Wednesday, April 9, 2014

JUICE: Status Check on Governor, MoCo Exec and Council Races // PLUS: Takoma Park Special Election, Hot Bills & More!

Below Maryland Juice provides a status check on a few campaigns of interest to politicos:

JUICE #1:  THE LATEST ON MARYLAND'S GOVERNOR'S RACE // BILL CLINTON ENDORSEMENT, TV AD WARS & MORE - A few interesting things have happened since we last reported on the status of Maryland's race for Governor. First, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown reported in a press release yesterday that former President Bill Clinton endorsed his campaign (excerpt below):
BILL CLINTON: “Anthony Brown’s lengthy record of public service to our nation and the state of Maryland is a powerful testament to his character and leadership... As Lt. Governor, Anthony has worked to create thousands of jobs, to make quality health care more accessible and affordable, to secure passage of some of the nation’s toughest gun safety laws, to protect women and children from domestic violence, and to make record investments in Maryland’s public schools. He is uniquely qualified to lead Maryland, and I am proud to support him for Governor.”
Meanwhile, Delegate Heather Mizeur continues her effort to wage an issue campaign on progressive causes with recent policy proposals to legalize marijuana, start school later, index the minimum wage, fully fund retiree pensions, reform redistricting, tackle women's pay equity and more. An interesting thing to note about Mizeur's platform is that it seems obvious that having a statewide candidate out front on these types of issues can help lead to a more robust discussion of them in Annapolis and create the political space for positive (albeit compromise) efforts to move forward. That being said, as the race heads into the home stretch, Mizeur has also taken to criticizing the positions of her rivals, including highlighting Doug Gansler's support for an estate tax cut and questioning Anthony Brown's leadership of Maryland's health exchange.

Lastly, Attorney General Doug Gansler and Lt. Governor Anthony Brown are up on the air in different regional markets with television advertising. Check out a couple recent examples below:





JUICE #2: THE LATEST ON MOCO EXEC // IKE LEGGETT HIGHLIGHTS FLIP FLOP, DOUG DUNCAN CALLS OUT TRANSIT CENTER & PHIL ANDREWS QUESTIONS MOCO BUDGET    - In Montgomery County's three-way race for County Executive, several themes are emerging. So far, much of the press coverage has been centered around rival candidates putting incumbent Executive Ike Leggett's eight-year record on trial. Former County Executive Doug Duncan, for example, recently released the following snarky video criticizing Leggett's handling of the Silver Spring Transit Center:



IKE LEGGETT HITS BACK: But Leggett has fired back with multiple data points casting the blame for budget difficulties on Doug Duncan's previous tenure as County Executive. The Washington Post's Bill Turque highlighted an example of the tit-for-tat (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: ... In his budget letter to the County Council on Monday, Leggett never identifies his predecessor and opponent in the June Democratic primary. But he depicts Duncan as a profligate and reckless spender during Duncan’s three terms from 1994 to 2006. It’s certainly no mystery who Leggett is talking about....

“First, the County had to stop spending beyond its means,” he said. “Under the prior administration, tax supported County government spending increased by 36 percent in the three years immediately before I assumed office.” From there, Leggett piles on the data points. County payroll: up 28 percent. Tax-supported county spending: up 128 percent. Total budget growth: up 112 percent. “We have brought down the rate of growth in County government from the unsustainable levels prior to my taking office,” he said....
Leggett also highlighted a potential flip-flop by Doug Duncan on the county's recently approved $11.50/hour minimum wage increase. Duncan previously stated the state rather than the county should set minimum wage rates. Bethesda Magazine's Lou Peck captured Leggett's criticism in an article last month (excerpt below):
BETHESDA MAGAZINE: ... “We’re rewriting history here this morning,” Leggett snapped after Duncan had answered a question on a minimum wage increase, as Leggett suggested that Duncan had changed his position from an earlier appearance.
PHIL ANDREWS CRITICIZES LEGGETT BUDGET: Lastly, the third County Executive candidate, Phil Andrews, has taken to criticizing Leggett's proposed 2015 budget by describing it as a "fiscal straightjacket." Andrews issued a litany of complaints in a press release (excerpt below):
PHIL ANDREWS: The budget proposed by County Executive Leggett would put County taxpayers in a fiscal straightjacket because it exceeds the amount required by the State’s Maintenance of Effort (MOE) law. This law requires funding MCPS at $28 million more than last year. Going above that amount by an additional $26 million, as proposed by Mr. Leggett, would lock County taxpayers into that amount year after year.... This is the second straight year that Mr. Leggett’s budget includes excessive pay raises for County employees of 6.75 to 9.75 percent, at a cost of approximately $33 million in FY15 and an annualized cost of $88.7 million.

In 2010, Mr. Leggett proposed a 100 percent increase in the County’s energy tax, and proposed it sunset after two years. In 2012 and 2013, I led efforts on the County Council that reduced the 2010 increase in the energy tax by 10 percent each year. The Council should continue to reduce the energy tax rate until it reaches its 2010 level. The cost of continuing to reduce it by an additional 10 percent in FY15 is $11.8 million....

JUICE #3: TURNOUT BELLWETHERS FROM APRIL'S TAKOMA PARK & DC ELECTIONS  // CONGRATS TO NEW TAKOMA COUNCILMEMBER KATE STEWART - Yesterday voters in Takoma Park's Ward 3 participated in a special election for a vacant City Council seat. City Councilmember Kay Daniels-Cohen passed away in February, triggering a race to fill her seat for the remainder of her term.

KATE STEWART WINS TAKOMA PARK SPECIAL ELECTION WITH 8 VOTE MARGIN: Congratulations to newly elected City Councilmember Kate Stewart, who won her race by a hair-splitting eight votes. Kate is an executive at the nonprofit organization Advocates for Youth, where she promotes youth education for reproductive and sexual health.

Kate Stewart (left) at election night party with supporter Howard Kohn

EXPLANATION OF THE FASCINATING TAKOMA PARK SPECIAL ELECTION RESULTS - There are many interesting aspects to the Takoma Park special elections to dig into, but first Maryland Juice explains the city's unique election methods. Notably, the city's elections are nonpartisan and both 16-year-olds and noncitizens can vote in the municipal races. Most importantly, the city uses a ranked voting election system known as "instant runoff voting" (aka IRV) for its races. Here's how it works: voters rank candidates in order of preference (eg: 1st choice, 2nd choice, etc). If a candidate wins a majority of first choices, the race is over. But if no candidate gets a majority, the last place candidate is eliminated and their votes are instead counted for the 2nd choices of the eliminated candidate. This is precisely what happened in last night's Takoma Park election count. The IRV system is designed to eliminate the so-called "spoiler" problem where election results can be tipped away from the ideology of the majority through vote-splitting dynamics.

In the Ward 3 Special Election, there were three candidates: Kate Stewart, Roger Schlegel and Jeffrey Noel-Nosbaum. Stewart earned the support of Delegate Heather Mizeur and City Councilmembers Tim Male and Seth Grimes. But Schlegel was a former Mayoral candidate in 2009, when he earned roughly 40% of the vote. In any case, here's how the Takoma Park election counts went:
FIRST ROUND OF TABULATION
  1. Kate Stewart - 323 votes
  2. Roger Schlegel - 315 votes
  3. Jeffrey Noel-Nosbaum - 20 votes
SECOND ROUND OF TABULATION
  1. Kate Stewart - 332 votes
  2. Roger Schlegel - 324 votes
  3. Jeffrey Noel-Nosbaum - ELIMINATED
In the first round of counting, no candidate won a majority of the vote, so the last place candidate's supporters determined the outcome of the race. After Jeffrey Noel-Nosbaum was eliminated, his 20 votes were recounted for his supporters second choice candidates: 9 for Kate Stewart and 9 for Roger Schlegel. After this process was completed, Kate Stewart maintained her 8 vote lead and will be the next Ward 3 Councilmember for Takoma Park.

TURNOUT BELLWETHERS FROM TAKOMA PARK AND DC'S MAYORAL ELECTION? - One interesting thing to note in the Takoma Park results is the turnout figures. Indeed, a few candidates and operatives I've talked to this cycle have been trying to predict what turnout might look like in Maryland's upcoming June Democratic Primary. This is a bit of an x-factor, given that this is the first year Maryland is not holding its primaries in September. Here are a couple data points to consider. In 2011, Ward 3 had 2,241 voters, and turnout for this week's special election was 660 voters (or roughly 30%).

Meanwhile, nearby Washington, DC held Democratic Primary elections last Tuesday, April 1st. Like in Maryland, the early primary was a new feature for DC voters. In a post-election analysis, The Washington Post reported historic low-turnout for the April elections and attributed part of this to the new date (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: A historically small swath of the city decided the race, with Tuesday’s turnout appearing to rival elections in 1986 and 1998 for the lowest in a mayoral primary in 40 years of District home rule. In part, the lower turnout reflected a new, earlier schedule for the city primaries, dictated by a federal law mandating more time between primary and general elections to expand absentee balloting.
Indeed, turnout in DC was about 25%, even with a crowded field of candidates, multiple contested races, high profile political scandals, and heavy spending. Though in maps of voter turnout that I've seen, it is clear that the turnout drop was concentrated in a few Wards in DC. It remains to be seen whether any of these indicators are bellwethers for June turnout in Montgomery County and Maryland.


