Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Disarmament and the Referendum (Wednesday LINKS)

One of the less heralded propositions that may be at issue during the 2013 General Assembly session is Referendum Reform.  Last year's ballot had the most state-wide referenda in at least a decade, with some questions required by Constitution (redistricting) and others the end-stage of a heated political process (gambling, DREAM Act, same-sex marriage). 

There are two ways to look at "Referendum Reform".  The first is that too many questions on the ballot muck up the democratic process by removing certainty from law.  This line of thinking would also weigh against having the voting public determine whether civil rights will be extended to a minority class.  The other way of looking at it is that Republicans finally found a way to get themselves invited to the negotiating table and the Democrats would like to rescind the invitation. 

As much as I did hoped Maryland would pass the DREAM Act and Same-sex marriage, I also saw the benefit of Republicans developing an innovative way to balance the political scales.  No matter the vote, Republicans could, from that day forward, say "If our concerns are not addressed, we will work to take this bill to referendum."  Unlike the hostage-taking in Washington, D.C., this method has a fail-safe of "Fine, do that.  It is a popular measure that will weigh down your moderate candidates and hurt your state-wide reputation."  It is an inefficient, and often ugly, process, but I think many of us would agree that balance makes for better law.

In an ideal state, this threat would not necessarily result in many more referenda questions.  Rather, 2012 may ever stand as a watermark, at which time the MD GOP showed its muscle and that its threats are not empty.  That background threat shapes the dialogue and allows for zealous advocacy by both sides at the bill-drafting stage.

I seem to remember a lot of babies shooting guns in 1980's cinema.  Maybe it went out of style as people stopped thinking guns were funny, but I feel like it happened in just about any comedy in which there was a gangster or policeman and a baby.  Anyhow, this scene would normally play out the say way every time.  The baby's shot would graze over the top of one of the protagonists, the two adults in the scene would look at each other with bug-eyes, and then the gun would be picked from the hands of the infant.

Why this non sequitor?  That's how I see Democrats approaching this issue.  Internal factions of the Democratic party were fighting over "adult matters" (as they would see it), when "Baby GOP" picked up a revolver and shot it over both of their heads.  O'Malley is now walking over to the infant to pick the gun from their hands.

But in reality, the GOP is not a baby.  There are reasonable, smart, innovative ideas on the other side of the aisle, but we don't get to hear those ideas because, in a state of exclusion, the only thing for the media to cover is frustrated yelling.  That's not media bias.  That's just the state of things.

Would the Referendum be an effective means of allowing the GOP to participate?  I don't know.  It could go very wrong (paralysis) or it could go perfectly (harmonious cooperation under the threat of an angry populace).  What I do know is that this is a serious issue that it being mostly ignored and effects the fundamental operations of our ultra-blue State.


Proponents of abolishing the Death Penalty tell The Sun that they are one or two votes away from getting their bill through the State Senate, where it has stalled in the past.

Baltimore County School Superintendent Dallas Dance has proposed his $1.3 billion School Budget at a 3.3% increase from the previous year.  Oddly, Baltimore County only had a $4.3 million increase in teacher pension costs, which can be contrasted with Howard County's $15.5 million pension shift with a much smaller school system.  I'm clearly missing something.

2012 was the hottest year on record since they started recording temperatures.  If someone makes a "It's snowing.  Where are those Climate Change wackos now?" joke on Facebook this winter, defriend them.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: WB looks at the shifts occurring in Annapolis to clear the way for Wind Power, which will add a few dollars to every rate-payer's energy bill to help fund the new venture.  I'm a strong supporter of wind energy, but considering how profitable the energy business is, the tax credits that already exist, and the significant financial burden that energy costs put on the average Marylander, I would be disappointed to see the cost transferred to rate-payers.  But that is almost assuredly how it will go.

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