Monday, April 8, 2013

One Nasty Pebble (Monday LINKS)

Michael Dresser of The Sun had a great news analysis piece this past Sunday looking at the slew of "Democrat in Paradise" (my phrase) bills that passed the General Assembly this year: Gun control, Death Penalty Repeal, Transportation & School Funding, and greater job protections for pregnant mothers (not mentioned in the article, but still another tally for the blue team).  This Session was not only remarkable for having one O'Malley victory after another, but also in its contrast to last Session, where the General Assembly tripped into a series of (Extra) Special Sessions to pass a budget, pass a tax increase, and pass expanded gambling.

According to Dresser, there are two reasons that may have changed:

Though O'Malley disagrees, some legislators say the governor earned his victories this year by sticking closer to home and courting senators and delegates more intensively than in the past. Legislative leaders — like O'Malley, Democrats — went out of their way to get things done and avoid a repeat of last year.

And the resolution of the gambling question, with table games and a new casino ratified by voters last fall, removed an irritant in the relations of the governor and presiding officers. "It's like having a pebble removed from your shoe," O'Malley said.

Dresser also mentioned that the mobilization of third-party interest groups may have moved the dial, but from my perch it seems like those interests cut even, with gun right advocates most likely out-numbering gun control proponents.

I keep thinking back to a conversation I had in Summer of last year with a member of the Howard Delegation.  I noted how unpopular gambling expansion was in Howard County and asked them why they would reward the calling of a Special Session by approving everything that was requested in a new casino with expanded gaming.  They responded "Because otherwise, Mike Miller would have made life miserable."

You have to believe that Senate President Mike Miller, who got out of the way of the Death Penalty Repeal and expanded Gun Control, is the reason this Session is looking so rosy for Governor O'Malley.  Decades from now, when it is ok to talk about the horse-trading from Sessions gone by, I will not be surprised to hear about a late night in the State House where our Governor made a deal.  "I give you what you want, but in return, you give me my legacy."  In the haste to blame a mass of legislators, most people forget that the Governor is the only elected official empowered to call as Special Session.  After some posturing last Spring, he did, setting everything else up for passage.

There is nothing wrong with these deals.  It is what we've created and encouraged in a representative democracy.  Those talks make us uncomfortable because we are not in the room, but I would assure you that private talks make better government than public grand-standing.  Intimate reasoning of a public concern is better than legislating the public sentiment. 

The more interesting question is whether we are ok with that.  Displaced.  Boxed out.  Ignored.  Our individual legislators need to come back to the ballot for judgment, but they may have played little to no role in what actually occurred other than receiving the roll call.  And what then?  A protest vote in futility or retain influence for the next bond bill, local regulation, or constituent cause by voting along with the Party line?  What do you want from them?  What do you expect?  Is it fair to impose what may be an irrational expectation on these electeds to be effective without being a part of the game?

The Gambling Issue has defined this Assembly in more ways than one.


The Orioles did not have a good weekend.  I'm not overly concerned just yet, since it seems like there were just a few tough breaks that went the other way, but then I remember that they were playing the Twins...and that makes me sad.

See, Ken, if you had just called our schools "troubled" then it would not have been so hard to have Executive power to take over the School Board.  Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker will now get to choose the school CEO (as the Superintendent is called in Prince George's) and the officers of the School Board.  Yes, this is even more than what Ken Ulman sought for Howard County back in 2011.

Despite the overwhelming support amongst Howard County lawmakers, I am concerned and disappointed by the passage of the cyber-bullying law in Annapolis.  Further criminalizing a behavior acknowledged to take place mostly amongst juveniles will most likely exist to harm children that already have a poor upbringing or find themselves on the other side of over-zealous helicopter parents.  I cannot imagine one circumstance in which this law results in anything positive and already envision County police becoming a customer service center for mean kids.  For more thoughts on this bill, check out TJ's post regarding the "Difficulty of Being Anti-Anti-Bullying".

Luke Lavoie covers plans for the new Hobbit's Glen Clubhouse, which will start construction this Fall.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: HowChow offered some of the most exciting news from the weekend with his post that Sonic will be coming to Route 40.  I don't eat much fast food (if any), but I will admit that Sonic television commercials have caused me to Google "Sonic Ellicott City"...and "Sonic Columbia"....and "Sonic Elkridge" on more than one occasion.  I can't control the Salt-Sugar-Fat signals my brain receives!  I'm only human.

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