JUICE #4: STATUS CHECK ON MOCO COUNCIL RACES // ENDORSEMENTS BEGIN TO TRICKLE IN  - There are numerous competitive races for the Montgomery County Council this cycle. Here is a very quick round-up of developments in each of the contests. Note that a number of high-profile endorsements have not yet been announced in some of the county races.
DISTRICT 1: In District 1, incumbent Roger Berliner is facing off against former at-large Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg. Berliner has received the backing of the Sierra Club, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, State Senators Brian Frosh, Rich Madaleno and Brian Feldman, and other community leaders. Meanwhile, Trachtenberg has been endorsed by a range of developers and business leaders, one of whom described the Sierra Club as a "vicious" organization. One report also indicates Trachtenberg is wooing labor unions with promises to restore "effects bargaining" for MoCo police officers.

DISTRICT 3: In the District 3 open seat race, candidates include Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney Katz, Gaithersburg Councilmember Ryan Spiegel, Rockville Councilmember Tom Moore, and activist Guled Kassim. In the D3 race, Ryan Spiegel has earned the support of the teachers (aka MCEA) and public school retirees, while Tom Moore has the backing of the Sierra Club and the volunteer firefighters.

DISTRICT 5: In the District 5 open seat race, candidates include Delegate Tom Hucker, school board member Chris Barclay, and activists Evan Glass, Terrill North and Jeffrey Thames. Tom Hucker has earned endorsements from NARAL, Sierra Club, public school retirees and labor unions representing firefighters, police, county employees, electricians and more. Meanwhile, Chris Barclay has been endorsed by the teachers, alongside current and former Councilmembers: Valerie Ervin, Craig Rice, Cherri Branson and Nancy Navarro. Evan Glass has the support of Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams and City Councilmember Seth Grimes.Terrill North has endorsements from Takoma Park Councilmembers Jarrett Smith and Fred Schultz, along with former Takoma Park Councilmembers Kay Daniels Cohen, Hank Prensky and Donna Victoria.

AT-LARGE: Lastly, Montgomery County elects four at-large County Councilmembers, and all four incumbents are seeking re-election: Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal and Hans Riemer. Two challengers have entered the race: Beth Daly & Vivian Malloy. In previous election cycles, one at-large Councilmember typically loses, but it seems too early to size up the state of this race. So far newcomer Beth Daly has earned endorsements from the Sierra Club, public school retirees, Delegate Charles Barkley and Gaithersburg Councilmember Mike Sesma. Marc Elrich also has the support of the Sierra Club, while George Leventhal's supporters include Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams and City Councilmember Seth Grimes.

JUICE #5: MOCO SCHOOL BOARD RACES GETTING INTERESTING AS CANDIDATES ANNOUNCE ENDORSEMENTS - There is an unusual amount of activity in Montgomery County's non-partisan Board of Education races this year. All seats are contested, and the top two vote-getters in each race will advance to the General Election ballot to determine a winner in November. Note that in some of the races, there are only two candidates, meaning both will automatically advance to the General Election ballot. Here's a quick run-down of the races:
AT LARGE (OPEN SEAT): The open seat race for at-large school board has drawn four contenders: Edward Amatetti, Shebra Evans, Merry Eisner-Heidorn and Jill Ortman-Fouse. Shebra Evans is the choice of the teachers union, Merry Eisner-Heidorn has the support of the public school retirees, and Jill Ortman-Fouse has the support of Attorney General Doug Gansler, Sen. Jamie Raskin, and County Councilmember George Leventhal.

DISTRICT 1: Incumbent school board member Judy Docca is facing off against Kristin Trible. Docca has the support of the teachers.

DISTRICT 3: Incumbent school board member Pat O'Neill is facing off against Laurie Halverson. O'Neill has the support of the teachers, public school retirees, and Coalition of Asian-Pacific American Democrats of Maryland.

DISTRICT 5: Incumbent school board member Mike Durso is facing off against Larry Edmonds. Durso has the support of the teachers. 

JUICE #6: BILLS THAT PASSED & FAILED THIS SESSION // ROLL CALL LINKS FOR MINIMUM WAGE, TRANSGENDER RIGHTS, MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION & MORE - Maryland's legislative session adjourned last Monday. Below we provide an update on the status of a few interesting and high-profile bills debated in Annapolis this session:

BILLS THAT PASSED
  • $10.10 Minimum Wage:  Roll Calls  [ Senate 34-13 ] & [ House 87-47 ]
  • Marijuana Decriminalization:  Roll Calls  [ Senate 36-8 ] & [ House 78-55 ]
  • Transgender Nondiscrimination:  Roll Calls  [ Senate 32-15 ] & [ House 82-57 ]
  • Tax Cut for Wealthy Estates: Roll Calls [ Senate 36-10 ] & [ House 119-14 ]
  • Ban on Shackling Pregnant Inmates: Roll Calls  [ Senate 47-0 ] & [ House 135-0 ]
  • License Plate Scanner Rules: Roll Calls [ Senate 46-0 ] & [ House 136-0 ]
  • Requiring Court Order for Electronic Surveillance: Roll Calls [ Senate 46-0 ] & [ House 134-0 ]
BILLS THAT FAILED
  • Shielding of Nonviolent Convictions:  Roll Call [ Senate 44-3 ] & [ No House Floor Vote ]
  • Ban on Academic Boycotts:  [ No Floor Votes ]

A final interesting bill worth mentioning is the proposed subsidy for the Netflix TV series "House of Cards." Though lawmakers approved $15 million in tax credits, the House and Senate were unable to agree on the full $18.5 million requested by the producers. The Washington Post provided a blow-by-blow on how the bill failed during the closing minutes of the Annapolis legislative session.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

JUICE: Final Marijuana Decriminalization & Minimum Wage Votes Imminent // PLUS: Updates on "House of Cards" & More!

Sorry for the long hiatus in posts recently, but my latest "project" is keeping me quite busy these days. And if it is successful, this blog will go through a bit of a transition. But that's a story for another day.

In the meantime, we thought it best to give a quick status check on high profile bills in Annapolis, given that the legislative session ends this coming Monday. It's now or never to get your final emails and calls in to lawmakers, but we already know the outcome of several high-profile battles. Below Maryland Juice provides a quick status check on various hot-button legislative initiatives of interest to politicos:

JUICE #1: MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION FACING "DO OR DIE" VOTE THIS SATURDAY MORNING  //  LAST CALL FOR EMAILS TO MD HOUSE MEMBERS - For the second year in a row, members of Maryland's State Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation to remove jail time as a penalty for marijuana possession. Over a dozen other states have adopted this reform, and polling numbers indicate fewer than 10% of Marylanders believe incarceration is appropriate in these cases. But the bill has faced an oddly tortured debate in the House of Delegates, where Judiciary Chair Joe Vallario seeks to kill the legislation by turning it into a "study commission" bill. Reform advocates are now alerting supporters that there may be a "do or die" vote on the decriminalization bill today (Saturday). Sorry for the late notice. In any case, Maryland Reporter's Len Lazarick posted an article tonight providing some details on the last ditch effort to pass marijuana decriminalization this year (excerpt below):
MARYLAND REPORTER: A wave of support among House Democrats for decriminalizing marijuana is apparently forcing the House Judiciary Committee to reverse itself and approve a Senate bill, SB364, removing criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The committee earlier this week had turned the legislation into a two-year study of the issue, but Del. Keiffer Mitchell sought to revive the bill on the floor Friday. Floor debate and a potential vote are set for Saturday.
After counting votes for decriminalization, House leaders apparently decided there was too much support for the move the Senate has passed two years in a row to go along with Judiciary Chairman Joe Vallario’s staunch opposition.... Mitchell said the racial disparities in marijuana arrests could not wait another two years....

CONTACT MD HOUSE MEMBERS ASAP: A diverse group of advocates who have joined forces under the umbrella of The Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland are calling on residents to contact members of the House of Delegates ASAP. You can send an email to your House members through the link below:


The coalition includes groups ranging from the NAACP and ACLU to CASA de Maryland and Equality Maryland. Check out their urgent action alert and contact your House members as soon as possible. The vote on decriminalization is this Saturday, April 5th (excerpt below):
MARIJUANA POLICY COALITION OF MD: Earlier this week, the House Judiciary Committee gutted a decriminalization bill — SB 364 — and turned it into a study that wouldn’t even report its findings until December 2015. Since then, several delegates have made it clear they’re not going to let decriminalizing marijuana die a quiet death.

