Category Archives: Uncategorized

In the Washington Post on the $15 wage bill

New from me and Cato colleague Ryan Bourne in the Washington Post [Cato reprint]:

One thing we’ve learned in this year’s debate over a statewide $15 minimum wage, now set to become law after the legislature overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) veto today, is that affluent central Maryland doesn’t want to listen to hard-hit rural Maryland….

In the debate over the $15 minimum wage, lawmakers from [already high-wage] Montgomery County, Baltimore City and Howard County were nearly unanimously in favor, with most delegates supporting strong versions of the scheme. Meanwhile, most lawmakers from depressed parts of the state were passionately opposed.

Guess who had the numbers to outvote whom?…

Affluent sections of Maryland can vote for $15 without much worry that a large share of their job base will disappear. Poor counties can’t.

Related: Earlier observations of mine on the bill here. “The article Alan Krueger wrote that I wish Fight For 15 advocates would read.” Highly informative Jacob Vigdor/Russ Roberts interview on the Seattle studies, and on the strategies that employers (restaurants in particular) use to adjust [David Henderson, Econlib] More on the problems of applying a uniform law to portions of the country with seriously different wage levels and costs of living [Daniel McLaughlin, NRO] Ryan Bourne on adjustments at Whole Foods following its accession under political pressure to a $15 minimum [Cato]. [adapted from Overlawyered]

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Lamone v. Benisek, brought to life on video

The Maryland gerrymander case, back for its third trip to the Supreme Court, was argued March 26. This Federalist Society animated video about the case has me as narrator. Jon Levitan at SCOTUSBlog rounds up commentary on the oral argument. The Brennan Center offers an annotated guide to the amicus briefs. [cross-posted from Overlawyered]

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Sixth District map proposed: hearings set in Germantown March 12, Hagerstown March 20

From Governor Larry Hogan’s redistricting page:

On Friday, March 1, Governor Hogan’s Emergency Commission on Sixth Congressional District Gerrymandering approved a proposed redistricting map with adjusted district boundary lines for the Sixth Congressional District. You can click below to see the 2011 map, the new 2019 proposed map, and an interactive 2019 map.

There will be also be two additional public meetings, followed by a commission workshop.

Public Meetings

* Tuesday, March 12 in Montgomery County at the BlackRock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Drive, Germantown, MD 20874

* Wednesday, March 20 in Washington County (Hagerstown – location to be determined)

* Commission Workshop (Open to the public to observe) – Friday, March 22 in Annapolis (location to be determined)

Public comments can also be made at the site through March 20. Coverage: Samantha Hogan/Frederick News Post, Jennifer Barrios/Washington Post, Bruce DePuyt/Maryland Matters.

Detailed maps are available at the link above, but here’s a screengrab of the line the adopted map would draw across Montgomery County:

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Alcohol restrictionists plot against Franchot; Flying Dog scraps Frederick expansion

Public health nannies, big alcohol lobbyists and intraparty rivals are all gunning for Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, so I figure he must be doing something right. Danielle Gaines reports.

To spell out what Franchot is doing right, he’s been pursuing a pro-consumer, pro-market, pro-competition agenda that would ease the way for craft beer and wine producers and other newcomers to offer buyers more choices at lower prices. Public health nannies like those at Hopkins’s Bloomberg Center don’t like that because they think drinks should be more expensive and harder to get, for your own good you understand. Big alcohol lobbyists don’t like it because their business model is premised on maintaining scarcer and more expensive choices with less competition. And intraparty rivals don’t like it because Franchot — though a Democrat of a rather liberal stripe — is happy to cooperate with Republicans like Gov. Larry Hogan to get things done.

Meanwhile, faced with intractable resistance among the majority legislative leadership in Annapolis to modernizing and easing craft beer regulations, Flying Dog Brewery has bailed out on its plans for a big expansion in east Frederick and put the land up for sale. Bad law has consequences.

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Protesters disrupt Frederick horse carriage rides

Frederick has a well-loved tradition of horse-drawn carriage rides touring in-town neighborhoods during the winter holiday season. On one late December Saturday evening, according to a letter by Paula Carter in the Dec. 28 Frederick News-Post, some animal rights advocates staged a protest action that included running alongside one carriage and screaming obscenities at the occupants, including a family who had taken their small children out for a special treat.

