The Article V question

Because the GOP is now the party in power in Maryland, the biannual conventions will have more cooperation and less acrimony. The Fall Convention (which I did not attend for the first time in eight years) was described as a “love fest,” so I suspect the spring edition coming up next weekend in Ocean City may be more of the same.

But there will be a couple interesting and controversial pieces of business brought before the body, with the resolution in support of an Article V Constitutional convention the one likely to draw the most spirited argument. Lee Havis of Prince George’s County is spearheading the proposal, which reads:

Resolution in Support of an Application by the State of Maryland for a Convention of the States under Article V of the Constitution of the United States

Whereas, the State of Maryland has a duty to protect and defend fundamental rights of life, liberty and equal protection of the laws of its citizens from abusive actions and repression of these rights by unrestrained government, and

Whereas, the current operation of the federal government imperils these basic rights through excessive centralized control and lack of sufficient accountability to restrain its actions to a proper interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, and

Whereas, Article V of the Constitution of the United States provides that the Congress, on the Application of Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for the purpose of proposing Amendments to this document, such as to restrain these actions and related abuses of power,

Be it therefore resolved by the Maryland Republican Party that:

The Maryland Republican Party supports the application by the State of Maryland for Congress to call an Article V convention of the states for the purpose of proposing amendments to the US Constitution to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government and limit the terms of office for its officials and members of Congress.

On its face, the resolution makes good sense. Because Congress cannot (or will not) place a check on its appetites for spending, regulation, and lifetime tenure, it would have to fall to the people to demand such a change. But opponents argue that there would be no limit on where the convention could go, and fret that regressives on the Left would hijack such a convention to remove the Second Amendment and put onerous restrictions on others in the interest of “fairness” and “equality.” They further argue that the Left is ignoring the Constitution as it is, so why go through the effort.

To buttress the point of opponents, it should be noted that regressives in the Maryland General Assembly introduced their own Article V resolution (SJ2/HJ2), but in their case it was intended to preserve what they consider voting rights and overturn the Citizens United decision:

WHEREAS, The General Assembly of Maryland favors the proposal and ratification of a “Democracy Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution to affirm every citizen’s individual right to vote, reject the doctrine that artificial entities have inalienable political rights, regulate campaign contributions and electioneering expenditures, and restore free and fair elections in America, and desires the convention to be limited to that purpose…

The Senate bill passed the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee with a 7-4 vote, and it’s passed the Senate by a 29-18 vote. (I don’t have that roll call yet.)

It brings up an interesting legal question as to the specificity of the state’s request for an Article V convention: if Oklahoma passes a call for a convention to deal with the balanced budget amendment, limitation of powers, and term limits while Maryland passes its version, do both states count toward the 2/3 needed? In both instances, the idea is to limit the purpose of the Article V convention but as one opponent pointed out, the idea of the original constitutional convention was to repair the Articles of Confederation, not replace them – instead, we came up with a whole new document.

Regardless, a Washington Times story from yesterday by David Sherfinski highlights a new approach by proponents; in this case Virginia State Senator Richard Black is being targeted for defeat. (In Black’s case, though, it would have to come from an independent candidate as the deadline to contest the GOP primary has passed.)

Presumably Republicans would like to not have regressives like Maryland General Assembly Democrats tinker with the Constitution, yet two Republican Delegates (Susan Aumann and John Cluster) were co-sponsors of HJ2 and Senator Bryan Simonaire voted for SJ2 in committee. It’s possible that other Republicans may have voted for it in the Senate, but as I noted the roll call is not up yet. We have close to four years before the next election, but the proponents (led by Mark Meckler, one of the founders of the Tea Party Patriots) will likely have more than a few Republicans in Maryland to target.

If this state party resolution even makes it to the floor – a dicey prospect at best – I don’t think it will pass. I would tend to agree with the opponents because there’s nothing in Article V that places a restriction on what can be accomplished. I understand Congress isn’t working on the issues conservatives care about, but we run a great risk of losing what freedoms we have should an Article V convention be called.

Prison scandal topic of ‘Minority Report’

Perhaps adopting a new and more aggressive tactic with the change in leadership to Delegates Nic Kipke and Kathy Szeliga, the Maryland House Republican Caucus on Friday unveiled its first ‘Minority Report’, which deals with the ongoing Baltimore prison scandal.

Their first order of business was to note this had been a longstanding scandal:

As he took office in 2007, Governor O’Malley was well aware of the corruption in the prison system but has chosen to focus his energy on the issues that would aid his Presidential bid, not solve the serious public safety issues in our state.