Members of the Legislative Black Caucus plan to propose an amendment on the House floor to restore the bill to the version that passed the Senate! Please take to the phones to ask your legislators to vote “yes” on the amendment.

If you don’t have time to make a phone call, you can instead send a pre-written email. It only takes a minute to let your voice be heard.

The vote will happen tomorrow (Saturday), so please don’t delay! Every year, about 20,000 Marylanders are arrested for possession of marijuana. Let your delegates know that it’s time for action, not yet another study. It’s past time for Maryland to stop branding its residents as criminals for using a substance that is safer than alcohol....

JUICE #2: MINIMUM WAGE HIKE FACING FINAL VOTE IN MD SENATE // HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED & WHAT COMES NEXT - Throughout the current legislative session, economic justice organizations have been calling on Maryland lawmakers to advance a minimum wage increase. Advocates specifically asked for the following reforms to the state's current $7.25 an hour wage rate:
  1. Raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour
  2. Raise the tipped minimum wage to 70% of the full minimum wage
  3. Index the minimum wage to adjust with inflation
THE HOUSE'S VERSION OF THE MINIMUM WAGE HIKE: The House of Delegates took up the minimum wage proposals ahead of the Senate, and The Washington Post reported on the version of the legislation they passed last month (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: The Maryland House of Delegates on Friday approved a plan to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 by 2017.... The bill approved by the House is somewhat less ambitious than what O’Malley (D) proposed....

This week, a House committee struck a provision from the governor’s bill that called for automatic increases in the minimum wage beyond 2017 based on inflation.... Under the bill, individual Maryland counties would be allowed to set higher minimum wages than the state. Late last year, the Montgomery and Prince George’s county councils voted to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2017 in their jurisdictions.... The bill that passed the Maryland House would raise the minimum wage to $8.20 an hour on Jan. 1; to $9.15 an hour on Jan. 1, 2016; and to $10.10 an hour on Jan. 1, 2017.... The committee delayed the implementation date by six months to give businesses more time to adjust.

Lawmakers also carved out an exemption for Six Flags and other seasonal amusement park operators and, in response to pressure from the restaurant industry, changed the way that O’Malley proposed compensating tipped workers.... Tipped employees would have to be paid an hourly rate of $3.63 in addition to tips....
THE SENATE'S VERSION OF THE MINIMUM WAGE HIKE: In short, the House passed a $10.10 minimum wage to be phased in by 2017, but they removed advocates' "indexing" and tipped worker provisions, and they carved out an exemption for Six Flags. Tonight, the Maryland Senate settled on details of their version of the minimum wage bill and a final vote on the bill may happen tomorrow (SATURDAY). The Baltimore Sun reported on specifics within the Senate bill moving forward (excerpt below):
BALTIMORE SUN: Gov. Martin O'Malley's chief legislative priority to raise the minimum wage cleared another hurdle Friday as the Senate granted initial approval after a marathon debate. Lawmakers made 18 different attempts to redraft the proposal that incrementally raises pay for the state's lowest-earning workers from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2018.... the Senate could pass the measure as soon as Saturday....

The Senate created a "training wage" that allows employers to pay workers under 19 years old a lower rate for the first six months on the job. It also tied in the minimum wage increase to a hike in state pay for caregivers of the developmentally disabled, a plan that carries a $30 million price tag....
So the Senate's version of the minimum wage increase delays full implementation an extra year, compared to the House bill. Meanwhile, the exclusion of young workers is another twist in the narrative. Activists from the Raise Maryland coalition described the status of the minimum wage debate tonight (excerpt below):
RAISE MARYLAND: The Senate has completed the second reader of their version of the minimum wage bill, with one more scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday, April 5th). Unfortunately, their bill moved the phase-in period back so the minimum wage will not reach $10.10 until 2018, and it did not unfreeze the tipped minimum wage. However, this is still a big victory, given that advocates have been trying to raise Maryland's minimum wage since 2006. We look forward to both the Senate and House passing this bill right away!
Many of us are disappointed that the effort has been watered down, especially because removal of indexing means we will now be forced to fight for cost of living adjustments perpetually. But the context of the fight was happening in a seemingly polarized environment, as reported by WBAL (excerpt below):
WBAL: A marathon debate ensued in the Senate on Friday over the governor's minimum wage bill as time winds down before the close of the legislative session. They advanced the bill, paving the way for a rare Saturday voting session, giving both chambers just one day to find common ground.

An 11th-hour appeal arose as supporters of increasing the minimum wage formed a reception line to greet legislators entering the State House, urging them to get the bill on the governor's desk before the session ends midnight on Monday.

Liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans repeatedly tried to amend the legislation and for decidedly different reasons.... Liberal Democrats tried shorten the phase-in and tie future increases to the consumer price index, making a parallel to indexing the eventual elimination of the estate tax... The Senate is expected to take a final vote on the measure Saturday, but some wonder even then whether that's enough time to sort out differences before the session ends Monday....
Indeed, elimination of the tipped worker and indexing provisions is especially disappointing, but it seems these issues may have to return as advocacy efforts in future sessions.


JUICE #3: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE "HOUSE OF CARDS" HANDOUT, ESTATE TAX CUT, SECOND CHANCE ACT, TRANSGENDER BILL & MORE - A few bills of note were approved in recent weeks, and below we flag a few of the higher profile efforts:

TAXPAYER SUBSIDIES FOR THE "HOUSE OF CARDS" TV SERIES: The Washington Post reported last February that producers of the Netflix TV series "House of Cards" were demanding millions of dollars in taxpayer handouts, while threatening to move production out of state if their demands were not met. Actor Kevin Spacey himself even personally lobbied lawmakers for the welfare payment, and Delegate Bill Frick introduced an interesting amendment in response to the extortion. The Washington Post reported on the duel last week (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: Members of the Maryland House of Delegates are still stewing over a threat from the “House of Cards” producers to leave the state if they don’t get millions more dollars in tax credits. So delegates have issued a threat of their own: Sure, go ahead, leave this beautiful place that’s brimming with dedicated workers. But if you do that, state officials might use eminent domain to purchase, condemn or somehow seize your sets, equipment and other property.

The threat was proposed Thursday afternoon by Del. C. William Frick (D-Montgomery) and quickly approved with barely any debate or even a roll-call vote. “I literally thought: What is an appropriate Frank Underwood response to a threat like this?” said Frick, referring to the Netflix drama’s lead character, a charming but conniving politician who murders, blackmails and threatens his way to greater power. “Eminent domain really struck me as the most dramatic response....  It’s a terrific show. I love it. You probably love it,” Frick said on the House floor. But, he added, the threatening letter that Media Rights Capital sent to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) in January “went a little far....”
But alas, you can usually bet on the house to win, especially if the house in question involves industry lobbyists making lawmakers play "race-to-the-bottom" game theory. The Capital Gazette reported yesterday that legislators removed Frick's "eminent domain" provision from the House of Cards bill, and so Maryland taxpayers will be paying the producers over $18 million to subsidize taping of Season 3 (excerpt below):
CAPITAL GAZETTE: A General Assembly conference committee has done away with a budget provision that would have allowed Maryland to seize the property of the production company for the Netflix television series "House of Cards...."

"House of Cards" is on track to have taken more than $30 million in tax credits through fiscal 2016.... The Senate has passed Senate Bill 1051, which would ramp up funding for the film credit from $7.5 million to $18.5 million....

MARYLAND SECOND CHANCE ACT: A bill to allow nonviolent offenders to shield their records from public view after a few years has passed the House 87-49 and the Senate 43-4. But advocates at the Job Opportunities Task Force were hoping to revive some of the provisions that were amended out during the legislative process (excerpt below):
JOB OPPORTUNITIES TASK FORCE: While we are thrilled that the senate committee listened to all of your calls and emails urging them to resist adopting the harmful amendments from the house bill to the senate bill and pass a clean senate bill, a conviction for theft under $1000 was removed from the list of crimes eligible for shielding.  This means that over 50,000 Marylanders convicted of theft will be unable to shield their record....

SHACKLING OF PREGNANT INMATES : Advocates have been attempting to ban the shackling of pregnant inmates in Maryland in recent sessions. But according to a press release from the ACLU, the bill has finally passed this year (excerpt below):
ACLU: Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland celebrated passage of House Bill 27, the Healthy Births for Incarcerated Women Act, which would impose restrictions on the shackling of pregnant incarcerated women during labor, delivery, and post-partum recovery. Delegates Mary L. Washington (D-Baltimore City), Ariana B. Kelly (D-Montgomery), and Barbara Robinson (D-Baltimore City), supported by a strong coalition of organizations, introduced HB 27 to ensure that Maryland’s women have protections against this barbaric and dangerous practice. The bill, which passed unanimously, now goes to Governor Martin O’Malley, who will hopefully sign it....

