Intended Consequences: MD General Assembly Week 11 in Review

Many politicians, pundits, and experts describe the “unintended consequences” of poorly drafted legislation, but rarely do they mention the intended negative effects. There are many bills going through the 2016 Session of the Maryland General Assembly with fully intended negative consequences for our state, and many Republicans are fully willing to go along with these poor bills.

Earlier this week, we discussed two major pieces of bad legislation: the first would strip transportation funding from rural communities and increase the hazards of driving, and the second would reduce many legal penalties and return criminals to communities without them serving a just sentence.

Here are some of the other bills with negative consequences that could soon pass:

Frivolous Lawsuits

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An “equal pay” proposal that does nothing for Maryland except expose businesses to false litigation will soon be made into law. HB 1003 passed earlier this week in the House of Delegates and SB 481 passed today in the State Senate. These bills have not yet been assigned a hearing date in the other chamber.

There are some key differences in the legislation, which will complicate the process of determining the final proposal. However, both loosely define “gender identity,” which sets a standard that could mean almost anything. An individual is not obligated to prove that they held a particular “gender identity” during work hours or that an employer was cognizant of that identity. The potential for abuse is severe without strict definitions.

Then there is a strange line in the bill that says “an employee shall be deemed to work at the same establishment as another employee if the employees work for the same employer at workplaces located in the same county of the state.” This would include multiple grocery or retail stores owned by the same company but with different managers and different standards. An employee could claim a manager is discriminating for not having the relaxed standards of another.

Another strangely written line states “This section does not preclude an employee from demonstrating that an employer’s reliance on an exception listed… is a pretext for discrimination on the basis of sex or gender identity.” In essence, an employee could sue based on an assumption of what is believed by an employer without any proof, because there is no scientific ability to read minds.

Also, if employees fail for any legitimate reason, they should not be promoted simply because they felt they deserved special treatment. If someone needs to be able to lift 100lbs to do a job, and they can only lift 50, it doesn’t matter how much the manager might hate the physical attributes of the person involved, they are clearly not qualified. This legislation does away with logic in general.

Both versions, but with a slightly different basis, would allow employees to “recover the difference between the wages paid to employees of one sex or gender identity who do the same type work.” The vague standard of “same type work” (grammar error in the legislation) does not acknowledge that merely doing a similar job does not mean the quality or effectiveness of the job is the same. Performance based bonuses, in particular, could lead to lawsuits.

Undermining Voting

HB 1007 would automatically register people to vote, which would increase the potential for fraud and significantly increase costs for counties.

In the proposal, any “initial application for or renewal of a driver’s license or identification card, or a change of name or address,” the use of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, the use of a local Department of Social Services , or the request of “paratransit service” would automatically initiate the voter registration process. The process “offers an applicant the opportunity to register to vote” but also advises “that the applicant should not register if the applicant does not meet all the qualifications.”

Unfortunately, there are many who have the ability to use those services but are not qualified to vote, and there are no guarantees that such individuals will not register. By massively expanding who is given an application without request, the state would greatly increase how many bad applications are filed.

Beyond the increase in fraud, it will be expensive to have many agencies process voter registration. This information is then transmitted to the state board of elections, and local board of elections must request updates on those who have not yet registered to vote and then pay the cost to contact those individuals. This will severely burden local governments without extra funds, forcing counties to raise taxes or trim other services.

The mailer that the local boards must send will state “that the individual will be registered to vote unless the individual declines to register to vote within 60 days after the issue of the notice.” It will also include “a postcard to the local board with postage prepaid” or “any other method prescribed by the state,” which will further increase costs.

Then there is an interesting line: “This subsection may not be construed to require an automatic voter reigstration agency to obtain citizenship information from an existing client of the agency who has not previously provided citizenship information in the ordinary course of transacting business with the agency.” In short, the line means that if it is determined that an individual attempting to register to vote is not found out to be a citizen, then no one at the agency can be informed of that matter, which implies that the Democratic leadership expects illegal immigrants to not only use these agencies but to possibly attempt to register to vote.

