Chicken Out

Sen. Rich Madaleno and Del. Shane Robinson sponsored bills titled the “Poultry Fair Share Act” to tax chickens at 5 cents apiece. The estimated $15 million raised would help the State pay for the dealing with the environmental consequences of poultry farming. As the Baltimore Sun explained in its editorial:

[P]oultry waste is an enormous problem in this state because of the harm it does when it runs off land and into streams, rivers and eventually, the Chesapeake Bay. It’s a major source of nitrogen and phosphorus, particularly in Eastern Shore tributaries.

A hysterical Eastern Shore Republican has tossed around the threat of hundreds of thousands of feral chickens roaming the State when the industry closes down due to the proposed tax:

When you think you’re a statesman in Maryland, you decide to write an environmental bill that taxes chickens. When you tax chickens, you close down the chicken industry on the Eastern Shore. When the chicken industry closes down, 300,000 feral chickens attack nursing homes in your district, feeding on your parents.

Less frothing at the mouth opponents express concern about how the new tax would impact farmers and the 15,000 jobs related to chicken farming in the State. Gov. O’Malley said he’d veto the bill if it reached his desk. Del. Robinson has now withdrawn his bill, so one assumes it’s dead for the year.

But the bill nonetheless raises an important concern. Republicans believe that business should respond to market forces and oppose new taxes as anti-business in general. Fine. But when farmers or companies allow so much chicken poop to find its way into the Bay, they’re dumping their costs on everyone.

In effect, this industry wants us to tax everyone else to clean up their mess or just allow the problem to continue. The real tax is not on the farmers but on the rest of us who subsidize this profitable business by letting them dump this waste on the public at no cost. And that should generate far more outrage than the proposed tax.

The State may have chickened out this year but this isn’t just a chicken shit problem.

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The Way Del. Neil Parrott’s Mind Operates

MD Petitions - Bathroom Graphic

Republican Del. Neil Parrott thinks that if the General Assembly passes transgender equality legislation that men will dress up as women in order to peek over the stall at women. Really, this is how his mind works. Even though, of course, this is not what the bill does. But hey, crazy doesn’t stop for truth.

The only way I could imagine how Del. Parrott came to this brilliant conclusion is if this is what he would do. Apparently, transgender inequality is all that stands between him dressing up like a woman so he can peek over the top of the stalls at women in the bathroom.

I’ve been scratching my head trying to figure out how this could work. I’ve been watching Friday Night Lights lately–it’s a show about a high school football team in a down-and-out Texas town–and this is sort of how I envision a show guest starring Parrot would go:

Landry Clarke (math geek): Man, I sure wish I could see Tyra nekkid.

Tim Riggins (fullback): Dude. Been there, done that.

Neil Parrott: I know! Why don’t we dress up as cheerleaders and follow her into the bathroom and peek over the stalls.

Matt Saracen (QB): (shy and somewhat incoherent) Uh, uh guys, I, I’m not sure that’s a real good idea.

Smash Williams (tailback): The Smash does NOT do drag.

Neil Parrott: C’mon guys. It’ll be fun. Just like powderpuff.

Landry: Shoot Matt, you’re always puttin’ down ideas about how to get a girl to like me.

Coach Eric Taylor: (walks on field) Hey Matt, what’s goin’ on over here?

Matt: Uh, uh hey coach. We’re, uh, just thinkin’ about dressin’ up as girls so we can see ’em naked in the ladies room.

Eric: Well shoot, Matt. I know my daughter won’t put out for you but that’s just really, really dumb. I thought you were smarter than that.

Neil Parrott: C’mon Coach. Everybody’s doin’ it in Cumberland!

Jason Street (quadriplegic ex-QB): I’m a quad in a wheelchair and I’m not that desperate.

Women who serve in the House of Delegates, watch out! Because if this bill passes, you better keep eyes on Neil.

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Bathroom Time

Del. Neil Parrot (R-2B, Washington) is attacking the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, the transgender equality bill, for taking away your right to use the bathroom in privacy. Seriously:

Good afternoon. This is Delegate Neil Parrott with an important update.  Just about an hour ago, the Maryland House of Delegates HGO Committee voted Maryland’s “Bathroom Bill” out of committee. Now only one vote stands between your right, and the rights of children, to privacy in bathrooms all over the state.  In just a few short days this bill will take away those rights.

And, of course, he has to drag the kids into it because he’s doing it all for the children.