TRANSGENDER NONDISCRIMINATION: We previously reported that an effort to protect transgender residents from discrimination finally passed the Maryland Senate this year. Last week Senate sponsor Rich Madaleno reported that the House of Delegates joined the upper chamber in approving the legislation (excerpt below):
RICH MADALENO: I am thrilled to report that just moments ago, the Maryland House of Delegates passed the Fairness for All Marylanders Act (Senate Bill 212) by a vote of 82-57.  Since the House passed the Senate bill without amendments, it now heads to Governor O’Malley for final approval.  When he signs this legislation, which I proudly sponsored, Maryland will be the 18th state in the nation – plus Washington, D.C. - to ensure equal civil rights protections for transgender persons....

TAX CUT FOR WEALTHY ESTATES: Liberal advocacy group Progressive Maryland has been fighting a cut to the state's estate tax for the wealthiest residents this year. But the organization reports that the State House and Senate approved the tax cut this session (excerpt below):
PROGRESSIVE MARYLAND: Governor Martin O'Malley must soon decide whether to sign or veto HB 739, one of the General Assembly's most misguided bills to gift Maryland's wealthiest 3% a wholly unwarranted major tax cut at the expense of the rest of us. As Dan Rodrick's recent column in the Baltimore Sun, With Democrats like these, who needs GOP?, explains:
"If Gov. Martin O'Malley signs it into law, the measure would raise the amount of an estate exempt from Maryland's tax from 1 million to nearly 6 million. The new exemption would cost the state more than 100 million in annual revenue by 2019, when it would fully take effect. Over the five-year phase-in, the loss to the state would be an estimated 431 million..."
This bill’s passage through the House and Senate is grossly ironic, given the struggles of so many families and recent disclosure that Maryland's in a budget hole that could place state employee pension funds on the chopping block. Politicians' arguments that Maryland isn’t competitive enough and that wealthy might move away if they don't cut this tax run counter to the facts....

MOCO SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION DOLLARS: Though lawmakers found funding to cut $431 million in taxes for wealthy estates and $18 million for Kevin Spacey's TV show, it appears that Montgomery County is not going to get increased funding for its overcrowded schools. The Gazette reported on the news Friday (excerpt below):
GAZETTE: Maryland has three days left in its legislative session and ... Montgomery County’s top priority for the session appears to be headed nowhere. The session ends at midnight Monday. Montgomery County has been pushing since the outset of the 90-day session in January to establish a dedicated program that would provide the county with school construction funding. As of Thursday, both proposals to do just that are mired in committees with no hope of advancing. Montgomery asked for up to $20 million in extra school construction matching funds from the state by way of either a capital grant or an application program....

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

ISSUE JUICE: Roll Calls on Transgender, Minimum Wage, Estate Tax & Pot Bills // PLUS: Purple Line, School $, Privacy & More!

Below Maryland Juice provides a round of updates regarding hot button legislation in the Free State:

JUICE #1: ROLL CALL // TRANSGENDER NONDISCRIMINATION BILL PASSES STATE SENATE - After years of stalled efforts, the Maryland Senate passed the "Fairness for All Marylanders Act" (32-15) to provide transgender residents protection from discrimination. 4 Democrats joined 11 Republicans in voting against the nondiscrimination bill, while only 1 Republican voted in favor of transgender nondiscrimination. See the names of lawmakers who broke party lines below:
Democrats who voted against transgender nondiscrimination:
  • John Astle (D30)
  • Ed DeGrange (D32)
  • Roy Dyson (D29)
  • Jim Mathias (D38)
Republicans who voted for transgender nondiscrimination:
  • Allan Kittleman (D9)
The measure now awaits consideration in the House of Delegates, where we expect it to pass, given its broad support (eg: 61 members co-sponsoring the bill).


JUICE #2: ROLL CALL // $10.10 MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE PASSES HOUSE OF DELEGATES WITHOUT INDEXING - Last week the Maryland House of Delegates approved an increase in the state's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The vote was 89-46 (via Washington Post), but according to a press release from Raise Maryland, the bill was watered down a bit along the way (excerpt below):
RAISE MARYLAND: Key provisions of the Maryland Minimum Wage Act of 2014 were stripped out during consideration of the bill in the House Economic Matters Committee.  A proposal to index the minimum wage so that it would rise during to keep pace with the cost of living was amended out of the bill. A measure to raise wages for tipped workers from 50 to 70 percent of the minimum wage has been changed to freeze tipped wages at $3.63, the current rate. This amendment means that as the minimum wage rises, tipped worker’s pay would remain at the current level, giving them a pay cut. Advocates are working to keep address these issues in the Senate version of the bill, as well as an amendment that broadly exempts amusement parks....
Every Republican Delegate voted against the minimum wage increase, along with 7 Democratic members of the House. See the names of lawmakers who broke party lines below, along with a few members for whom there is no vote recorded either way:
Democrats who voted against a $10.10/hour minimum wage:
  • Pamela Beidle (D32)
  • Eric Bromwell (D8)
  • Norm Conway (D38B)
  • Kevin Kelly (D1B)
  • Joseph Minnick (D6)
  • David Rudolph (D34B)
  • John Wood (D29A)
Democrats with no recorded final vote on a $10.10/hour minimum wage
  • Luiz Simmons (D17) - NOTE: Simmons had an excused absence due to the death of his father
  • Theodore Sophocleus (D32)
MIZEUR AMENDMENT: Delegate Heather Mizeur, a gubernatorial candidate, offered a last-minute amendment to try and revive indexing in the minimum wage bill through a 2% annual increase after the wage reached $10.10. Mizeur's amendment was defeated in a 8-124 vote, but here are the names of the seven other Delegates who supported her effort. Note that Doug Gansler's running-mate, Jolene Ivey, voted for Mizeur's amendment:
  • Liz Bobo (D12)
  • Jolene Ivey (D47)
  • Doyle Niemann (D47)
  • Shane Robinson (D39)
  • Mary Washington (D43)
  • Ana Sol Gutierrez (D18)
  • Joseline Pena-Melnyk (D21)
The minimum wage increase now awaits consideration in the Maryland Senate.


JUICE #3: ROLL CALL // MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION PASSES MARYLAND SENATE COMMITTEE - Last week the Maryland Senate's Judicial Proceedings committee approved legislation to remove jail time as a penalty for marijuana possession. State Senator Bobby Zirkin (a bill sponsor) issued the following press release explaining the legislation (excerpt below):
BOBBY ZIRKIN: The bill will create a civil fine not to exceed $100 for adults possessing a small quantity of marijuana. In addition, minors who are found in possession are subject to the $100 fine but also must appear in court in front of a judge or a juvenile master. Juvenile offenders could be ordered to participate in community service or participate in drug education programs.
The bi-partisan vote in the Judicial Proceedings committee was 8-3. Here are the Senators who voted for and against the bill:
Senators who voted for marijuana decriminalization in committee:
  • Jim Brochin (D42 Democrat)
  • Jennie Forehand (D17 Democrat)
  • Brian Frosh  (D16 Democrat)
  • Nancy Jacobs (D34 Republican)
  • Anthony Muse (D26 Democrat)
  • Jamie Raskin (D20 Democrat)
  • Chris Shank (D2 Republican)
  • Bobby Zirkin (D11 Democrat)
Senators who voted against marijuana decriminalization in committee:
  • Steve Hershey (D26 Republican)
  • Norm Stone (D6 Democrat)
  • Lisa Gladden (D41 Democrat)
The measure now awaits consideration by the full Senate and action in the House, though it is worth noting that decriminalization legislation passed the Senate last year. Meanwhile, officials in neighboring Washington, DC have decriminalized pot.


JUICE #4: FEDS APPROVE FUNDING FOR PURPLE LINE // LIGHT RAIL SYSTEM WILL OPEN IN 2020 - Maryland's light rail Purple Line project was approved for federal funding last week. The transit line would run from Bethesda to New Carrolton, with numerous stops in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. The Washington Post's Katie Shaver reported on the development (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: A proposed light-rail Purple Line project has been recommended for $100 million in federal money in the next fiscal year as part of President Obama’s budget released Tuesday.... Just as significant to the project’s future is that the Purple Line was included on a list of seven large transit projects nationwide that the Federal Transit Administration recommends for a “full funding grant agreement,” a ­longer-term commitment by the federal government to help pay for the project’s construction.... “This is really good news,” said Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), whose district includes part of the proposed Purple Line route in Prince George’s County. “This really keeps the Purple Line on the trajectory we need.” The 16-mile light-rail line would have 21 stations from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s. Maryland transit officials have said they hope to begin construction in 2015 and begin service in 2020.

