Tag Archives: Eric Luedtke

Campaign Finance Reports: Districts 14 and 15, January 2018

By Adam Pagnucco.

Today kicks off a series of reports on fundraising in MoCo’s state legislative districts.  Incumbents are marked in red.

District 14

This is by far the easiest MoCo state legislative race to figure out.  All four incumbents – Senator Craig Zucker and Delegates Anne Kaiser, Eric Luedtke and Pam Queen – are going to be reelected.  The end.

District 15

Senator Brian Feldman has achieved every politician’s dream: a complete deterrence of credible competition.  Since he first won a House seat in 2002, he has never been at risk of losing an election.  Meanwhile, four of his MoCo Senate colleagues (Cheryl Kagan, Rich Madaleno, Roger Manno and Nancy King) have endured tough races in recent years to gain or hold their seats.  Will any serious candidate ever run against him?  Of course, your author would be the first to sing Feldman’s praises as a public official and any challenger stupid enough to run would lose, but – dang it – Feldman is not doing his part to keep political bloggers busy!

Incumbent Delegates Kathleen Dumais and David Fraser-Hidalgo will be reelected despite their somewhat anemic fundraising.  Of the candidates seeking to succeed Delegate Aruna Miller, who is running for Congress, Montgomery County Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Lily Qi looks like the strongest contender.  Your author worked with Qi during his time in county government and found her to be smart, competent and forward-thinking.  She was one of the uncommon people who could deal with the day-to-day tribulations of working for the county while also possessing the capacity to assume a perspective from 30,000 feet.  Qi has done well at raising money, and with her standing in the local Chinese-American community, her admirers in the business community and the support of her boss, County Executive Ike Leggett, she has had a good start.

Kevin Mack, who is Congressman John Delaney’s constituent service lead, is well regarded by those who have interacted with him and is the principal alternative to Qi.  But it’s not helpful that he trailed political consultant Andy VanWye in fundraising.  Hamza Khan, who switched from the District 39 House race, has not yet filed his campaign finance report and is being fined by the Board of Elections.  Republicans were once competitive in this district and held a Delegate seat here as recently as 2006, but they will not win any seats in the age of Trump.

The Big Question: will the incumbents slate with Qi as they slated with Miller, then a new candidate, in 2010?  If they do, this race will probably be over.

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Luedtke Proposes Alcohol Sales Reform

There are two major components to frustration with Montgomery County’s alcohol laws: (1) the distribution monopoly by the Department of Liquor Control (DLC), and (2) the limitations on where consumers can buy alcohol. Del. Eric Luedtke’s (D-14) bills would address the latter (see press release below).

In a nutshell, one bill would allow supermarkets to get around the current limits that make it impossible for them to sell all types of alcohol at multiple locations by allowing them to open stores within their stores operated by the DLC.

I suspect supermarkets will be chary of giving up sales space when they cannot control the sales experience and have to negotiate over which products are sold. My bet is that they would much prefer to be able to sell just beer and wine within their own stores. Hopefully, the bill can be amended towards that end.

However, MCGEO, the DLC union, will likely resist any effort to move away from the absolute DLC control model. Though supermarket employees are unionized, it is a different union, and MCGEO won’t want to lose the opportunity to expand its muscle–and ability to protect the hated distribution monopoly.

The second bill loosens certain restrictions on DLC stores and Sunday alcohol sales. My bet is that non-DLC stores that sell beer and wine will fight allowing DLC stores to sell soft drinks and cold beer and wine. They’ll be outraged that they still have to deal with DLC’s distribution monopoly yet see the DLC encroaching on a valuable share of their business.

Bottom Line: If some major kinks can be worked out, especially the need for a DLC-operated store within a store, consumers will regard this as a major step forward. But the bills do nothing to address the hated distribution monopoly that jacks up prices and drives restaurant business out of the county.

