Sunday, December 30, 2012

MEGA JuiceBlender: Updates on Don Dwyer, John Delaney, Maryland Wind Power, Death Penalty, Gun Control & More!

Below Maryland Juice presents several recent political tidbits to take note of, starting with an update on everyone's favorite gay-bashing, drunk-driving Delegate Don Dwyer. Sorry for the length of this JuiceBlender, but I'm playing catch up on a bunch of story threads below.

Maryland's Drunk-Boating Delegate Don Dwyer

JUICE #1: CRIMINAL CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST TEA PARTY LAWMAKER DON DWYER // SPOTLIGHT ON HYPOCRISY - Maryland Delegate Don Dwyer stunned political observers with his moral hypocrisy earlier this year when he admitted driving a boat with over three times the legal blood alcohol content (BAC). Dwyer is a self-proclaimed family values, Tea Party lawmaker who previously led the charge against marriage equality in Maryland. But Dwyer's drunk-boating led to serious injuries for several children, and now The Baltimore Sun reports that the Republican lawmaker is facing criminal charges (excerpt below):
BALTIMORE SUN: Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. is facing five charges in connection with an August boat crash that sent him and six other people — including four children — to the hospital....
Dwyer, 54, was charged Thursday by Maryland Natural Resources Police with operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol, reckless operation of a vessel, negligent operation of a vessel, failing to register his boat and a rules-of-the-road violation.

If convicted, Dwyer could face a year in jail and up to $1,940 in combined fines.

The operator of the other boat, Mark "Randy" Harbin, also was charged in the crash; none of Harbin's charges were related to alcohol....
Don Dwyer's Republican colleague Del. Nic Kipke previously suggested that Dwyer should resign from office, but that was even before criminal charges were handed down. Now that Dwyer is actually facing jail time, The Capital Gazette has also weighed in and is joining the calls for Dwyer's resignation (excerpt below):
CAPITAL GAZETTE: ...after seeing Dwyer win three elections, we know he has a core of supporters who see his fundamentalist view of the world as their own. They have ignored his failing as a delegate, the inability to pass a single piece of legislation. Instead, they have been content with a representative focused on other people's morals, values and their lack of respect for the law. Now poor judgment has turned the table and the public must consider Dwyer's morals, values and lack of respect....

We should not tolerate a lawmaker who violates the laws passed by the very body he serves. Given the serious of the charges against Dwyer, he should resign.

With a blood-alcohol level measured at .24 -- three times the legal definition of intoxication -- his decision to take that boat onto the water represented a complete lack of respect for the lives of others. Police say he was negligent and reckless. He should have been charged with being oblivious.

It is less sensational yet of equal concern that Dwyer was piloting a unregistered boat. The man who has made his career lecturing us all on right and wrong decided he could ignore the law. His hubris was so great, so galling that he had the audacity to do it behind the wheel of a boat named Legislator.

Dwyer said he has no plans to step down....

JUICE #2: MD SENATE MAY SHIFT COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIP TO PASS WIND POWER BILL, BUT FROSH NOT INTERESTED IN DOING SAME FOR DEATH PENALTY - Maryland Juice has been hearing rumors of potential shifts to the membership of various committees in the Maryland Senate. The reason for this would be to remove members who have been obstacles to various bills and allow the legislation to come to a full vote on the floor. The Associated Press (via WNAV) this month noted that Senate President Mike Miller wants a vote on a wind power bill (excerpt below):
ASSOCIATED PRESS: Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller says he will consider changing the membership of the Senate Finance Committee, if that's what is needed to get an offshore wind measure to the Senate for a full debate in the upcoming legislative session....
Additionally, the Prince George's County Young Democrats Tweeted at Maryland Juice that State Senator Joanne Benson announced she would changing committee assignments:

