Category Archives: Policy

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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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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Sixth District remap panel wraps up its work — and a word from Arnie

Our Emergency Commission on Sixth Congressional District Gerrymandering sent a proposed new Sixth and Eighth District map to Governor Hogan last week, which he immediately introduced as legislation. On Monday morning, again by a unanimous vote, we approved our final report to send to the governor, which was published yesterday. The core of the report, summarizing the public hearings and map submissions and explaining our choices and recommendations, is not long: pp. 14-25. So check it out.

You should also listen to former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on the subject:

More coverage, mixing the Supreme Court case from last week with mentions of our remedial efforts: Samantha Hogan, Frederick News Post (with picture) and earlier, Bruce DePuyt and Robin Bravender, Maryland Matters (also with good pictures), Tamela Baker, Herald-Mail (Hagerstown), Jennifer Barrios, Washington Post, Kimberly Eiten/WJZ, Dominique Maria Bonessi, WAMU; Maryland Association of Counties, Conduit Street podcast (redistricting segment is c. 21.30-30.00).

Also, Nina Totenberg’s approach to Schwarzenegger on the Supreme Court steps became a viral meme and I’m in it:

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The rush to spend Kirwan bucks

The majority party in Annapolis is rushing to appropriate a “down payment” of more than $1 billion over two years to implement the lavish spending proposals of the latest blue-ribbon commission on education issues. They’re in no similar rush to implement the Kirwan Commission’s supposed accountability proposals, maybe because those were just pretend anyway, intended as cover for the resource grab. In fact, the same majority party is moving to close down, rather than expand, choice options for parents and families seeking to escape the monopoly system.

The editorialists at the Washington Post have this figured out:

There seems to have been a headlong rush to embrace the commission’s recommendations, with most state politicians swearing fealty to them in last year’s elections. That should give serious pause to Maryland taxpayers. It’s not only that they will be footing the bill with higher taxes or cutbacks in other services. The state’s previous experience also demonstrated the shortcomings, if not outright failure, of increased education expenditures to produce better outcomes.

A previous educational commission, called the Thornton Commission, prompted a historic boost in school spending after 2002. Yet less than 40 percent of Maryland high school graduates can read at a 10th-grade level or pass an Algebra 1 exam. … Rather than simply rubber-stamping a push for massive new school spending, lawmakers should be asking the hard questions of whether Maryland families and children will really be helped.

If only Maryland voters had it figured out too.

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Some minimum wage notes

It really is amazing that campaigners for a $15 minimum wage law in Maryland, simply by producing a few business people who take their side, can get the Washington Post to report that the state’s business community is “split” on the issue.

While on the subject, it’s also revealing about the state of coalition politics (and ideology) when a nanny-state anti-sugar group goes to bat for a $15 minimum wage law.

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Now online: public submission of Sixth District maps

Now live: help fix Maryland’s gerrymandered Sixth District! This site (press release, guidelines) will let you propose and submit a map to Gov. Larry Hogan’s emergency commission using the inline Maptitude software. Aside from enabling the construction of maps using census blocks and other units, the software will ensure that the map you submit complies with legal requirements for equal numbers of persons per district and contiguous territory.

The site also accepts maps via data files or hardcopy as well as public comments of all sorts to advise the commission in its work. Note that public comment and map submission is open for two weeks, until Feb. 27. If possible, try to submit earlier rather than later.

More: Diane Rey, Maryland Reporter in January, League of Women Voters of Maryland overview. And on a lighter note, from Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford on social media:

Valentine about Maryland gerrymandering

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Hearing in Rockville January 31 on Sixth District gerrymandering

Gov. Hogan’s Emergency Commission on Sixth District Gerrymandering is holding its next public hearing in Rockville next week. Come share what you think a fair 6th district would look like! Details:

Thurs., Jan. 31, 7 p.m.
Montgomery College, Rockville Campus
Theatre Arts Arena
51 Mannakee Street
Rockville, MD 20850

Please share with others interested in free and fair elections and an end to gerrymandering in Maryland.

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