A Post Mortem and a 2016 Vision
As the confetti and balloons fell from above on another session of the Maryland General Assembly last Monday, the most progressive 90 days of lawmaking in recent memory came to a close.
Not that anyone would expect conservative policy to come out of Annapolis, but this just-completed session appears to have set records for confiscatory fiscal policy, intrusive government nannyism, and suspension of personal freedoms.
Let's have a look at the aftermath:
Death Penalty – Gov. Martin O'Malley made it clear he had no intention of honoring existing law regarding the death penalty when he was elected in 2006. Since then, each succeeding session of the General Assembly has debated, at the governor's urging, the merit of removing the ultimate form of punishment. This time, he was successful.
Gun Safety/Control – Even the name of the act defines the great political divide. Firearms enthusiasts call any restrictions or additional controls over the right to keep and bear arms as "control." Progressives counter that the deaths in mass shooting demand actions to ensure public "safety."
In a sweeping measure that flew through the House and Senate along largely party lines, anyone who purchases a handgun will now be fingerprinted. Also, anyone involuntarily committed to a mental health facility will be prevented from owning a firearm. No one can purchase a magazine that holds more than 10 bullets (except the military and law enforcement), and 45 different types of guns, defined as "assault-style weapons" will now be banned outright.
Cyber Bullying – It will now be a crime to harass a minor over the Internet. This topic has been discussed for several years, but picked up steam when mass shooting perpetrators started blaming bullying for their aberrant behavior.
Wind Power – In a classic case of social engineering, Team O'Malley forced through a bill to raise the electric bills of all Marylanders by as much as $1.50 per month per customer to help subsidize wind power generation. That's classic liberalism: a predicted social benefit is just too costly to justify private sector investment, so you force everyone to pay in order to make it seem affordable. Talk about someone blowing smoke up a certain body part!
Fuel Tax – In a truly underhanded move, Maryland’s first gas tax increase in 20 years will phase in a sales tax beginning with one percent in June, adding almost 4 cents to the price of a gallon of gas in July of this year and as much as 20 cents in 2016.
Gas Surcharge – Natural gas companies in Maryland would be able to seek a surcharge of up to $2 on monthly gas bills to help recover costs for replacing aging infrastructure.
Healthcare – In a rush to be one of the first in the nation to implement Obamacare, Maryland legislators voted to accelerate the creation of a healthcare exchange. An existing two percent tax on state-regulated insurance plans will pay for the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange as part of implementing the federal Affordable Care Act. Medicaid eligibility will be expanded from 124 percent of the federal poverty line to 133 percent.
Immigrant licenses – Immigrants living in the U.S. illegally will now be able to legally obtain Maryland driver’s licenses.
Medicinal Uses of Marijuana – Medical marijuana programs would be allowed at academic medical research centers that decide to participate in a program overseen by a commission in the state health department. The caveat is that if the federal government declares these centers illegal, they can be shut down with no repercussions.
To call this the most progressive session in decades is a dramatic understatement. If this session was Martin O'Malley's chance to set markers for his anticipated 2016 presidential aspirations, then you'd have to say that he met those marks.
The field of potential Democratic candidates will be overflowing. The 800 lb. gorilla will be former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. If she decides not to run, then Vice President Joe Biden is the front-runner.
Mr. Biden offers more liabilities than he does benefits. Waiting in the wings are New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and our own governor. It's not hard to envision the O'Malley campaign strategy.
According to his own press, he's a hard-working governor driven by data. His statistical measurement systems are legend in public sector management circles. Add to that his ultra-progressive eight-year policy agenda, his charisma, the Irish-themed rock band and you have a tailor-made national political figure.
If that prospect sickens you, take comfort in the fact that the only voters who will find solace in Mr. O'Malley's accomplishments are the same people who got fooled twice by President Barack Obama.
On the other hand, looking at the potential field of Republican opponents, maybe you ought to worry after all!