by an 8-3 vote, and the House version was withdrawn before it was voted upon.

It was good that a bad bill was thwarted, but it was unfortunate that no bill was introduced to repeal these mandates. Maryland would be in far better shape energy-wise, eventually with lower utility rates, if true reform was achieved: repeal of the renewable energy portfolio, the withdrawal of the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, repealing the subsidy for offshore wind, and encouraging energy production from hydraulic fracturing and offshore drilling.

Over the course of the O’Malley administration, energy companies took the brunt of new regulations and changes in the market; in particular, their cost of doing business was affected by the renewable energy portfolio and the RGGI. If you assume the goal of the utility is to provide energy as cheaply as possible to make a profit – while keeping prices low enough to maintain and grow a customer base – having the dead expenses of the “alternative compliance payment” made necessary by falling short of renewable goals and the CO2 allowances auctioned off by RGGI as a sweet redistribution scheme aren’t helping the cause. Meanwhile, more exploration and investment in energy infrastructure could bring Maryland closer to being at least even as opposed to a net energy importer.

I wouldn’t expect any repeal of these bills to pass on the scale that they’ve moved through some state legislatures, but 71-70 and 24-23 are perfectly fine margins to me. It would also likely require getting around the committee process and bringing the package directly to the floor. (The portfolio repeal, RGGI withdrawal, and repeal of the offshore wind subsidy could be one bill: call it the Maryland Energy Reform Act of 2016.)

The trick is getting the right people to advocate for the changes by showing how much can be saved by consumers. That portion seems like a job for a group like the Maryland Public Policy Institute, while the lobbying on the part of the energy providers should include a pledge of reducing rates. Shaving 2 cents a kilowatt hour off the bill may not sound like much, but it translates to about $216 a year based on average residential usage of about 900 kWh a month. I don’t know about you, but an extra $18 a month would be nice for me. Just think of the economic benefits we received last year when gasoline skidded to $2 a gallon – benefits being lost now as prices have edged back up over $2.50 a gallon.

To help in prosperity, Maryland needs cheap energy. As it stands now, we don’t have it but I think we can get it if the political will is there.

In defense of Haddaway-Riccio

On Thursday Red Maryland noted that David Craig’s LG candidate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio voted five years ago for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2009. Although it’s a bit of a stretch to say she “put the VMT tax on the table,” she was one of a handful of Republicans who voted for the measure.

And even though Red Maryland has already expressed its support for Craig’s opponent Larry Hogan, the Craig campaign felt compelled to put out talking points rebutting the piece by Mark Newgent. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to defend this law within these quarters.

#1 – The VMT tax was proposed by the O’Malley Administration and was the result of an O’Malley Executive Order, not legislation.

Indeed, we have not seen a VMT tax come to fruition as legislation, although we have had, over the last two sessions, a bill to prohibit collection of such a tax introduced and heard in the General Assembly.

#2 – The legislation Delegate Jeannie Haddaway voted in favor of (as did other Republicans) ensured that other states do their fair share to improve air quality standards so that Maryland citizens – and Maryland utility companies – do not bear the full burden in the effort to clean the air (especially since our airshed goes all the way out to Ohio). Air pollution costs MD millions of dollars each year (it accounts for one-third of the acid deposition in the bay, crop damage, health care, etc).

Maryland was actually ranked highest in the country for deaths related to air pollution.

In reading the bill, I see no assurances of the kind. Much of it was based on future legislation. Moreover, we can’t guarantee any other state does its “fair share” just as they can’t guarantee we do things for them. This legislation wasn’t part of a compact, so Ohio can do as it wishes in their part of the “airshed.”

#3 – This was good legislation for Maryland taxpayers. The legislation resulted in tens of millions of dollars in ratepayer relief for ratepayers that would be reflected on their utility bills until the O’Malley/Brown administration took the money and put it in the General Fund.

But we don’t know that, as such reductions were not explicitly spelled out in the bill or the fiscal note. It did mandate that changes not adversely affect certain electric ratepayers (or manufacturing) but that was something the state would judge, not those affected.

