Tag Archives: General Assembly

Kim Propeack: Why Naming Names Isn’t So Simple

By Adam Pagnucco.

With the #Metoo movement continuing to impact society, the actions of the General Assembly to limit harassment and abuse are coming under scrutiny.  As a result, some are calling for harassment victims to start naming names.  Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-17) and House candidate Sara Love (D-16) did just that last week.  But there’s another side to this.  On Friday, Kim Propeack, CASA de Maryland’s long-time political and communications director, commented on why naming names isn’t so simple on Facebook.  With her permission, we reprint her remarks below.


The raging debate about the testimony before the Womens Caucus on sexual harassment in the Maryland legislature has been fascinating. I am so proud of Nina Smith and so many others that came forward. But I have been absolutely perplexed by the comments from colleagues and on fb and other platforms expressing confusion about why people do not come out publicly. I want to share two stories from my own career that I think illustrates perfectly the thinking and or impact that challenging abuse in the legislature can have.

Many moons ago, my buddy Natali Faní-González testified against an anti-immigrant bill supported by then freshmen Delegates McDonough and Impallaria, both notorious anti-immigrants. As she and I left the committee room and stood in the hallway, we were accosted by the two delegates. Impallaria stood over Natali yelling at the top of his lungs that Natali must be an illegal. To underscore how racially targeted this was, Natali may have been literally the only Latina lobbyist or staffer in Annapolis at that time. McDonough was similarly standing over me screaming at me in the middle of the hallway. A male lobbyist who saw this going on ran over to physically block McDonough because he appeared close to striking me. McDonough then shoved that lobbyist and me to the ground. Natali and I filed ethics complaints against the two delegates. Finding of insufficient evidence despite the fact that this occurred in front of hundreds of people. But the male lobbyist who came to my aid let us know he really wanted the whole thing to go away. He said, “I have a professional career to think about.” He didn’t think he would be taken seriously in the future if he was embroiled in an ethics process.

Move ahead to my other example. In 2003, the late great Senator Gwen Britt was the lead Senate sponsor of the MD DREAM Act. And so her Chief of Staff decided that I should date him (I am not not naming that dude; I seriously don’t remember his name.) After weeks of uncomfortable conversations with him, I spent a particularly queasy hour on the phone with him dodging his repeated requests to go out on date while he poured over my looks what we would do, etc. I repeatedly went back to the stupid trope about how really it wasn’t him but I was involved with someone. I didn’t want to insult him because he was staffing my priority bill. So finally, I shut down the conversation with a definitive no. The following day, he starts actively undermining passage of the bill. He recruited people in the Senator’s district to attack her for having introduced the bill and recruited anti-immigrant voices to come down to Annapolis and testify against. Despite his efforts, the bill was voted out of the General Assembly. Then onto the Governor. This guy, the Chief of Staff to the lead sponsor of the bill, then recruited people to reach out to the Governor’s office to veto the bill.

I’m not laying Ehrlich’s decision at his feet. Bobby Ehrlich could be stupid on his own. But me as a relatively seasoned activist and certainly no wilting flower, got a serious lesson on how much more difficult your life gets when you don’t play game. And more importantly, how much the folks you are working for can be hurt. These are just two incidents among the various grab ass and more across the years. But I thought they were particularly relevant to respond to the Why Don’t We Just Name Names question.


Kagan Names a Name

By Adam Pagnucco.

One of the things that has been missing so far in the #Metoo movement’s impact on Annapolis is the naming of actual perpetrators of sexual harassment.  Well, that ends now.  Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-17) has issued a statement on official letterhead accusing former District 16 Delegate and current lobbyist Gilbert J. Genn of touching her inappropriately.  (Genn was once a member of the House Judiciary Committee and Chair of the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice.)  Think on this, folks: if a lobbyist is behaving this way with a person of power – a State Senator! – what is happening to others?

We reprint Kagan’s statement below.


Democrats, Be Careful on Labor Day

By Adam Pagnucco.