The only violation of children occurring here is the hijacking of their interests, particularly egregious in this case as Parrott has completely falsified the bill’s impact. He’s certainly not acting in the interests of transgender kids.

Parrot is being aided by Republican gubernatorial candidate David Craig, who has decided to get political mileage out of the issue, via twitter. It’s not encouraging when an aspiring political leader goes after a small minority on his climb to power.

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From the NRA Questionnaire

Here are some of the questions that the NRA is asking candidates for the Maryland General Assembly. Perhaps after reading, you’ll feel moved to take a moment and join Moms Demand Action, an organization formed in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

6. Under the guise of “crime control,” anti-gun groups are promoting legislation to mandate the use of certain technologies on firearms and ammunition sold within those states. “Microstamping,” requires gun manufacturers to incorporate technology into each handgun sold, so that it imprints identifying information about the firearm onto a cartridge when fired. Similarly, anti-gun groups are promoting ammunition serialization/encoding which would require ammunition manufacturers to encode each cartridge produced by imprinting a unique serial number on the case and base of the bullet for entry upon sale into a state database. These proposals rely on unproven technology, which would significantly drive up the cost of producing firearms and ammunition and have limited crime-fighting utility (a tiny fraction of legally-purchased firearms and ammunition are ever used in crimes). Would you support legislation mandating the “microstamping” of cartridge cases and/or encoding of ammunition before sales could lawfully take place in Maryland?

7. When a gun is fired markings are left on the bullet and cartridge case, referred to as “tool marks.” These markings may, at times, be used to identify a gun used in a crime. In 2000, Maryland passed a state law requiring that all new handguns sold be tested and balistically “fingerprinted.” . . . Would you support state legislation repealing the required collection of ballistic “fingerprint” data for firearms sold in Maryland?

10. The “Firearms Safety Act” of 2013 imposed a ban on the sale, purchase, transfer, and transport of semi-automatic firearms that have certain cosmetic features, or appear on a list of 45 specific models classified as so-called “assault weapons.” Would you support state legislation repealing these provisions of the “Firearms Safety Act” of 2013?

11. The “Firearms Safety Act” of 2013 . . . requires individuals wishing to exercise their fundamental right to purchase a handgun for self-defense in the home to obtain eight hours of training, obtain and pay for fingerprints, and pay a $50 fee to the state before applying for the license. Would you support legislation repealing the licensing requirement for a handgun purchase in Maryland?

14. In order to obtain [a Handgun Qualification License], the purchaser is required to undergo . . a background check conducted by the Maryland State Police (MSP) . . .  Would you support legislation to eliminate Maryland’s seven-day waiting period and [more expansive] MSP background check upon purchase and instead rely on the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System?

15. The majority of state administer a “shall issue” system [to receive a concealed carry permit], allowing any citizen not otherwise prohibited from firearms ownership to obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm for defense. Maryland’s system is “may issue”, requiring applicants for a permit to prove a “good and substantial reason” to obtain a permit to carry. Would you support legislation creating a “shall issue” system in Maryland?

19. Some jurisdictions deprive responsible law-abiding citizens of their Right to Keep and Bear Arms in their home merely because they reside in public housing. Would you support state legislation to ensure that persons are not denied their Second Amendment rights based on their income by prohibiting public housing authorities from banning the otherwise lawful ownership and possession of firearms by public housing residents?

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FAMA Passes Committee

The Fairness for All Marylanders Act, the bill to promote transgender equality sponsored by Del. Luke Clippinger, has now passed the Health and Government Operations Committee in the House of Delegates. Del. Bonnie Cullison was especially helpful in seeing the bill through the committee.

Next step to final passage is the full House, though it still has to go through the amendment process and a final vote there. Any changes would require compromise with the Senate, which has already passed the legislation.

Voting YEA on the bill were: Hammen, Pendergrass, Bromwell, Cullison, Hubbard, Kelly, Morhaim, Nathan-Pulliam, Oaks, Peña-Melnyk, Reznik, Tarrant, and Turner.

Voting NAY on the bill were: Costa, Donoghue, Elliot, Kach, Kipke, Krebs, McDonough, and Ready.

Delegates Murphy and Frank did not vote.

All of the yes voters were cast by Democrats and all but one of the no votes were from Republicans. Del. John Donoghue (D-2, Washington) was the only Democrat to vote no.

