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As Long as We Remember...

February 28, 2013

Citizenís Rights Under Attack

Chris Cavey

The Maryland General Assembly has been debating your liberties. As of today many of your rights are about to be modified. The sad fact is most citizens will only complain after the fact when now is the time to take action.


The debate over gun rights has been a headline issue in Annapolis this session. Gun owners held a large public rally; lobbyists have worked overtime; and the press has given the issue a token amount of ink. The halls of legislative offices and committee rooms should be full of defenders of the Constitution each day – yet they are not.


We have become lazy patriots. We expect an email, a phone call or a single day standing in the cold to be the apex of active participation. We complain about dues to organizations that fight for our rights and send few donations to the legislators who always have our back. If the citizens of today had been facing King George III and his oppression in 1776, we would be singing "Hail Britannica" today. Wake up!


Sitting in your “man cave” with your buddies swaddling a beer while complaining about gun rights only adds to your credit as future criminals when the proposed new restrictions become law. A year from now you will be studying how to comply with new regulations in order not to face fines or potential imprisonment. Come out of the cave; you have to act now!


When you speak to legislators, especially those who sat on committees where bills were amended, do not let them fool you. Many will try to convince you they voted for amendments that eased fines or watered down the bill. They "did what they could to help you." They "made a bad bill better."


If they voted favorable for the bill, they are pulling the wool over your eyes and are full of crap! It is like saying "Good luck," and handing you a band-aid knowing you will soon have your arm amputated. Some legislators, like Sen. Jim Brochin (D., Baltimore County) are specialist at this; he recently perfected his technique by offering amendments then voting favorable on the Firearms Act of 2013.


However, limitations on Second Amendment rights were not the only liberty to take a hit. The same day as the hearings on firearm regulations, voting rights, and the right to petition to referendum were being sliced and diced across the street in the House Ways and Means Committee. I was there.


Over the course of four hours of testimony, I listened to bills concerning early voting, absentee voting and the rights to petition to referendum. Personally, I have no problem with early voting or absentee voting as all eligible citizens should have access to the process. The devil is in the detail… that is the problem as the details are inconsistent.


Election law issues are boring, yet important; it is where the rubber meets the road. Election law controls your voice in government. Part of the control is how you are heard concerning petitioning a bill to referendum. In this instance – you are about to be tuned out!


The O’Malley Administration has realized that citizens can be activated. After a 20-year drought of no successful referendum challenges, this past cycle three laws upset the citizenry enough to be petitioned for the public to decide the fate of those bills. Even though the voters ratified all three measures, the fear has driven the legislature to regulate and complicate the current process exponentially, making the process more difficult for your voice in the future.


The current path of this legislation will be to create bureaucratic reporting by the petitioning organization, arduous training of those who collect signatures (even if you only get family members to sign,) limitations on electronic forms, greater scrutiny of signatures and questioning the identity of those who sign. The current direction would be to have positive identification of a petition signer while needing little to no identification to vote – including same day registration at the polls!


This inhibition of our liberty is coming. There were no rallies by the voting public, barely a roomful of citizens or lobbyists showed up to testify. The erosion of your rights as a voter is quietly slipping away. There is no coverage by the press, no cry from the populace. Gov. Martin O'Malley and his minions know controlling questions placed on the ballot is more important that controlling who casts a vote.


Do something… now. Organize a bus load of people and fight for your Constitutional rights. Go face-to-face with legislators who disagree with you. Remember – in the future – who was on your side and who was trying to control you. Call, e-mail, and write letters; just exercise your rights while you still have them.


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