Duchy Fundraiser Attacks Sierra Club

Developer Jim Soltesz is decrying Roger Berliner’s embrace of the “vicious” Sierra Club’s endorsement as part of his effort to raise money for Duchy Trachtenberg. (h/t Washington Post). The email is practically an ad for Roger Berliner. Truly unhelpful in this very pro-environment district.

Duchy needs to repudiate this email and cancel this fundraiser if she wants to salvage the situation. I look forward to hearing her response to this attack.

Soltesz

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Good News for Sexual Assault Survivors

From Del. Ariana Kelly:

This weekend the Maryland Senate passed my legislation (HB 963) to establish process for treating sexual assault survivors in EVERY hospital in Maryland.

What’s that you say, every hospital in Maryland doesn’t currently treat victims of sexual assault?

That’s true! This is an issue I’ve been working on since my days as Executive Director at NARAL Pro Choice Maryland. Only one hospital in every county is designated to provide forensic medical exams for sexual assault survivors.

In Montgomery County, under the current law only Shady Grove Hospital is fully equipped to handle victims of sexual assault. If you are raped and show up at Holy Cross, Suburban, Montgomery General, or Washington Adventist Hospital, you may not be able to get access to a sexual assault forensic exam. These exams are vital pieces of evidence if victims wish to pursue charges against their assailant and without these exams, rapists are allowed to walk free.

Showing up in the Emergency Room at these other hospitals, you might be told to get back in your car and drive yourself to Shady Grove Hospital. Or in instances of trauma, you could be taken to Suburban Hospital and then transferred to Shady Grove, all the while being advised not to bathe or use the bathroom so as to not tamper with the evidence from the rape.

Thanks to this legislation which passed both houses unanimously every hospital will now have to establish a protocol for treating victims of sexual assault.

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How Marijuana Decriminalization Passed the House

As the session drew to a close, the prospects for marijuana decriminalization looked grim despite its passage by an overwhelming majority in the Senate. Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Vallario had once again put the kibosh on the bill.

At Vallario’s behest, the Committee amended the bill to replace it with one that would create a task force to study the issue. As we say in Montgomery County, paralysis by analysis. So how did a bill decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana end up passing the House on Saturday?

First, Vallario made a critical mistake by passing any bill out of Committee at all. Though probably necessary to mollify committee members, it also provided decriminalization supporters a key opportunity to amend the bill back to its original intent.

Various advocates, including Dan Furmansky who has been lobbying on this issue, began to press legislators to put up a fight on the floor. Del. Eric Luedtke agreed to sponsor an amendment to overturn the Committee’s decision and restore the original intent of the bill.

Luedtke was a good choice. Del. Heather Mizeur has been active on this issue but her name on the amendment would have immediately doomed it due to gubernatorial politics in this election year. Ditto for Del. Jolene Ivey. Their willingness to step back and allow others to take the lead aided the effort greatly.

Bill advocates quickly began talking with Del. Keiffer Mitchell and Del. Nat Oaks who reached out to the Black Caucus. As this was going on, time passed and decriminalization proponents made the call not to offer their amendment on second reading, as it would have received only a couple dozen votes and died.

Economic Matters Committee Chairman Dereck Davis gave the effort a major boost when he advocated fighting for decriminalization on the floor to the Black Caucus and made a statement to that end in the media. Support from a respected member of leadership helped propel the amendment forward.

Key legislative advocates, such as Dels. Luedtke, Oaks, Mizeur, Ivey, David Fraser-Hidalgo, and Alonzo Washington, organized a whip operation supported by various advocacy groups like the ACLU. Republican Del. Mike Smigiel agreed to work on libertarian members of his party.

By the time they had close to 40 supporters, Vallario dug in his heals and made clear that he expected members of his committee to stick with him. But the House leadership forced him to ask the House to special order the bill, which it did, so he could negotiate with decriminalization advocates.

Del. Kieffer Mitchell agreed to sponsor the amendment, which was another good move to move matters forward, as attaching this junior but prominent African-American legislator’s name helped to emphasize the racial disparities associated with current enforcement of criminal penalties for marijuana possession.