Maryland Juice has been hoping that if the State Senate is going to be making changes to pass wind power, that President Mike Miller will do the same to finally get the death penalty off the books in Maryland. Notably, Miller is an advocate of executions by the government and seems to be unexcited about bringing Maryland in line with global norms on the issue. Meanwhile human rights group Amnesty International noted the United States' embarrassing position on the issue last year:
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: The United States stayed in its dubiously bad place on this fundamental human rights issue. The U.S. was the only country in the Western hemisphere or the G8 to kill its prisoners, and was responsible for the fifth most known executions in the world, behind China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. (As an independent country, Texas would have ranked 7th, between North Korea and Somalia, with its 13 executions in 2011.)
This issue (and others) continue to fuel my belief that Maryland's legislative leadership is much more conservative than the voters they are supposed to represent. More surprising, however, is the fact that liberal State Senator Brian Frosh seems to be pulling his punches against the immoral and Dark Ages practice of conducting state-sponsored murders in Maryland. The Baltimore Sun reported last month that the NAACP planned to make repeal of government executions their top priority in Maryland. But The Sun's coverage also noted that Frosh, who chairs the Senate committee with jurisdiction over state executions, does not believe that Miller should change the composition of the Judiciary Committee to abolish the death penalty. This is an odd view for Frosh (a death penalty opponent), given that he is no stranger to using strong-arm tactics to advance or kill legislation, as he did when he unilaterally overruled his colleagues and killed student voting rights in Montgomery County this year. It is also an interesting position, given that the composition of Senate committees is pretty arbitrary to begin with. See an excerpt from The Sun's coverage below:
BALTIMORE SUN: The NAACP is vowing to mount in Annapolis its largest-ever effort to abolish the death penalty in a state, saying Maryland's historic role in the civil rights movement makes it an appropriate place for the push....
The NAACP has historically opposed the death penalty for a variety of reasons, including racial disparities in how it is applied. [NAACP President Ben] Jealous said Maryland is especially important to the NAACP because of the state's civil rights history — including the careers of native sons Thurgood Marshall and Frederick Douglass....
To get a repeal bill to the Senate floor under standard procedure, the Judicial Proceedings Committee would have to approve it. A 6-5 majority on the panel has consistently supported the death penalty....

Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat, said he has little enthusiasm for one strategy suggested by repeal proponents — persuading Miller to shuffle committee memberships to dislodge the bill. "I don't think it's good policy to shift members of committees to pick up a vote on one issue," he said....
I agree that its not good practice to do this willy-nilly, but surely there are instances where it makes sense. When a state government grants itself the right to kill people, I think that might be a good time to dust off the old "committee membership switcheroo" tactic. Come on, we're doing it for wind power! I think that stopping state murder is at least as important as promoting renewable energy and halting climate change.

JUICE #3: SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI TO CHAIR APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE // TEA LEAVES: NO RETIREMENT COMING - Numerous outlets are reporting that U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (aka BAM!) has been tapped to chair the body's appropriations committee, which (naturally) has jurisdiction over how the Senate spends money. Mikulski will be the first woman to hold the powerful post, and already Maryland politicos are thinking about how this may benefit the Free State. One Maryland Juice source noted, "This makes it much easier to get federal funding for both Red Line and Purple Line... if we can just get the state to come up with some transportation revenues." In any case, The Associated Press reported on the development via The New York Times (excerpt below):
ASSOCIATED PRESS: Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski is set to become the first woman to chair the prestigious Senate Appropriations Committee, a position left open this week by the death of Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye.

A Democrat, Mikulski was first elected to the Senate in 1986 after serving 10 years in the House. Last year, she became the longest-serving woman in Senate history.

With her ascendancy to the chairmanship of Appropriations, she enters a male-dominated realm that in the past has had sweeping power in deciding how federal dollars will be dispersed around the country....
On the other hand, Josh Kurtz from Center Maryland had an astute observation about the ascencion of BAM! In a column this week Kurtz noted that Mikulski's elevation to Appropriations Chair meant she was clearly not going to be vacating her U.S. Senate seat anytime soon (excerpt below):
JOSH KURTZ: ...for all the cheering about Mikulski in Maryland, there was also a perceptible, if mostly silent cry of pain last week among ambitious younger politicians looking to move up the food chain: My God, now she’ll never leave!

It’s already been widely suspected that the 76-year-old senator wasn’t planning to retire anytime soon, that she’d seek a record-breaking sixth term in 2016. Now there shouldn’t be any doubt. Mikulski, whose political career has been her life, has extra reason to stay....

JUICE #4: CONGRESSMAN-ELECT JOHN DELANEY TAPPED FOR HOUSE FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE // WILL THE 1% BE GOOD FOR THE 99%? - A former campaign aide to Congressman-elect John Delaney reports that the 6th Congressional District Democrat has been tapped to serve on the U.S. House's Financial Services committee. Maryland Juice caught the following post on Facebook a few days ago:

Depending on what type of official Delaney turns out to be, this could either be a great thing or an unfortunate development. Remember when Dick Cheney let oil industry lobbyists make energy policy for the White House?

During Delaney's heated campaign for Congress this year, his opponents marched out a series of stories about his company Capital Source, including allegations that Delaney was essentially insensitive to the plight of ordinary people affected by his company's activities. I have no idea if those characterizations were accurate or not, but it does lead me to be slightly skeptical about whether it is a good thing to put a member of the 1% in charge of financial services in Congress -- especially if it is unclear if that one-percenter is committed to advancing social & economic justice. Note that I don't mean to use the 1% term pejoratively here; rather, I'm merely reflecting the reality that Delaney is (as a matter of fact) very, very, very rich, and he got that money through the very sector he will be regulating. Hmm.

