Three bills worth testifying for

Thanks to Dee Hodges and the Maryland Taxpayers Association for alerting me to the fact there are three bills worth testifying over next week. This is a slightly edited summary of what’s coming up.

Tuesday, Feb. 12: SB 391 – Repeal of Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012, sponsored by Senator E.J. Pipkin, in Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs. This bill isn’t likely to pass – but it should. The act itself is about constraining farmers from being able to sell or develop their own property. The intent is to crowd people into the central cities. The obvious eventual result will be that costs go up, housing especially, while rural property will gradually become worthless. Even more people will choose not to live and work in MD. This is all in the name of preserving agricultural lands while other environmental laws and regulations are making it more and more difficult to farm.

Wednesday, Feb. 13: SB 275 – Offshore Windmills, sponsored by the President of the Senate (on behalf of the Governor), in Senate Finance. This bill has been rigged to pass out of this committee by the transfer of Senator Muse (a Democratic offshore wind opponent) to another committee. This is a bad bill which will prove excessively costly in future utility bills. Other states bordering the Atlantic have been at this for a number of years and still have not started construction. Outside consultants in New Jersey expressed high negatives about cost effectiveness several years ago. Some outside investors have been reluctant to invest in these projects so that they can move forward. A cost-benefit analysis has, to date, not been presented to legislators. All of these items should spark concern about committing to offshore windmills. Legislators, especially those on the Finance Committee, would be failing in their fiduciary responsibilities to the citizens they represent to pass this bill out of committee without complete and satisfactory answers. Call or write or email everyone on this committee.

Thursday, Feb. 14: SB 276 – Death Penalty Repeal, also sponsored by the President of the Senate (on behalf of the Governor). Will repeal mean our prisons will suffer from the restiveness of a growing population of inmates with no possibility of parole? What other obstacles will repeal present to our judicial system?

I’ve already spoken at length and provided testimony about the cross-filed companion to SB391, so I may just send along the same document to Senator Pipkin.

Meanwhile, we have played around with the concept of offshore wind for the last half-decade and have made no progress. The reason this effort is stalled isn’t because of lack of effort, but lack of economic sense. It’s the same reason Bluewater Wind pulled the plug in late 2011, according to NRG Energy President and CEO David Crane, who said in a release at the time:

Our people have worked hard and we’ve made a considerable financial investment in the Wind Park, but that effort cannot overcome the difficult and unfortunate realities of the current market. We’re not giving up, but at this moment we can’t rationally justify further investment in this project without the prospect that it can move forward within a reasonable timeframe.

Translation: it’s an economic loser the market won’t touch with a ten-foot pole, and the supposed $1.50 per month rate increase won’t cover the costs to the utility. At the very end of the fiscal note it’s worth pointing out that two similar projects are running (in current prices) between 18.7 and 24.4 cents per kWh, compared to the national average of around a dime per kWh.

Lastly, we have the death penalty, which is already been eradicated in a de facto way by Maryland’s refusal to execute any of the five death row inmates we have. Since Martin O’Malley doesn’t believe in the law, he won’t carry it out and instead wants to change it. (Gee, too bad we can’t do that with our tax burden.)

Now I’ve heard the argument that executions are more expensive than keeping the criminal in prison for the rest of his or her life. Yet the reason this occurs is the enormous cost of endless appeals in the process. If we limit the appeals to one per appellate level, that would do more to contain costs. And it seems to me that, if the government puts its mind to it, executions can occur in a relative hurry. (Timothy McVeigh was unavailable for comment.)

On the other hand, one also has to ask: what if you get a Chris Dorner situation, but he’s taken alive. Shouldn’t we have the death penalty as a deterrent and example? Why take it off the books?

I look at it this way: I am pro-life, but pro-death penalty. To explain away this apparent contradiction is easy: by making the conscious decision to kill another without provocation, in a premeditated fashion as part of the commission of a crime, is to forfeit your right to life. Whereas an unborn baby has no choice in the matter, the perpetrator does.

In a well-run state, the first bill would pass and the latter two would be laughed out of the General Assembly. Unfortunately, we don’t have a well-run state yet so the best we can do is stop the bleeding.

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