By the end of the day on Friday, it became clear that Speaker Busch had released senior leadership to vote how they wished (i.e. to vote against Vallario), as Dels. Maggie McIntosh, Sheila Hixson along with Dereck Davis expressed their support. Like Davis, McIntosh proved especially helpful in gaining new supporters. The whipping operation was also highly visible on the floor.

Some Judiciary Committee members, like Dels. Curt Anderson and Luiz Simmons, began to rebel against sticking with Vallario. However, he still had support from others, such as Vice Chair Kathleen Dumais who has genuine reservations and Del. Jeff Waldstreicher who did not want to harm his excellent relationship with his committee chairman.

In the midst of all this, Vallario finally sued for peace. Good timing, as amendment supporters had received 66 firm commitments of support and he was about to get rolled publicly. Vallario and Dumais met with Bobby Zirkin, the Senate sponsor who had also been very active, to draft a new amendment. Mitchell and Luedtke were brought in later that night to help organize the plan for the floor.

Judiciary met on Saturday morning to ax the task force plan and recommend favorably the original bill as modified in small ways. Mitchell withdrew his amendment and matters proceeded according to regular order. As the bill was now a committee bill, it became critical for it to pass for the House leadership, particularly after all the contretemps surrounding it. And it did.

A few quick thoughts on the outcome. First, it showed that junior backbench members both can and will exercise influence on critical issues when committee chairs flout the will of the bulk of the Democratic Caucus. This was already a moderate, compromise bill. Remember it accomplished mild decriminalization–not full-scale legalization. Vallario’s repeated noes were not acceptable.

Second, Speaker Michael Busch did not have Vallario’s back. The Judiciary Committee Chair has simply opposed his Caucus too often on priority issues. Leaders don’t last long in power if they don’t listen to their members–something Speaker Busch and Senate President Miller understand far better than many realize.

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Updated Marijuana Vote Totals

marijuana vote

My vote totals from yesterday were based on the above photo of the vote board since the House doesn’t publish the tally immediately. Here is the final vote total. This one is courtesy of Del. Bill Frick’s Facebook page but he had the official tally. The changes are all from people shown as previously not voting to casting votes. As a result, there was an increase of one in the number of Democrats voting no with Del. Mary-Dulany James being the newbie.

The House of Delegates voted 78-55 to pass the marijuana decriminalization bill. Most prominently, Judiciary Chairman Joe Vallario defied House tradition and voted against a bill now supported by his own committee.

A total of 17 Democrats voted red. Del. Charles Barkley (D-39) was the only Montgomery delegate who voted no. Most of the Democrats who voted no are from more conservative jurisdictions in the State with a smattering of African Americans

Democrats who voted NAY (18): K. Kelly (Allegany), Donoghue (Washington), Burns (Baltimore County), Frush (Prince George’s & Anne Arundel), Hubbard (Prince George’s), Valentino-Smith (Prince George’s), Howard (Prince George’s), Vallario (Calvert & Prince George’s), Jameson (Charles), Wilson (Charles), Bohanan (St. Mary’s), Wood (Charles & St. Mary’s), Sophocleus (Anne Arundel), Rudolph (Cecil), Conway (Wicomico & Worcester), Barkley (Montgomery), Conaway (Baltimore City), and James (Harford & Cecil).

Republicans who voted YEA (2): Costa (Anne Arundel), and Smigiel (Caroline, Cecil, Kent & Queen Anne’s).

Democrats who didn’t vote (2): Walker, Harper.

Republicans who didn’t vote (5): Myers, Stocksdale, McDonough, Dwyer, Stifler.

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Dwyer’s Quiet Weekend and Simonaire Challenge

Now I know why Del. Don Dwyer didn’t vote on marijuana decriminalization. He’s unavailable on weekends:

Del. Don Dwyer Jr., spends weekends in the county jail in Glen Burnie, serving time for convictions last year on charges of drunken driving and drunken boating. His absence — he checks into jail on Friday evenings and is released on Sunday nights — means the Republican can’t vote on matters that are being decided on the final weekend of the 2014 General Assembly session.

He also has lost his committee assignments, which renders him even more ineffective than usual. Dwyer was not expelled because his offenses were misdemeanors unrelated to his work in the House. Besides his conviction after having caused injury to seven people in the boat accident, Dwyer is probably best known for his strident social conservatism and opposition to LGBT rights, as he believes that gays and lesbians are a “threat to children.”

D31B

He has filed for reelection from District 31B. House Minority Leader Nic Kipke is running as well in the two-seat district, as are six other Republicans. One of them is 24-year old Meagan Simonaire:

Simonaire, the daughter of state Sen. Bryan Simonaire, is a cosmetologist with a degree from Bob Jones University in South Carolina. She said she grew up in a political family and has a history of political activism.

If elected, the two Simonaires would be the only father-daughter Senate-House duo.

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Analysis of Marijuana Vote

The House of Delegates voted 78-55 to pass the marijuana decriminalization bill. Most prominently, Judiciary Chairman Joe Vallario defied House tradition and voted against a bill now supported by his own committee.

A total of 17 Democrats voted red. Del. Charles Barkley (D-39) was the only Montgomery delegate who voted no. Most of the Democrats who voted no are from more conservative jurisdictions in the State with a smattering of African Americans

Democrats who voted NAY (17): K. Kelly (Allegany), Donoghue (Washington), Burns (Baltimore City), Frush (Prince George’s & Anne Arundel), Hubbard (Prince George’s), Valentino-Smith (Prince George’s), Howard (Prince George’s), Vallario (Calvert & Prince George’s), Jameson (Charles), Wilson (Charles), Bohanan (St. Mary’s), Wood (Charles & St. Mary’s), Sophocleus (Anne Arundel), Rudolph (Cecil), Conway (Wicomico & Worcester), Barkley (Montgomery), Conaway (Baltimore City).

Republicans who voted YEA (2): Costa (Anne Arundel), and Smigiel (Caroline, Cecil, Kent & Queen Anne’s).

Democrats who didn’t vote (6): Olszewski, Jones, DeBoy, Griffith, Walker, and James.

Republicans who didn’t vote (8): Myers, Hogan, Stocksdale, McDonough, Dwyer, Glass, Stifler, and Harper.

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Marijuana Decriminalization Passes House of Delegates

marijuana vote

Marijuana decriminalization passed the House today by a vote of 78-55 after consideration of a slew of amendments by Republicans that all failed to garner sufficient support.

Del. Michael Hough (R) submitted an amendment rejected 58-72 that would require offenses within a drug-free school zone to be charged as misdemeanors rather than civilly. Del. Neil Parrott’s (R) amendment to make all offenses in a public place misdemeanors instead of civil offenses also failed 45-87.

Del. Kathryn Afzali (R) offered two amendments. The first amendment would have reduced the amount of marijuana classified as a civil offense from 10 grams to 5 grams. It failed 54-78. The second amendment that failed 42-87 would have required police to charge offenders by citations rather than as civil offenses.

Del. Rick Impallaria (R) sponsored an amendment that went down 40-89 that would have required the attorney general to notify the public of a slew of risks associated with marijuana use before the law could go into effect. Finally, Del. Justin Ready (R) tried to amend the bill to retain criminal offenses for people less than 21. This one failed 38-93.

The Judiciary Committee submitted a small amendment that slightly modify the Senate bill that does not alter its intent. This change will nonetheless require the Senate to assent to the modified bill before it can go to the Governor’s desk for his consideration.

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Marijuana Vote in Judiciary This Morning

Here is how the committee voted on the Committee’s decision to do an about face and restore the marijuana decriminalization bill to more or less its earlier form (see previous post).

YEA (13, 12D, 1R): Dumais, Lee, Waldstreicher, Clippinger, Carter, Swain, Valentino-Smith, Smigiel (R), Rosenberg, Valderrama, Arora, Anderson, Simmons.

NAY (8, 2D, 6R): K. Kelly (D), McComas, Parrott, Glass, Hough, Cluster, McDermott, Conaway (D).

NOT VOTING: Vallario (Chair generally does not vote).

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