The McDermott notes: week 10

Last week was rather routine in the General Assembly, at least on the surface. But if you read between the lines of Delegate Mike McDermott’s weekly field notes, you can find some interesting observations.

It starts right up with the hearing on HJ12, a resolution co-sponsored by McDermott and fellow Eastern Shore Delegate Michael Smigiel. First of all, this is just a resolution – there is no attempt to change any law here and the sum total of the actions called for would be the redress of grievances to our Congressional delegation. But only 6 of the 20-plus members of the Rules and Executive Nominations Committee could be bothered to show up, according to McDermott.

However, as I recall from my work on the monoblogue Accountability Project, the Rules Committee is a second committee some serve on along with other work. (That’s why I don’t have any of their votes on the mAP, because their three committee votes are covered elsewhere.) So there’s probably some good reason that many Delegates didn’t attend the hearing; moreover, this isn’t a complex bill. Hopefully the bill will get a committee vote, though, so it will be on the record who supports this rebuke and who does not.

More telling about the chicanery rampant in the House, though, was the vote on HB541. McDermott called it, “simply a disgrace!” and it showed how much power committee chairs have. I’m sure Environmental Matters Committee Chair Delegate Maggie McIntosh knew just when supporters of the bill (which she made no secret of opposing) would be absent, and she made damn sure the vote would occur at that point. The bill failed to advance on an 11-11 vote, and (unlike some committees) McIntosh voted as Chair against the license plates which would express support for Maryland’s veterans. There is a strong, strong likelihood this will be one of the three Environmental Matters Committee votes used for the monoblogue Accountability Project.

This sort of travesty continued in the floor session Tuesday, where the General Assembly made a show of trying to hold the line of raises for judges. SJ3 would have done that, and it was introduced in late January and had a hearing in early February. So why did it take nearly a month to get it to the Senate floor? “This was a disgraceful way to run a railroad,” assessed McDermott, who voted against the proposal to halve the scheduled raises for judges. Of course, voting no could stand him accused of wishing for the full raises, but Mike voted for an amendment to wipe them out entirely.

Mike also tried to add some common sense to a terrible bill which will also likely be featured as a mAP vote, HB366. The bill would mandate sprinkler systems for new single-family residential construction, taking the choice of whether to have this additional (but expensive) safeguard away from the homeowner and contractor. McDermott’s thoughtful amendments to either exempt rural counties or apply the bill only to homes on municipal water systems both went up in smoke.

Other Tuesday happenings were less controversial, as McDermott wrote briefly on the press conference on the GOP alternative budget and hearings for “sex offender” day. It’s sort of a shame when there’s the need for so many bills dealing with what truly shouldn’t even be an issue if we were a more moral society, although McDermott lays it on a little thick when he notes, “(t)here were actually several sex offenders who came in to testify in an effort to limit the damage some of these bills would cause to their lives. It is too bad they did not have the same diligence with their liberty when they were committing their crimes that landed them on the registry in the first place.”

After Wednesday’s hearings, it was interesting to read about a bill Mike departed from most of his party on during a Thursday vote; a bill I touched on last week. While it’s only a 60-day diminution at this point, I can foresee a bid to push these to 90- or 180-day credits in the future. And there’s a touch of doublespeak from McDermott in saying what he did about sex offenders yet voting to give diminution to those others who “did not have the same diligence with their liberty.” I think Mike made a bad vote in this case, although the damage was diminished some by Delegate Pat McDonough’s amendment limiting the application to those convicted of certain, non-violent crimes.

Another key bill for Wicomico County got its hearing as well. HB966 would grant the citizens a straw vote on an elected school board. I actually watched the hearing (which took less than 10 minutes) and four spoke in the bill’s favor: Delegate  McDermott, County Council President Joe Holloway, Dr. Greg Belcher, and John Palmer. Speaking in opposition: none.

Pass the bill already. Holloway made a good point that voting in a Presidential election year will maximize public input.

There are two bills to be watchful of next week in the House, according to McDermott. One is the Senate-passed bill (SB523) that will jack up income tax rates anywhere from 3.2% to 5% on almost every resident in the state, and – more importantly to one of the purposes of this website – probably drive affiliate-based sales out of Maryland.

The other is the bill (SB848) which will allow the state to usurp the will of our local voters by rendering the revenue cap meaningless for education. ” With all of these proposed tax and fee increases, next week promises to be one fight to the next,” concludes McDermott.

I can tell you that the monoblogue Accountability Project is being written for me as we speak. I suspect a lot of legislators will be getting coal in their stockings once I release it around Christmastime, unless I decide to send it out a little earlier. That will depend a lot on just who wins various primaries around the state.

In the meantime, we have about three weeks to go in the “90 days of terror” I dub the General Assembly session. Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll take a lot of damage in this one.