Here is Del. Luedtke’s press release:

Delegate Eric Luedtke Seeks to Make Montgomery Alcohol Laws More Consumer Friendly

Bills include provisions that will eliminate outdated blue laws, expand choices for retail alcohol consumers

Montgomery County, MD, October 30, 2017Delegate Eric Luedtke (D-Burtonsville) announced plans today to introduce two bills aimed at making Montgomery County alcohol laws more consumer friendly. One of the bills, MC 16-18, will allow for separate beer, wine, and liquor dispensaries to be located inside grocery stores. This store-within-a-store model has been used successfully in other states. Under this model, large grocery stores will be eligible to have a separate store located within them selling alcohol, similar to coffee shops or bank branches located in many grocery stores now.

The second bill, MC 4-18, titled “The Montgomery County Alcohol Modernization Act of 2018,” will overhaul a number of outdated laws that limit consumer options and place unnecessary limits on businesses. Among its many provisions, this bill will allow county liquor stores to sell cold beer and wine, soft drinks, and growlers. The bill also eliminates some of the last remaining blue laws in Montgomery County, such as laws that prevent some alcohol licensees from serving alcohol as early on Sundays as they do on other days of the week.

Delegate Luedtke stated about this effort, “Our debates about alcohol laws in Montgomery County have too often ignored consumers. The most common complaint I hear from residents about our alcohol laws is a lack of beer and wine in grocery stores. It’s time we focused more on consumer needs and fixed some of these outdated laws.”

Both pieces of legislation will be filed as local bills, and there will be public hearings held on them before the Montgomery County Delegation in December.

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Delegate Eric Luedtke represents District 14 in Montgomery County, which includes Brookeville, Burtonsville, Damascus, Olney and parts of Silver Spring. Delegate Luedtke is chair of the Education Subcommittee on the House Ways and Means Committee.

 

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D14 Legislators Solidly Back Queen

The District 14 delegation have made it crystal clear that they prefer that the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee select Pam Queen for the vacancy in their district. In particular, they highlight that Queen would be the first African-American women from Montgomery to vote in the House.

The subtext is also that failure to appoint Queen would reduce the number of women in the General Assembly from prior to Sen. Karen Montgomery’s retirement. Currently, three of eight senators from Montgomery County are women, as are 8 of 23 delegates.

Here is the letter from Sen. Zucker, Del. Kaiser, and Del. Luedtke:

Dear Chairman Anderson and members of the Central Committee:

We would again like to thank each of you for your service to the party and for taking so seriously the important task of choosing a new Delegate in District 14. A number of Central Committee members have asked for our rationale in choosing to support Pam Queen for the open Delegate seat, and we wanted to be sure to provide it prior to your upcoming meeting.

Our recommendation was based on a number of factors. First and foremost, we are confident that Pam shares our values as Democrats. She is and has always been pro-choice, and will stand with the Democratic Party in opposing Republican attacks on women’s reproductive rights in Annapolis. In this era where inequality is such an important topic, we know that Pam will work with us to pass our middle class agenda, including efforts to strengthen pay equity laws and address the growing student loan debt crisis. And we are confident that given her background in finance, she will be able to help us combat any attempts by the administration to undercut funding for urban jurisdictions in the state budget.

But our support is about more than issues. Those of us who serve in Annapolis face a tremendously complex task. As individuals in a legislature made up of nearly 200 people, the ability to work effectively with others and get along with others is an absolute necessity. Pam has that ability, and we believe she would be a good fit for our very tight-knit team. In addition, given the need for Democrats to unite against increased partisanship in Annapolis, we need legislators who are able to work effectively with Democrats who hail from other parts of the state. Pam has worked in Baltimore for a number of years, and has pre-existing relationships with a number of elected officials there. This includes the Vice Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, with whom she taught for a number of years until his retirement.

