The McDermott notes: week 6

For Delegate Mike McDermott, week 6 of the General Assembly session was a study in contrasts: exciting peaks at both ends with a more humdrum routine in the middle.

In this edition Mike returned to a day-by-day format, with one highlight of his week being chosen by Republican leadership to deliver the Lincoln Day address Monday night – an address he posted here.

It’s intriguing to me that the speech served as a prelude to a week where certain “rights” took up most of the debate in the General Assembly. But look at a piece of what McDermott said:

Lincoln knew that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were unalienable rights given by God and not granted by a government, and for the government to impose itself on that which was granted by God could only produce sorrows and shame.

Those rights given by God don’t include the freedom to make choice without consequence. Yet by passing the same-sex marriage bill we took a step toward the government imposing itself on that which was granted, by saying that certain behavior which many of us feel is counterproductive to a righteous society is now acceptable because a small minority wishes it to be so. I can’t help but feel that other, perhaps even smaller minorities who believe that children should be exploited for the pleasures of adults or that – based on their faith – we should be able to marry more than one person will now feel they’re the ones being shortchanged and whine accordingly. No, it won’t happen tomorrow, this year, or even in the next half-decade or so. But mark my words, it will happen, and we’ll have one less leg to stand on in saying no to them.

Aside from the joint committee hearing and vote on the gay marriage bill which happened Tuesday, much of the midweek was spent by McDermott in hearing twenty other bills which are fairly non-controversial and generally involve small tweaks to existing law. One I found interesting is HB420, which extends a pilot program of GPS monitoring of those on probation already used in Washington County through September, 2015. Big Brother is watching.

And then there is Friday. Mike doesn’t spend a lot of time going over the “blur of activity” on Friday, as he will eventually supplement these notes with his account of “the machinations to bring this vote about, the creation of ‘magic’ Legislative Days which allowed this to occur, and the back room dealings.”

But I wanted to address some of these with my view.

In the last few years that I’ve noticed, it seems like more and more bills are being passed with the approach that the ends justify the means. One prime example is the Obamacare bill, where we had to pass it to know what was in it, according to Nancy Pelosi. Isn’t the idea supposed to be one of understanding its impact beforehand?

In both Maryland and on a national level, there are groups which take key bills and attempts to determine the impact they will have on various elements of the private sector. (As a Maryland example, read the fiscal note on HB438, the same-sex marriage bill.) But while these brief studies adequately define the fiscal impact and certain other parameters of proposed law, they cannot take into account how society is affected. On financial and tax issues, one can predict what impact a bill will have on the state’s treasury, but it’s left to a common sense analysis to determine that if a state makes it more difficult to profit from a business or keep that which is earned through the fruits of one’s labor it will detrimentally affect economic activity; for example a job which would have been created had conditions been maintained may not be because of the new law. It’s impossible to know the intentions of all 5.7 million Marylanders but there are causes and effects for their behavior.

This is even more difficult on social issues. One can debate the sort of impact 40 or 50 million aborted babies would have had if they’d been brought to term and lived – some argue that many would have been subjected to a life of neglect because they were unwanted from the start and deepened the social problems plaguing us today, but others feel the potential of a generation was wasted because some of its great scientists, scholars, and leaders were instead butchered in an abortion clinic. Obviously we will never know the truth, but it’s my contention that we deprived these unborn of their God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness they assumed upon conception. Yet it’s ironic to me that many who would grant the unearned, behaviorally-based choice of same-sex couples to marry as a right are also in favor of denying the unborn a right to life, also in the name of “choice.”

Because we’ve lived for less than a decade with same-sex marriage, it’s not entirely clear to us what we’ve stepped into. Indeed, there’s a chance that proponents could be right and it will strengthen marriage as a whole. But as two of Mike’s fellow Delegates noted, there’s an agenda to legitimize the gay lifestyle as just another choice (there’s that word again) which is no better or no worse than others.

Yet the fact it’s our current government stepping in to address the situation gives me pause, and reminds me that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” When the ends justify the means and we have to pass the bill to know what’s in it, my inclination is that we’ve reached a point of complete corruption.

Speed cameras – a revenue-extracting scam

Since I can’t keep my comments to five minutes and the Fruitland City Council member I’m watching right now is basically feeding us a line of bullshit, here is the REAL truth: it’s all about the Benjamins.

First of all, these cameras aren’t necessarily accurate. Secondly, they are rife for abuse as “school zones” magically expand to areas well beyond the posted zones.

But the scenarios presented seem to ignore some other realities.

To start, let’s assume the cameras are vehicle-mounted. How much cost will it be to send out a deputy to fetch the vehicle and bring it back to the home base? Someone in Fruitland has to do this, but the county will have a much larger area to cover. Meanwhile, static cameras are subject to vandalism.

Secondly, the target is certain to be a moving target. Right now it’s 12 miles per hour over, in school zones during certain time periods. But once the camel’s nose under the tent it’s certain that the usage will be expanded, the allowable overage will be reduced, and the fine will be increased – particularly when revenues fall short of expectations.

Normally I agree with Mike Lewis, but he’s wrong on this one. Hopefully the County Council resists the temptation to allow Big Brother a little larger slice of our life.

Final thoughts: Yes, our County Council was gutless and rolled over. But here’s the question that should be paramount:

If the concept of safety in school zones is so important, why aren’t deputies and officers enforcing the law there on a daily basis despite the fact the county gets nothing from those fines? Since they don’t currently make this a part of their daily routine, it seems to me that placing a camera there now, when a financial incentive is being dangled in front of them, shows the real reason they’re backing it.