Wednesday, April 9, 2008

2008 Legislative Session Review

Thankfully the 2008 legislative session is over and the legislature cannot do any more damage. However, here is a review of the session and the damage it did do to us, along with my selection for winners and losers.

Before I get to that Oliver Cromwell’s scathing rebuke to the rump Parliament in 1653 sums up my feelings about Sine Die and the session itself.

“You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately ... Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

Winners

Martin O’Malley: For the most part, this session was a success for Governor O’Malley. A success only in the sense that he got most of what he wanted from the legislature, save for two big items, more on that later. Despite his pronouncement that “This has been a session of very real and steady progress for the people of Maryland,” he and the Democratic majority screwed us once again. I’m betting his poll numbers will reflect that for a while even as C. Fraser Smith and the Sun begin his rehabilitation. Make no mistake all claims of victory and progress for “One Maryland” are part of this PR campaign.

Losers
Taxpayers, electricity rate payers, small business, freedom of speech, 4th amendment rights, rule of law, electoral integrity.

Wash
The Republican minority: The GOP won on whacking the global warming solutions act and speed cameras. They also scored victories in the Senate for getting Democrats on record voting against proof of legal residence to obtain driver’s licenses and voting to directly increase electricity bills. In the House, they got 90 Democrats as on record voting to allow utilities to remotely control thermostats and to bill customers for mailing them compact fluorescent light bulbs.

However, this is just nipping at the edges. The only way to make deeper inroads is to elect more Republicans, at least enough to maintain a filibuster. It also doesn’t help when the weak sisters sell out to the administration in return for their pet projects.

The Budget

The General Assembly approved a $31.2 billion budget. Despite O’Malley and the Democrats touting how much they cut, there were no real cuts only reductions in the growth of spending, which in their minds is equal to a cut. Money not spent—rather our money not spent by them—is a cut for example money, $1 million, to build o a “multicultural center for the Central American Solidarity Association (CASA). House and Senate Republicans tried to strip this out of the budget through amendments, but failed. However, you can see the House and Senate Democrats who voted to give taxpayer money to an organization, who openly aid and abet those who break federal law.


Global Warming

The Global Warming Solutions Act was the crown jewel of the environmental lobby’s wish list this year. O’Malley publicly backed the bill. He even gave a sole source bid to an alarmist advocacy group to gin up a canned policy analysis advocating the same thing. I had a feeling the bill was in trouble when Brad Heavener and his band of watermelons—in one of the dopiest stunts ever—chalked off parts of Main St. near the state house to “show” how high the Severn River would rise over the Annapolis City Dock if the bill wasn’t passed. The bill died 20-2 in the House Economic Matters committee. The steelworkers deserve a great deal of credit for showing just how the bill would have destroyed jobs. In what can only be an angry fit of projection, League of Conservation Voters Director Cindy Schwartz, “attributed the defeat of the bill in part to fear-mongering. She said the threat of losing jobs due to the bill - even though that’s only conjecture - is a tried-and-true way to kill a bill.” You have to appreciate the cheekiness of an alarmist accusing an opponent of fear mongering, and conjecture, given the chalk stunt and the complete unraveling of the so-called scientific consensus.

Energy

Of course O’Malley will crow about the $170 credit he wrangled from BGE. He must also find a way to fit the square peg of his campaign rhetoric into the round hole of reality. The only hole I see O’Malley fitting this into is the Orwellian memory hole. Also, will there be any official apologies from O’Malley and Mike Miller to Ken Schisler for impugning his character and dragging his name through the mud? That’s a rhetorical question. Miller wouldn’t know an apology if it rammed into his taxpayer funded limo, and Martin O’Malley is a progressive—at least on TV anyway—and that means never having to say you’re sorry.

While he touts the all the money he saved us, he simultaneously pushed legislation that will increase our electricity costs by orders of magnitude. The EmPower bill creates all the California-style demand side management programs, which have led to a 36% increase in Californians’ residential electric bills. It also creates a loophole to allow utilities to control residential thermostats. BGE is already doing it on a small scale. So on one hot sticky day this summer when BGE turns down your thermostat, through decoupling, they can still charge you as if you were running your air conditioning full blast.