Here is more on the protesters, who object in principle to the practice of horse-drawn rides and do not appear to have adduced any evidence of inhumane practice by the Lambert family. Among the protesting couple’s actions has reportedly been to bring their own dogs up close to the horses, supposedly illustrating the danger that if approached by dogs there is a hazard that horses will bolt and cause injury, which seems like a remarkable way of promoting concern about that hazard.

At a City Hall hearing on updating regulations about the horses a group of protesters came out to oppose the rides. When asked which of them lived in the city, only four raised their hands. More in a FNP editorial.

Here is a Facebook post by Karen Crum Nicklas about a counter-demonstration on behalf of the rides and the family that puts them on.

Elsewhere on Facebook (no longer on public view setting), commenter J.M. writes: “I have spent many years working with animals. The idea that all that higher mammals such as horses and dogs want is the kind of shallow, mindless “fun” of food treats, wild play, and running around is not just wrong, frankly it’s demeaning to them. Much like us, what they really seek are meaningful connections with humans and other animals, and this includes meaning found in accomplishing things. As in working.”

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Maryland’s (and its counties’) unfunded pension obligations

As Carol Park notes in this Maryland Reporter write-up, the Maryland Public Policy Institute has published a report and interactive map by which Maryland residents can check the funding status of county public employees in their counties. There is a wide spread between how well funded the counties are, with five in the healthy situation of being 90 percent or more funded (Montgomery, Frederick, Charles, Calvert, Cecil), and at the other end ten counties in the less enviable position of being less than 70 percent funded, including Baltimore City and County and Prince George’s as well as many rural counties.

Meanwhile, the state legislators’ group ALEC has published Unaffordable and Unaccountable 2017, which

surveys the more than 280 state-administered public pension plans, detailing their assets and liabilities. The unfunded liabilities (the amount by which the present value of liabilities exceeds current assets) are reported using the investment return assumptions used by states, along with alternative measures more consistent with prudent risk management and more reasonable long-term market performance expectations. This report clearly illuminates the pervasive pension underfunding across the nation and details the assumptions and trends contributing to this crisis.

Maryland is around the middle of the pack among the 50 states, which is not good enough. It did improve its ranking slightly from 27th best to 23rd best state between 2016 and 1017, but the absolute amount of unfunded liabilities per capita in Maryland actually rose, from $15,570 to $16,481. And its funding ratio sank from 33.1% to 32.5%, this at a time of economic recovery. Wisconsin is the most strongly funded state and Connecticut the worst. The report, by Thurston Powers, Elliot Young, Bob Williams and Erica York, is here.

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Good news: Maryland’s lawsuit-climate ranking improves

At least by comparison with other states: Maryland’s U.S. Chamber rank among the states in lawsuit climate has been rising, from #33 in 2012 to #28 in 2015 to #19 in 2017. “This is the first time Maryland has been ranked higher than 20th place since the survey was first published in 2002.” [Chamber Institute for Legal Reform]

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On WFRE local-personalities podcast

Check out this 17:23 podcast in which I’m interviewed by Patrick Hanes of Maryland’s WFRE. He wanted to know about think tanks, in particular, and our conversation led on to how those nonprofit groups affect the policy conversation, how Cato and other think tanks are adapting to changes in media formats and public consumption of information, my own background, and why I recommend the study of economics to every student.

[cross-posted from Overlawyered]

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“Frederick Uncut” podcast

I joined Danielle Gaines and Colin McGuire on the Frederick News-Post’s Frederick Uncut podcast series last month. Their description:

You may know Walter K. Olson because he’s a leading figure in Maryland’s congressional redistricting debate. Or from his articles as a fellow at the Cato Institute. Or maybe his nationally known blog, “Overlawyered.” Or perhaps as an unbridled cheerleader for the town of New Market, where he lives.

In the latest episode of the Frederick Uncut podcast, Olson joined host Colin McGuire and Frederick News-Post reporter Danielle E. Gaines to talk about politics and law, nationally and locally.

Download this MP3 file or listen at the Frederick Uncut site.

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Gerrymeander Meander II

I was glad to join Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, Common Cause of Maryland, and other groups for the Gerrymander Meander II in Baltimore July 16, which hopped from district to district visiting four eateries in Baltimore and its northern suburbs, each in a different district. I was among the speakers at the kickoff rally in Towson. For coverage, see Len Lazarick/Maryland Reporter, as well as the Baltimore Sun and national Common Cause.

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