Finally, and importantly as well, we hope to retain the gender balance that has been a feature of our delegation since District 14 was first drawn as a Montgomery County district in 2002. And we hope to see Pam become the first African-American woman to ever cast a vote on behalf of Montgomery County in the state legislature (while Karen Britto was the first to serve, it was for a brief time and she was not able to cast a vote during it). While all of us work hard on behalf of women and work to address issues of race and racism that have been too easily ignored by too many in politics, it is undeniably important that Montgomery County’s delegation to Annapolis become more diverse in terms of both race and gender. Each of us has repeatedly used our influence to endorse diverse candidates in elections, and we do so again in endorsing Pam for this appointment.

An appointment like this is difficult, and we know you are burdened by the responsibility of choosing an effective leader on behalf of the 122,000 residents of District 14. We share that sense of responsibility every single day we represent our constituents in Annapolis. And we are certain that Pam Queen would be the best choice to stand beside us.

Sincerely,

Senator Craig Zucker
Delegate Anne Kaiser
Delegate Eric Luedtke

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D14 Legislators Endorse Zucker for Senate and Queen for House

I received the following press release from both Del. Anne Kaiser Del. Eric Luedtke:

District 14 Team Announces Recommendations to Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (December 4, 2015) – Earlier today, State Senator and District 14 member Karen Montgomery announced that she will retire upon the appointment of her successor, saying that she will notify Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. on January 1 of her intent to resign.

The District 14 delegates, Majority Leader Anne Kaiser, Craig Zucker and Eric Luedtke, want to thank Karen Montgomery for her leadership, dedication and commitment to a career serving Montgomery County and the State of Maryland.

“Senator Montgomery has been a champion for our district and a wonderful member of the team,” said Del. Craig Zucker. “She has been a leader of progressive values in Annapolis and we thank her for her service.”

To fulfill the vacancy that will be created by her retirement, Sen. Montgomery has recommended Del. Zucker as her successor.

“While serving with Delegate Zucker in Annapolis, I have had the privilege to know him as a father, a legislator and a leader,” said Montgomery. “Along with Delegates Anne Kaiser and Eric Luedtke, the District 14 Team is putting its full support behind Delegate Zucker to be our next State Senator.”

After Sen. Montgomery’s letter of resignation is received by Senate President Miller, the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee will have up to 30 days to submit a name to the Governor to serve as the next District 14 Senator.

Although she will submit her intent to resign on January 1, Montgomery will continue to serve her constituents, and will not vacate her seat, until a new senator is appointed.

“Let me be clear, I will not allow my district to be without representation in Annapolis during this transition to my retirement,” said Montgomery. “We have fought hard to move Maryland forward, and I will continue that effort as an elected official until the day my successor is sworn-in.”

Del. Zucker, who was first elected to represent District 14 in 2010 and re-elected in 2014, serves on the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee, where he is Chair of the Health and Human Resources Subcommittee.

“I am proud that she is recommending me to the Central Committee as the successor to finish her term in the Senate,” said Del. Zucker. “I intend to formally submit my name to the Central Committee as a candidate when Senator Montgomery’s resignation becomes official.”

Del. Zucker will also have the support of County Executive Isiah Leggett.

“I congratulate Karen Montgomery for her service to District 14 and our community,” said Leggett. “I know Delegate Zucker will do an admirable job filling her shoes. That is why he has my enthusiastic support. There is no one who works harder than him.”

If Del. Zucker is recommended and there is a vacancy for his current seat, the District 14 Team is recommending longtime community activist, educator and Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee member, Pamela Queen.

“I have known Pam for many years, and I have admired her strong-minded passion for District 14 and her community,” said Del. Anne Kaiser. “Delegate Luedtke and I look forward to the opportunity to serve alongside her.”

Pamela Queen is a Professor of Finance at Morgan State University in Baltimore. She uses her expertise and training as a certified project management professional and her Ph.D. in finance to enhance operations of non-profit, community and civic groups. A mother of one, Pamela is married to Retired Naval Captain Gregory Queen and lives in Olney.

The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee is scheduled to meet on January 12, 2016.

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Tea Leaves of MD-03

MD-03 is a tricky district. It has a Jackson Pollock quality in terms of it’s lines that really means no elected official has a true base here. It does take in enough prime political real estate that if John Sarbanes (still a young man) runs for his father’s US Senate seat one day – there should be a hard thought Democratic primary.