Computer Services Tax Repeal

It’s a amazing the speed with which politicians who initially oppose something get behind it, especially when the Maryland Computer Services Association hires the governor's former communications guru as its chief spokesman.

The tech tax is gone, but the mental giants in the governor’s office decided to replace it with a “millionaire’s tax.” However, this is a misleading term, because the tax will affect successful small businesses that are incorporated as S Corps or LLCs. This means that they will have to cut back on staff or benefits for staff. It is also a disincentive for them to earn over a million dollars. A “millionaire’s tax” plays well on the progressive street where intentions and empty platitudes matter. However in the real world where things like economic reality matter it is not so good. Our governor and his hometown legislators’ fundamental ignorance about taxation and the true nature of liberty bear this out.

Furthermore, O’Malley raided the transportation trust fund to replace money not yet spent from the tech tax. O’Malley Watch chalks that up as another honking broken campaign promise. Much like the Constellation/BGE episode O’Malley’s actual record falls flat when compared with his campaign rhetoric.

DNA Bill

I am shocked the Black caucus let this one through. Joe Vallarrio really pushed this through the House Judiciary Committee. When the tort lobby sets its mind to pass a bill or kill it they pretty much have their way. Back in March I heard overheard two lobbyists commiserating about how Vallarrio was toeing the administration line and twisting arms on the DNA bill. Its amazing what you can hear sipping coffee at that Starbucks just off state house.

Transparency

This bill was another small victory for the taxpayers. We will now be able to track state expenditures over $25,000. Furthermore, we can also matchup expenditures, especially from the Board of Public Works, to campaign contributions in the SBE database. I'm sure State Stat will do that as well...

Illegal Immigration

As I mentioned earlier the Republicans scored a small victory by getting Democrat senators on record voting in favor of driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. However, it won’t do much now to end the state’s sanctuary policies. Ensuring that only citizens can get driver’s licenses is an important step. Driver’s licenses are the main form of identification for registering to vote. If illegal immigrants, who have no right to vote can obtain driver’s licenses then how do we know they are not voting in our elections? That’s right we don’t. The left loves to whine and wail about Diebold and electronic voting machine fraud. They clamor for a paper trail, and I agree with them. However, what good is a paper trail if you can’t ensure that the people casting the ballot are eligible voters?

Most initiatives on either side of the illegal immigration debate stalled. But again, the only way to help solve the problem, until the federal government gets its act together, is to elect more Republicans who will end sanctuary policies and take away the power of CASA’s stooges Joe “Hero of Illegal Immigrants Vallarrio” and Victor “Anyone Who Disagrees with Me on Illegal Immigration is a Racist” Ramirez.


Freedom of Speech

Sine Die comes at midnight but when the General Assembly bowed to the cultural commissars of political correctness by passing the Institutions of Higher Education - Plans for Programs of Cultural Diversity Act,” it was Darkness at Noon. Its bad enough that our institutions of higher learning are producing graduates ignorant of basic historical, economic and civic knowledge—O’Malley likes his voting base that way—its even worse when the legislature starts to enforce measures that stifle free speech. Governor Ehrlich was spot on when he decried multiculturalism as “bunk,” it does nothing but t turn our state colleges and universities into places where everyone looks different but thinks exactly alike. Even worse, they become places where thinking or speaking differently from administration-approved parameters of approved thought gets you tossed out of school or worse.

Gay Marriage

Gay marriage itself didn’t go anywhere, but rights for homosexual partners did pass. The libertarian in me is glad to see that homosexual partners now have the right to make medical and burial decisions for their loved ones and receive breaks on recordation and property transfer taxes.