#4 – Who are democrats and independents that care about the environment and the economy going to vote for in the General Election? A team that can balance the environment with our economic needs or a real estate developer that has developed 35,000 acres and doesn’t care about the environment?

You’re talking to the wrong person if you want to go on an anti-development screed, because there’s nothing wrong with development. If a state or region doesn’t grow economically, it dies. However, while it’s possible Hogan does care about the environment, his agenda has never been formally spelled out. In a subsequent conversation Newgent stated Hogan wanted to address the sediment behind the Conowingo Dam, which will assist in restoring the Bay’s water quality, but we still don’t know where he stands on other aspects of environmental policy such as pulling out of RGGI, or what Chesapeake Bay measures he would cease or continue. Actually, I hope Craig revisits some of the legislation that’s already passed as he said he would.

#5 – Maryland’s economy depends on clean air and water. Farmers and watermen depend on a clean environment, our tourism industry depends on a clean environment. Delegate Haddaway has successfully balanced jobs and the environment; she has consistently earned high scores for her environmental record while still maintaining a 100% business rating (MBRG).

I don’t doubt that because where Jeannie usually falls short on the monoblogue Accountability Project is in the realm of environmental votes like the vote being discussed here. It’s why her lifetime rating is only in the 70s. Government tends to forget the earth does a very good job of healing itself.

So I really don’t buy the talking points. But I also have to consider the source of this slam on Haddaway, and remember: the assertion was that Haddaway’s vote “put the VMT tax on the table.” That cause-and-effect doesn’t compute, because in this term no bill has been introduced to enact a VMT levy. nor did Haddaway write the state’s master transportation plan. Unfortunately, neither VMT prohibition bill ever got past the hearing stage so we don’t have a recorded vote (although she was not a co-sponsor.) Even without the legislation or the master plan, though, it’s likely the greedy Maryland tax collectors would be among the first to seek a VMT whether the GGRA was passed or not. By this token, Haddaway should be given credit for voting against the “rain tax” that some Republicans backed.

Yet this post of mine may never have happened without a patented parting shot from the guys at Red Maryland:

Now this brings us to our friend Michael Swartz, who, in his endorsement of David Craig, wrote that picking Haddaway-Riccio “sealed it” and made “the difference” in his endorsement.

This is curious given Swartz is such a critic (and rightfully so) of the very policies Haddwway-Riccio  not only voted for, but sponsored.

It’s true that I disagreed with the vote, but when I weighed all the evidence I still came out with the Craig team on top. This would be true of any legislator, and had I been here in the initial days of the Ehrlich administration I may not have agreed with all of Larry Hogan’s appointments. As I’ve noted on my Facebook page, Larry was praised by Red Maryland for selecting “the most bipartisan, most inclusive, and most diverse administration in Maryland history.” As I asked there, what about conservative? Being “bipartisan” only seems to work one way in this state.

And unfortunately there was a lack of context in what Newgent quoted, since the reason Haddaway sealed it and made the difference was that Ron George picked a weaker LG candidate. At that point Hogan/Rutherford wasn’t even in the running.

But a particular reason I selected Craig/Haddaway over Larry Hogan was the vague platform Larry’s put out thus far. And the Red Maryland bloggers aren’t helping in that cause – instead, they seem to focus on attacking everyone else in the race. In many cases, it’s legitimate criticism of the others, but they seem to turn a blind eye to actually educating voters on the merits of the candidate they support through discussion of his proposed policies. “Jobs, middle class families, and restoring our economy” are nice catchphrases, but how will you get there?

I did a little reading through Red Maryland just to see what light they have shed on Hogan. Since January they’ve done a total of 17 posts on Larry, ones I found by typing “Larry Hogan” in the search box. A number of those posts were radio show promos, but here’s what else came up:

  • May 21 and 22 posts about the “coordinated effort,” as Ron George and David Craig questioned the connection between Change Maryland and Hogan’s campaign, a legitimate query which RM called “desperate times” from George and Craig.
  • A series of posts May 12 concerning a poll that the authors claimed was evidence Larry could “compete if not win on November 4.”
  • A May 5 article claiming that, “Most candidates have talked solely about reducing taxes, though Larry Hogan…has also focused on the need to reduce spending.” Yet David Craig notes under “Taxes and Fiscal Responsibility” that he will “use this (budgeting) authority (as Governor) to make actual cuts to the budget.” Ron George is a little more vague, but points out he would be “cutting any waste found by these (independent) audits” and would level funding “whenever the economy slows.” The assertion is only correct about Charles Lollar. On May 1, they also promoted Hogan’s “reduce-spending first strategy” as a discussion topic for their radio show.
  • Other articles dealt with milestones like Hogan’s fundraising, first television ad, and initial web advertisement. Hogan was also peripherally mentioned in the Media Matters and Baltimore Sun controversies.