From Montgomery County

It would not totally surprise me if Steve Silverman were interested in running for Congress, and he does indeed reside in the third district. He raised well over two million dollars in his bid for Montgomery County Exec in 2006. I doubt he could do half that for a Congressional campaign today. However, he’d have at least half a million at his disposal, and possibly seven or eight or nine hundred thousand.

A few terms in Congress would surely be an enticing capstone to Ike Leggett’s career (And he too lives in MD-03). He could put together 1.5 to 2.5 million dollars and would be a strong candidate. Ike would be a real heavy weigh. . . and don’t we always say he’d be a better legislator?

Anne Kaiser might clear a million dollars, but I’d be surprised. I wouldn’t be shocked if she had at least $700,000. I’d be blown away if she didn’t clear half a million. I suspect she’d get substantial help from national LGBT Donors and interests.

Craig Zucker could do $250,000-$500,000. He’d also be dynamic enough to stretch those dollars. Craig might do well with SEIU (He ran there home care program in Maryland at one point) which could help substantially. Zucker is an incredibly hardworking candidate and could make himself competitive for the seat.

Eric Luedtke is a lackluster fundraiser but could see substantial labor PAC money come to fund him. I’d also be a bit perplexed if the NEA didn’t spend hundreds of thousands in independent expenditure to support him, especially if Bill Ferguson were in the race. The dynamic between  Teacher Union Activist Luedtke and Teach for America Alumnus Ferguson on Education Reform, although they are (from what I understand), quite close in the legislature, might very well make this a proxy fight between powerful labor and reformist interests (similar to the 2013 Boston Mayoral run off between Marty Walsh and Dan Connelly).

Anne Arundel County 

Maybe former Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen. No idea what he could raise. More than 100. . . but who knows how much more? I don’t think he’d be a particularly serious candidate, with little opportunity to expand outside of his base in the City of Annapolis (not big enough to support a real congressional bid). Nice guy, though.

County Councilman Chris Trumbauer might be able to garner substantial backing in IE from the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters. Which is lucky for him because he couldn’t raise more than low six figures on his own. He’d be well positioned to lock down the Anne Arundel County portions of the district (although that’s not a huge base).

Baltimore County

Bobby Zirkin a dynamic, handsome young trial lawyer who happens to be a strong contender to be the next chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. If that happens, his number could be as high as $1.5 million. If not, $650,000-$1,000,000. Senator Zirkin could likely raise very substantial amounts of money from the incredibly tuned in community of Trial Lawyers that finances so many Democratic Stalwarts.

Dan Morhaim – a Delegate and a Doctor makes a powerful combination. Would clear a million easily. Two million might be a stretch. Shares a heavily Jewish Western Baltimore County district with Zirkin. Despite being one of the stronger fundraisers in the house, he lacks enough pizzazz to be a solid congressional contender in my opinion.

Jon Cardin– Would raise a million easily, but not more than $1.2 or 1.3. Would benefit from confusion with his uncle as well. But, I think that Jon is pretty done after the AG Race. However, the Cardin brand is stronger here than it is statewide.

Baltimore City

Brooke Lierman She could raise a million bucks off her last name, and probably another 300K off of her own network. If Hoyer came in to aid his former Chief of Staff’s daughter you could see another quarter million drop in. She’d be competitive against Anne Kaiser for an Emily’s List endorsement. But as we saw with Heather Mizeur in the 2014 Gubernatorial primary they don’t devote a lot of resources to Democratic Primaries in Deep Blue states.

Bill Ferguson – A handsome, white, young Baltimorean State Senator with real education reform credentials. Can he get buy in from national Ed Reform donors and raise mega millions? I’m not sure. A guy to watch, none the less. With a very, very solid base in the rapidly gentrifying, densely Democratic neighborhoods of South Baltimore. Definitely one to watch.

bIn a primary this crowded, with so many disparate bases of support, I have no clue who might come out on top. I’m not going to pretend that I do.

