According to coverage at places like NPR and CNN, an innovative campaign in Howard County, Maryland “provides a road map for other communities to reduce consumption of sugary drinks.” Not so fast, I argue in my new Washington Examiner piece: the suburban county in question is not remotely typical of America as a whole, the Howard County Unsweetened campaign blurred public and private boundaries in a dubious way, and the whole enterprise generated a deserved political pushback. While the plan, promoted by the local Horizon Foundation, might not have been all bad, “it sowed divisiveness, put government resources to improper purpose, and rested on a premise of frank paternalism. When it arrives in your community, you might want to respond as you might to a second pitcher of cola — by pushing it away with a polite, ‘no thanks.’” [cross-posted from Overlawyered]
Category Archives: Policy
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who represents my district, tweets, “Disgraceful move by Trump admin to suppress the existence of #LGBT community. To all LGBT Americans: we hear and see you. #CantEraseUs ”
— Rep. Jamie Raskin (@RepRaskin) March 29, 2017
Rep. Raskin, along with many other members of Congress, is following the lead of the Human Rights Campaign and allies, which have launched a publicity campaign with claims like “The Trump Administration is erasing ‘sexual orientation’ & ‘gender identity’ from the 2020 census — but they #CantEraseUs.”
The Trump Administration is erasing "sexual orientation" & "gender identity" from the 2020 census — but they #CantEraseUs 1/4
— HumanRightsCampaign (@HRC) March 29, 2017
But as The Hill observes, “The Census has never included questions about sexual orientation and gender identity in its surveys.” Some activists had been hoping to change that but Gary Gates, a leading expert in LGBT demographics, says the planning process was not nearly far enough along to consider adding the questions to the 2020 survey. The Census Bureau is overseen by an Obama appointee and no one has offered evidence that incoming Trump people have sought a change in census policy. (h/t columnist Guy Benson on these last two points).
There are undoubtedly pluses to gathering personal data in new categories, but for all who care about 1) privacy and 2) the danger of future misuse of information, there are also minuses, perhaps especially worth noting on this topic. David Boaz in 2010 questioned the trend toward more intrusive and comprehensive census data collection.
Separately, I have noticed that “erase” and its variants now serve as an unfailing warning of “dubious assertions lie ahead.”
“In fact, fracking has massive environmental benefits. The rapid expansion of natural gas production has prompted power plants all over the country to switch from coal to gas, which is both cheaper and burns much cleaner. Last year, largely thanks to this mass migration, American carbon emissions hit a 25-year low. Given its own grand green ambitions, Maryland ought to be embracing fracking.” [Chris Summers, Maryland Public Policy Institute]
Yesterday the city of Baltimore signed a 227-page consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice putting the city’s police department under wide-ranging federal control for the indefinite future (earlier).
The decree (document; summary of high points) mingles some terms that rise to genuine constitutional significance with others that no court would have ordered, and yet others that appear not to be requirements of the law at all, but at most best practices. Many are virtually or entirely unenforceable (“professional and courteous” interaction with citizens). Whether or not the decree results in the less frequent violation of citizens’ rights, it is certain to result in large amounts of new spending and in the extension of the powers of lawyers working for various parties.
In November David Meyer Lindenberg of Fault Lines, the criminal justice website, wrote this opinion piece about the failure of DoJ police reform consent decrees to live up to the high claims often made for them (more: Scott Shackford, Reason). Our consent decrees tag traces the problems with these devices in a variety of public agencies such as those handling children’s and mental health services, as well as the budgetary rigidity they often impose.
Since Congress passed enabling legislation in 1994 in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating, the Washington Post and Frontline reported in a 2015 investigation, “Twenty-six [police] investigations — a little more than half of them since President Obama took office — have led to the most rigorous outcome: binding agreements tracked by monitors. More than half were consent decrees, meaning they were approved and managed in federal court.” As of that point only Ohio, at 4 agreements, had had more than Maryland, at 3.
This 2008 report from the Alabama Policy Institute by Michael DeBow, Gary Palmer, and John J. Park, Jr. takes a critical view of the decrees’ use in institutional reform litigation (not specifically police), and comes with a foreword by Sen. Jeff Sessions, now the nominee to replace Loretta Lynch as Attorney General of the U.S. Speaking of which, there’s something so weird about some liberals’ eagerness to hand the keys to big-city police departments over to Mr. Sessions. It’s as if they think once Main Justice is calling the shots it won’t think of using that leverage on issues like, say, sanctuary cities.
[cross-posted from Overlawyered. Note also Reuters’ new investigation of police union contracts, and related coverage in the Baltimore Sun (McSpadden case), Ed Krayewski/Reason (three years to fire misbehaving cop), and more Sun (deadly effects of police slowdown)]
Maryland remains at its fourth-from-worst position of #46 in this new report ranking freedom in the 50 states by the Cato Institute, with which I’m affiliated. “Occupational freedom is extremely low, for health professions and for others….Educational freedom is among the lowest in the country. Homeschools and private schools are tightly regulated, the latter more so (mandatory state approval and teacher licensing).” While scoring average on taxes and criminal justice, our state, long known as the Free State, is worse than average on business subsidies, land-use control, and firearms unfreedom. We are 49th (next to worst!) on regulation, occupational, and land use freedom and least free of all 50 on education.
