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2008 Legislative Session Review

Thankfully the 2008 legislative session is over and the legislature cannot do any more damage. However, here is a review of the session and the damage it did do to us, along with my selection for winners and losers.

Before I get to that Oliver Cromwell’s scathing rebuke to the rump Parliament in 1653 sums up my feelings about Sine Die and the session itself.

“You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately … Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”


Specifics below the fold

Winners

Martin O’Malley: For the most part, this session was a success for Governor O’Malley. A success only in the sense that he got most of what he wanted from the legislature, save for two big items, more on that later. Despite his pronouncement that “This has been a session of very real and steady progress for the people of Maryland,” he and the Democratic majority screwed us once again. I’m betting his poll numbers will reflect that for a while even as C. Fraser Smith and the Sun begin his rehabilitation. Make no mistake all claims of victory and progress for “One Maryland” are part of this PR campaign.

Losers
Taxpayers, electricity rate payers, small business, freedom of speech, 4th amendment rights, rule of law, electoral integrity.

Wash
The Republican minority: The GOP won on whacking the global warming solutions act and speed cameras. They also scored victories in the Senate for getting Democrats on record voting against proof of legal residence to obtain driver’s licenses and voting to directly increase electricity bills. In the House, they got 90 Democrats as on record voting to allow utilities to remotely control thermostats and to bill customers for mailing them compact fluorescent light bulbs.

However, this is just nipping at the edges. The only way to make deeper inroads is to elect more Republicans, at least enough to maintain a filibuster. It also doesn’t help when the weak sisters sell out to the administration in return for their pet projects.

The Budget

The General Assembly approved a $31.2 billion budget. Despite O’Malley and the Democrats touting how much they cut, there were no real cuts only reductions in the growth of spending, which in their minds is equal to a cut. Money not spent—rather our money not spent by them—is a cut for example money, $1 million, to build o a “multicultural center for the Central American Solidarity Association (CASA). House and Senate Republicans tried to strip this out of the budget through amendments, but failed. However, you can see the House and Senate Democrats who voted to give taxpayer money to an organization, who openly aid and abet those who break federal law.

Global Warming

The Global Warming Solutions Act was the crown jewel of the environmental lobby’s wish list this year. O’Malley publicly backed the bill. He even gave a sole source bid to an alarmist advocacy group to gin up a canned policy analysis advocating the same thing. I had a feeling the bill was in trouble when Brad Heavener and his band of watermelons—in one of the dopiest stunts ever—chalked off parts of Main St. near the state house to “show” how high the Severn River would rise over the Annapolis City Dock if the bill wasn’t passed. The bill died 20-2 in the House Economic Matters committee. The steelworkers deserve a great deal of credit for showing just how the bill would have destroyed jobs. In what can only be an angry fit of projection, League of Conservation Voters Director Cindy Schwartz, “attributed the defeat of the bill in part to fear-mongering. She said the threat of losing jobs due to the bill – even though that’s only conjecture – is a tried-and-true way to kill a bill.” You have to appreciate the cheekiness of an alarmist accusing an opponent of fear mongering, and conjecture, given the chalk stunt and the complete unraveling of the so-called scientific consensus.

Energy

Of course O’Malley will crow about the $170 credit he wrangled from BGE. He must also find a way to fit the square peg of his campaign rhetoric into the round hole of reality. The only hole I see O’Malley fitting this into is the Orwellian memory hole. Also, will there be any official apologies from O’Malley and Mike Miller to Ken Schisler for impugning his character and dragging his name through the mud? That’s a rhetorical question. Miller wouldn’t know an apology if it rammed into his taxpayer funded limo, and Martin O’Malley is a progressive—at least on TV anyway—and that means never having to say you’re sorry.

While he touts the all the money he saved us, he simultaneously pushed legislation that will increase our electricity costs by orders of magnitude. The EmPower bill creates all the California-style demand side management programs, which have led to a 36% increase in Californians’ residential electric bills. It also creates a loophole to allow utilities to control residential thermostats. BGE is already doing it on a small scale. So on one hot sticky day this summer when BGE turns down your thermostat, through decoupling, they can still charge you as if you were running your air conditioning full blast.

Computer Services Tax Repeal

It’s a amazing the speed with which politicians who initially oppose something get behind it, especially when the Maryland Computer Services Association hires the governor’s former communications guru as its chief spokesman.

