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As Long as We Remember...

January 31, 2013

In Annapolis, Less Is Better

Chris Cavey

The Maryland General Assembly has been in session for about a fortnight. The governor has presented his budget bill package, legislator's pre-filed bills have been eyeballed at least once, and we are again on the way to 1,000 or more bills "dropped" for consideration.


The subject matter runs the gambit from the seemingly insane (or inane) to almost bizarre which begs the question: Wouldn't less be better?


Naturally, the governor's package of bills is the scariest. Unlike a lowly legislator from a Podunk town somewhere in rural Maryland, the power on the second floor of the State House has the "mo" to make things happen. His minions are paid to play "Let's Make a Deal" as part of their job. Gov. Martin O'Malley has a point to make to the nation as he preps for 2016. (Review my January 17, 2013, article – if you do not understand this statement.)


This year's budget will burden the citizens of Maryland (the taxpaying citizens) by an additional four percent. You might not think that is too much, as four is a little number. However, in real dollars, it means $1,400,000,000 when you write it out. That big number is just the increase!


To grasp the scope of this sizeable increase here is an example: If someone handed you a dollar every second, of every hour, of every day, it would take him or her 44.36 years to hand you that much money. Yikes!


However, this is small in comparison to how much the state’s budget has increased since the governor took office. He has increased our state budget by 26-percent. The new increase will round out his total budget increases to an even 30 percent. Ponder that thought before moving on with your reading. I have not had a 30-percent increase in my total expenses or income, have you?


Next, all bills for the governor's "Triple Crown" of liberal legislation are in place and ready to be shoved down the pipeline. Keep your eye pealed in the local papers as the "Firearm Safety Act," the "Death Penalty Repeal and Appropriation from Savings of Aid Survivors of Homicide Victims" and the "Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act" are escorted through the trenches, green-lighted on their way to the governor's desk. All final votes will be more-or-less down party lines, which means guaranteed passage in the People's Republic of Maryland.


While the governor's legislation will affect every citizen in Maryland is some fashion, except those with life in prison sentences – unless of course the prison televisions and air conditioners are powered by wind. The bills that are my personal favorites are the relatively meaningless ones.


One such bill, from prior years, dealt with ice cream and how it was sold. From my perch in the House of Delegates gallery, I had the privilege of listening to a full 10-minute debate on selling a scoop of ice cream. Never the less, be assured that we are now much safer consumers since the codification of "... may be sold by weight, fluid volume or the serving."


A friend of mine sent me a list of bills that further proves budgets and big issues are not the only priorities in Annapolis. Here are a few examples:


"Increasing penalties for theft of a wheeled cart." Apparently, Sen. Nancy J. King (D., Montgomery) wants to increase the fine from $25 to $100 for abandonment of grocery carts. I would guess the homeless in Montgomery County must be shaking in their boots at this deterrent. It would be much better if we could make them taxpayers helping us pay for Governor O'Malley's increased tariffs.


Baltimore City Democrat Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden's bill SB 200 – Cable Service Providers – would fine service providers who miss a scheduled appointment. Doesn't the good senator realize you cannot tax or fine a business? They just pass it on to consumers. Again, I feel confident all the cable guys sitting around in little white vans sleeping or playing video games on their phones are just sweating this one.


Also each year someone has to create legislation to make something tagged as being "Official" in Maryland. Examples are the state butterfly, bug, dinosaur, cat, etc. This year is no different as Del. Rudolph Cane (D., Eastern Shore) wants to make the Soft Shell Crab the state sandwich; it even comes with a policy note! I love soft shell crab sandwiches. Perhaps I will sign up for public testimony! (Dry humor – you should smile here.)


After years of rumbling around the hallways in Annapolis, my observation is that these out of the mainstream bills are just diversions for various legislators. The Democrats get tired of constantly carrying the governor's mail and need a little action that comes with no downward pressure from leadership. It must make them feel a sense of accomplishment.


Therefore, if you have some time and you are a reader living in Charles County, you should clear a day for an Annapolis trip. There is a good chance next week the "Golf Cart Zones on Highways Bill" will have a hearing in the House Economic Matters Committee. This legislation is sponsored by the entire Charles County Delegation and will "pave the way" for special golf cart paths along state highways in that county. Please make every effort to stop by, or write to the committee and support this very worthy legislation. Golf cart traffic in Charles County is currently out of control.


After reading these four bills, I feel confident much less would be better in Annapolis.


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