 

 

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North Response to Luedtke Post

I received the following response from Terrill North to Del. Eric Luedtke’s post about the needs of the northern end of Montgomery County Council District 5. Like Evan Glass, he is a candidate for this open council seat.

David,

I’m glad Del. Luedtke is paying attention, but as the unnamed candidate he mentioned canvassing the area I’d like to add a few details.

I began talking with my neighbors in Burtonsville “officially” in 2010 when I led Impact Silver Spring’s efforts knocking on over 4500 doors and meeting with community leaders examining local needs.

Residents told us they wanted:

·         constructive activities for the youth, and
·         better job opportunities for adults.

That year (with seed money from Councilmember Navarro), we expanded Impact’s afterschool program (then serving 60-90 kids in Long Branch) to East County (now serving over 400 youth primarily in East County).  This year, we worked with a coalition of stakeholders to launch the first workforce development program serving East County (so local residents could benefit from job opportunities coming with the FDA Science Center).  We are also currently working to bring Montgomery College continuing education programs to the East County Regional Services Center.

I’m already enacting the plan for East County based on resident concerns.

As a candidate, spending a lot of time in East County is second nature to me because most of my in-laws live there; I’ve been hearing their concerns without asking since long before 2010!  Since my campaign kick-off at Cuba de Ayer on Route 198 in February, I have been actively engaging Burtonsville voters (and non-voters).  I will be in White Oak this weekend meeting with 230 families from another multi-cultural youth program I work with, structuring a summer day camp featuring sports, meals, and academics (modeled on the program I saved from Bush Administration cuts in 2007 as a Hill staffer).  That’s after judging an oratorical contest for East County youth that morning (1st annual competition of MoCo youth in the Baltimore Urban Debate League).

I will disagree with Eric about one thing, I don’t think East County is ignored.  The key, however, is that residents need to vote!  The precinct at Greencastle Elementary had an 8% turnout in the 2010 local primary, compared to 40% at Takoma Park Elementary.   I spoke at a D14 Democratic Club forum last week where the only Burtonsville residents in attendance were candidates for central committee.  The more folks vote, the more quickly issues will be addressed.

I develop institutions that improve the lives of District Five residents wherever they live.  I put as much effort into establishing a workforce development program in East County as securing over $1 million for stormwater mitigation in Takoma Park.  Best of both worlds!

Regards,
Terrill

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Glass Responds to Luedtke Post

I received the following from Evan Class, a candidate for the open District 5 Montgomery County Council seat in response to Eric Luedtke’s post earlier today on the problems facing the northern end of this district. I’d be happy to publish responses from other candidates too.

Dear David,

I just read Delegate Eric Luedtke’s post in which he shares his disappointment in the lack of concrete policy recommendations from the County Council’s 5th District candidates on issues affecting communities in East County.

I share Delegate Luedtke’s concerns, which is why one of my key priorities is the redevelopment and economic investment of White Oak and Burtonsville. My support for bringing economic justice to parts of the county that need jobs and amenities is the reason I published a detailed plan two weeks ago on my vision for expanding economic growth in our community. In addition to supporting economic progress, my plan also calls for creating new programs within the Department of Economic Development, providing the Office of Procurement with the independence it needs to function properly, and reforming our county’s liquor laws.

My plan can be accessed on my campaign website: http://www.evanglass.com/job_creation.

I invite Delegate Luedtke and your readers to review my plan and I welcome their input and partnership. I will continue to actively engage in an open dialogue with the business community, residents, nonprofit leaders and elected officials to address these important economic needs. If elected as the next Councilmember for the 5th District, I will commit my energy and resources to addressing the economic inequalities of the Eastern portion of Montgomery County.

Thank you,
Evan Glass

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MoCo County Council District 5 and Its Forgotten Northern End

This is a guest post by Del. Eric Luedtke. Eric represents District 14 (Montgomery) in the House of Delegates.

