Category Archives: Policy

“Equity policy” scheme aims at injecting racial politics into every Montgomery County decision

A project of Councilmember Nancy Navarro, it goes too far even for three Democrats representing the saner end of their party’s spectrum in the County Executive race, Rose Krasnow, David Blair, and Bill Frick. It is backed by three other council members currently running for that higher post, Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal. [Seventh State]

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Seen and heard on redistricting reform

Last month the Supreme Court heard oral argument (transcript) in Benisek v. Lamone, the challenge to Maryland’s gerrymandered Sixth District. I was there with some critics of the gerrymander in front of the Court steps and spoke to a number of reporters afterward [Danielle Gaines, Frederick News-Post; Bruce DePuyt, Maryland Matters] See also Eric Boehm, Reason. Earlier here. Background links on Maryland case: Cynthia Prairie, Maryland Reporter in January.

I was interviewed by reporter Tom Fitzgerald for WTTG Fox 5 in front of the Court, and joined anchor/host Jason Newton and Goucher pollster Mileah Kromer on WBAL’s “TV Hill.” You can also listen through Facebook to my appearance on WFMD with Dave Schmidt and Darren Wigfield on redistricting

New audio contributions include a Cato Daily Podcast in which I’m interviewed by Caleb Brown, and a narrator’s reading for Cato’s “Cato Out Loud” feature of my recent piece on why libertarians and others should oppose gerrymandering:

Finally, I’m also in the question period a bit more than two-thirds through this Federalist Society program featuring former Rep. Chris Shays (R-Ct.) and Weekly Standard senior writer Jay Cost.

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Baltimore bans new crude oil terminals

In the latest win for activists, Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh signed into law a new measure banning construction and expansion of crude oil terminals in the city. Previously Oakland, Calif. banned a terminal intended for coal exports, and Portland, Ore., and other West Coast cities have also moved to block fossil fuel infrastructure following environmentalist campaigns.

As individual controversies crop up in Maryland and elsewhere over particular natural gas terminals and pipelines, it’s worth remembering that for a well-organized body of activists, the goal is to block oil and gas infrastructure, period, and the individual complaints about one or another project (Baltimore activists claimed concern about safety) are makeweights to be invoked as needed.

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Baltimore City will pay to send 60 busloads of kids to anti-gun demo

Taxpayers will shell out $100,000 so the city of Baltimore can bus public school students to an anti-gun rally. And that’s only the start of what’s wrong here, I write in a new Cato post. “A protest outing that is ardently enabled or even meticulously organized by the authority figures in your life can be like the ninth-grade English course that ruins Macbeth or Moby Dick for you.” I quote Lynda C. Lambert in the Baltimore Sun: “Part of protesting is finding your own way, for your own reasons….. Government sponsorship is destructive to these ends.”

My parting shot: “As for the separate question of whether compulsory attendance and truancy laws should be enforced against students for skipping school in a favored cause, I’ll see and raise: don’t enforce those laws against anyone period.”  [cross-posted from Overlawyered]

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On gerrymandering: “…the gold standard for reform…”

“Our coalition considers the work of the Redistricting Commission [MRRC] to be the gold standard for reform.” — Tame the Gerrymander Coalition, on Facebook, on the Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission (report). Thanks! The hearings this year, at which I testified, were Feb. 26 (House side) and March 1 (Senate).

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Televise floor proceedings in Annapolis?

The legislative majority has already decided the answer is “no,” now to come up with a rationale [Len Lazarick, Maryland Reporter]

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A Baltimore cookie drama, in two acts

Act I: In a widely read Nov. 15 piece in Atlas Obscura, Priya Krishna reports on “the quest to save Baltimore’s Berger Cookie,” a beloved local food institution. “One of the most essential ingredients in the Berger Cookie is trans fats. Trans fats are what make the chocolate super creamy, prevent the fat and the water in the dough from separating (which would yield an overly crumbly cookie), and keep the cookie stable in both very warm and very cold settings.” However, the Obama administration enacted a federal ban on trans fats — for your own good, you know — which goes into effect next year.

Cookie producer Charlie DeBaufre, interviewed by Krishna, “refers to the past year as ‘frustrating and scary,’ as so many of his trans fat-free experiments have been failures. ‘I have spent $10,000 trying to get this worked out. I am not a big business. I don’t have an R&D Department. I have to shut down production for a few hours, still pay people for labor, and then most of the product gets trashed. It’s tough.’” More background in a piece I wrote for Cato last week.

Act II: Then a twist, reported by Sarah Meehan in the Baltimore Sun Nov. 21: the fudge supplier had managed to replace trans fats months ago and didn’t tell Berger’s. While early attempts to reformulate fudge frosting without trans fats had suffered from various quality defects, the new recipe was much improved to the point where neither consumers nor Berger’s had noticed.

So a happy if unexpected ending, at least for this one company, right? But the regulatory downside — you just knew there had to be one — was that in changing its recipe the fudge supplier had added more sugar, which appears to have boosted the calorie count and might have changed other things reported in the Nutrition Facts box as well. Since Berger’s says it didn’t know about the new formula, one inference might be that for a while it has been shipping cookies with a faulty calorie/nutrition count on the package. Hello to class action woes and, if the FDA is in a bad mood, regulatory liability? [cross-posted from Overlawyered]

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“The United Shapes of America”

Maryland 9-year-old Araliya Rubin and her mom Nilmini Rubin have made a coloring book of gerrymandered Congressional districts, reports Beth Rodgers at Bethesda Beat. Staying inside the lines of the Maryland districts would challenge even a coloring book veteran.

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Judge zaps MoCo lawn pesticide ban

Overturning Montgomery County’s ban on many commonly used lawn pesticides [Washington Post], Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Terrence McGann

said that the law — the first of its kind for a major locality in the region — would conflict with federal and Maryland state regulations that allow the use of the pesticides. The case was just one example of Maryland counties’ “insatiable appetite to tamper with existing state laws,” McGann said.

Counties have also “tried to hijack a portion of the existing field of law” in areas including tobacco, guns and minimum wage, he said.

My Cato Institute piece on the county’s bald double standard — officials had sought to exempt playing fields and other county properties from the ban — is here.

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Supreme Court tackles redistricting again — the Maryland implications

The U.S. Supreme Court has now agreed to hear a much-watched Wisconsin case, Gill v. Whitford, inviting it to reconsider its position that the Constitution does not create a judicial remedy for partisan gerrymandering. Should the Court uphold the challenge to Wisconsin districts, the implications for Maryland would be immediate and dramatic, since Maryland’s gerrymander is more extreme than Wisconsin’s and there is good evidence on the record (thanks in part to recent depositions from top officials) that its motivations were political. I joined Bryan Nehmen on WBAL yesterday to discuss how this affects the Maryland debate.

I also wrote a piece for Cato on the national implications, cautioning that the euphoria in some circles about an impending change in the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence is at best premature. The Justices by a 5-4 margin stayed the lower court order from Wisconsin, which hints, at least, that Justice Anthony Kennedy might not be persuaded by the advocates hoping to get him to open wide the door he left open in his 2004 concurrence in Vieth v. Jubelirer.

A couple of additional relevant Maryland links from before the decision: Nancy Soreng and Jennifer Bevan-Dangel in the Washington Post (“Maryland shouldn’t wait for other states to start redistricting”); Karen Hobert Flynn, The Hill;
Kojo Nnamdi show last month with Ashley Oleson (MRRC colleague, but no relation) and Del. Kirill Reznik (D-Montgomery County); Yael Grauer/Yes! (“Has Arizona Found a Solution to Gerrymandering?”, discussing Maryland reform efforts).

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