And what did we learn about the others? In 13 posts about David Craig and/or Jeannie Haddaway, they noted the aforementioned VMT tax, her wobbly stance on bond bills, her support of film tax credits which helped her district, and property tax rates in Harford County under Craig. Most of the 13 could be construed as negative. They grudgingly praised Craig’s idea to eliminate the income tax, although the focus of that piece was to hammer Charles Lollar (more on him in a bit.)

Ron George merited just six posts, with just a couple being negative – mainly he was a peripheral mention in a larger Hogan context, although in the controversy over film tax credits Ron got a much larger role when the RM crew railed against fellow blogger Joe Steffen. They did give Ron the chance to clarify his position on the film tax credit issue, but did not on the “desperate times” posts.

And while Hogan had 17 posts, Charles Lollar rated 15, with nearly all of them severely negative towards him. Indeed, Charles was caught in a number of contradictions (as I also noted in my endorsement post) but the venom toward Lollar was palpable. You’d have thought Charles was Anthony Brown, who received 18 posts in the same time frame – in that case, the negativity was more justified.

In all, Red Maryland has done 235 posts (as of this writing) in 2014. As I noted, just 17 promoted Larry Hogan in some way, with 22 others (by my count) talking about other gubernatorial candidates. I will grant I rarely listen to the RM radio network so I don’t know what conversation has come up there, yet it seems that the majority of Red Maryland‘s time is spent painting their non-endorsed candidates in a negative light. And that’s fine because politics ain’t beanbag.

Yet one has to ask: does that help the overall cause for Republicans in Maryland? I’m not saying by any means we should just parrot the talking points, because each candidate has areas which need improvement. When people ask me, I can honestly tell them good things about the four Republican gubernatorial candidates as well as places where we may disagree. Perhaps the RM crew can do the same, but their stance on Hogan seems to be one of “trust us, you’ll like him and we need the change.” I don’t dislike Larry but I do dislike trying someone unproven, and even many who endorse him don’t know all Hogan stands for. They just equate leadership of a development company and a popular social media group – which has brought a number of good issues to the forefront – with being able to run the state. I don’t.

And look what Red Maryland has reaped from this approach, which makes this post seem prophetic. Obviously their promotional appeal fell on deaf ears: there are no candidates advertising on their website or radio network, which only attracts a few hundred listeners a week as shows have dropped off for other outlets or simply faded away over the last several months.

Just as a contrast, this post will be number 191 on the year for me, so the comparison is relatively apples-to-apples. By my count, I have written about Larry Hogan the most (59 posts), with Ron George meriting 45, David Craig 44, and Charles Lollar 36. (Obviously many posts feature more than one candidate.) Many have been critical, but my goal has been to enlighten voters and let them decide. It also helped me out because I was truly undecided on the governor’s race right about up to the time I wrote my endorsement. While I don’t have a radio show (nor any plans to begin one) I do have a solid cadre of local candidates who wanted to advertise here.

If you assume the polls are correct and Larry Hogan wins the primary, I’m assuring you he’ll get my vote in November. It’s the baseline level of support any Republican should give a GOP candidate. But the question is how much support will those who backed other candidates give to Hogan? In some respects, Red Maryland has burned quite a few bridges in the last few months by dropping any pretense of objectivity and becoming Larry Hogan’s attack dog, and that could spill over to other races they involved themselves in, such as the Hough-Brinkley race in Senate District 4 or the free-for-all in House District 31B.

These tactics could shift those races. Already I hear a number of people who say they’ll sit out November if Hogan wins, and that’s not good for any of us. I encourage those people to reconsider, or at the very least find some local races to get involved in.