For years now, literally years, there has been a shopping center in Montgomery County sitting almost entirely empty, only a few stores open, fronting a large expanse of empty blacktop fit only for tumbleweed. The shopping center can only be called suburban blight, something Montgomery County residents aren’t exactly used to. It’s not the sort of thing you expect to happen in a county with as much affluence as ours. Except it has, in Burtonsville, where I live. The shopping center’s slow decline was the result of a combination of difficult economic factors and a large corporation (Giant Foods) who clearly cares more about playing economic hardball than doing right by the community.

Ask anyone in Burtonsville about it and they’ll tell you something revealing about their perception of the politics of our county: if this were elsewhere, it wouldn’t have happened. There would have been a sense of urgency. There would have been a plan from the beginning to do something about the decline of the commercial core of a major Montgomery County community. Or about the incredible imbalance of jobs and housing in the Route 29 corridor. Or the lack of amenities. Or the nightmare that is Route 29 during the morning rush. But there hasn’t been much of a sense of urgency. Instead, we’ve seen what might be described as benign neglect. Lots of people in county government chafe at that assessment, and people in other parts of the county also complain about their needs not being met. But if the measure of success is results, we just haven’t seen the results we need.

I don’t mean to say the county has done nothing. A number of our councilmembers have done their best to help move things forward. But in no way have efforts to address the challenges of the upper 29 corridor been close to what we’ve seen elsewhere. For whatever reason, buried deep in the power dynamics of our county, or because of the challenges of outreach in an unincorporated community, residents of Burtonsville, Fairland, and White Oak just don’t feel like they are being heard.

Witness the White Oak Science Sector Master Plan, which has been under debate between the Council and Planning Commission for months now. As residents demanded more jobs and amenities, county planners with the encouragement of councilmembers responded by developing a new plan for the area around the FDA campus which would include mixed-use development. It would be a new economic anchor for the county, and would give east county residents the kind of walkable core community that other parts of the county have had long since. And yet, its future is in doubt.

The plan is being squeezed from two ends by traffic issues. From the north, hordes of Howard County commuters clog up 29. In the south, some residents of the communities around four corners have been opposing any new development because they are concerned about more traffic. And there are some members of the Council who seem likely to vote to weaken the White Oak plan to appease these folks, applying so strict a traffic test that bringing any substantial new jobs or amenities to the area would be virtually impossible. In other words, our residents could be robbed of the jobs and amenities they’re demanding because of out-of-county commuters and the opposition of a community that already has good access to jobs and amenities. It’s a difficult pill for many of us to swallow.

Enter the District 5 Council candidates. This district, newly redrawn following the census, encompasses the entire 29 corridor from the DC line to the Howard County line. Five candidates are running. None are from our end of the district. All are focusing their efforts in the southern end, where more of the votes lie. As far as I know, only one of them has been actively knocking on doors in Fairland or Burtonsville. Once again, our forgotten corner of the county seems to be an afterthought.

It’s frustrating to the whole community, and to me in particular. I know and respect each of the candidates, and I’ve spoken to each of them extensively about the needs north of Randolph Road. I’ve given driving tours of the community to some of them. I’ve sat down over lunch at Cuba de Ayer in Burtonsville to pitch them on more focused economic development strategies. I’ve emphasized the importance of the proposed Route 29 BRT line to relieving congestion and allowing any development to occur. But they aren’t showing up to talk to upper 29 voters. And if you check out the issue platforms on their websites, what you’ll see are generalities rather than the real plans we would like to see for how to resolve our issues.

Our residents deserve a councilmember who understands their issues, who will fight to resolve them, and who is committed to actively listening to them. None of the District 5 council candidates has yet demonstrated that commitment. Perhaps they will during the May 28 candidate’s forum being held at 7:00 PM at the East County Regional Services Center. But until that happens, my endorsement, let alone my vote, remains firmly in the undecided column. And I know many of my neighbors feel exactly the same way.

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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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