Monday, July 30, 2012

Special Session Governance (Monday LINKS)

As someone who likes my law written down, I looked up the authority to convene a special session this morning.  Here's what Article II of our state Constitution says:

"The Governor shall convene the Legislature, or the Senate alone, on extraordinary occasions; and whenever from the presence of an enemy, or from any other cause, the Seat of Government shall become an unsafe place for the meeting of the Legislature, he may direct their sessions to be held at some other convenient place." 

Obviously, the pivotal word is "extraordinary".  Defenders of the Governor will say, "That's just another word for 'special'."  Opponents will say "Language is all about context and the final clause seems to presume some danger to the survival of the State."

Len Lazarick wrote a great op/ed last week of all the reasons not to hold a special... ahem...extraordinary session of the legislature, most prominent among them the fact that the votes aren't there to get anything done.

My objection is slightly more removed -- it is an affront to Maryland voters.  You see, we hear on a semi-regularly basis "This is the consequence of one-party rule."  In reality, Maryland is a fairly well-run State.  The roads are well maintained (most of the time), the schools are good (so long as you are tucked in a suburb), and most of our local governments have strong bond ratings with good prospects for fiscal sustainability.

But amongst what may be considered good governance, we have developed small cancers.  Special sessions.  When gambling first came to the State, opponents raised the normal moral arguments of "poor tax" and "casino slums", but they also raised a much more practical argument -- once you let casinos in, their lobby will have enough money to run the State.  Psshaw.  That'll never happen.

Governor O'Malley seems to be signaling that it did.

There is absolutely no urgency to adding a new casino to National Harbor or adding table games to existing casinos.   Our budget is passed.  There have been no unexpected revenue shortfalls.  In fact, the General Assembly, by my count, has already rejected expanded gambling three times - once in regular session, once when convening its first special session, then again by the Gambling Law and Regulation subcommittee.  But the General Assembly is under siege.

Maryland is under transformation.  Government is poised to shrink.  Manufacturing jobs are leaving.  In the midst of all of this, the most prominent concern to our Governor is whether gambling interests are satiated.  That is a profound statement about where our State is headed by the man steering the ship.

I hope that the Howard Delegation will vote against every bill proposed during this special session and, in doing so, decline to endorse this manner of governance.  I hope that all of you will let them know how you feel.  I hope it is not too late to keep one hand on the wheel.


Here is an interesting op/ed co-authored by a lifetime NRA member and former Republican lobbyist about the suppression of studies that address gun violence and how the absence of information about this subject puts policy adrift.

I also took distinct pleasure in reading this editorial about how conservatives misread Milton Friedman.  (Should I disable comments for the day?)

My final pull from the WaPo: Drew Westen looks at how and why President Obama would lose the 2012 election.  Fair warning -- this is a polemic piece from the left, but the underlying arguments have merit with both sides.

Very scary piece in The Sun about instances of colorectal cancer increasing in patients under 50.

The Zenith upscale $2,500/month apartments in downtown Baltimore have been without water or air conditioning since Wednesday.

Great op/ed from County Executive Ken Ulman in this Sunday's Sun about Columbia and what Whole Foods portends for the future of our new city.  You have to think that the success and "green shoots" of New Columbia will be a big plank of any Gubernatorial run for our native son, which is good news for anyone that thought Ken's eyes would be elsewhere over the next two years.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: TJ will no longer be writing for the Patch (I never know whether or not I am being a fogey when I use "The" in relation to websites, i.e., "The Facebook", "The Twitter" are both wrong).  He takes a look at the Patch concept and the future of local journalism.  I will miss his column, and the weekly compulsion that made sure we had TJ's writing to read, but many of us figured it was only a matter of time. 

That's all for today.  Have a great Monday doing what you love!