MD General Assembly Week 10 in Review
Earlier this week, we brought you the ups and downs of Week 10 of the 2016 Session of the Maryland General Assembly, but there were few high notes to be had as the week came to a close. In just two days, the Democratic leadership was handed multiple victories on some really bad pieces of legislation made worse by the capitulation of the Republican leadership to these bad proposals. Here are some of those bills:
Birth Control Mandates
The House passed HB 1005, the “Contraceptive Equality Act.” The bill effectively provides a full mandate for all insurance to cover birth control without copayment or prior authorization requirement, regardless of moral preference, gender, or age of those covered. To make matters worse, the committee specifically amended the bill to require the Maryland Children’s Health Program to provide birth control coverage with the same lack of restrictions.
Among those committee members supporting the legislation are Delegate Nicholaus Kipke (Anne Arundel 31B) and Freshman Delegate Chris West (Baltimore 42B). Del. Kipke is the Minority Leader in the House of Delegates, and he swayed many to support this bad bill, including his Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga (Baltimore and Harford 7) and Delegates Carl Anderton (Wicomico 38B), Barrie Ciliberti (Frederick and Carroll 4), Meagan Simonaire (Anne Arundel 31B), David Vogt (Frderick and Carroll 4), and Del. West.
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The Republican Pro Life Women voted against the legislation, which provoked many questions as to why the Republican leadership joined the Democrats. After word has quickly spread on the votes, many began to ask how this will affect the campaigns of Del. Szeliga (Senate) and Del. Vogt (Congress District 6). Previously, Del. Szeliga ruled out methods to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, but she did appear at the recent March for Life in Annapolis. Also, Del. Vogt is running against (among others) Amie Hoeber, who is pro-choice, but Del. Vogt also appeared at the March for Life.
The Senate cross-file, SB 848, is experiencing similar issues with Republican leaders supporting the measure. Although the Senate version has not made it to a floor vote, the Fiscal Committee vote reveals the support of Republican Minority Leader J.B. Jennings (Baltimore and Harford 7) and his Minority Whip Stephen Hershey (Kent, Queen Anne’s, Cecil, and Caroline 36). Additionally, Senator Edward Reilly (Anne Arundel 33) voted in support.
The anti-science and anti-agriculture HB 211 will be up for a vote in the House of Delegates on Saturday, March 19. Only one Republican supported this baseless legislation in committee, Andrew Cassilly (Cecil and Harford 35B). The Senate version, SB 198, passed last week and is currently sitting in the House of Delegates.
Yesterday, the other anti-science bill, the “Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act” (HB 610) passed 101-37 in the House of Delegates. A vote list has not yet been posted, but Republican Delegates Carl Anderton (Wicomico 38B), Cassilly, and Anthony O’Donnell (Calvert and St. Mary’s 29C) supported the legislation in committee. The Senate version, SB 323, passed in late February and is also currently sitting in the House of Delegates.
On the other side on Thursday, the Senate passed SB 361, another radical environmentalist proposal which would make it more difficult for fracking to take place in Maryland. Republican Senators who supported the measure include Gail Bates (Carroll and Howard 9), Addie Eckardt (Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot, and Wicomico 37) , Jennings, Wayne Norman (Harford and Cecil 35), Johnny Ray Salling (Baltimore 6), Andrew Serafini (Washington 2), Bryan Simonaire (Anne Arundel 31), and Steve Waugh (Calvert and St. Mary’s 29).
The proposal from controversial Senator Ronald Young (D-Frederick 3) to change the state song (SB 49) also passed Thursday with a vote 38-8. Sen. Young told WBAL reporter Robert Lang that he did not know anyone who could identify that the controversial stanza that would be removed was in the state song. This begs the question as to why the stanza would need to be removed if no one knows about it. However, Republican Senators Bates, Eckardt, Jennings, Reilly, and Simonaire supported the proposal anyway.
Today, the Democrat leadership doubled down on their war against voters with HB 172, which would ensure that voters neither have a direct (voting) or indirect (Governor appointment) say over how their local school board is chosen. Instead, nominations will be stacked by special interest groups that traditionally support Democratic politicians, including the teacher’s union, NAACP, and CASA de Maryland.
HB 1003 would “prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender” without acknowledging how businesses actually operate, thus opening employers to bad litigation. Most troubling is the addition of a vague legal standard: “This section does not preclude an employee from demonstrating that an employer’s reliance on an exception listed in subsection (c) of this section is a pretext for discrimination on the basis of sex or gender identity.” The measure passed the House 92-47 earlier today.
One positive piece of legislation is moving to a vote in the Senate; SB 840 would slightly reduce the tax burden on Marylanders. The small increase of the personal exemption and earned income tax credit do help to correct Maryland’s unbalanced tax system but falls short of removing the systematic regressive taxation caused by inflation. It will possibly come up for a vote on Monday.
The Next Two Weeks
Over the next two weeks, the House of Delegates and State Senate will focus on clearing out legislation previously heard in committee. At this point, it is highly unlikely for a piece of legislation to become law unless it is has already passed in one house or if it is cross-filed in both houses. Time is the biggest restraint on passing legislation, and postponing a vote until the last few days often causes legislation to fail.
Open meetings and hearings no longer matter at this point. Instead, most legislation will move closer to passage based on deals made in the backroom of committees or during caucus meetings. The horse trading of votes is very common, and many legislators will receive their reward for siding with the Democratic leadership in many key votes, including the veto overrides that took place at the beginning of session.
Session is quickly coming to an end, and we will continue to keep you updated on the important occurrences.