JUICE #5: ROLL CALL // ESTATE TAX CUT APPROVED BY MARYLAND HOUSE OF DELEGATES - Progressive Maryland and some labor allies launched a campaign to stop a cut to Maryland's estate tax. Last week a Maryland Juice reader reported that Progressive Maryland had even launched calls to voters offering to patch them through to their lawmakers. But the organization reported on Facebook last week that the House of Delegates approved the estate tax cut (excerpt below):
PROGRESSIVE MARYLAND: Maryland House of Delegates just voted 120-13 in favor of cutting taxes for the wealthiest 3% of Maryland estates via HB 739. This vote came just 1 day after the State disclosed that it is in a budget hole and is weighing a $300 million cut to teachers and other state employees' pensions....
Progressive Maryland reported that 13 Democrats opposed cutting the estate tax, and we learned that a 14th Delegate added their name to the "no" votes:
  • Charles Barkley (D39)
  • Liz Bobo (D12)
  • Al Carr (D18)
  • Jill Carter (D41)
  • David Fraser-Hidalgo (D15)
  • Ana Sol Gutierrez (D18)
  • Carolyn Howard (D24)
  • Tom Hucker (D20)
  • Eric Luedtke (D14)
  • Heather Mizeur (D20)
  • Shane Robinson (D39)
  • Jeff Waldstreicher (D18)
  • Alonzo Washington (D22)
  • Mary Washington (D43)
The tax cut bill is now awaiting action in the State Senate.


JUICE #6: IN MIDST OF MEDIA AND NONPROFIT CRITICISM, LAWMAKERS ABANDON BILL TO BAN ACADEMIC BOYCOTTS - Maryland Juice previously reported on a controversial bill (HB998 & SB647) pitting the politics of the Middle East against academic freedom. The Washington Post recently editorialized against the bill, as it would prohibit state funding for academics engaged in boycotts (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: When an academic group announced it would boycott Israel’s higher-education institutions, the president of the University of Maryland, like dozens of his peers across the country, condemned the move. “A breach of the principle of academic freedom” said Wallace D. Loh in a joint statement with the school’s provost. We completely agree. However, legislation being advanced by state lawmakers to bar participation in the boycott goes too far and constitutes its own insidious assault on academic freedom. The Maryland General Assembly is considering legislation that would bar public universities from providing funds to academic organizations that support boycotts of Israel.....

Academicians, including those who abhor the boycott, are right to be alarmed by this kind of legislation. The American Association of University Professors argue that the measure would impose a political litmus test on faculty members seeking university support for research meetings and travel.... At a hearing this week before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, an official from the American Civil Liberties of Union termed the bill “inimical to democratic principals.” This bill is ill-advised and should be killed. If it advances out of the General Assembly, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) should veto it.
As a result of the backlash over the bill to ban academic boycotts, at least two sponsors are withdrawing support for the effort. A Maryland Juice reader sent us comments from the offices of two bill sponsors who are now opposing the effort:
OFFICE OF KUMAR BARVE: ... although the delegate co-sponsored HB 998 (Public Higher Education- Use of Funds- Prohibition), he has decided to vote against it if it reaches the House floor.

OFFICE OF MARY WASHINGTON: After further research on the bill, Delegate Washington is no longer supporting HB 998 and has asked to be removed as a cosponsor.

JUICE #7: GOOD BILLS TO SUPPORT // TIME TO PASS BLACK LIQUOR BILL, SECOND CHANCE ACT & PACKAGE OF PRIVACY LEGISLATION - Over the last few years, progressive lawmakers have attempted to pass a few common-sense bills but have been rebuffed time and again.

BLACK LIQUOR: The first bill is a bill to end Maryland subsidies for a dirty energy source called "black liquor" that is produced from wood and paper waste (SB734 & HB747). The Chesapeake Climate Action Network describes the 2014 legislative effort as follows (excerpt below):
CHESAPEAKE CLIMATE ACTION NETWORK: A massive loophole in Maryland's renewable energy law is forcing ratepayers to reward the creation of greenhouse gases and harmful air pollutants. In the 2014 General Assembly, the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard - Qualifying Biomass bill (SB 734/HB 747) would eliminate that loophole to ensure that Maryland's clean energy is actually clean.

In 2004, Maryland became one of the first states in the country to create a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).... However, while fellow Mid-Atlantic States like Delaware and New Jersey get over 70% of their renewable energy portfolios from the wind and sun, these resources make up only 15% of Maryland's portfolio. The primary reason is a flaw in the renewable energy law that supports out-of-state, high-emission black liquor and wood waste facilities that have been in operation for over 32 years on average. These old, polluting facilities are receiving more of our renewable energy dollars than true clean energy sources like wind and solar.
EXPUNGING CRIMINAL RECORDS: The second bill "good bill" we're highlighting is called the Maryland Second Chance Act. This is an effort to allow residents with minor nonviolent criminal convictions to be able to shield them from public view after a number of years (SB1056 & HB1166). The Job Opportunities Task Force provided the following update on the status of this bill:
JOB OPPORTUNITIES TASK FORCE: This Tuesday the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will consider the Maryland Second Chance Act of 2014. This important legislation would permit the shielding of certain nonviolent misdemeanor convictions from the public. For many Marylanders this means their criminal record would no longer stand in the way of getting a job.

Please take a minute to contact your lawmakers and share your support for SB 1056/ HB 1166. Phone calls are best, but please feel free to send an email using templates for the Senate Judicial Proceedings and House Judiciary Committees.
In a press release yesterday, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler (a candidate for Governor) announced that he would be testifying in support of the Second Chance Act at the Senate hearing today (TUE 3/11/14) (excerpt below):
DOUG GANSLER: Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler will tour the Community Kitchen in East Baltimore at 11:00 a.m., Tuesday March 11 to learn how the Episcopal Community Services program uses its catering service to train and certify formerly incarcerated persons and prepare them for employment and careers in food service....

Following the tour, Attorney General Gansler will hold a news conference on site at 11:30 a.m. to discuss his support of The Maryland Second Chance Act of 2014 (SB 1056 and HB 1166) before heading to Annapolis to testify in House and Senate committee hearings on the legislation....
ELECTRONIC PRIVACY LEGISLATION: Lastly, civil liberties advocates are promoting a package of legislation aimed at increasing privacy protections for Marylanders. The Cumberland Times-News reported on the effort (excerpt below):
CUMBERLAND TIMES-NEWS: While technology that tracks cellphones and cars has made work easier for some law enforcement officials, a bundle of proposed laws would ensure that the same technology could not violate Marylanders’ protections from unwarranted searches and seizures.

Members of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland testified last week  in the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in favor of four bills aimed at curbing law enforcement officials’ ability to electronically monitor citizens. If passed, the bills would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before reading electronic communication and tracking a cellphone.

“Your phone can tell the government where you are at any moment,” said Del. Jeff Waldstreicher, D-Montgomery, who sponsored the bill on cellphone tracking. The proposed bills would also limit the ability of police to use drones, and would place parameters on how long law enforcement officials can keep records based on license plate readers. David Rocah, senior staff attorney with the ACLU, said he is concerned that laws requiring warrants did not yet exist when smartphones be-came available to the public.

JUICE #8: MOCO LAWMAKERS RALLY FOR MORE SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION FUNDING AS COUNTY EXEC CANDIDATES JOCKEY - Montgomery County officials have been pushing for increased school construction dollars from Annapolis this year. In response to surging enrollment, MoCo electeds have joined with lawmakers in Baltimore and Prince George's counties to present a united front for increased modernization funds. But The Gazette's Kate Alexander reported a couple weeks ago that the funding push was facing an uphill battle in the General Assembly. Since then, MoCo officials and residents held a rally in Annapolis, and County Executive Ike Leggett issued an action alert calling on residents to contact the Governor and leaders of the House and Senate. Rival County Exec candidate Doug Duncan also released a letter he sent to MoCo's Del. Anne Kaiser and Sen. Jamie Raskin (MoCo's House & Senate leaders) declaring an absence of "strong, local leadership" on school funding. Below we provide a few excerpts from the relevant statements, starting with dueling releases from Ike Leggett and Doug Duncan:
IKE LEGGETT ACTION ALERT

Overcrowding in County Schools Requires More State Construction Dollars:
Pass Senate Bill 927 and House Bill 1323

Montgomery County is working closely with Baltimore County and Prince George’s County to win a state program where every $2 of County money will be matched by $1 in State money. Together, the three counties represent 44 percent of the State’s students and 46 percent of students eligible for free and reduced meals....

Montgomery County is already planning to invest another $1.1 billion of our own County money for school construction – a record high. Over the last eight years, County funding for school construction has increased by 36 percent.

Montgomery County needs the State of Maryland to step up with a matched program for resources over and above what the County normally receives. Investing in our future teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs, and innovators - and our kids' quality education - is absolutely essential for Montgomery County and is a smart investment for the whole State of Maryland.

For more details on this campaign: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/schoolfunding/

Send messages to:
Thank them for their past support and tell these State of Maryland leaders why investing in our schools is critically important and why we need Senate Bill 927 and House Bill 1323.