I probably don’t speak for everyone, but I think I speak for a lot of people when I say Red Maryland has let us all down as “Maryland’s premier conservative source.” Endorsing Larry Hogan before he even formally announced was their right, but their actions since haven’t endeared them to many conservatives around the state.

“Thanks for everything you guys have been doing…you’ve been doing a terrific job.” – Larry Hogan on Red Maryland Radio, June 13, 2014.

Has RGGI lived up to its purpose?

July 1, 2013 · Posted in Watchdog Wire · Comments Off on Has RGGI lived up to its purpose? 

In the wake of President Obama’s unilateral decision to do something – anything, as long as it doesn’t need approval from Congress – about the perception that climate change is anthropogenic and the United States must take a lead role in changing our planet’s temperature, this may be a good time to review the effects of an earlier attempt at combating global warming known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Nine Northeastern states, including Maryland, are members of this group – the others are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and Delaware. New Jersey was also an original member of the cabal but left in 2012 at the behest of their governor, Chris Christie, who called the RGGI effort “gimmicky” and “a failure.” The group, and its associated non-profit corporation, describe themselves as such:

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first mandatory market-based regulatory program in the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI is a cooperative effort of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the power sector.

RGGI, Inc. is a non-profit corporation created to provide technical and administrative services to the states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

While the idea was supposedly one of making utilities pay for the messes they create by using carbon-based fuels to create the electricity we all need, the reality is that RGGI, at least in Maryland, mainly has served as yet another method of redistributing wealth.

(continued at Watchdog Wire…)

Christie appears courageous while O’Malley is oblivious

I wouldn’t have expected New Jersey to take the lead on this, but under Chris Christie’s leadership they’re renouncing their membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – this according to Tim Wheeler at a Baltimore Sun blog. I hope this is the start of a trend, with Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Maine racing to see who’s next to pull out of an organization which is unecessarily increasing electric rates in the name of combatting so-called global warming.

It’s interesting as well how Wheeler couches the $162 million Maryland has “raised” (read: extorted out of utility companies and job creators) from the series of auctions held over the last couple years. In truth, our state has helped to create yet another vast wealth redistribution scheme, with dollars flowing from “rich” companies to poor home occupants who need help paying their bills, which are increasing thanks to the state’s mandate. These increases aren’t helping the utilities’ bottom lines.

Yet before I praise Governor Christie for his decision to withdraw, it’s clear that he only believes the organization is “a failure” because his state has passed laws which more directly address the issue. Unfortunately he’s still swilling from the green Kool-Aid, and those who believe he could be the savior of the Republican Party’s 2012 chances had better know where he stands on this issue – it looks pretty well left of center to me.

Certainly Maryland can claim a similar set of regulations in addition to the RGGI statutes, but Governor O’Malley still believes that combatting so-called manmade global warming is “a fight for our children’s future.” At the rate Martin’s driving jobs out of Maryland, our childrens’ future will be spent in states like Texas, Virginia, or Florida anyway.

Besides, any decrease in carbon emissions may well be traced to the economic slowdown rather than any impact RGGI has created. There was a reason cap-and-trade died in Congress last year, and it was because the issue was properly couched as a job-killer and wealth redistribution scheme designed to favor particular “green” businesses at the expense of more tradtional, proven energy sources like coal, oil, and natural gas.

And notice what Christie has to say about coal in New Jersey: “(f)rom this day forward any plans that anyone has regarding any type of coal-based generation of energy in New Jersey is over.” Never mind that coal’s cheap, effective, and with proper management not all that polluting – Governor Christie is foolishly taking it off the table in order to be a “leader” in unreliable wind and solar energy. Perhaps there’s more hot air eminating out of Trenton than Annapolis, but the results of wind and solar power for New Jersey will likely be similar to those in Maryland.

In essence, those who are skeptics like me welcome Christie’s decision to pull out of RGGI but believe his reasoning is flawed. For us to expose these hucksters covering a wealth-redistribution scheme in green fig leaves, we need more bold leadership than Christie is exhibiting here.

