Monthly Archives: November 2014

In miniature, November 26

  • Dear Maryland Democrats: no, you can’t actually expect to win elections relying on liberal Big Three jurisdictions while writing off Baltimore suburbs [John Gallagher, Seventh State]]
  • Fun with forfeiture: “Sparks fly in faked-drug-dog-certification case in Maryland federal court” [Van Smith/City Paper, also, earlier from July]
  • $155 million renovation plan for University of Maryland’s Cole Field House athletic facility isn’t extravagant at all [Arnold Kling, Washington Post, CBS Sports]
  • Despite police union’s best efforts, Montgomery County eventually managed to correct disability scam [Washington Post editorial]
  • “Does Maryland’s statewide planning make big projects harder to build?” [Greater Greater Washington]
  • Don’t worry about House of Cards coming down. It’ll just move to another state that hasn’t learned lesson about film credits the way Maryland has [Tim Cavanaugh, earlier]
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For forwarding urban legends…

…the Maryland Attorney General’s office is right up there with your beloved older relative who never checks Snopes.

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In miniature, November 21

  • Hogan cites “inclusive message focused on ‘fiscal responsibility and common sense,” downplaying of social issues for what’s now being widely hailed as the biggest upset victory of Election 2014 [CBS, auto-plays] “Some Democrats say they ‘got the message’ from Hogan’s election [Len Lazarick]
  • Finally, a decent chance for liquor sales reform in Montgomery County? [David Lublin, The Seventh State]
  • “Ideas for improving Maryland for small business” [Luke McGowan]
  • Home “ripped apart” in Damascus as party-raid police get frisky [Radley Balko]
  • For new chair of Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, lefty Jamie Raskin (D-Silver Spring) or trial lawyer Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County)? [Josh Kurtz, Center Maryland]
  • In Supreme Court oral argument on Maryland counties’ taxation of income earned out of state, Justice Scalia was one who seemed sympathetic to the tax collector’s side [Daniel Fisher]

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Permeable wall of separation: P.G. churches promised tax break for green sermons

The Washington Post’s reporter, Arelis Hernández, doesn’t seem quite to realize just how outrageous this story is about churches angling for exemptions from a state-mandated stormwater fee in Prince George’s County:

Thomas and other pastors also have agreed to start “green” ministries to maintain the improvements at their churches, and to preach environmentally focused sermons to educate their congregations.

In exchange for the commitments both as to physical upgrades to church property and the right sorts of exhortation addressed to their congregations, the churches are getting very tangible benefits, some coming directly out of the pockets of Prince George’s County taxpayers (emphasis added):

So far, about 30 churches have applied. Forestville Redeemer was the first. They are planning to install rain barrels, build rain gardens, plant trees and, perhaps, replace their blacktop with permeable pavement. The government will cover most of the cost. In return, a fee that was estimated at $744 a year will be reduced to “virtually nothing,” Ortiz said.

Organized churches play a central role in P.G. County politics, so it is not especially surprising to see a special deal cut for them. What we might not have expected was how openly pastors were willing to trade the content of sermons for government cash on the (rain) barrel. More coverage: WBAL, Derek Hunter/Daily Caller, and Ira Stoll, who writes:

But the bigger point is a problem with big government and taxes in general. The more burdensome the taxes are, the greater is the temptation of those crushed by them to trade their freedom and independence for a discount on them, and the more power the government has to dictate behavior. The tax becomes not a way to raise revenue for the government, but a method for exerting control.

Let’s hope religion-in-public-life pundits don’t pull their punches on exactly how bad this sort of deal is. They should be at least as upset as those of us on the secular side.

[cross-posted and adapted from Secular Right]

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“Kittleman says he will repeal sugary drinks ban immediately upon taking office”

A government that respects its citizens enough to let them make their own decisions. More like this please!

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MD-GOV: “the battlefield where the long liberal advance stopped”

Dan Henninger of the Wall Street Journal editorial page today:

We may look back on Maryland’s 2014 gubernatorial election as the battlefield where the long liberal advance stopped. In blue Maryland, and elsewhere, the Democrats are losing for the same reason medieval potentates fell: They resorted to plundering their own people.

Maryland’s victorious Republican gubernatorial candidate, Larry Hogan, deserves credit for alerting the population to the dangers of Democratic pillage. He ran hard on the reality that Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley in two terms raised some 40 taxes and fees, including the corporate income tax, sales tax, personal income tax and a “millionaire’s tax.” Maryland was a progressive Utopia. But it is the wave after wave of fees in Maryland and other states that is killing the Democrats politically.

The Maryland Democrats imposed or raised fees on anything that moved—license plates, liquor, fishing, birth and death certificates, even something called “storm water management fees” based on the size of people’s roofs, driveways, patios and such. Bridge and tunnel tolls rose every year from 2011 to 2013.

Less noticed outside Massachusetts than the election of Republican Charlie Baker as governor was that voters also overturned a law that ratcheted up the state’s gasoline tax each year at the inflation rate. No more.