Note: An earlier version reported Frank voted yes. My intel was off.

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Oddly Competitive Primary in MD CD1

Let us be clear here: No one running in the Democratic Primary for Maryland’s First Congressional District has any realistic shot at beating Andy Harris. Frank Kratovil’s victory in 2008 required a perfect storm (and Kratovil lost by double digits in 2010). The district was made even more Republican in the most recent round of gerrymandering (trading swingy Anne Arundel Precincts for dark red territory in Carroll, Baltimore and Harford Counties). Andy Harris will likely hold this seat until 2022 when Mike Miller decides to eliminate the last Republican in Maryland’s congressional delegation via redistricting.

All that being said, two exceptionally strong candidates are duking it out for the right to be the standard bearer for the Team Blue come November.

On one side you have John Laferla–a surgeon and former Chairman of the Kent County Democratic Central Committee. He narrowly lost the 2012 Primary to Made in America Activist Wendy Rosen (who subsequently dropped out following allegations that she had committed voter fraud). During the primary, he received endorsements from NARAL Pro Choice MD, Planned Parenthood, former US senator John Breaux and former Republican MD-01 Congressmen Wayne Gilchrist.  Following Rosen’s withdrawal Laferla ran with the party blessing as a write in candidate. My spies tell me Laferla has retained Dave Goodman of Trublu Politics as his Direct Mail Consultant.

The other candidate is Bill Tilghman–a wealthy retired attorney (Piper Marbury now DLA Piper) and business executive with Marriott. He has also been involved in several start ups. The Tilghman family has been historically been prominent on the Eastern Shore. Tilghman has a highly qualified Finance Director and my spies tell me he has hired Main Street Communications as his Media Consultant.

Both would be far stronger nominees than one would expect to see in this district. It is unclear who has the edge here.

Primary Rating: Toss Up.
General Election Rating : Safe Republican

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Brown Comes to Gansler’s Backyard

This Wednesday night from 6-7pm, District 18 Delegate Candidate Natali Fani-González is hosting a meet-and-greet (not a fundraiser) for Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor.

Attorney General Doug Gansler, one of Brown’s competitors, went to elementary school in the district. Much of it should be considered his home turf, as he is well-known and has deep roots in the area, though he now lives in adjoining District 16.

Sen. Rich Madaleno, Del. Al Carr, and Del. Ana Sol Gutiérrez have endorsed Gansler. Del. Jeff Waldstreicher originally planned to support Gansler but shifted his support to Brown–a step that received more attention than usual as Gansler included him on a list of supporters because he thought he still had his support.

While Fani-González has not announced an endorsement from Brown, it would not be at odds with talk of competing slates allied with either Brown or Gansler in other districts. This could be a tad awkward for Waldstreicher as he is on a team with the other incumbents who have endorsed Gansler.

For Brown, it could be a promising way to build alliances and support in District 18 and also with Fani-González, who is active and works in politics and a variety of Democratic causes. She has the potential to continue to rise regardless of the outcome of this race.

On the other hand, if Brown expects to become Governor, he wants to maintain good relations with legislators who might not appreciate his support for a challenger. Of course, they will also need to repair relationships if he wins, so it’s a complicated relationship that works both ways, especially since Maryland’s governor is very powerful.

There is also some risk attached for Fani-González because her link with Brown might not thrill Gansler supporters. Nevertheless, she has far more to gain from an endorsement from a statewide figure of Brown’s stature even if two incumbents have been endorsed by Gansler who should do well in D18.

On a similar note, Candidate Liz Matory has received support from former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder and former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke. Both are major figures with Wilder holding a particular place of honor as the first African-American governor in modern times. I am not sure how much weight either carry in District 18, though they could help her gain African-American support if communicated to voters.

And the value and the communication of endorsements are really the keys. They just don’t matter if the voters don’t know about them. And, of course, the voter has to value the endorser’s opinion in order for it work as a signal or cue to voters.

No doubt more to come as the session comes to end and primaries continue to heat up.

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On Legislative Pay Raises

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Today, the Seventh State goes where no one has gone before: defending salary increases for state legislators.

It’s always easy to bash legislative pay increases. No one likely politicians with the stereotype being the proverbial fat cat. The proposal to raise legislator salaries from $43,500 to $53,330 over the next four years thus makes for an easy target, especially in election season.