And while O’Malley is critical of Christie, but for reasons way off base. The proper move is to scrap the mandates along with the membership, and hopefully some other state will lead the way on debunking the cap-and-trade scam once and for all.

Feelgood legislation is one thing, but securing a real, solid-paying job really makes one feel good. Stop listening to the scammers and start reverting to common sense.

Update: Isn’t it interesting how this AP story by Dina Cappiello highlights Christie as a 2012 GOP Presidential example, even though he’s not in the race? Yet it doesn’t bring up the points I make about the remainder of his comments last week and how environmentally friendly they were – must not be in the template.

Odds and ends number 28

Have you ever wondered where the phrase ‘odds and ends’ comes from? Me neither, but I use it to describe posts where I have a number of little items which only need a paragraph or two.

Last week I told you about the drive to send SB167 (in-state tuition for illegal immigrants) to referendum. Well, the battle has another supporter in Delegate Justin Ready, a fellow freshman Republican to Delegate Neil Parrott. In an e-mail to supporters, Ready reminded us that:

Perhaps the worst piece of legislation that passed the General Assembly in the just-concluded session was SB 167: The Dream Act, which gives in-state tuition rates (taxpayer funded benefits) to illegal immigrants. It allows them to attend community colleges and the University System at the in-county and in-state rates.

(snip)

We do have an alternative! The Maryland constitution provides for citizens to petition a passed bill to referendum by obtaining signatures. Several of us in the General Assembly have gotten together, led by Del. Neil Parrott from Washington County, to form a petition drive with dozens of pro-rule of law activists around Maryland. In order to put this measure on the ballot in the 2012 election, we must obtain 55,000 signatures from Maryland registered voters by the end of July. We have to obtain about 20,000 by May 31st. However, these petition drives are extremely tricky because the State Board of Elections looks for any excuse to void or disqualify a signature so we estimate that we’ll need about 35,000 by May 31st and probably closer to 100,000 overall.

I think Ready is right on the money insofar as signatures go, but even if they are received the uphill battle really begins as liberals dig out all the so-called “victims” of this heartless TEA Party initiative. Of course, that can be countered by considering who could be aced out of a spot – perhaps a poor minority youth trying to escape poverty? That angle can play well in PG County and Baltimore City.

Speaking of poor legislation, Maryland continues to play Don Quixote tilting at windmills (well, they’re actually turbines) to be built just a few miles off Ocean City. (Oil platforms will spoil the view, but wind turbines won’t? Get real.) In part, this legislation stemmed from a drive to combat so-called global warming just as another push to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative did.

Well, New Jersey may be rethinking its position on RGGI, and a key Senator in that state made it a bipartisan push. Americans for Prosperity shared this news:

When the original legislation paving the way for New Jersey’s entry into RGGI was passed in 2008, it was done so on a bi-partisan basis. Likewise, dismantling RGGI will require support from members of both political parties.

By joining the movement to repeal RGGI, Senator (Paul) Sarlo became the first Democrat to back the effort to kill this Cap & Trade tax and opened the door for more of his Democrat colleagues in the Legislature to do the same. In fact, at (Thursday’s) press conference Senator Sarlo urged his fellow Democrats today to do just that.

Senator Sarlo did not arrive at this decision lightly. But when presented with the indisputable facts about the RGGI scheme — including its lack of transparency, exploitation by “insiders” looking to speculate and profit
on the backs of ratepayers, as well as the devastating consequences for New Jersey’s economy and jobs — the senator made the call to stand up for New Jersey’s economic future.

Now, I’m not sure if New Jersey leaving RGGI would lead to any other states rethinking their position, although one would suspect newly-installed GOP governors and legislators in Pennsylvania and Maine may be most likely to do so. Unfortunately, Maryland has neither a GOP governor or legislature so utility ratepayers will continue to take it in the shorts for the foreseeable future.

Speaking of Maryland politics, we are now less than a year away from the 2012 primary. (At least we will be when this takes effect.) Hopefully they change the 2014 date to the last week in July because late June is too damn early to me. I like the date as it is in September but federal law changes make that impossible. Nothing like Fedzilla sticking its nose into state’s affairs.