DOUG DUNCAN'S LETTER TO SEN. RASKIN & DEL. KAISER
Dear Senator Raskin/Delegate Kaiser,

I was disappointed to read last week that Montgomery County local officials are already declaring defeat on our number one priority in Annapolis - obtaining additional school construction funding to address the public school’s system’s severe overcrowding.  I am writing to ask you and your colleagues to take decisive action and provide the leadership needed to secure this critical funding approved this year - not later as some have suggested.

Montgomery County faces a public school overcrowding crisis, with approximately 2,500 additional students entering the school system each year for the next several years.   We owe every child in Montgomery County the opportunity to learn in a clean, safe, modern, and uncrowded classroom.

As you know, during the debate over increasing the gas tax in 2012, Baltimore City delegation members leveraged their support to get more school construction money – funds they will now receive.  Unfortunately, largely due to the absence of strong, local leadership, Montgomery County did not secure a similar funding package to address our significant overcrowding.  In fact, it appears that effort was given little consideration until just before this year’s legislative session began.

As a life-long resident of Montgomery County and someone who has always made education my top priority, I respectfully ask that you and your colleagues take over where the local officials have failed, and enact legislation that will lead to Montgomery County receiving its fair share of state school construction funding.

Respectfully,

Douglas Duncan

The Montgomery Sentinel's Holden Wilen covered the jousting over the school funding fight, including commentary from some of the figures above (excerpt below):
MONTGOMERY SENTINEL: Doug Duncan and Ike Leggett are finding themselves at odds again, this time because Duncan says Leggett has not done enough to get Montgomery County its fair share of state construction funding....
[Delegate Anne] Kaiser also shrugged off Duncan’s comments about poor leadership, saying “he should know better.” “(Duncan) knows these things take time,” Kaiser said. “There is no question everyone thinks this is important....”

Leggett campaign officials defended the current county executive’s efforts. According to Scott Goldberg, Leggett’s campaign manager, Leggett has helped secure $262 million in school construction funds during the last seven years. “That is $60 million more than the county received under (Duncan’s) previous seven years—during which the economy was booming and budgets much easier...."
Lastly, the Montgomery County Council released a video last week making the case for increased school construction funding:

GUEST POST: A Maryland Farmer Makes the Case for Legislation to Require GMO Labeling // By Michael Tabor

MARYLAND JUICE: Activists are urging Maryland lawmakers to pass legislation (SB778 & HB1191) that would require foods from genetically modified organisms (aka GMO's) to be labeled. The push for GMO labeling has been a huge political battle in numerous states and around the world, with public interest advocates taking on well-funded opponents from the ag industry like Monsanto. There are many nuances to the fight, including numerous public health arguments and claims that corporations often sell or license patented GMO seeds to poor farmers who would be better off using traditional methods of seed harvesting & reuse. Today the State Senate is holding a hearing on the GMO labeling bill, and we have a guest post from MoCo farmer Michael Tabor about the effort:
MICHAEL TABOR: Regarding the March 11th hearings on GMO labeling legislation, Marylanders should contact their legislators to support bills SB778 and HB1191.  As a farmer and consumer, I believe we should have the right to know if genetically modified organisms are in our food -- just as we do with the amount of calories, preservatives and food coloring consumers fought to have on food labels.  We're intelligent enough to read, research and choose -- if we have the information; thus the need to have GMO foods labeled.

Regarding the FDA’S role in protection of the public, the FDA does no independent testing of GMOs.  They rely on short term tests conducted by the bio-tech industry! And FDA's Chief of Food Safety, Michael Taylor, has been a Monsanto Vice President. Are these tests and individuals impartial?  You can't blame the public for being skeptical.

On the argument of selective breeding of seeds, I do want the most disease and pest resistant varieties of seeds when I farm.  But, genetic engineering is a hit or miss new and risky process of splicing genes from one species (usually animal) into the DNA of another (vegetable).  This is not "natural" and not what is meant by the age old practice of "selective breeding" within the same species.  GMOs are not an extension of "natural breeding", but rather ultimately meant for company profit because bio-tech companies have received patents on these new life forms.

Monsanto, Syngenta and other bio-tech companies want control of what seeds farmers use.  They have bought up the majority of the smaller seed companies in this country.  The purchase of their GMO seeds mandates the use of their exclusive chemicals such as Roundup (glyphosate) and Atrazine, which have created superweeds that their chemicals can no longer kill.  These chemicals flow into our drinking water.  Syngenta recently lost a $100 million class action suit against many states and municipalities to clean the Atrazine out of the drinking water. Maryland has one of the nation's highest amounts of Atrazine in its drinking water, but for some unknown reason it was not part of the suit and did not receive any money for the cleanup.

The issues of GMO health dangers have raised enough questions that 64 countries, including the European Union, require labeling.  The bio-tech industry cannot prove to them that GM foods are safe. In fact, we, the American public, never had that choice - and in the end we are really the bio-tech industries' guinea pigs. 

I am always saddened by the fact our Governor, our Senate President, and most members of the General Assembly turn to the MD Dept of Agriculture for guidance on these issues. Its head, Buddy Hance, was the former president of the MD Farm Bureau. The farming sector, which represents only 2% of the Maryland GNP, controls public policy when it comes to the health and safety of 98% of its citizenry, the environment, and health of the Chesapeake Bay.  The Farm Bureau, although composed of family farmers like myself, mostly represents the interests of large corporate farming including the multi-billion dollar profits of the biotechnology chemical companies.  They pour millions of dollars into state campaigns against the labeling of GMO foods because they believe it will cut down on company profits.  Our health and well-being are not a concern of theirs.

So, we, the citizens of Maryland, have the right to know, so we can make informed choices, which is the backbone of a democratic society.  We need to pass a GMO labeling law for ourselves, our children and the future.  Call your state delegates and let them know that!

Michael Tabor
Farmer, Consumer and Maryland resident

Friday, March 7, 2014

CAMPAIGN JUICE: Brown & Gansler Launch TV Ads, Hucker v Barclay, Kagan v Simmons, D13 & Analysis of MoCo Exec Race

Below Maryland Juice has a few quick updates regarding campaigns of interest to politicos:

JUICE #1: GUBERNATORIAL AD WARS BEGIN // WATCH ANTHONY BROWN & DOUG GANSLER'S FIRST TV SPOTS - Begun the ad wars have. Gubernatorial candidates Anthony Brown and Doug Gansler are beginning to unload their multi-million dollars war chests on the television airwaves. Below you can see their first ads in the race for Maryland Governor:





HEADLINE UPDATE: Notably, these early ads are soft and fluffy. But I fully expect the tone of future ads to take a downward spiral, based on the headlines of recent press releases I've been receiving. See a few examples below:
  • DOUG GANSLER:  Lt. Gov. Brown Says, “Leadership is About Inspiring People to Achieve Goals” – Really?
  • HEATHER MIZEUR:  Mizeur Questions Gansler’s Commitment to Middle Class Families
  • ANTHONY BROWN:  Doug Gansler yet to explain why he refuses to support funding full-day Pre-K for all Maryland children

JUICE #2: TOM HUCKER VS. CHRIS BARCLAY // DUELING UNION ENDORSEMENTS IN MOCO COUNCIL DISTRICT 5 - With the filing deadline closed, the race for Montgomery County Council District 5 is beginning to take shape. Board of Education President Chris Barclay received an endorsement from MoCo's teachers union, while Delegate Tom Hucker received the support of the MoCo government employees union. Check out the MCEA Tweet and MCGEO press release excerpt below:


PRESS RELEASE

UFCW LOCAL 1994 MCGEO ENDORSES TOM HUCKER IN BID 
FOR VACANT DISTRICT 5 COUNTY COUNCIL SEAT

Praises his work as state delegate advocating for women, children, and working families

Silver Spring, MD. - Today, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1994 MCGEO announced its enthusiastic support of Tom Hucker for the vacant seat in the Montgomery County Council District 5 race. Key to the endorsement, said Local 1994 President Gino Renne, was “Tom’s tireless work to protect and fight for legislation that protects our most vulnerable residents – our working moms, our children, our seniors....” MCGEO plans to make the District 5 race its top priority this election season, and will launch a robust political program including weekend door knocking and phone banks.

JUICE #3: ENDORSEMENTS IN DISTRICT 17 SENATE RACE BETWEEN CHERYL KAGAN AND LUIZ SIMMONS - Two new endorsements have been announced in the District 17 State Senate slugfest between Delegate Luiz Simmons and former Delegate Cheryl Kagan. Kagan received the support of retiring D17 Senator Jennie Forehand, while Simmons was endorsed by the MoCo government employees union MCGEO. See press release excerpts below:
PRESS RELEASE

Statement by Senator Jennie M. Forehand

My friends and supporters have been asking me which Senate candidate I believe should represent District 17. I am proud to announce my enthusiastic endorsement of my former colleague, Cheryl Kagan, who will best reflect my views and priorities in the State Senate.