Republicans supporting this expensive and problematic measure include Kathy Afzali (Frederick and Carroll 4), Carl Anderton (Wicomico 38B), Jason Buckle (Allegany 1B), Kevin Hornberger (Cecil 35A), Kathy Szeliga (Baltimore and Harford 7), David Vogt (Frederick and Carroll 4), and Brett Wilson (Washington 2B).

It will be heard in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs committee on 3/31.

Anti-Science and Anti-Agriculture

Red Maryland has discussed multiple times that the USDA and other scientific groups state in unambiguous terms that “neonicotinoid pesticides” do not adversely affect bee populations. Therefore, there is no justification for HB 211. It provides no benefit but a lot of harm. Every single Delegate who voted for the bill voted against science and for expanding burdens on farmers without reason.

One of those supporters is Freshman Delegate Christian Miele (R-Baltimore 8), who tried to justify his vote by claiming the measure would not harm farmers. Yes, the amended version of the bill stripped out some provisions regarding agriculture, but it will still bring grave harm to the agricultural community.

The bill would require farmers, a word that is not defined and could cause a lot of problems, to become a “certified application” with the Maryland Pesticide Applicator Certification. Although there is a shorter license for “private applicators” who “own or leased property,” this does not apply to many large farmers who have a cost-share contract that does not count as a legal land lease.

Instead, they would have to obtain or hire someone who has a “Commercial Pest Control” license, which is what exterminators use. This is costly, unnecessary paper work to use a product that has no adverse effect on the environment.

This is an intentional problem: the bill uses on the general “certified applicator,” which contains both “pest control applicator” and “private applicator.” The environmentalists have crafted this bill simply to force farmers to devote more time and money to receiving another unnecessary license for a product that has no detrimental effect.

Additionally, those who are fortunate enough to meet the qualifications for a “private applicator” still have to pay a fee, attend classes, and pass an examination, all before they can apply a chemical that science says causes no harm to the environment.

All of the above pertains to “farmers;” language defining nurseries and other users of the chemical was stripped out. It is uncertain if nurseries will even be able to use the chemical anymore, or how they would go about obtaining the chemical.

This bill passed in the House of Delegates and is awaiting a hearing in the State Senate.

False Complaints and Gun Paranoia

HB 1002 is a poorly crafted bill that sought to remove all firearms from college campuses. After much fighting, language was added to the bill to allow the “carrying or possessing a firearm on the property of a public institution of higher education who is required or authorized by policies.”

This is a good and necessary change, but it still opens up a campus to false complaints and paranoia surrounding guns. In particular, it will potentially cause great problems regarding ROTC and similar activities in Maryland.

In the Second Amendment friendly North Dakota, a University of North Dakota professor has promised that she would report all instances of ROTC activities as being a threat to the campus. You can read the report here. With the rhetoric heard in both committee and on the floor, it is clear that many legislators in Maryland share the same hysterical view of guns, even fake guns, as the professor.

This bill passed in the House of Delegates and is awaiting a hearing in the State Senate.

Other Legislation to Watch

SB 937 originally would have limited the oyster harvesting industry without scientific justification, but it was transformed into just a study. It passed in the State Senate and is sitting in the House Rules Committee before it can be assigned to another committee for a hearing.

HB 214 would make roads less safe and spread traffic congestion. It passed in the House of Delegates and is awaiting a hearing date in the State Senate.

HB 1005 would provide free contraceptives without restriction to Marylanders, including children. The bill will be heard March 29th before the State Senate Finance Committee.

SB 361 would hinder the ability for fracking to take place in Maryland without a legitimate scientific justification. The bill will be heard March 30th before the House Environment and Transportation Committee.

SB 585 would provide local jurisdictions with their fair share of the gasoline tax to be used for local transportation needs. However, the Senate weakened the bill to lower the amount of funds that the counties could receive. The bill will be heard March 31st before the House Environment and Transportation Committee.


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