Last week, Governor Larry Hogan caused a splash in Ocean City with his new Executive Order mandating a post-Labor Day start for public schools.  A few Democrats, led by Baltimore City Senator Bill Ferguson, Montgomery County Delegate Eric Luedtke and Montgomery County Senator Rich Madaleno, have pushed back hard.  The two sides occupy their natural political territory: Hogan touts the economic benefits that employers in resort areas could receive from busy Labor Day weekends, while the Democrats reassert their traditional defense of public schools (whose officials overwhelmingly oppose the order).

Some Democratic lawmakers are spoiling for a fight, but wiser heads should prevail.  If the Democrats try to overturn Hogan in the next general session, they will be handing the Governor a nice win for three reasons.

  1. A post-Labor Day start is popular.

The Governor’s use of polls, especially those showing his high job approval ratings, clearly gets under the Democrats’ skin.  But Hogan is not the first politician to leverage polls to his advantage and he certainly won’t be the last.  Three different polls taken by Goucher College in the fall of 2014, the spring of 2015 and the fall of 2015 find support for starting school after Labor Day at 71%, 72% and 72% respectively.  The most recent poll finds support at 69% or above for every gender, racial, age and party group isolated, including 72% approval among Democrats.  Support for starting school after Labor Day is about even with support for sick leave and redistricting by an independent commission (another signature Hogan issue) and is above support for legalizing marijuana and opposition to fracking.

  1. The Democrats are divided.

A number of Democrats have sponsored at least one of three recent bills mandating Labor Day school start times.  They include the following five Senators and nineteen Delegates:

Senator John Astle (Anne Arundel)
Senator Ed Kasemeyer (Baltimore County/Howard)
Senator Katherine Klausmeier (Baltimore County)
Senator James Mathias (Eastern Shore)
Senator Jim Rosapepe (Prince George’s/Anne Arundel)
Delegate Curt Anderson (Baltimore City)
Delegate Darryl Barnes (Prince George’s)
Delegate Kumar Barve (Montgomery)
Delegate Pamela Beidle (Anne Arundel)
Delegate Eric Bromwell (Baltimore County)
Delegate Mark Chang (Anne Arundel)
Delegate Diana Fennell (Prince George’s)
Delegate Barbara Frush (Prince George’s/Anne Arundel)
Delegate Tawanna Gaines (Prince George’s)
Delegate Cheryl Glenn (Baltimore City)
Delegate Keith Haynes (Baltimore City)
Delegate Anne Healey (Prince George’s)
Delegate Sheila Hixson (Montgomery)
Delegate Carolyn J. B. Howard (Prince George’s)
Delegate Aruna Miller (Montgomery)
Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes (Eastern Shore)
Delegate Theodore Sophocleus (Anne Arundel)
Delegate Jay Walker (Prince George’s)
Delegate Alonzo Washington (Prince George’s)

In addition to those Democrats who support the Governor’s position (even if they’re not happy with implementing it through an Executive Order), many more will be loath to vote against something that has more than 70% public support.  If the General Assembly leadership tries to ram through a bill next year overturning the Executive Order and they cannot get enough votes to override a veto, that would be a nightmare scenario.  The Governor would look strong on a popular issue and the Democrats would look weak – VERY weak.

  1. It’s a regional wedge issue.

If the Democrats try to overturn Hogan, understand what that could look like to Marylanders who live near places like Deep Creek Lake and the Eastern Shore: an effort by politicians from MoCo and the City to prevent economic prosperity in their areas.  As one Democratic lawmaker who is not from the resort counties told us, “The jurisdictions that need the tourism are desperately in need of local government revenues, they are among the poorest in the state.  To ignore that borders on public policy malpractice.”  Governor Hogan wants to depict Democrats as pointy-headed, urban elitists who don’t care about the rest of Maryland.  Democrats need to be careful about giving him ammunition for that argument.