However, the conservative in me is cautious about any other moves toward gay marriage. Not that I am fully opposed to it, but my conservative temperament, which respects tradition and the wisdom of the ancients, tells me we need to tread very carefully in this area as unintended consequences abound. You don’t just alter an ancient institution, which has served as major socializing and civilizing role our society. Witness at the tragedy wrought from the Great Society’s destruction of the traditional African-American family. Tradition matters and Jonah Goldberg’s lesson on the berries and tiger is instructive here.
The first small-c conservative probably said something like, “I know these berries won’t kill me. About those berries, I am not so sure.” A liberal might read that sentence and exclaim, “Aha! Conservatism is based on fear. Liberalism is based on hope!” And, to a certain extent, the liberal would be right. But the conservative’s fear is also a form of caution based upon experience (I know this berry is good. I have no information about that berry). The liberal’s hope, meanwhile, is often based on ignorance and foolish optimism. “Maybe that tiger likes to be tickled. I will find out. It shall be great fun.”

What is needed in the legislature, and the public square is a civil, frank, and open discussion about gay marriage, its benefits and any potential pitfalls it poses for society.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

You have a lot in common with the GOP. Bitter failures.

I guess Bob's "72% won't stand" wasn't an empty campaign promise, either. (Don't mention it though)

It's not ratepayters you care about, it's twisting reality for the sake of "covering" on behalf of Republicans.

You have nothing to say about half of the Senate Republicans voting FOR the budget, along with a few House Reps?

Do those votes not endorse, validate and spend the work of the Special Session?

If not, how about the House GOP budget proposal which spends 90% of the revenue raised by the Special Session?

And you think more Republicans would make a difference?

How? In the end they do the opposite of what they say, get down off their aging old horse-of-empty-rhetoric and hope nobody notices what they actually do.

You don't. What do they have to fear fr4om "their" apologists?

AnotherWatcher said...

Was that first comment you Martin?

Bob Ehrilch NEVER said the 72% increase will not stand. It was YOU Martin. Ehrlich said there was nothing he or the PSC could do about. Last week YOUR PSC Martin said they were right. Nothing could be done about the law passes by the DEMOCRAT legislature and the DEMOCRAT Governor.
Marty, you just don't know why your poll numbers are down and are angry about it.

Anonymous said...

"72% won't stand" were Bob's words....look it up for yourself or look a littl stupid

"Since news of rising rates for Pepco and Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers broke this month, the governor has said rate increases of as much as 72 percent "will not stand." But his failure to offer a firm plan to forestall rate hikes is a sign, Crenson and others said, of the governor's awkward position."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/26/AR2006032601035.html

You got anything else on a subject you obviously know littel about?

Mark Newgent said...

I can't speak for Another Watcher but check out http://www.dictionary.com because spelling is something you know "littel" about.

Anonymous said...

Mark,

Do you want open discussions or do you want to feel better about yourself by making snitty little comments about a typo here or there.

Get over it.

Anotherwatcher: Get a little education.

Ehrlich: 72 percent electric rate increase ‘will not stand’
Governor’s aides meet secretly with four of five PSC commissioners

http://www.gazette.net/stories/031706/polia%20s194216_31955.shtml

Mark Newgent said...

Actually I did, perhaps you missed my past criticisms at some of our weak sisters. But perhaps I am asking too much of you to read what I actually write.

Was endorsing the revenue from the speical session in their proposal a tactical error, sure I'll concede that minor debating. However, given their tiny minority status there is not much they can do. And do you actually think a budget proposal with ACTUAL CUTS, not reductions proposed increases would have made it anywhere. O'Malley and pick off the weak sisters with pork or in some cases cake.

Yes, more Republicans can make a difference. Contrary to your blinkered ideology small d democratic politics is about disagreement not "unity" or "One Maryland." The founders implemented divided government for a reason, to prevent the very concentration of power that O'Malley is doing.

