Easing license burdens for the duration

I’ve got a new post at Cato on steps taken by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to ease licensing burdens for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. Baker announced that a state board would shorten to one day the approval needed for medical professionals licensed in good standing in other states to practice in Massachusetts. On the Maryland steps, I summarize thus:

Meanwhile, as part of a group of emergency measures in Maryland yesterday, Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order providing that all renewals of expiring licenses, permits, registrations and the like — including driver’s, business, and other licenses, not only occupational — would be extended to until 30 days after the state of emergency ends, whenever that is. The step will protect state employees and other users of public buildings from unnecessary contacts, as well as sparing many members of the public the fear that they will need to break isolation and social distancing in order to keep their licenses current.

Other states should follow on both measures.

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In miniature, March 7

  • Information about abuse by officers who represent the public is information that should be public [Ava-joye Burnett, WJZ on Baltimore sunlight-on-settlements ordinance] General Assembly considers greater police transparency [Samantha Hawkins, Maryland Matters]
  • Oh! Takoma! “The proposal… would ban all gas appliances, close fossil fuel pipelines, and move gas stations outside city limits by 2045. The cost to the average homeowner could reach $25,000, officials wrote.” [Rebecca Tan, Washington Post on Takoma Park anti-fossil fuels scheme]
  • Montgomery County ordinance requires bicycle registration, authorizes impoundment and misdemeanor charges if cyclists lack the requisite sticker [Jacob Sullum, Reason]
  • Critical profile of Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, which is influential locally as well as on children’s issues nationally [Martin Morse Wooster, Capital Research]
  • Reform of Maryland’s harsh teen “sexting” laws welcome [Amy Alkon]
  • Neat trick: Montgomery County manages to run its monopoly liquor stores in the red, recalling the days of Off-Track Betting when New York ran monopoly gambling parlors and contrived to lose money on them [Bruce Leshan, WUSA]

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“Democrats To Propose Sales Tax Expansion To Fund Kirwan”

KIRWAN:

Keep
Increasing
Revenues
Without
Actual
Necessity

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An ill-fated “Potomac Compact” — and some testimony from Pennsylvania

Democratic lawmakers in Annapolis have filed a “Potomac Compact for Fair Representation” bill, HB 182, the gist of which is to say that Maryland can go on gerrymandering until Virginia agrees to coordinate on reform. Sorry to break it to you, guys, but have you noticed that the Virginia reform ship is sailing all by itself?

P.S. Kind of related: a Pennsylvania lawmaker talks frankly about how the leadership in state legislatures use the gerrymandering power, with its discretion to dole out a good district or impose a bad, to arm-twist maverick lawmakers into submission:

Boscola [Democratic state Sen. Lisa Boscola of Northampton County] said that because legislative leaders control the process, they can change the shape of districts to increase or decrease an incumbent’s chances of reelection.

Boscola, a senator for 18 years, served two terms in the House. There, she said, the threat of gerrymandering was used against her.

“I was told by my leadership in the House that I better behave and toe my party line, or I’d be out of my district,” she said.

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Statues of Douglass, Tubman unveiled in Maryland statehouse

Proud to be a Marylander today. I was also glad to see that as representations, the new statues are beautiful, convincing, and inspirational. Having seen my share of bad statues, it lifted my heart to see that these were so good.

Here are some resources from the Cato Institute on Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman as vital figures in the story of American liberty. If you have wondered about commemorations of Douglass’s birthday, by the way, Caleb Brown reminds us that the great abolitionist “did not know his actual birthday. His mother, also a slave, called him ‘my little Valentine’ on her occasional visits…She traveled miles, usually at night, to spend just a few minutes with her son. Douglass chose Feb. 14 to mark his birth.”