... I am delighted to endorse Cheryl Kagan for State Senate. Cheryl is the clear choice, and I look forward to campaigning together toward victory in the June 24th Democratic primary. I strongly urge my friends and neighbors in Rockville and Gaithersburg to join me in supporting Cheryl.
PRESS RELEASE

Montgomery County Public Employees Endorse Simmons for State Senate

Simmons is UFCW 1994 MCGEO First Legislative Endorsement of 2014 Political Cycle
Rockville, MD – Today, Del. Luiz Simmons received the endorsement of UFCW 1994 MCGEO, the Montgomery County Public Employees, in his run to be the next State Senator for District 17.  The support of Simmons is MCGEO’s first legislative endorsement of the 2014 political cycle.  MCGEO represents 8,000 public employees in Montgomery County and beyond.

Gino Renne, President of UFCW 1994 MCGEO released the following statement praising Simmons for his hard work on behalf of Maryland working families, “Delegate Simmons has proven himself time and again to be a strong advocate for working families in Montgomery County and beyond.  I am confident that as a state senator, Luiz will continue to fight and address the problems plaguing our poor and middle class....”

JUICE #4: POLITICAL CHESS IN DISTRICT 13 DELEGATE RACE - David Lublin, who has rebooted the Maryland Politics Watch blog at www.theseventhstate.com, has an interesting write-up about the political chess match in District 13's Delegate race (excerpt below):
SEVENTH STATE: Long story short, a husband and wife both filed for delegate as did an uncle and his niece. The wife, School Board Member Janet Siddiqui, withdrew at the last minute to refile for School Board but her husband, Nayab Siddiqui, stayed in the race.

Both Vanessa Atterbeary, formerly a candidate in District 18, and her uncle, incumbent Del. Frank Turner filed and neither dropped out. Del. Guy Guzzone, who is running for Senate, originally planned to form a slate with incumbent Del. Shane Pendergrass, Del. Frank Turner, and Janet Siddiqui.

Now, Guzzone, Pendergrass, and Turner have decided to put Vanessa Atterbeary on their ticket as its third candidate for delegate after a series of interviews with the prospective candidates. Nayab Siddiqui and Vanessa Atterbeary both had inside knowledge that someone was going to drop out–or else why on earth would they have filed? And now Team 13 has added the niece of an incumbent delegate to the slate....

JUICE #5: MY THOUGHTS ON THE RACE FOR MONTGOMERY COUNTY EXECUTIVE - There are a few months left to go until the June Democratic Primary for Montgomery County Executive. After the January campaign finance filings, incumbent Exec Ike Leggett had a sizeable cash advantage over challengers Doug Duncan and Phil Andrews:
  • County Executive Ike Leggett (incumbent) = $971,159.00
  • Former County Executive Doug Duncan = $330,120.86
  • Councilmember Phil Andrews = $118,805.41
Between the power of incumbency and the heft of his war chest, Leggett may be sitting in a decent spot right now. But it is worth noting that even after the campaign finance reports came out, Duncan picked up endorsements from the MoCo police and firefighters unions. Meanwhile, a few major groups have yet to weigh in on the race, and Duncan may have decent residual name id from his previous terms as County Executive.

On the financial front, history also demonstrates that money is not decisive in these races. When Leggett first won in 2006, he was heavily outspent by rival candidate Steve Silverman ($770,000 to $1.9 million according to The Gazette). Even still, there is likely a threshold amount of spending a countywide candidate needs to meet in order to get their basic message out. Perhaps recognizing these challenges, in recent campaign debates Duncan has attempted to draw sharp contrasts with his rivals (Leggett especially) by criticizing their records on school construction funding and other issues.

DUNCAN JABS: In the latest bout of sparring, Duncan has taken to attacking Leggett for the stalled opening of the Silver Spring Transit Center. Though I can't speak for the rest of the parts of the county, I've spoken to lots of voters in the downtown Silver Spring area, and it is true that they frequently raise the Transit Center as an issue of concern. For those interested in further details on the Silver Spring Transit Center delays, the Action Committee for Transit has a chronology of news coverage at its website. In any case, the key question at hand is whether this and other issues like school funding will come to define the race, and whether any blame will be pinned on Leggett. Perhaps that's why Duncan held a press conference this week to raise questions about county officials' roles in the Transit Center controversy (excerpt below):
PRESS RELEASE 

Duncan Urges Completion of Silver Spring Transit Center;
Calls on County to Provide Answers, Plan of Action

SILVER SPRING, Maryland – Standing on the site of the long-delayed Silver Spring Transit Center, Democratic candidate for County Executive, Doug Duncan, today called on Montgomery County officials to stop making excuses, offer up a plan of action, and move swiftly to complete a critically important transportation hub that serves thousands of Washington area commuters. Duncan, who, as County Executive, oversaw the successful revitalization of downtown Silver Spring[1], said taxpayers deserve to know when the transit center will open – and how much more it will cost to complete it.... The Silver Spring Transit Center is currently two and a half years overdue and tens of millions over budget....

Duncan called on the County Executive and County Council to promptly give the public answers to these questions. "It’s time for answers.  Silver Spring residents and community leaders fought too long and hard for a vibrant downtown to have to wait for this mess to be cleaned up, before they have access to the state-of-the-art transit center they were expecting," said Duncan. "This failure on the part of the County government to get the job done here leaves pedestrians at risk, commuters frustrated and hurts the economic vitality of Silver Spring.  The people of Montgomery County deserve better."
LEGGETT HITS BACK: Patrick Lacefield, a spokesperson for Ike Leggett, responded in turn with the following statement:
PATRICK LACEFIELD: This is nothing more than the previous County Executive playing politics by seeking publicity for his campaign. If he had been following this issue, he would know that we are awaiting warmer temperatures to resume the remaining work on the private contractor’s faulty concrete work. All other things being equal, the facility could be completed, turned over to WMATA and opened by the summer. The detailed plan to fix it is embodied in the KCE Report made public last year and discussed by the Council. The cost for the concrete overlay is estimated at $2 million, costs which the County will ensure would be borne by the private parties at fault for construction, design and inspection flaws, not by County taxpayers.

The County continues to work with WMATA and the designer about the possible need to further strengthen interior beams and girders, as was discussed with the County Council last November.  Again, the County would work to ensure that any additional costs for fixing flaws would be borne by the private parties responsible.

It is heartening that the former County Executive is interested in the safety of the facility since previously he had expressed the view that he would simply have covered over the faulty workmanship and moved on, notwithstanding the more profound safety flaws that were discovered by KCE, with findings endorsed by three independent engineers. The County Executive has stated that he will turn over to WMATA a structure that is both safe and durable and that he will not let politics get in the way of safety, period.
The interesting thing about Duncan raising the Transit Center controversy is that he worked for one of the parties involved in its construction. The Washington Post's Bill Turque reported on the connection yesterday (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: Duncan has worked as a consultant for Foulger-Pratt, the general contractor on the project. KCE held the firm responsible for the absence of reinforcing steel in two critical 10-foot-by-40-foot slabs in the center of the bus roadway. Foulger was also accountable for unacceptably thin concrete covering in some portions of the building, KCE said. Duncan said that contractors and engineers “did not perform as expected,” but declined to criticize Foulger directly.
THE PHIL ANDREWS EXPERIMENT: While Doug Duncan and Ike Leggett take turns punching each other, Councilmember Phil Andrews is embarking upon an interesting political experiment. He is essentially testing whether a candidate can win a countywide race in MoCo almost entirely by door-knocking. It seems clear at this point that Andrews will be outspent (heavily perhaps?), but in his literature (scanned below) he claims that he's knocked 17,000 doors in the last year or so. By comparison, there were 104,979 votes cast in the 2006 Democratic Primary when Leggett received 64,382 votes to Steve Silverman's 37,279. Notably, my wife reports that some of her co-workers (who are not plugged in to local politics) report having spoken to Phil Andrews personally when he canvassed their neighborhoods. In any case, you can read Andrews' literature below (click on the images to expand them):




Friday, February 28, 2014

JUICE: Frosh Video, Gross D9A Facebook Post, D13 Family Ties, Henson vs. McFadden, MoCo School $, MCDCC Battle & More!

Below Maryland Juice provides a quick round-up of news items of interest to politicos:

JUICE #1: BRIAN FROSH RELEASES NEW WEB VIDEO HIGHLIGHTING GUN CONTROL ADVOCACY - Sen. Brian Frosh (a candidate for Attorney General) released a new web video today highlighting testimonials from national gun control advocates:



JUICE #2: OUTRAGEOUS FACEBOOK COMMENTARY FROM D9A DELEGATE CANDIDATE FRANK MIRABILE - Social media platforms are known to produce feisty back-and-forth commentary between politicos. But a Maryland Juice reader highlighted an outrageous set of comments from District 9A candidate Frank Mirabile, a Republican candidate for an open Delegate seat.  In the Facebook thread (excerpts screen-capped below), Mirabile responds to someone criticizing his stances on various issues by repeatedly insulting her physical appearance:


#TACKY: Maryland's District 9A is two-member House of Delegates district, with one open seat. D9A incumbent GOP Delegate Warren Miller is running for re-election, but there are four candidates in the Republican Primary for the one open seat: Eric Bouchat, Trent Kittleman, Kyle Lorton and Frank Mirabile. Notably, Frank Mirabile was also the 2010 Republican Congressional nominee against Congressman Elijah Cummings. I'm not sure I've seen a candidate for public office publish commentary as crass and unseemly as this before. Notably, the Facebook link appears to have been deleted, but not before a few hundred comments appeared on the thread.


