Did Maryland’s lawyer mislead the high court in the gerrymander case?

Prof. Michael McDonald says that’s what happened at oral argument when the state’s lawyer characterized McDonald, an expert for the Republican plaintiffs, as having found the Sixth District “competitive.” [Medium, McDonald on Twitter]

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Today’s welcome vote on I-270 capacity (with a note on “induced demand”)

Maybe Frederick and upper Montgomery commuters won’t have to wait in endless traffic on I-270 for the next 20 years, with today’s favorable vote from Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot to proceed with a public-private partnership.

Virginia got a head start on these ideas and polls indicate most users take a positive view of the road improvements there, toll options and all. Existing law forbids reductions in current free lanes.

By the way, watch out for misuse of the transportation concept of induced demand. In proper context, it’s an uncontroversial concept: planners should be aware that expanding a highway can increase demand (whether by stimulating more trips from existing users or encouraging development) which means that congestion will not be relieved by as much as a static analysis of current vehicle flow per minute would suggest. That’s all it says. It does not, by itself, predict that the induced demand will be so big as to absorb all the new road capacity. If it always did that, there would be no such thing as unclogged newer thoroughfares.

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In miniature, May 27

  • “Poll: 61 percent of D.C.-area residents favor plan to add toll lanes to Beltway, I-270” and the same number prevails in Montgomery County although you’d never know it from the county’s political leadership [Katherine Shaver and Emily Guskin, Washington Post] “Maryland has pledged – and federal law requires – that the number of toll-free lanes will not be reduced.” [Bruce DePuyt, Maryland Matters]
  • Sen. Bob Cassilly (R-Harford): “Kirwan will bankrupt the State of Maryland” [Erika Butler, Harford Aegis]
  • “Property Rights Matter: Lessons from a Failing City” [Stephen J.K. Walters, Law and Liberty; my two cents on eminent domain, Pimlico, and the Preakness Stakes]
  • Thanks WBAL host Yuripzy Morgan for mentioning me in discussing the (bad) idea of a law capping credit card interest rates [audio]
  • Thread on Baltimore’s crisis of development and corruption [Brian Gaither on Twitter]
  • In its first three months after implementation Maryland’s “red flag” law “prompted more than 300 protective orders across the state,” and an Anne Arundel man was shot dead by county officers while being served a gun confiscation order [Natalie Jones, Capital News Service/Maryland Matters]

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Franchot’s bad idea: sanctions against Alabama

Comptroller Peter Franchot is normally one of the more level-headed Maryland electeds, but this latest idea of his, to adopt state sanctions against Alabama after its enactment of a sweeping ban on abortion, is quite bad. (Included in the sanctions would be restrictions on pension investments and travel by employees of the Comptroller’s office.) Boycotts by states of other states damage national unity, operate like internal trade barriers, invite retaliation, and these days nearly always fail. (Admittedly, they might make sense as a tactic for use in scenarios of impending civil war.)

For those of us who favor lifting trade sanctions against, say, Cuba, a regime that is 1) anti-American, 2) Communist, and 3) not even part of our own country, the wrongness of official sanctions and divestment against other U.S. states should be an easy call. See more at Overlawyered here, here, and here.

Culture War Tomorrow, Comity Tonight.

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Maryland: sixth best state to live in, but absolute worst to retire?

The good news: Maryland has jumped to 6th from last year’s 13th in U.S. News’s best-states rankings, with abundant amenities now united with a reasonably prosperous economy.

The bad news: Maryland ranks absolute last as a place to retire in MoneyWise’s 50-state survey, abundant amenities or no, because of tough tax treatment of retirement income as well as high living and health care costs. According to that story, “both Bankrate and Kiplinger rank Maryland the No. 48 state, and WalletHub ranks it No. 41.”

That’s one reason to support Gov. Hogan’s proposals to begin lightening the tax treatment of retirement income, as well as to refrain from costly new legal mandates that work to drive up living and health costs yet further. Ours should be a multi-generational state.

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On Jennifer Charlton’s WFMD “Success Happens”

Jennifer Charlton and I talked about the work of the upcoming Frederick County Charter Review Commission, along with other topics, on her WFMD show last weekend. You can listen here. More on the charter review process at the FNP.

I forgot to post it at the time, but you can also listen to a recent appearance I did on Jerry Rogers’s new WBAL show. We discussed among other topics the then-pending nomination of Judge Neomi Rao as a judge on the D.C. Circuit; she has since been confirmed.