Furthermore, O'Malley demogogued the BGE issue and made a promise that if elected he would stop the increase. He won and broke his promise to stop the increase, along with others like not raiding the transportation trust fund. O'Malley brokered a deal that accepted no more investigations into the 2006 auctions, one in which he lambasted Ehrlich on saying"

"Unfortunately, time and time again Governor Ehrlich has taken the side of the powerful, wealthy, utility and energy interests and their lobbyists instead of standing up for the working people of our state. You saw it in his remarks after the 72 percent rate increase was rubber stamped by his Public Service Commission…What we have seen is nothing short of the total destruction of our Public Service Commission. As Governor I am going to appoint competent, qualified, professional regulators to the job so that we actually have a hearing to determine what is the fair and reasonable rate that BGE can charge us for this commodity they buy. That did not happen in this case.There is no clearer issue that separates my governing philosophy from the governor’s than this one I will stand with the, rate payers, consumers, and working people of our state, he will always side with the powerful wealthy energy interests and utility lobbyists…The only guarantee we have is that if you get reelected we’re all going to be paying a lot more for energy."

So you can play little games about GOP non-starter proposals, but in the end it is you and O'Malley who have to answer for policies that have hurt the economy, taxpayers and rate payers.

Anonymous said...

You seem to be embracing the idea that Ehrlich's PSC under the "leadership" of Kenny "Gimme Deregulation" Schisler did something wrong while they ran the power auction.

Are you implying that they did something criminal worthy of investigation? Or, are you just saying some stuff.

Because, in reality, those issues WERE NOT a part of the deal. Check it out.

If you're only substantial complaint is that O'Malley spoke a lot about Ehrlich's failures in energy and utility pricing - good luck with that.

It seems you're actually endorsing the concept that Ehrlich et al did do something wrong - if you reeeeeaaaaly want "investigations" into "Eehrlich/Schisler/PSC" actions and not just a little talking point that means literally nothing.

And it seems what your saying is that O'Malley was and is right. Right about Bob. Right about Kenny. Right about the lousey job they did.

Or, is that NOT what you want investigated now?

Mark Newgent said...

Well you would be putting words in my mouth, but that is your style. The PSC found no problems with the auctions, but that is just inconvenient "stuff" for you.

I’m sure it means “nothing” to you because you and facts (and sound argumentation) are ships passing in the night. Or perhaps you just possess a wonderful ability for cognitive dissonance.

You can talk about Ehrlich’s “will not stand” comment until the cows come home but its a minor debating point in the larger context that O’Malley did NOTHING to stop the increases, as he promised. Then to add insult to injury he turned around and gave pay raises to the very “competent, qualified, professional regulators” who he knew could do nothing either.

So you can talk about what I “seem “ to say, I am “implying” all you want, but all you are doing is responding to arguments I didn’t make, which is par for the course for you.

Reality is that your boy is author of the most historic tax increase in the state or the Union for that matter and had made life worse for Marylanders, as evidenced by a 37% poll rating and people hurling pennies at him.

Anonymous said...

Putting words in your mouth? Heaven forbid. You say some interesting things and then can't back them up with facts.

What shall we all assume?

That facts are a challenge for you?

If the sentiment as expressed by me isn't exactly right, then what did you mean to say? Please do share.

I see you're not exactly gushing with a new argument. Well, besides the slick little ad hominems that you can't back-up.

Why did you say the "investigation" of the "auction" was part of the deal negotiated by the Governor?

Let's just assume you did some research and found out I was right in the first place.

And you were wrong.

Were you just that desperate for an argument and got a little rash?

Allow me to remind you that O'Malley took office a full 7 months AFTER Ehrlich's 72% became the law of the land according to orders issued by Schisler, Boutin, et al...

But this Governor has done evereything possible to get some relief short of illegally breaking ehrlich/schisler's contracts with BGE and constellation that gave us the 72%.

$2 Billion in relief ain't shabby. You can slam it down all you wish. But it is what it is and Ehrlich was never going to get it.

But let's go back to things you would rather not address. Like your orginal interest in investigating the past of Ehrlich, Schisler, Boutin and the lot.

Was Bob's 72% justified or not?

Was Bob corrupt? Was Kenny? Those are simple questions. What are your thoughts on the subject.

Was there some corruption to reverse that could result in a better deal?

Is this Governor missing something corrupt in Ehrlich's deal that could be used to get more relief?

How many ways would you like me to ask it, so you'll feel comfortable answering, since you now seem so informed on the matter.