JUICE #3: BIZARRE FAMILY JOCKEYING IN HOCO'S DISTRICT 13 DELEGATE RACE - Strange things are happening in the House of Delegates District 13 race. In the three-seat Howard County-anchored district, incumbents Shane Pendergrass and Frank Turner are currently filed to run for re-election. They had previously formed a slate with HoCo school board member Janet Siddiqui, but on the last day for candidates to file, Turner's protege Vanessa Atterbeary and Siddiqui's husband Nayab Siddiqui both filed for office. This appears to be a bit of a switcheroo, because Janet Siddiqui has now withdrawn from the race. The Baltimore Sun's Amanda Yeager had this to say (excerpt below):
BALTIMORE SUN: The political world got a last-minute shock Tuesday night when Nayab Siddiqui, husband of district 13 candidate and Howard County school board member Janet Siddiqui, filed to run in the same race. But as of Thursday afternoon, Janet Siddiqui is no longer up against her husband. She has officially withdrawn from the race, according to the state Board of Elections’ online list of candidates.... Other Democratic candidates include Oakland Mills community organizer Fred Eiland and Fulton lawyer Vanessa Atterbeary, who also filed at the last minute on Tuesday.

JUICE #4: JULIUS HENSON PLEDGES TO CONTINUE CAMPAIGN AGAINST SEN. NATE MCFADDEN, EVEN AS JUDGE RULES IT IS A PROBATION VIOLATION - Baltimore consultant Julius Henson was convicted of voter fraud charges for illegal robocalls he deployed on behalf of GOP Governor Bob Ehrlich. But Henson is now a candidate for State Senate against Sen. Nate McFadden, and he's pledging to continue campaigning even though a judge has ruled he's now violating his probation. The Washington Post's Paul Schwartzman reported on the development (excerpt below, H/T Maryland Reporter):
WASHINGTON POST: Julius Henson ... promised to keep running for office despite a judge’s ruling that he had violated his probation by becoming a candidate.... Henson, 64, vowed not only to appeal but also to press on with his campaign to “retire” Nathaniel J. McFadden (D), who has served in the state Senate for 18 years....  Prosecutors accused Henson of seeking to suppress turnout among African Americans during the 2010 governor’s race when he worked as a strategist for the campaign of former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R)....  At Thursday’s hearing, Emmet Davitt, Maryland’s special prosecutor, argued that the language of Henson’s probation order — barring him from working on campaigns “in any capacity” — made his candidacy a violation....

JUICE #5: MOCO UNLIKELY TO GET SCHOOL INCREASE IN SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION FUNDING? - The Gazette's Kate Alexander reported this week that despite surging enrollment, Montgomery County may be unlikely to receive an increase in school construction funding this year (excerpt below):
GAZETTE: Midway through Maryland’s 90-day legislative session, county lawmakers seem to hold little hope of their top legislative priority passing the General Assembly and establishing a steady, predictable stream of state money to leverage borrowing for school construction.

[MoCo Executive Ike] Leggett said the county began pushing for more school construction dollars in 2010 and was able to get some additional state money through the conventional budget process. But to keep pace with growing enrollment — about 2,000 new students each year for Montgomery County Public Schools — even more money is needed.... [Delegate Anne Kaiser’s school construction funding] bill is scheduled for a hearing March 6. The Senate version is scheduled for a hearing March 12.

JUICE #6: PROGRESSIVE MARYLAND LAUNCHES SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN OPPOSING ESTATE TAX CUT - Progressive Maryland's Executive Director Kate Planco Waybright recently published a guest post on Maryland Juice urging lawmakers to abandon support a cut in the state's estate tax. It appears the organization is now following up on their effort with targeted social media ad buys. Check out the screen cap sent to us by a reader below:

JUICE #7: CONTESTED RACES FOR MOCO DEMOCRATIC CENTRAL COMMITTEE // SEE WHO IS ON THE OFFICIAL MCDCC SLATE - Bethesda Magazine's Lou Peck reported on jockeying over the upcoming Democratic Primary elections for the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC). Notably, the MCDCC appoints Democrats to fill vacant legislative seats and mails sample ballots to voters recommending positions on referenda. Last year we witnessed all sorts of mayhem  when some labor unions picketed the MCDCC spring ball due to the group's support for repeal of "effects bargaining" rights in MoCo (aka Question B). This week Bethesda Magazine reported on the aftermath (excerpt below):
BETHESDA MAGAZINE: An ongoing effort to mend a rift between the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee and local labor groups appears to have taken a step forward, as a party screening committee put forth a slate of candidates aimed at placing a significant number of new faces on to the 24-member MCDCC.

One party insider described behind-the-scenes developments over the past week – with the slate not finalized until shortly before Tuesday’s primary filing deadline – as “a bloodless coup in a lot of ways.”

While there will be a number of contested central committee seats in the upcoming June 24 primary – including challenges to some committee veterans – the slate proposed by a five-member screening committee headed by MCDCC Chair Gabriel Albornoz won praise from a top local labor leader....
The MCDCC sent Maryland Juice a press release announcing their selections for the official slate of recommended candidates in the June 24th primaries. Their statement noted the following (excerpt below):
MCDCC: The 2014 Democratic Leadership Team Slate is pleased to announce the candidates for the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee. The candidates will be on this June’s primary ballot. The slate is comprised of Democratic leaders from many different backgrounds, including: labor, non-profit, government and business. In bringing this group together, party organizers considered the diverse voices and backgrounds that represent the Democratic Party –as well as the various skills and expertise needed to effectively run the party organization....
FULL LIST OF MCDCC CANDIDATES: All of the MCDCC races are contested, except in Districts 17, 18 and 39. Below we publish the MCDCC'S choices, along with the names of candidates who are running against the slate:
  • Brian Anleu, District 14
  • Arthur Edmunds, District 14 - MCDCC Slate - (incumbent)
  • Pam Queen, District 14 - MCDCC Slate - (incumbent)
  • Anis Ahmed, District 15
  • Tim Whitehouse, District 15 - MCDCC Slate
  • Venattia W. Vann, District 15 - MCDCC Slate - (incumbent)
  • Kris Verma, District 15
  • Wendy Cohen, District 16 - MCDCC Slate
  • Loretta Jean Garcia, District 16
  • Almina Khorakiwala, District 16 - MCDCC Slate - (incumbent)
  • Julian Haffner, District 17 - MCDCC Slate
  • Jonathan Prutow, District 17 - MCDCC Slate - (incumbent)
  • Alan Banov, District 18 - MCDCC Slate - (incumbent)
  • Aaron Kaufmann, District 18 - MCDCC Slate
  • Hoan Dang, District 19 - MCDCC Slate
  • Harold Diamond, District 19 - (incumbent)
  • Melissa Pinnick, District 19 - MCDCC Slate
  • Tamika Bennett, District 20 - MCDCC Slate - (incumbent)
  • Ed Kimmel, District 20
  • Jheanelle Wilkins, District 20 - MCDCC Slate
  • Juan Cardenas, District 39 - MCDCC Slate - (incumbent)
  • Mumin Barre, District 39 - MCDCC Slate
  • Darrell Anderson, At Large - MCDCC Slate - (incumbent)
  • Steve Boliek, At Large
  • Chris Bradbury, At Large - MCDCC Slate
  • Natalia Farrar, At Large
  • Marjorie Goldman, At Large - MCDCC Slate - (incumbent)
  • Johntel Greene, At Large - MCDCC Slate
  • Michael Gruenberg, At Large - MCDCC Slate
  • Dave Kunes, At Large - MCDCC Slate
  • Pavel Sukhobok, At Large
  • Kevin Walling, At Large - MCDCC Slate
  • Erin Yeagley, At Large - MCDCC Slate

JUICE #8: MINIMUM WAGE SUPPORTERS RALLY OUTSIDE OF MARYLAND RETAILERS ASSOCIATION OFFICE - The debate over a Maryland minimum wage increase is heating up during the current Annapolis legislative session. Yesterday SEIU organized a rally outside the offices of the Maryland Retailers Association (industry opponents of the minimum wage increase). Check out some photos from the event:





JUICE #9: NEW MAP OF THE PROPOSED MOCO RAPID TRANSIT SYSTEM - The newly rebooted Maryland Politics Watch (www.theseventhstate.com) posted a new map of a planned rapid transit system (RTS) for Montgomery County. The transit network below is advancing right now, but it is still in the early stages of development: