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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Marijuana Decriminalization is Going to Pass

The House is debating marijuana decriminalization as I type. This morning, the Judiciary Committee did a major turnabout and adopted amendments that essentially restore the bill to the form passed by the Senate and sponsored by Sen. Zirkin.

Sufficient pressure was applied on Committee Chair Joe Vallario to allow this to occur by leadership and committee members. Restoring the bill will also avoid any awkward votes for committee members who can now vote to support decriminalization without also voting to roll their chairman. The minor changes to the Senate bill provide a fig leaf of cover for Vallario.

These changes pave the way for marijuana decriminalization to pass the House today with sufficiently few differences to the Senate bill that they can likely concur.

You can listen online to the House debate this right now.

UPDATE: Now, the House has delayed the debate until later today.

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Marijuana Saturday

The General Assembly is meeting today as the session rushes to its Monday night close. Many days the General Assembly does not attract much attention, even if its decisions have a large day-to-day impact on Marylanders.

This is not one of those days. The heat and light will revolve around the fierce debate in the House over marijuana decriminalization. Washington Post Reporter John Wagner and Frederick Kunkle have a fine article summarizing the state of play.

The Senate passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin to decriminalize marijuana on March 14 by a vote of 36-8 with 7 Republicans joining 29 Democrats in voting green. The 8 red votes were split evenly between the two parties.

Led by Chairman Joe Vallario, the Judiciary Committee proceeded to gut the bill by replacing it with text that created a task force to study the question. They then voted 14-5 to report on the bill favorably to the full House.

The decision to report favorably on any bill at all was an interesting one. Last year, the Committee let a similar bill die last year without a vote. This year, they did the same to another decriminalization bill and also killed off a legalization bill.

The favorable report on the bill appears to have provided a vehicle for decriminalization proponents to attempt to roll the Judiciary Committee in the full house. (Perhaps a sign of a crack in Chairman Vallario’s control?) Del. Kieffer Mitchell has offered an amendment to strike all of the House changes.

At the request of Del. Vallario, the House special ordered the bill for today when the House will take it up again. Wagner and Kunkle report that the vote in the House is expected to be close with negotiations occurring to tighten the bill in order to attract enough supporters to pass:

Closed-door discussions late in the day Friday focused on ways to tighten several provisions in the Senate bill, according to several delegates. For example, the Senate bill would require young people caught with marijuana to appear before a judge, who could order treatment and counseling. Delegates were considering making the age that triggers that provision under 21, rather than under 18.

Interestingly, at least some committee members, such as AG Candidate Aisha Braveboy, appear inclined to break with tradition by voting against their committee’s decision. Several other delegates face a similar choice, such as Del. Jeff Waldstreicher who has good relations with his chair. No doubt his constituents–and his primary opponents–will look with interest which way he jumps.

You can listen to the House proceedings online if you’re so inclined.

Thinking for the long term beyond this particular bill is the issue of Joe Vallario’s future as chair of the Judiciary Committee. Speaker Busch keeps a delegate who not only votes against his caucus but works repeatedly to thwart its goals at his peril.

Similar situations in Congress in which conservative Democrats used their seniority to control committees inspired a revolt that led to rules reform in the 1970s. All Democratic committee chairs must now be approved by the full Caucus.

Vallario has chaired this committee for over two decades. But this long tenure generates frustration as well as respect from younger delegates restless to advance. Seems like an opportunity for the Speaker to satisfy some pent up ambition. Might solve two problems at once.

 

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Another Take on D38

D38
Lower Eastern Shore Districts 38A, 38B, and 38C
Editor’s Note: John Hayden was the author of the Maryland on my Mind blog from Ocean City. He offered this alternative view to my post on the races for delegate in District 38 on the Lower Eastern Shore.
I think your analysis of the District 38 delegate races is appropriate, based on campaign fundraising reports. From a Democratic point of view, I like that your report gives Mary Beth Carozza reason to to feel overconfident.
IMO, Norm Conway should be rated as safe, and Judy Davis-Carozza should be rated a toss-up. Norm met his wife when they were both students at Salisbury University (then Salisbury State). They were both career educators in the Wicomico County public schools. Norm and his wife personally know nearly everyone in his Salisbury district. He nearly lost in the sprawling 38B in 2006, but learned his lesson and came back with a strong campaign in 2010 and won easily. His new single-member district is safe for him, IMO.
You’re correct that 38C is the most Republican leaning of the subdistricts in 38. However, the local backgrounds of the candidates is going to be a big factor. Carozza departed the Eastern Shore to go to college, and never returned, until last year. It’s true that she worked briefly for Ehrlich, but most of her career has been as an inside-the-beltway professional working for people like Rumsfeld. Nearly all her support comes from Republicans she knows from her years on Capitol Hill and in DOD. (I’ve reviewed the list of her donors closely.)
The Judy Davis bio is a mirror image of Carozza’s bio. Judy came to the Eastern Shore to attend Salisbury State, and has lived on the Shore her entire adult life. She married, raised a family, and taught in public schools in Wicomico County and Worcester County.
You’re probably aware of the Democratic Emerge program. Judy was handpicked for the first Emerge class in Maryland, which was held last winter. Judy made a lot of contacts through Emerge, and she will have the endorsement of teachers statewide. Those two networks should enable her to raise significant funds after the primary, when Democrats focus on the general election.
Also, I’m hopeful that both Mathias and Conway, and Mike Busch, will point Democratic contributors in her direction. District 38C is one of the few places Democrats can hope to pick up a delegate seat, to offset possible losses in other districts. I suspect that key people in the state’s Dem fundraising network will understand the opportunity to pick up a delegate seat, and will support Judy.
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Frederick County Exec Battle

FredCtyPartisanshipFrederick County Political Leanings

In 2014, voters in Frederick County will be electing their leaders under charter government for the first time. Previously, Frederick had been governed by a board of County Commissioners elected at-large. In 2014, they will elect a County Council with five members elected from districts and two at-large.

They will also be electing a County Executive for the first time. Blaine Young should be able to dispatch his Mark Sweadner, who was the Frederick County Budget Director for a long stretch in the 1990s, and David Gray–a sitting County Commissioner.

Young had $185,000 left over from his aborted gubernatorial Campaign in January. Jan Gardner, a Barbara Mikulski staffer and former County Commissioner had $43,000 in January. Young has money and a famous surname on his side. Frederick’s rapidly changing demographics favor Gardner.

Frederick County was once reliably rock ribbed Republican territory However, an influx of migrants from Montgomery County has turned the southern party of the County Purple. Combined with the increasingly Democratic City of Frederick nearly outweighs the dark Red, rural precincts in the northern part of the County. Frederick is perhaps the most swingy county in Maryland.

Gardner needs to turn out base Democratic Voters in Frederick City while also winning independents and Republican crossover votes in the southern part of the county. Young will need to super charge rural turnout and get as many Republican’s as possible in the rest of the County to vote. Someone as hard right as Young is unlikely to get many Democrat or Independent crossover votes.

This is one of the most competitive county general elections in Maryland this cycle.

Republican Primary Rating: Likely Young
General Election Rating: Toss Up

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Simmons Ethics Complaint Documents

Gaithersburg Activist and 2010 State Legislative Candidate Dan Campos forwarded me these documents from the the ethics complaint filed against Lou Simmons (D-17, Rockville and Gaithersburg). While the Ethics Committee has decided not to pursue the matter further, it also said that his actions are “contrary” to previous opinions issued by the Committee.

It does certainly seem a tad sleazy. Simmons requested twenty cases (6000) of free Maryland maps. He sent many maps out in large mailings to his constituents. In contrast, Sen. Ben Cardin, who represents the whole state, requested one case (300).

Below is the letter to Dan Campos from the Ethics Committee, a spreadsheet of map requests to the State (only up to 2010), and copies of the letters from Simmons that came with the maps. Both were sent out on official House of Delegates stationary.

Simmons Ethics Letter

Excel Spreadsheet of Map Requests up to 2010
Simmons Large Map Mailing Letter from October 2013
Simmons Large Map Mailing Letter from July 2012

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What McCutcheon v. FEC Means for Maryland

Today’s 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in McCutcheon v. FEC has implications for campaign finance law in Maryland as well as the federal level.

McCutcheon voided aggregate limits on contributions. Put another way, the Court voided the bar on any individual donating more than $48,600 to all federal candidates and $74,600 to political parties. At least for now, the Court upheld the limit on donating $2600 to any one candidate but Chief Justice Roberts would clearly like to get rid of it.

The Court’s decision is grounded in precedents that go back to Buckley v. Valeo that view campaign spending as the equivalent of free speech. The five person majority on the Court believes that the aggregate limits violate the First Amendment by limiting speech.

Presumably, Maryland’s limit of any individual or other entity donating more than a total of more than $10,000 to candidates, PACs, or political parties is now also unconstitutional. The $4000 limit on donations to any one candidate, PAC, or political party should remain in place.

The change will allow wealthy individuals or PACs to invest in a much broader array of races. Moreover, wealthy donors have all the more reason to screen their calls. They should now expect to get hit up more aggressively by candidates, as they can no longer say that they’ve hit the limit and cannot donate legally to them.

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Lower Eastern Shore D38 Delegate Races

D38AEastern Shore District 38A

Redistricting has radically reconfigured District 38A. Whereas the previous version included all of Somerset County as well as portions of Wicomico, the new version dropped all of Wicomico but now incorporates all of Worcester’s municipalities–Berlin, Pocomoke City, and Snow Hill–except Ocean City.

The trade makes the district much more favorable to the Democrats. The portions of Wicomico lost were mostly Republican. The new sections in Worcester are among the most Democratic areas in that county. As a result, the Democrats have a real shot at taking out incumbent Republican Charles Otto, who was first elected in 2010.