Less mentioned is that the proposal also imposes on legislators  changes to their pensions similar to those that they placed on state employees as part of the effort to place the pension fund on a more even keel:

[The Commission also] proposed some of the same adjustments to legislative pensions that the General Assembly imposed on state employees and teachers in 2011. The commission suggested raising legislators’ contribution rate from 5% to 7% of their salaries, raising the retirement age from 60 to 62, and raising the early retirement age from 50 to 55.

People like to focus on the idea of legislators trying to raise their own pay.  Neglected is that the salary increases are recommended by an independent commission mandated in the Maryland Constitution:

Within 15 days after the beginning of the regular session of the General Assembly in 1974 and within 15 days after the beginning of the regular session in each fourth year thereafter, the Commission by formal resolution shall submit its determinations for compensation and allowances to the General Assembly. The General Assembly may reduce or reject, but shall not increase any item in the resolution.

Todd Eberly has pointed out that the new pay level is higher than the American median family income. However, it’s almost exactly equal to U.S. median household income in 2012 and well below the median Maryland household income of $72,999–not too surprising since our state is currently the wealthiest in the country.

Median household income is even higher in some of the largest counties, such as $73,568 in Prince George’s, $96,985 in Montgomery, $86,987 in Anne Arundel, $107,821 in Howard, $83,706 in Frederick, and $93,063 in Charles.

Of course, being a legislator is only supposed to be a part-time job. The General Assembly is in session for 90 days per year. Except that many professions aren’t too keen on hiring someone who has to be out for three months per year and is also liable to disappear when the Governor calls for special sessions.

Any legislator who is doing their job properly, moreover, also works hard outside of session on both constituent and legislative matters. It may not be a full-time job but it’s far from being active for only 90 days per year.

Claims of the easy life remind me of the similar statements made about teachers and college professors. Both have to engage in lesson preparation and grading outside of class. There are also numerous committees, recommendations and other responsibilities that are part of the job. College professors spend less time on these matters than teachers but also have research expectations.

Others point out that lots of people want these jobs, so why don’t we just lower their salaries? Certainly, Republicans don’t take this approach to CEO pay. Most people wouldn’t prefer to hire the cheapest person regardless of quality as a teacher, babysitter, or to do repairs on their home unless they have no choice.

When we limit legislative pay, we limit the pool of people who are willing to take–or can afford to take–the job. The whole idea of “you get what you pay for” seems thrown out the window . The situation is especially complicated in Maryland because we don’t have either a “professional” legislature like California or a clearly part-time one like New Hampshire or Wyoming.

Perhaps the worst idea is the one proposed by Republicans to adjust pay increases to metrics such as unemployment in the State. While, like Republicans, I believe that government can wreck the economy, I don’t think that it can necessarily counter overall national or world trends in this area.

It’s positively weird for the party that believes government is the problem to express support for a policy that assumes that legislators have some sort of magical control over the economy. I also didn’t exactly hear national GOPers rush to take responsibility at the national level during the 2010 and 2012 elections after the economy slid down the can on their watch.

The point here is not that the sky is the limit on legislative salaries. But maybe a little more thought is needed before deriding pay increases. Fewer canards and more thought are needed.

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The Sad State of the MoCo GOP

For a Democrat, I seem to spend a lot of time lately lamenting the one-party nature of Montgomery County politics (see here and here):

It is difficult to hold officials accountable when there is essentially no viable “out” party. It increases factionalism on the Council and makes it easier for councilmembers to shift positions without consequence.

Much of the root of the problem lies with the Republican Party. The sharp rightward shift of the national GOP has tarnished its brand severely in a County that was long quite willing to elect candidates who were center right on economics but liberal on social questions.

The Maryland Republican Party has undergone its own unhelpful internal gyrations. More moderate Republicans have been purged in primaries in parts of the State in a reflection of the national trend. Former U.S. Sen. Mac Mathias would not have a prayer of winning a Republican primary in Maryland today. Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich is probably now a member of the left wing of the Maryland GOP.

The deterioration in the value of the Montgomery GOP is reflected in the candidates it attracts and the campaigns they run. They just can’t get good people to run and are not living up to the legacy of respected and well-liked Montgomery Republicans like Connie Morella, Betty Ann Krahnke, Howard Denis, and Jean Roesser.

Montgomery Republicans want to “end one party rule” but they need to offer a platform and candidates that appeal. Their interest and ability to do so seems decidedly limited. A pity not just for the Montgomery Republicans but for Montgomery voters.

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