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In miniature, November 11

  • One reason GOP gained only two Senate seats: “In Maryland’s one-party environment, traditional economic donors that would be inclined to support Republicans (think Comcast) donate to Democrats. Which explains why Jim Mathias, the most vulnerable Democrat in Maryland’s Senate, will face a Republican with less than $50,000 all in to spend. Mathias will have north of $300,000.” [John Gallagher, Seventh State]
  • What Prince George’s County cops can do with impunity [Washington Post editorial via Balko]
  • Dem campaigns in Frederick County included plenty of demonization of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). For those who wish to learn at least learn a little bit about the group firsthand, a couple of links [American Legislator, Facebook account]
  • Internet companies, better think twice about doing business in Maryland since the state has a very special law that one law professor thinks severely restricts your freedom to do customer research [Mike Masnick/TechDirt]
  • “Supreme Court to hear case on right of Maryland to tax out-of-state income” [Ashley Westerman, Maryland Reporter; Comptroller v. Wynne; Joseph Henchman and Chris Stephens, Tax Foundation] More: Washington Post.
  • Unclear on the concept: Baltimore councilman says city should ban plastic grocery bags entirely rather than attach fee to them because Hogan election “showed voters don’t want more taxes” [@lukebroadwater]

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Brunswick proposes Pay As You Throw (PAYT) trash scheme

Former delegate Richard Weldon is doubtful (reprinted by permission from his Facebook feed):

Brunswick’s leaders are proposing a Pay As You Throw trash scheme. The proposed program will force residents to purchase special trash bags (Approx $1.00 per bag) in order to have the City trash hauler collect curbside trash. Trash that is not in these bags would not be picked up.

To help make their case, these officials brought in a company who makes and sells the bags to convince residents of the merits of this idea.

The consultant (who sells the bags) suggests that illegal dumping would not be a problem, and that residents could become trash detectives, by opening bags and reporting the offenders by the addresses they discover within.

While I disagree with this whole idea, and harbor deep concerns whenever these behavior modification schemes are proposed by those with a profit motive, I don’t think that the elected officials who propose them are bad people.

I just think they’re painfully misguided.

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From the grass roots, again

They said it couldn’t be done. Crucial outside backers refused support until very late in the game, saying Maryland was a fundamentally un-winnable state. The opposition hit the airwaves with the same tired, rote scare campaign that had worked so often for them before. But we knew it *could* be done — from the electric energy among our volunteers, to the way our message resonated in communities where we hardly dared hope it would, as voters decided the time had come to cross expected political lines and move the state forward.

Two years ago today, all of that happened when our state passed Question 6 and recognized same-sex marriage. And as this year’s election once again shows, Maryland remains a state of open minds and hopeful surprises.

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Letter to an independent Washington Post reader

[Note: I sent this as a letter to the editor to the Washington Post in October. They’d recently run another letter of mine on the economic issues at stake in the Hogan/Brown contest, so I’m not surprised they passed, but I’m going ahead and publishing it here, slightly expanded]

Petula Dvorak (Oct. 14) well describes how Maryland’s gubernatorial election leaves many independent voters feeling torn. They worry that Democrat Anthony Brown, who presided over the disastrous flop of the state’s health exchange website, would not manage finances responsibly in our job-challenged state, even though he vows not to raise taxes. And they worry that Republican Larry Hogan might push a divisive social agenda, though he vows not to reopen issues like same-sex marriage.

If the tension between these fears is hard to resolve in theory, it is easy in practice. Whoever we elect as governor, the Maryland legislature will remain much as it is now, overwhelmingly Democratic. Its leaders have backed tax and spending increases and would press the same priorities on a Governor Brown, offering political cover for him to acquiesce in new taxes. At the same time, the legislature has zero interest in rolling back its own recent choices in social policy, and such a rollback would be dead on arrival in Annapolis if for some reason a Governor Hogan were to go back on his vow and try it.

Because of the makeup of its legislature, Maryland’s fiscal locomotive is going to have an accelerator no matter what. The question is whether it could use a brake. Up and down the Northeast, voters elect moderate Republican governors to serve as a check on strongly Democratic legislatures. That is a compelling reason this year to select Larry Hogan.

One more point: Larry Hogan, like Democrat Heather Mizeur before him, chose to forgo big-ticket fundraising and opt for the alternative of public financing, even though it ensured (as in Mizeur’s case) that he would be heavily outspent by his adversary. Anthony Brown has chosen instead to scoop up millions from businesses, unions, state contractors, and other groups with a direct financial stake in Maryland legislation, as well as outside groups seeking to make an ideological point. Reasonable people can take different views of public financing, but isn’t it worth noticing when a Democratic candidate dives gleefully into the big money pool while the Republican stays out? If you’re serious about the problems of big money in politics, shouldn’t this be another factor in your vote?

— Walter Olson, New Market, Md.

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