In a press conference held last month, the House GOP called for an independent investigator and outlined some of the steps they had attempted in curtailing the situation – steps which were defeated by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly:

“In the 2008 and 2009 session, I proposed legislation to create a substance abuse treatment program that would have redirected many gang members away from their daily drug dealing and into treatment programs,” said Delegate Ron George of Anne Arundel County. “This bill was supported by the Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services as a way to rehabilitate inmates and reduce drug dealing within correctional facilities, but was ignored by Democratic leaders.”

Indeed, 2008’s HB160 died in committee and HB967 in 2009 didn’t even get to a vote. Both had a bipartisan base of support in their sponsorship.

Delegate John Cluster continued:

Since 2010, legislation to strengthen penalties for transportation and possession of cell phones in correctional facilities has been before the House Judiciary Committee, but has been defeated by Democratic leadership for the past four years.

Delegate John Cluster of Baltimore County, sponsor of the legislation in 2013 said, “The Administration and Democratic leaders again defeated a bill that could have prevented or mitigated the latest prison scandal. Members of the House Judiciary Committee were presented with evidence illustrating the serious issue of cell phone possession in jails long before the Federal indictment was issued.”

Cluster’s 2013 version of the bill, HB651, failed 11-10 in committee. While Judiciary Chair Joseph Vallario, Jr. doesn’t generally vote, there have been exceptions to that rule and his vote could have carried the bill. Ironically, he was listed as the sponsor of the 2012 bill (HB587) which failed in his committee 9-11. The fiscal note for that bill notes the Judiciary Committee killed the bill in 2011 (5-16) and 2010 (9-11) as well, both of which had Vallario listed as sponsor (as Chair of the Judiciary Committee.)

So the Delegates are speaking correctly with their assertions. The anticipated payoff is a hearing on June 6, when House Republicans vowed:

The House Republican Caucus is committed to asking the tough questions, holding the right people accountable and working towards reform.

Obviously the proof will be in the pudding come 2014. Surely a bill similar to that of Cluster’s will be introduced, probably once again at the behest of the Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services and sponsored by Vallario, so Democrats can accrue credit for it. It would only take a vote or two on the Judiciary Committee to swing and push the bill to the House floor.

As for George’s bill, it’s interesting to note he made his remarks before formally announcing for Governor (although many say he’d privately hinted at that desire for several weeks beforehand.) Calling for treatment facilities may not establish him as “tough on crime” in the usual sense, but the bipartisanship would certainly be played up to appeal to the middle in a general election campaign. Still, he will presumably be a member of the House caucus which will be pressing this issue both at the hearing and in next year’s session.

With regard to Martin O’Malley, the challenge for him will be appearing to “do something” and minimizing the damage which will certainly accrue as more comes to light in this prison scandal. Can’t have any of these pesky Maryland problems overshadow the 2016 campaign, you know. Nor can he throw Anthony Brown under the bus, since he’s already endorsed Brown as his logical successor next year – so look for Brown to be placed in a leadership position on any task force created for this production.

It’s interesting that a bunch of people who (supposedly) can’t vote – after all, if they have cell phones and are making babies in prison, what else are they doing? – may have a significant influence on the 2014 and 2016 elections.

The Scott response

Just as I did with Scott Shaffer a few days ago, I’m going to publish Audrey Scott’s refutation of points made by yours truly and others in its entirety, aside from minor formatting revisions to make this work on my site. It will not be blockquoted.

This comes from a letter to Central Committee members, with two pages being a general letter and a third page entitled “My Response.” I’ll have additional comments at the conclusion, which will come after Audrey’s note commences on the other side of the jump.

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The McDermott notes: week 5

Because I posted last night, welcome to a Monday morning version of the McDermott notes.

Most of what Mike discussed from last week had to do with his spot on the Judiciary Committee, including a handful of committee votes on items which passed on their way through to the floor. These bills dealt with a number of items, and McDermott voted with the majority in sending them along. Interestingly enough, Delegate Michael Smigiel voted against HB111 and HB115, while Delegate Don Dwyer also voted against HB115. Delegates Michael Hough and John Cluster voted no on HB187. Out of that group, I can most see the civil libertarian vs. law-and-order argument on HB115 in particular. McDermott is a co-sponsor of two of these bills, so it follows he would support them. It’s not likely that any of these votes will rise to the level of the monoblogue Accountability Project, but you never know.

They also heard testimony on a number of bills, with the most prominent being various versions of “Caylee’s Law” being introduced. Because there are three versions of the bill out there, my guess is that there won’t be much problem passing one of them with the winner likely being the one sponsored by the “right” people. If I were a betting man I would wager they take HB20, slap the “Caylee’s Law” moniker on it, add the extra provisions of the bill in the GOP version (HB122) and call it a day. Makes it look like the Democrats had everything to do with it.