Is that was Bob Ehrlich is now arguing on the radio? Is he implying that he was corrupt?

If not, why did you declare that it was such a loss for consumers that the Ehrlich/Schisler contracts were no longer subject to invetigation (Which as you now know and admit by glaring omission, is not true.)

Ohhhhhhhhh. when all else fails. Go running home to mamma.

Poll numbers and tax hikes.

As you've admitted, the Republicans now agree and endorse the tax hikes. (I think you called it a "tactical error" - how generous of you.) Please show me how a Democratic suffers from that?

And poll numbers are snap-shots and snap-shots change.

Then again, good numbers never really did work all that well for your boy, now did they?

Mark Newgent said...

Actually I did back them up but anything that does not fit into the O'Malley agitprop narrative doesn't get through to you. I'm not defending everything Ehrlich did or said. I like the guy, but I don't subscribe to any cult of personality around him as you do for O'Malley, where he never goes wrong.

Okay you got me in an error, which in the end proves I was wrong about that minor point. You must be beaming. However, my larger point, that nothing was wrong with the 2006 auction stands. This is the very thing O’Malley demogogued during the campaign saying he would stop the rate increases, which were blessed by HIS “competent” “professional” regulators. Despite all your verbal constructs and sophistry you cannot get around that fact.

Furthermore, the $170 credits will be wiped out by O’Malley pushing the false salvation of energy conservation, which will raise energy costs and wipe out by orders of magnitude any rate relief, (Calvert Cliffs included) from the Constellation deal. Also, why did O’Malley outsource climate policy to an avowed alarmist advocacy group, and champion a global warming bill, which will destroyed jobs, bring added energy costs and impose draconian restraints on economic growth.

Funny how you are not talking about that!

Why would a Democrat muckety muck like you be so concerned with a little old “aberrant strain” blog. You wouldn’t be worried now would you!

Anonymous said...

You make so many assumptions without proof and back up none of it.

But one thing is clear - you use the same meaningless talking points as the "cult of Bob".

Bob's 72% was his doing - nobody else's. He was in charge. To argue otherwise would be to admit he was failure from the beginning.

So, since you've tried to put distance between yourself and Bob, let's assume you agree - Bob was a failure who did not know what he was doing.

On one hand you're NOW (having lost points upon which you made assumptions without facts) saying that Bob's rate hike was a justified 72% and therefore not subject to reduction.

On the other, you're complaining that there isn't enough rate reduction. The reason you're complaining is because you truly are a brokenhearted member of the "cult of bob."

The meaningless sophist arguements you've employed, notwithstanding.

It's you're best style.

Well, besides the one where you need to move further and further away from the topic as hand, because it's slipping through your fingers. And you do that by trying to change the subject. First with "polls". Next, with unproven negative impacts of alternative energy. It's alomst like you believe the marketplace shouldn't work and that the "low cost" of fossil fuels to generate electricity is somehow a constant we can always depend upon.

That's just hillarious.

Take your pick of what "word" was actually used. I have no idea. It seems a little silly that you spent time trying to debate it with yourself on a blog.

But the question is why you think it's so strange that he intended to use one word over another, as if either would not be apt.

aberrant
1 : an aberrant group, individual, or structure
2 : a person whose behavior departs substantially from the standard

of course, that's the "noun"

So, if this is what he said to describe far right reactionaries:

1 : straying from the right or normal way
2 : deviating from the usual or natural type : atypical

...then what's the harm. Or, are you saying all Republicans want a government that is borken?

The people he was describing are abberant and abhorrent. To many, the little dweebs he was discussing might be abhorent because they are aberrant, except for those on the right who think they're mainstream.


Don't flatter yourself. Without someone like me - who thinks this extreemist stuff is a little interesting - you've had very little comment at all on your little missives.

Hardly a power player about which to worry.

You can thank me later for at least making the place interesting.

Is that not what you want?

Now go off and e-mail your buddies and ask for help.

I guess I should just be glad you - as censor(moderator) - allow my humble words to be published for all of 8 folks to read.

And their mothers.