His challenger is P.J. Purnell, who was elected to the Crisfield City Council in 2004 and then mayor in 2006. Crisfield, however, is a small town and contains just 8% of 38A’s population. Nonetheless, at 73, Purnell has long roots in the area. Both Otto and Purnell are from Somerset. Making inroads into the new Worcester portions of the district will be critical for both campaigns.

In their January filings, Otto had $9K in his campaign account but Purnell did not even file a report. Of course, as a sitting delegate, Otto has not been able to raise funds during the session. The question remains whether Purnell has taken advantage of the time to raise funds needed for his campaign.

General Election Rating: Toss Up.

D38BEastern Shore District 38B

The old District 38B elected two delegates but has now been divided into two new subdistricts. The new 38B leans Republican but is nonetheless more Democratic than the old version which elected two delegates.

District 38B now encompasses Delmar, Fruitland, and most of the white portions of Salisbury. Fruitland is a bit more Democratic than the areas around it, which have been carefully placed in 37B. The black sections of Salisbury have been included in 37A to facilitate the election of a minority-preferred candidate.

The new district should easily reelect powerful Appropriations Chairman Norm Conway who has represented this area since 1987 and came in a strong first in 2010. Del. Conway had a robust $90K in his campaign account and no doubt has the ability to quickly raise more. He has a serious opponent, Delmar Mayor Carl Anderton.

But Mayor Anderton had only $2.5K in his campaign account in January, though he could have raised more in the intervening months. And Delmar comprises only 12% of 38B so he will need to work to get known in the rest of the district.

General Election Rating: Likely Conway (D).

D38CEastern Shore District 38C

District 38C takes in eastern Wicomico and northern Worcester Counties–the most Republican areas in both counties. The Democrats don’t have much of a prayer here, though two–Judy Davis and Mike Hindi–have filed. Sole Republican Candidate Mary Beth Carozza was Deputy Chief of Staff for Gov. Robert Ehrlich.

Democrat Judy Davis, former special education teacher and longtime activist, is not a Shore native but nonetheless has real ties in the area. While someone who knows Shore politics well commends her campaign, she needs more than the $1400 reported in January to mount a serious campaign, especially in a district that is so uphill for her party. Mike Hindi, a lifeguard in Ocean Pines, filed an affidavit attesting that he has raised less than $1K.

Don Rumsfeld has regularly held fundraisers for Carozza in St. Michaels. As of January, she had raised $73K and had $51K left in her campaign account. And of course, since she is not a sitting legislator, she has been able to raise more since.

Rating: Safe Carozza (R).

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Huge Turnout Disparities in DC Helped Bowser Defeat Gray

DC used to be part of Maryland, so 7S is straying south of Western and Eastern Aves. in this late night post. The final numbers aren’t in but Muriel Bowser looks to have handily defeated incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray by 44%-33% with 127 of 143 precincts reporting.

If the turnout had been more equal across wards, it might’ve been much closer. Here are the vote percentages organized by turnout:

DCElection

The correlation between vote for Bowser and turnout was a 0.74, though that could change with complete results.

Nonetheless, it seems clear that enthusiasm was way down in Gray’s Anacostia base of Wards 7 and 8 with turnout rates roughly one-third to one-half of that in Wards in 3 and 4–Bowser’s two best wards. Bowser’s field operation clearly did a good job of getting voters out in her home turf of Ward 4.

The bottom fell out for the Gray campaign in Ward 3 (Upper NW), the whitest ward in the city, where he garnered just 11%–barely ahead of Tommy Wells. He fared almost as poorly in Ward 2 (Georgetown) with just 14%.

Bowser did comparatively well in Gray’s Anacostia base of Wards 7 and 8 with 28% and 30% of the vote, respectively. She clearly consolidated the vote dissatisfied by Gray. The election map resembles that of four years ago with the critical differences of much lower turnout and a different winner.

Oddly enough, my impression is that Bowser’s voters are more satisfied with DC and its government than Gray’s, which seemingly makes no sense. Except that the allegations of corruption against Gray rendered him unacceptable to many, especially whites who did not support him four years ago, and were hammered home by the Washington Post.

On the other side, Gray’s voters were not as antagonized by Bowser as by Fenty four years ago. Additionally, many of his core supporters still feel left behind with some viewing the rapid neighborhood change or gentrification welcomed by many of Bowser’s supporters with concern.

I’ve heard heavily contrasting views on the both of these candidates with some calling Gray a fundamentally decent man who has done a fine job running the city and others declaring his corruption disqualifying and saying that DC doesn’t need another mayor indicted while in office. At the same time, some label Bowser a lightweight while others look to her with hope.

Now seems a moment not just to congratulate Muriel Bowser on a much more solid victory than many anticipated but also to thank Mayor Vincent Gray for his service. Whatever his campaign may have done, Gray does not seem to have benefited personally and he cares deeply about DC.

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