Anyway, I got an e-mail from one of the early U.S. Senate candidates on the GOP side (to face presumptive Democratic nominee, Senator Ben Cardin) offering to do a blog interview with me. So I asked the other two candidates that I’m aware of to match that offer – one is already on the ballot while the other will announce around the first of May.

This doesn’t include Eric Wargotz yet, although my suspicion is that he’ll jump into the race before summer. Hey, I’ll interview him too. He knows I always have plenty of questions.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m giving short shrift to two Democratic hopefuls. But the contest for both Raymond Levi Blagmon and perennial candidate Lih Young will be to manage to get one percent of the vote.

I think that’s enough grist for the mill. I bet you all thought I was taking another long weekend off from the political but you have to admit we’re in the silly season now. The only real big news seems to be the growing GOP Presidental field but no one is really going to be paying much attention to that until at least the Ames Straw Poll and more likely after Labor Day when things start getting serious. By then we’ll have a decent idea of the contenders and the pretenders.

A scam raising your bills

It’s been about two years since Maryland utilities were forced to participate in the scam better known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. It’s a scheme which has transferred over $139 million away from the utilities and, to some extent, into state coffers for redistribution to low-income Marylanders.

But, as an investigation by Mark Langerkvist at the New Jersey Watchdog website reveals, while progress has been made toward the stated goal of reducing carbon emissions the auction and carbon market has had little to do with it! Instead, their internal probe revealed that the carbon cap is much higher than actual usage; thus, it’s projected that the per-ton price will be far less than thought and has already plummeted to half its 2009 peak.

So why is the carbon market in a tizzy? For one thing, utilities have been relying more and more on natural gas to generate electricity. Not only did the price for natural gas become much more favorable, but natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel than coal as well – thus, lower emissions. Moreover, general demand for electricity has dropped 7% since the calculations were made. The market demanded more efficiency and businesses made do with less as a cost-saving measure.

All this seems to come as a shock to everyone except those of us with common sense. Yet I don’t see the state of Maryland saying to the utilities and other carbon allowance purchasers, “oops, sorry, you’re reaching these (artifically based) goals without our help so here’s your $139,117,061.91 back.” Instead they’re saying, “suckers!”

And since the Democrats were handily re-elected earlier this month, even that realization won’t end the open season on utilities and their ratepayers. They’ll still insist that we as a state would be better off depending on more expensive (and less reliable) ‘alternative’ sources like wind and solar power – both great ideas except the sun only shines an average of 12 hours a day (when it’s not obscured by clouds) and those days you really want to crank up the air conditioning in the summer tend to be those days where the wind’s not blowing!

(Nor need I mention that the infrastructure to move that juice around isn’t exactly handy, and we’re already staring at an issue with that over the next few years on land, not to mention underwater.)

There has been talk in the past (particularly from New Jersey) about dropping out of RGGI, and Chris Christie would likely be the only governor of the ten involved with the cajones to do so – assuming such legislation could pass since his state likes the cash just as Maryland does. (Maine and Pennsylvania have both elected Republican governors and legislatures, so they could follow suit.)

In a saner legislature, Maryland would follow suit and withdraw from this group which only seems to be effective at wealth transfer and worsening an already poor business climate. Instead, conservatives have far too few seats in the General Assembly so we know the fate of such a bill before it’s even written.

However, that doesn’t mean Maryland Republicans shouldn’t try to overturn legislation which was based on the faulty premise of so-called ‘global warming’ to begin with and which amounts to a hidden tax on utility ratepayers – even if the committee chairs lock the bill in their desk drawers. (Just get a hearing and committee vote out of it, or better yet make withdrawal a floor amendment the next time there’s an energy-related bill. Putting the Democrats on record is what counts here.)

It’s part of the truly needed reforms the state has to undertake to make it a job-friendly zone, and right now the top three issues are jobs, jobs, and jobs. Perhaps the state won’t ever cash in on the possibility of offshore oil or the natural gas that’s likely sitting below its western panhandle, but it can reverse its most egregious laws and make life a little easier for working families.

Postscript: This American Thinker piece by Jeffrey Folks is well worth the read. It nationalizes what we have done as a state.

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