Another area of interest during testimony last week were animal laws. One bill the Judiciary Committee heard established a class of “at-risk” owners who have “dangerous” dogs. If little Johnny next door teases your dog mercilessly and is bitten in return, the way I read this law is that your dog could be considered “dangerous” and you would be subject to this law. I love unintended consequences. The other bill established that owners who are convicted of animal cruelty will also be liable for the cost of taking care of their seized animals. I can see the point of this, but I think it should be left at the court’s discretion rather than be mandatory.

They also dealt with a number of child support bills which would affect thousands of families in Maryland.

McDermott also mentioned some of the bills he introduced in the last few days before bills would be need to go through the Rules Committee for late introduction: HB984 would stiffen penalties for driving under the influence of controlled dangerous substances, and HB999 would make it a crime to not report child abuse.

But HB1032 sort of takes the cake for me, and makes me shake my head about the litigious society we have. I really don’t want to go to Plow Days or have little Johnny take his class farm tour and have to see this sign when common sense should dictate. It would be better to have judges who would simply laugh those fools who litigate such actions out of court.

There wasn’t much to tell about the Eastern Shore delegation meeting, according to Mike. They heard from Senator Mikulski’s office and discussed the budget with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which Mike contends is being cut too much in the area of prevention.

Finally, Mike devoted a paragraph to the lengthy (10+ hour) joint committee hearing on the subject of gay marriage. It appears McDermott will be a steadfast vote against these bills – in other words, for upholding the state law that marriage is only between one man and one woman. I would tend to think his district agrees with him on this for the most part, and I concur with that assessment as well. McDermott also stated:

I did ask (Governor O’Malley, who led off the testimony) why we simply did not put this issue before all of the voters as a referendum on the ballot…particularly when we thought enough about gambling to put that on the ballot for the people to decide.

I notice O’Malley testified first, so he didn’t have to wait until late in the evening to say his piece. Not knowing how the hearing shook out, it would be interesting to find out if those who are in favor of the change stuck around when those who oppose the bill testified (and the inverse as well.) My guess is that the “tolerant” side wasn’t so much when bill opponents testified, but I would have to have eyewitnesses to know for sure.

As the session nears its halfway point, we’ll begin to see more floor votes and fewer hearings. Bills are now getting through committee, so the impetus will be getting those which are slam-dunks through first and leaving the controversial ones for next month.

Romney gains Maryland support (and Pawlenty’s, too)

This news didn’t come to me directly, but it is legitimate: I found it on Mitt Romney’s website too.

Mitt Romney today won the support from leaders in Maryland.

“It is an honor to have the support of so many in Maryland,” said Mitt Romney. “They share my goals in this campaign to reverse President Obama’s failed policies and get our economy moving again. I look forward to working with them as I bring this message to Maryland and the American people.”

Announcing his support, State Senator Richard Colburn said, “Mitt Romney has a proven record of creating jobs and cutting spending. President Obama has failed on these points and it has hurt the American economy. Mitt Romney has the much-needed experience to lead our country toward an economic recovery.”

Maryland Leaders Endorsing Mitt Romney:

  • State Senator Richard Colburn
  • State Senator Joe Getty
  • State Senator Allan Kittleman
  • Delegate Kathryn Afzali
  • Delegate John Cluster
  • Delegate Addie Eckardt
  • Delegate Donald Elliott
  • Delegate Michael Hough
  • Delegate Nic Kipke
  • Delegate Steven Schuh
  • Former United States Ambassador to New Zealand Robert Goodwin
  • National Committeeman Louis Pope
  • National Committeewoman Joyce Terhes
  • 2010 Republican Candidate for Lieutenant Governor and Former Secretary of State Mary Kane
  • Former Maryland Republican Party Chairman John Kane
  • Former Maryland Republican Party Chairman Audrey Scott
  • Former Maryland Republican Party First Vice Chair Chris Cavey
  • Former Maryland Republican Party First Vice Chair Chuck Gast
  • Maryland Republican Party Treasurer Christopher Rosenthal
  • Garrett County Republican Party Chairman Brenda Butcsher
  • Howard County Republican Party Chairman Loretta Shields
  • Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman Mark Uncapher
  • Frederick County Councilman Paul Smith
  • Howard County Councilman Greg Fox
  • State Central Committee Member – St. Mary’s County Mary Russell

Well, you won’t find my name on that list – it’s pretty safe to say that Mitt isn’t among my top picks. I see him as 2012’s answer to John McCain. Obviously, these 25 feel differently and that’s fine. Aside from Senator Colburn’s brief statement sure to draw a primary challenger in 2014, I don’t know what led the others to support him so I can’t really pass judgement on their intentions.

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