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Should Frederick take Gov. Thomas Johnson’s name off TJ high school?

Peter Samuel’s letter to the editor in the Frederick News-Post hits the right points: it’s not wrong to memorialize founders and framers whose historical notability lies in their works of positive benefit to the nation, and that goes for Frederick’s Gov. Thomas Johnson as well as for figures like Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. In a Twitter thread, I get into some of my disagreements with the original front-page FNP piece by reporter Wyatt Massey.

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Baltimore tries to seize the Preakness

Now unpaywalled: my WSJ opinion piece on the city of Baltimore’s outrageous move to use powers of eminent domain to seize the venerable Preakness thoroughbred horse race as well as its associated Pimlico racetrack. Earlier here and more generally here. [cross-posted from Overlawyered]

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Grace’s Law 2.0: Maryland doubles down on criminalizing online speech

“We’re not interested in charging children or putting them in jail or fining them,” says a campaigner for Maryland’s “cyber-bullying” law, “Grace’s Law 2.0,” which is drafted to do exactly those things. “What we want to do is change the behavior so the internet is more kind,” says the same campaigner regarding the new law, which would encourage online users to turn each other in for potential 10-year prison terms over single instances of certain kinds of malicious, abusive speech, and is being billed as going farther than any other law in the country, as well as farther than the earlier Maryland law passed in 2013.

Bruce DePuyt at Maryland Matters reports that Senate Judiciary Chair Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County):

said the 2013 law required that abusive comments be sent to the individual and be part of a pattern of conduct. With the rise of social media, that proved to be too high a hurdle, he said.

Under the new law, “a single significant act can land you in trouble,” he told reporters.

Due credit to the ACLU of Maryland, which called out this dangerous venture in speech regulation:

Toni Holness, the group’s public policy director, said in February that the bill fails to adequately define what constitutes a “true threat.”

Holness also was concerned about other words in the bill that had not been defined: encourage, provoke, sexual information, intimidating, tormenting.

“There’s way too much prosecutorial discretion in these terms that are not defined,” she said.

I criticized the bill in February and noted language from Zirkin suggesting that the Court of Appeals, as distinct from the legislature, would sort out its constitutionality. Before that, I criticized the 2015 law as itself going too far (more). DePuyt reports that Zirkin may approach U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) about introducing a similar bill on the federal level. Let’s hope Raskin says no to that bad idea.

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In miniature, April 10

Sine Die edition:

  • General Assembly declined chance to fix Sixth District gerrymander, rolling the dice on whether Supreme Court ruling will lead to crisis in mid-summer [Tamela Baker, Herald-Mail (Hagerstown); Samantha Hogan, Frederick News Post; earlier]
  • Not only was it a win for well-heeled alcohol interests when the General Assembly snatched liquor regulatory powers away from Comptroller Peter Franchot, but it also pleased some advocates of nanny state controls on alcohol, who also prefer a regime of higher prices and less competition. Bad all ’round;
  • Sens. Jill Carter (D-Baltimore) and Michael Hough (R-Frederick County) are right: doing away with statutes of limitations would be an engine of new injustice, and the General Assembly was right not to pass the bill by Del. C.T. Wilson (D-Charles County) attempting to change that [Danielle Gaines, Maryland Matters]
  • How’d the Maryland Senate come to *unanimously* approve a late-filed asbestos-suit $$$ grab that even Brian Frosh’s office says could be held unconstitutional? Ask Peter Angelos and Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher [Bruce DePuyt, Maryland Matters, Danielle Gaines (Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera appears before committee “to underscore for you how deeply we oppose this attempt to intrude upon the Judiciary”), more (Frosh)]
  • Glad these didn’t pass: “just cause eviction” bill would have impaired property rights and economic vitality in Montgomery County [unfavorable House report; Harvey Jacobs, WTOP]; various restrictions on gun rights, although the Assembly did abolish the handgun permits board to which citizens could appeal adverse police decisions; “source of income discrimination” legislation that would have compelled landlords to participate in the Section 8 voucher program [unfavorable report, withdrawn]; collective bargaining for student athletes [unfavorable report, withdrawn; Bruce DePuyt, Maryland Matters]
  • If your Maryland business pays dues to a statewide business advocacy org that didn’t scream bloody murder about the terrible $15 wage bill, time to replace that org’s salaried leadership and prepare to rebuild [Richard Douglas, Maryland Reporter, earlier]

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