Some may point out that Labor Day is not as strong a voting issue as education, transportation and taxes (the latter being OWNED by Hogan) and that the numbers may move as school systems rearrange their calendars.  Fair enough: poll numbers can and do move, with those on marriage equality being the prime example.  But making them move far enough and fast enough to justify a legislative response will likely require a massive PR campaign to do it.  Who is going to wage such a campaign?  It won’t be the Democrats themselves, whose communication capacity is dwarfed by the Governor’s – a problem on which no apparent progress is being made.  It probably won’t be the state teachers union, which opposes the Executive Order but told the Post that overturning it was not a focus of theirs in the next general session.  If not the Democrats or the teachers, who else is going to do this work?


Hogan WANTS the Democrats to fight him.  There’s a reason why he did this through an Executive Order and a press conference rather than simply having the State Board of Education do it for him.  The Governor wants this story to go on for months to maximize his benefits from it.  So does the original architect of the issue, Comptroller Peter Franchot, whom the high priests of the Democratic establishment regard as an apostate.  Do General Assembly Democrats really want to give these two a bigger win than what they already have?

Let’s remember the Governor’s goals here.  First, he wants to increase his reelection vote percentage above the 51% he received last time.  Second, he wants to get enough Republicans elected to the General Assembly so that his vetoes can be upheld, thus forcing Democrats to negotiate with him on virtually everything (including redistricting).  The easiest way to do that is to pick up seven GOP seats in the House of Delegates, which the Republicans did in 2014.  And third, he would like to eradicate the Democratic Party from all areas outside the Baltimore-Washington corridor, a feat that is already dangerously close to reality.  If the Governor can accomplish all three objectives, he will change Maryland into a genuine two-party state, at least at the level of state and local government.  And he thinks the Labor Day issue will help him get over the top.

The Governor is dangling the bait.  Will the Democrats take it?


Larry Hogan Does Not Play Well with Others

 Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore) condemns Gov. Larry Hogan’s attack on the General Assembly. Source: Bryan P. Sears.

Josh Kurtz deserves the prescient pundit award for the week for his column in Center Maryland:

On the day state Senate Democrats voted to override his veto of legislation restoring voting rights to 44,000 parolees and probationers, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) . . . was quick to condemn the vote and suggested that there could be political consequences for the senators who went against his wishes. Some, he predicted, “won’t survive the vote.”

Minutes later, like clockwork, Change Maryland, Hogan’s political organization, listed the 29 Democrats who had voted to override the veto, accusing them of “ignoring an overwhelming majority of Marylanders” and suggesting that they be targeted for their votes. In the days that followed, angry Marylanders let these lawmakers know how they felt – sometimes in intemperate, threatening ways.

Can we please, please discard the notion . . . that Hogan is a bipartisan governor?

Yesterday, Hogan confirmed his new, ahem, approach by doing a canonball right into the middle of the General Assembly:

Two-thirds of people approve of the job I’m doing and the legislature has decided to focus on the one third, and I’m not sure how any of them can get reelected by doing that. They come down to Annapolis like its spring break, breaking furniture, throwing beer bottles off balconies, and thankfully they’re going to go home in a few weeks and we can get back to running the State.

Bragging about how popular you are is much more Donald Trump than bipartisan leader. Popularity also often proves ephemeral, while the Governor will have to work with the General Assembly every year that he is in office.

Hogan’s comments may prove less than helpful to some of his friends. I can already hear the voice over in attack ads of Hogan telling Sen. Kathy Szeliga to stop acting like it’s Spring Break and then the narrator suggesting she do her job in Annapolis before running for U.S. Senate.

The Governor has huge advantages in commanding the attention of the press and the people. So it’s an impressive day when the Governor manages unaided to look like the kid in the sandbox who needs to be placed in time out.


On Legislative Pay Raises


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.


Green Endorsements

The League of Conservation Voters and Sierra Club have endorsed a slew of General Assembly candidates. Here is a combined list of the two with non-incumbents in boldface. (L) indicates endorsed just by the League and (S) indicates endorsed just by the Sierra Club.

