Do you, like FreeStater Blog author Todd Eberly, believe that the General Assembly’s recent budget and gambling fails –each requiring its own special session — are a sign that it’s time for Maryland to embrace a full-time legislature? Or, like Maryland Reporter‘s Len Lazarick, do you think that the General Assembly does enough damage in 90 days? Read More →
The end of a legislative session is like the end of a basketball game. It is suddenly nothing more than a race against the clock. At least that’s how it was Monday night, when the Maryland General Assembly ended its session at midnight before passing a tax increase necessary to prevent the notorious “doomsday budget” from becoming reality. If no special session is called, Maryland will make huge cuts in spending, which “include over $200 million to K-12 education and $63 million to colleges and universities.”
It’s one of those incredibly pathetic moments in politics, in which our representatives are handcuffed by their own ground rules. Sure, the House of Delegates had the opportunity to extend the legislative session by five days, but that measure was voted down. All the grandstanding, the mudslinging, the interminable campaigns — we endure all of that in the hopes that when it comes down to it our representatives will actually do their jobs.
Still, assuming that Gov. Martin O’Malley will call a special session to tie up loose ends — which he has not yet announced he will do — the legislatus interruptus is almost worth it for House Minority Leader Tony O’Donnell’s angry take on the epic fail: “We screwed around on same sex marriage forever.” Okay, maybe it’s only really funny if you imagine him saying it in an exasperated Nixon voice, as I do.
After a spirited brouhaha of a debate, the Maryland Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would make it illegal for a driver or passenger to smoke in a vehicle containing a child under age eight, according to a story by Michael Dresser in The Baltimore Sun. Senators voted 27 to 19 to send the bill to the House of Delegates, but not before arguing over the proven ills of secondhand smoke versus the rights of adults to be free of government meddling while riding (and lighting up stinkies) in their vehicles. If such a law comes to, well, pass, police officers will have the right to pull over drivers who are puffing away whilst toting tots — smokers who should have known better sworn to pay a $50 fine. Opponents argued in session that the bill’s passage represents a slippery slope toward an absurd Big-Brother-ish level of government control.
“Cheeseburgers are next,” warned Senate Minority Leader E. J. Pipkin, an Upper Shore Republican, according to Dresser’s brief story. “The cheeseburger police will be here and they’re going to be saying that some child shouldn’t be going to McDonald’s after school.”
How much easier it would be to get my way if at the start of every negotiation I set a short timer on a doomsday device. That’s (sort of) how it’s working for Maryland judges. If the state legislature can’t come to an alternate agreement among themselves by tomorrow, then a 23 percent raise over three years will automatically take effect. And, man, is that making the House and Senate move, move, move!
The Senate passed a resolution to raise salaries by 11 percent, and it looks like the House will approve it, without any amendments at all, even as it seems plenty of them would rather see a pay freeze. As Del. John Bohanan explained to Maryland Reporter, “As a practical matter, we’re not going to have enough time for the Senate to join with us in agreement if we adopt any amendments.” And so, largely, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are agreeing to quickly pass the Senate resolution.
I know even an 11 percent increase seems out of proportion with an austerity budget, but it’s worth it just to see politicians be forced to choose the lesser of two evils. You know, like we often do.
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