Monthly Archives: April 2015

In miniature, April 29

  • “There was no repeat of Monday’s violence.” There’s your story. [Washington Post, on Baltimore picking itself up after the riot] “I wish humanity didn’t have to resort to violence to get its point across. However….” Really, Del. Morales? [Del. Maricé Morales (D-Montgomery County) on Facebook, quoted at Seventh State]
  • Police van “rough rides,” meant to injure arrestees, led to Philadelphia, Chicago scandals. And Baltimore? [BuzzFeed, Baltimore Sun]
  • Duly noted: 15 Democratic members of state senate would like to gut the First Amendment on campaign speech [Rebecca Lessner, Maryland Reporter]
  • H.L. Mencken spins in grave as Baltimore Sun adopts tut-tutting editorial view of alcohol;
  • Maryland GOP coming along only slowly on marijuana law reform; at least eight Republican lawmakers voted for this term’s very modest paraphernalia bill, so +1 for Sen. Justin Ready and Dels. Carl Anderton, Mary Beth Carozza, Robert Flanagan, Robin Grammer, Herb McMillan, Christian Miele, and Chris West [Van Smith, City Paper, interviewing former Del. Don Murphy]
  • “Martin O’Malley’s Terrible Fiscal Record” [Chris Edwards, Cato]
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Next year, will Maryland reform LEOBR?

Maryland’s forty-year-old Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights [LEOBR or LEOBOR], which served as a model for the enactment of similar measures in other states, closely restrains the rights of public agencies to discipline law enforcement officers for suspected misconduct; for example, it effectively gives police officers a right to refuse to answer questions on the record for as long as ten days after an incident. In the Annapolis legislative term just ended, the Baltimore city administration of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, in alliance with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and some other groups, sought to reform the state’s LEOBR. The effort, however, failed to get out of committee, for reasons discussed by P. Kenneth Burns at WYPR; for one thing, some legislators said they were not persuaded that the law was causing problems beyond the city of Baltimore. Moreover, police unions, whose political clout got LEOBR passed in the first place, remain a powerful lobby in Annapolis, especially among Republican lawmakers, whose ranks include police union officials.

The death of Freddie Gray in police custody may change that equation in the future. It has called attention to the long history of police abuse in Baltimore, and Rawlings-Blake has cited the LEOBR specifically as a law that makes it more difficult to investigate episodes like this.

I’ve got a new post at Cato pointing out that the problems with LEOBR go back a long way, and resemble in many ways the problems with teacher tenure; Radley Balko has more.

For defenses of the law, check out labor official Jimmy Dulay, Center Maryland; Ron DeLord. Back in 2000, claims of inconsistency with LEOBR, legally accurate or not, torpedoed proposals for a citizen review board in Frederick.

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How Maintenance of Effort might backfire on its advocates

The Frederick News-Post this week ran my letter to the editor on the interaction between our county education budget and the state’s crazy, spending-ratchet Maintenance of Effort law. It begins:

County Executive Jan Gardner has proposed a schools budget more than $4 million above maintenance of effort levels. The key thing to remember about Maryland’s crazy MOE law is this: Once a county spends more than MOE in one year, it’s permanently raised the base. It’s not supposed to go back to spending less the next year even if its priorities change or it decides the added spending didn’t achieve the intended result. That means that more likely than not, the council is debating a permanent hike of more than $4 million that, ratchet-like, will be hard to reconsider later….

I go on to discuss the (far from robust) provision by which counties can ask for waivers, and raise a question I’m not sure the architects of the MOE (who wanted to insulate school spending from the democratic process) considered: what happens when the voting public realizes that spending increases operate as a permanent entitlement rather than an experiment with a plausible path of retreat? It could be, at least for counties with a vigorous pro-taxpayer streak in their electorate, that the equilibrium will be for voters to support less school spending than they would have been willing to try otherwise.

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The Maryland knife law angle in the Freddie Gray story

Patrik Jonsson explains at the Christian Science Monitor (via @instapundit). I’ve covered New York’s crazy “gravity knife” law, which has resulted in thousands of prosecutions of otherwise law-abiding New Yorkers, at Cato and Overlawyered; I hadn’t realized that Marylanders, too, at least while in the city of Baltimore, risk arrest for carrying utility knifes accepted as normal in workplaces across much of the country. Jonsson:

The immediate question for investigators is whether that knife [the one carried by Freddie Gray] qualifies as a “switchblade” under Baltimore city statutes, given that Gray’s specimen was not a fully automatic knife. Another is whether, if officers spotted the knife without searching Gray, it could really be considered concealed. Outside of Baltimore, almost any knife can be worn in the state as long as it can be seen by others.

More: Jon Campbell, Village Voice. Update: And see later Overlawyered post (conflicting positions on legal status of knife carried by Gray) and yet more from Jacob Sullum.

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In miniature, April 17

  • Not just active duty servicemembers: “MD: Lower the Drinking Age to ALL Those 18 years and Older” [Brooke Winn]
  • “Baltimore Police Admit Thousands of Stingray Uses” [Adam Bates, Cato; related on Buffalo]
  • Washington Post features the legal ordeal of Randy and Karen Sowers’s South Mountain Creamery as fuel for forfeiture/structuring reform, quotes me [more]
  • In race for Democratic nomination to succeed Mikulski, both Chris Van Hollen, Donna Edwards ranked as “hard core liberals,” and it’s not as if Elijah Cummings would provide any contrast on that [Glynis Kazanjian, Maryland Reporter]
  • My coverage of the latest round of MoCo police and CPS’s war on the free-range Meitiv family of Silver Spring [Cato, Overlawyered and more] Councilman at large Hans Riemer embarrasses himself [Lenore Skenazy, some of my Twitter contributions] More: Thomas Firey, MPPI.
  • Plans go forward nonetheless for subsidized Frederick convention hotel: “City-owned Hilton Baltimore lost nearly $11.2 million in 2012, audit shows.” [Steve Kilar, Baltimore Sun]

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“New York Creates Massive Cigarette Black Market, Wants Virginia to Fix It”

This J.D. Tuccille piece at Reason has a familiar feel, given the bid by some of our own lawmakers here in Maryland to increase cigarette smuggling, and give crime gangs a giant new source of revenue, by raising tobacco taxes further toward New York levels, and far above the levels charged a half-hour’s drive to the south. Earlier here and here.

More: Village Voice longform (“Smuggled, Untaxed Cigarettes Are Everywhere in New York City”)

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An Eastern Shore no-knock raid, and its aftermath

Radley Balko on the aftermath of a Cambridge, Md. “no-knock” police raid gone very wrong: “if the Fourth Amendment is due to the Founders’ offense at British soldiers forcibly entering homes in daylight hours after knocking and announcing to search for contraband, it seems safe to say that the Founders would be appalled by the fact that today, dozens of times each day, heavily armed government officials break into homes, often at night, without first knocking and announcing, in order to conduct searches for contraband.” More: Adam Bates, Cato. [cross-posted from Overlawyered]

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