Adjacent states are ahead of us: Virginia at # 21, Pennsylvania #26, Delaware # 31, and West Virginia at # 39.
Most of these problems cannot be fixed without electing a better legislature in Annapolis.
In Baltimore County, county executive Kevin Kamenetz has introduced a bill to ban “housing voucher discrimination,” that is to say, a bill requiring landlords to take Section 8 tenants. “Kamenetz is required to introduce the bill as part of a housing discrimination settlement with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development that was reached this year. … If [it] does not pass the County Council, the HUD settlement requires it to be reintroduced in future years.” Landlords and property owners say that it is unfair to force them to enroll against their will in a program with cumbersome paperwork and inspections. [Pamela Wood, Baltimore Sun] HUD is now arm-twisting jurisdictions nationwide into enacting these bad laws; earlier here (bad renter trashes unit), here, etc. [cross-posted from Overlawyered]
Update: County legislature votes down bill 46-16 [Baltimore Campaign for Liberty]
Gallup finds that even after controlling for other factors, there’s a “strong relationship” between total tax burden and the level of desire to leave a state [Steve Malanga, City Journal] And just a reminder of its relevance to us: “Maryland Has the 7th Highest State and Local Tax Burden” [Randolph May, Free State Foundation]
While redistricting reform did not pass this year — or even get a committee or floor vote from the ruling Democrats — Gov. Larry Hogan will “probably come back and fight some more. It’s an issue I really care about.” [Len Lazarick interview, Maryland Reporter]
Good for Comptroller Peter Franchot: if the school systems are trying to wriggle out of budget oversight, it’s time to make that oversight stronger, not weaker. Note that it was Frederick County Public Schools Superintendent Theresa Alban, “who also serves as president of the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland,” who sent the letter to Mike Miller and Mike Busch asking them to limit the power of the Board of Public Works to check and balance the demands of the school construction lobby. More: Frederick News-Post.
Gov. Larry Hogan has written a letter to President Barack Obama and it’s great:
March 31, 2016
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington DC, 20500
Dear Mr. President,
It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet with you at the White House last month during the National Governor’s Association winter meeting in Washington DC. I am grateful for the commitment you made at the time to partner with the NGA to review burdensome federal regulations that may create unnecessary obstacles to economic development and job creation. That we can find common ground on this matter gives me hope that I may also be able to count on your support on another issue.
On April 11 the Maryland General Assembly’s 2016 legislative session will conclude, and with it Maryland’s best hope to reform what is widely regarded as the worst gerrymandering in the nation could also come to an end. As you said in your most recent State of the Union Address: “We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around. Let a bipartisan group do it.”
On this issue, we are in complete agreement. Last year, my administration assembled a bipartisan task force to study redistricting. After months of work and public comment, the task force recommended that the state establish an independent commission to draw Congressional and legislative districts, eliminating the influence of elected officials and political parties. Unfortunately, this legislation has stalled in the Maryland General Assembly, and may not even come to the floor for a vote.
There are only days left in the legislative session, and next year, we may not have as strong an advocate in White House as you have been on this issue. With your intervention, I believe we could set things right in Maryland.
Of course, I will continue to fight for Marylanders regardless of what happens over the coming days or years. However, with the weight of the White House behind independent redistricting in Maryland, I know we can deliver real change and I am hopeful that you can take action to encourage Maryland’s lawmakers to bring this matter to the floor for a vote.
If there is anything I can do to help you or members of your administration make a case for fair redistricting in Maryland in the days ahead, my administration is at your disposal. I look forward to any steps you may be able to take and I offer my thanks for your attention to the matter.
Governor of Maryland
State House, Annapolis, Maryland
I’ve taken the text of the letter from Washington Post reporter Josh Hicks’s Document Cloud posting, cleaning up errors arising from scanned character recognition when I spotted them; apologies for any errors I didn’t catch. Hicks’s coverage of the story is here. Excerpt:
Six states use nonpartisan redistricting committees to draw their voting maps, and the idea is broadly popular among Maryland residents. But leading Democrats, whose party holds large majorities in the House and the Senate, say they will not consider making Maryland’s system more balanced unless other states whose maps favor Republicans do the same.
More from Erin Cox at Baltimore Sun/Capital Gazette:
Leading Democrats have said they’re disinclined to approve a plan that changes Maryland’s congressional districts absent a national plan for all states to draw them differently.
The nonpartisan, voter-advocacy group Common Cause supports Hogan’s proposal, and executive director Jennifer Bevan-Dangel said Wednesday she was pleased the governor asked Obama to help.
But lawmakers also need to forward the administration’s redistricting-reform bill for “an up or down vote,” he said.
“There can be no possible excuse for keeping this bill hidden in a drawer and simply ignoring the will of nearly every person in Maryland,” he said.
Hogan’s bill, filed in both houses, would create an independent commission to redraw congressional and legislative district lines after each new census. But the measure has languished in committee in both chambers….
“This is a bipartisan issue supported by nearly all Marylanders. It’s time for the legislators to join with us and set an example for the entire nation,” Hogan said, challenging legislators to “set this bill free.”
More: video with the governor!