All of the endorsed non-incumbents for the Senate are currently delegates, though Veronica Turner is the only challenger endorsed over an incumbent for the Senate.

A total of non-incumbents have been endorsed for delegate by either organization–all for open seats. The League endorsed Rick Kessler, as well as the three incumbents in District 18. The LCV also endorsed four including two challengers–David Moon and Darien Unger in District 20..

By far the most endorsements were made in Montgomery County, an indication of the importance of environmental issues to many voters in the County. Prince George’s came up second.

District 3 (Frederick and Washington)
Senate: Ron Young (L)

District 6 (Baltimore County)
Senate: Johnny Olszewski, Jr. (L)

District 10 (Baltimore County)

Senate: Delores Kelly (L)
House: Adrienne Jones (L)

District 11 (Baltimore County)
Senate: Bobby Zirkin (L)
House: Dan Morhaim, Dana Stein

District 13 (Howard)
Senate: Guy Guzzone (L)
House: Shane Pendergrass, Frank Turner

District 14 (Montgomery)
Senate: Karen Montgomery
House: Anne Kaiser, Eric Luedtke, Craig Zucker

District 15 (Montgomery)
Senate: Brian Feldman
House: Aruna Miller, Kathleen Dumais

District 16 (Montgomery)
Senate: Susan Lee
House: Ariana Kelly, Hrant Jamgochian (S), Marc Korman (S)

District 17 (Montgomery)
House: Kumar Barve, Jim Gilchrist, Andrew Platt (S)

District 18 (Montgomery)
Senate: Rich Madaleno
House: Al Carr, Ana Sol Gutiérrez, Jeff Waldstreicher, Rick Kessler (L)

District 19 (Montgomery)
Senate: Roger Manno
House: Bonnie Cullison, Ben Kramer, Charlotte Crutchfield (S)

District 20 (Montgomery)
Senate: Jamie Raskin
House: Sheila Hixson, Will Smith, David Moon (L), Darien Unger

District 21 (Anne Arundel and Prince George’s)
Senate: Jim Rosapepe
House: Ben Barnes, Barbara Frush, Joseline Peña-Melnyk

District 22 (Prince George’s)
Senate: Paul Pinsky
House: Anne Healey (L), Tawanna Gaines (L)

District 23 (Prince George’s)
Senate: Doug Peters (L)
House A: Jim Hubbard (S)
House B: Marvin Holmes (L)

District 24 (Prince George’s)
Senate: Joanne Benson (L)
House: Carolyn Howard (L)

District 25 (Prince George’s)
House: Dereck Davis (L)

District 26 (Prince George’s)
Senate: Veronica Turner (L)
House: Kris Valderrama, Jay Walker (L)

District 27 (Calvert and Prince George’s)
House A: James Proctor, Jr. (L)
House C: Sue Kullen

District 28 (Charles)
House: Peter Murphy (L), C.T. Wilson (L)

District 30 (Anne Arundel)
House: Michael Busch

District 32 (Anne Arundel)
House: Pam Beidle

District 39 (Montgomery)
Senate: Nancy King
House: Charles Barkley, Kirill Reznick, Shane Robinson

District 40 (Baltimore City)
House: Barbara Robinson (L), Shawn Tarrant (L)

District 41 (Baltimore City)
House: Jill Carter (L), Sandy Rosenberg (L)

District 42 (Baltimore County)
Senate: Jim Brochin
House A: Stephen Lafferty

District 43 (Baltimore City)
House: Curt Anderson (L), Maggie McIntosh, Mary Washington

District 44 (Baltimore City and County)
House A: Kieffer Mitchell (L)

District 45 (Baltimore City)
House; Talmadge Branch (L), Cheryl Glenn (L)

District 46 (Baltimore City)
Senate: Bill Ferguson
House: Luke Clippinger (L), Peter Hammen (L), Brooke Lierman (L)

District 47 (Prince George’s)
Senate: Victor Ramirez (L)
House A: Michael Summers