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Make room for lemonade stands: H.B. 52

Dels. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County) and Steve Johnson (D-Harford County) have introduced H.B. 52, which would bar counties and municipalities from banning or regulating “the sale of lemonade or other nonalcoholic beverages by minors from a stand on private property.” (The makers of Country Time lemonade, in a brilliant marketing stroke, have launched a campaign to defend kids busted for this activity; more at Overlawyered). WJZ has details.

Sponsors invited me to write up something about the bill and here’s what I came up with:

Today’s breaker of low-level regulations is tomorrow’s breaker of more serious regulations. The ten year old who dabbles in lemonade selling today could become tomorrow’s bringer of a church potluck casserole prepared in a home kitchen rather than an inspected commercial facility. A few years later, accustomed to the ways of regulation-breaking, that same miscreant might use that same home kitchen to bake a dozen pies, plus one for good luck, to bring to a homeless shelter for Thanksgiving.

The time to stop it is when it starts — on the June day when the first pitcher of lemonade is mixed and hawked to passersby for 50 cents, plus a tip if you get lucky. Stop them young, or they will get used to serving others and along the way learning to act and think for themselves.

Does this all sound a little crazy and upside down? Well, it is. We should make it easier, not harder, for kids to be enterprising, well organized, and friendly, all lessons of the lemonade stand. The bill can be marked up in sensible ways that limit it to the intended range of cases. But can we really disagree with the direction?

— Walter Olson, a Frederick County resident, is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and has written about small business and food safety regulation.

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P.J. O’Rourke in Frederick Mar. 19

The Cato Institute’s own H.L. Mencken Fellow P.J. O’Rourke will be at the Frederick Speaker Series at the Weinberg Center Thursday, March 19, sponsored by Flying Dog Brewery’s fabulous First Amendment Society. There’s also a separately ticketed meet and greet event afterward. See you there!

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Don’t suspend drivers’ licenses over fines/fees unrelated to road safety

Sometimes the attorney general of this state takes positions I agree with. WTOP:

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh joined state lawmakers in Annapolis to call for an end to the practice of suspending people’s driver’s licenses because they failed to pay a court fee or fine.

Using drivers’ licenses as leverage to collect other moneys owed can be self-defeating as well as harsh, since it will often cut off debtors from holding the jobs by which they could secure the means of repayment. Glad to see Sen. Chris West (R-Baltimore County), as well as several leading Democrats, co-sponsoring this important bill:

Republican Sen. Chris West said drivers who do commit traffic infractions and can’t pay “would not get off scot-free” under the legislation. West said the state could recover the fees with civil action.

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Talking gerrymandering in Pennsylvania

I participated as both a speaker and a panelist in the November event “Getting It Right: Weighing the Options for Reform,” hosted by Fair Districts PA in Harrisburg. You can watch here.

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In miniature, December 22

  • Every move you make, they’ll be watching you: Montgomery County considers first-in-nation program to use road cameras to catch drivers using their cell phones [Rebecca Tan, Washington Post]
  • And whether relatedly or not: why is Montgomery County’s violent crime rate twice as high as that in neighboring Fairfax County, Va.? [Kevin Lewis, WJLA]
  • Baltimore Mayor Bernard Young gives a boost to white-van trafficking panic. Bonus: body parts harvesting rumors! [Vanessa Herring, WBAL; Donie O’Sullivan, CNN; Lenore Skenazy (“Being freaked out by a van is like being freaked out by a pigeon.”); mentioned on Yuripzy Morgan’s WBAL show]
  • In Rouse’s vision of Columbia, schools and housing patterns would work together to promote socioeconomic integration. But Howard County school boards and land use officials went their own way [Len Lazarick, Maryland Reporter]
  • Toward greater transparency in police misconduct and discipline [Glynis Kazanjian, Maryland Matters]
  • Frederick County Charter Review Commission update: I supported and argued for Councilmember Steve McKay’s well-thought-out proposal to give voters a bigger say in filling vacancies in elected office, a responsibility currently held mostly by party central committees. [Steve Bohnel, Frederick News-Post; earlier]

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