The tech tax is gone, but the mental giants in the governor’s office decided to replace it with a “millionaire’s tax.” However, this is a misleading term, because the tax will affect successful small businesses that are incorporated as S Corps or LLCs. This means that they will have to cut back on staff or benefits for staff. It is also a disincentive for them to earn over a million dollars. A “millionaire’s tax” plays well on the progressive street where intentions and empty platitudes matter. However in the real world where things like economic reality matter it is not so good. Our governor and his hometown legislators’ fundamental ignorance about taxation and the true nature of liberty bear this out.

Furthermore, O’Malley raided the transportation trust fund to replace money not yet spent from the tech tax. O’Malley Watch chalks that up as another honking broken campaign promise. Much like the Constellation/BGE episode O’Malley’s actual record falls flat when compared with his campaign rhetoric.

DNA Bill

I am shocked the Black caucus let this one through. Joe Vallarrio really pushed this through the House Judiciary Committee. When the tort lobby sets its mind to pass a bill or kill it they pretty much have their way. Back in March I heard overheard two lobbyists commiserating about how Vallarrio was toeing the administration line and twisting arms on the DNA bill. Its amazing what you can hear sipping coffee at that Starbucks just off state house.

Transparency

This bill was another small victory for the taxpayers. We will now be able to track state expenditures over $25,000. Furthermore, we can also matchup expenditures, especially from the Board of Public Works, to campaign contributions in the SBE database. I’m sure State Stat will do that as well…

Illegal Immigration

As I mentioned earlier the Republicans scored a small victory by getting Democrat senators on record voting in favor of driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. However, it won’t do much now to end the state’s sanctuary policies. Ensuring that only citizens can get driver’s licenses is an important step. Driver’s licenses are the main form of identification for registering to vote. If illegal immigrants, who have no right to vote can obtain driver’s licenses then how do we know they are not voting in our elections? That’s right we don’t. The left loves to whine and wail about Diebold and electronic voting machine fraud. They clamor for a paper trail, and I agree with them. However, what good is a paper trail if you can’t ensure that the people casting the ballot are eligible voters?

Most initiatives on either side of the illegal immigration debate stalled. But again, the only way to help solve the problem, until the federal government gets its act together, is to elect more Republicans who will end sanctuary policies and take away the power of CASA’s stooges Joe “Hero of Illegal Immigrants Vallarrio” and Victor “Anyone Who Disagrees with Me on Illegal Immigration is a Racist” Ramirez.

Freedom of Speech

Sine Die comes at midnight but when the General Assembly bowed to the cultural commissars of political correctness by passing the Institutions of Higher Education – Plans for Programs of Cultural Diversity Act,” it was Darkness at Noon. Its bad enough that our institutions of higher learning are producing graduates ignorant of basic historical, economic and civic knowledge—O’Malley likes his voting base that way—its even worse when the legislature starts to enforce measures that stifle free speech. Governor Ehrlich was spot on when he decried multiculturalism as “bunk,” it does nothing but t turn our state colleges and universities into places where everyone looks different but thinks exactly alike. Even worse, they become places where thinking or speaking differently from administration-approved parameters of approved thought gets you tossed out of school or worse.

Gay Marriage

Gay marriage itself didn’t go anywhere, but rights for homosexual partners did pass. The libertarian in me is glad to see that homosexual partners now have the right to make medical and burial decisions for their loved ones and receive breaks on recordation and property transfer taxes.

However, the conservative in me is cautious about any other moves toward gay marriage. Not that I am fully opposed to it, but my conservative temperament, which respects tradition and the wisdom of the ancients, tells me we need to tread very carefully in this area as unintended consequences abound. You don’t just alter an ancient institution, which has served as major socializing and civilizing role our society. Witness at the tragedy wrought from the Great Society’s destruction of the traditional African-American family. Tradition matters and Jonah Goldberg’s lesson on the berries and tiger is instructive here.

The first small-c conservative probably said something like, “I know these berries won’t kill me. About those berries, I am not so sure.” A liberal might read that sentence and exclaim, “Aha! Conservatism is based on fear. Liberalism is based on hope!” And, to a certain extent, the liberal would be right. But the conservative’s fear is also a form of caution based upon experience (I know this berry is good. I have no information about that berry). The liberal’s hope, meanwhile, is often based on ignorance and foolish optimism. “Maybe that tiger likes to be tickled. I will find out. It shall be great fun.”

What is needed in the legislature, and the public square is a civil, frank, and open discussion about gay marriage, its benefits and any potential pitfalls it poses for society.

crossposted on The Main Adversary






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