On the other hand, Delaney could understand that most of his constituents are not interested in seeing further consolidation of wealth in the United States, and so maybe he will turn out to be a refreshingly forward-thinking voice on fiscal issues. After all, it should be obvious to those with at least half a brain that it is not healthy for our economy to have a shrinking body of wealth among middle-class consumers. But for now, we'll all have to keep close tabs on John Delaney's votes and priorities in Congress.

JUICE #5: STATE SENATOR BILL FERGUSON OF BALTIMORE MAY FACE 2014 PRIMARY CHALLENGE FROM FORMER SEN. JOHN PICA - State Senator Bill Ferguson of Baltimore is having an "interesting" month to say the least. We recently reported that his car was vandalized with horseshit and acid, and now a former State Senator who served 16 years ago wants to primary Ferguson in 2014. See a quick excerpt from The Baltimore Sun's coverage below:
BALTIMORE SUN: Former state Sen. John A. Pica Jr., who has been out of office the past 16 years, is considering a return to the political arena with a possible Democratic primary challenge to Baltimore Sen. William C. Ferguson IV....

"I wouldn't be looking at this if I didn't think I could be a much more effective senator," Pica said. He said that while his votes on issues would not be much different from Ferguson's, he could be more effective than Ferguson in bringing back state money to Baltimore....

Ferguson, the youngest member of the Maryland Senate at 29, knocked off seven-term incumbent George W. Della Jr. in the 2010 Democratic primary. After a bitter campaign marked by harsh accusations on both sides, the young teacher trounced the veteran by almost 60 percent to 40 percent.

The incumbent said he will seek re-election. If Pica does run, Ferguson said, the race will be seen as a contest between "old politics" and a "new way of doing business...."

JUICE #6: GOV. O'MALLEY PUSHING MARYLAND ASSAULT WEAPON BAN // FMR. LT. GOV. MICHAEL STEELE CONDEMNS NRA STATEMENTS - In the wake of Connecticut's school shooting, Maryland Democrats are making gun control legislation a priority in 2013. Governor O'Malley and Democratic state legislators are proposing a ban on assault weapons and other measures. WAMU reported a couple weeks ago on O'Malley's plans (excerpt below):
WAMU: Last week's shooting presents three main areas of legislative focus, the governor said: laws relating to assault weapons, mental health treatment and school safety....
Indeed, in tandem with O'Malley's push, several Democratic lawmakers are introducing bills to curb gun violence. In a follow-up article, WAMU detailed some of the bills that are being proposed by State Senators Bill Ferguson of Baltimore and Jamie Raskin of Montgomery County (excerpt below):
WAMU: In the wake of last week's mass shooting in Connecticut, a group of state senators in Maryland is unveiling a series of gun control bills they will push during the upcoming session of the General Assembly.

The bills are wide-ranging, including an assault weapon ban, mandatory reduction of ammunition clip size and banning concealed gun permits for people who've been committed involuntarily to a mental institution in the past five years....
"This madness must stop," Ferguson says. "We can not continue to have a community in which gun violence is accepted...."

"There is simply no reason for any civilian in the United States of America to be carrying around a military style assault weapon like an uzi," Raskin says....
Republican lawmakers, on the other hand, are proposing to simply require police officers to be present at Maryland high schools. The Gazette reported on the counter-proposal by Maryland Republicans (excerpt below):
GAZETTE: Del. John W.E. Cluster Jr. (R-Dist. 8) of Parkville has crafted a bill requiring school resource officers — sworn, active-duty police officers — to be assigned daily to every public school in the state....

Cluster made clear that his proposal would only include sworn, active-duty police officers, and that they could become good role models for the students in the schools they serve.

He also said he is skeptical of proposals such as the state assault-weapons ban, which he doesn’t feel would keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people....
In an interesting aside, former Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele recently weighed in on the gun control debate by condemning the NRA's call for teachers to start packing heat. In comments that appeared in Politico, Steele called the proposal "disturbing" (excerpt below):
POLITICO: “I don’t even know where to begin. As a supporter of the Second Amendment and a supporter of the NRA — even though I’m not a member of the NRA — I just found it very haunting and very disturbing that our country now is talking about arming our teachers and our principals in classrooms,” Steele said on MSNBC immediately after LaPierre finished his comments.

Steele continued: “What does that say about us? What does that say about us? I do not believe that is where the American people want to go. I do not believe that is the response that should be coming out of the tragedy out of Newtown....”
While Maryland Juice is glad to see the surge in interest in common-sense gun control legislation, I am curious why American policymakers continually wait for tragedies to occur before addressing obvious problems. We seem to lack a proactive or predictive policy apparatus in this country. Again, I point to the Minnesota bridge collapses, the flooding of New Orleans, the NUMEROUS school shootings in America, and many, many other tragedies as examples of dangerously reactive policymaking. When will Americans get macro and start working to preempt problems, rather than waiting until tragedy strikes to act?

JUICE #7: ALONZO WASHINGTON SWORN IN TO REPLACE DELEGATE JUSTIN ROSS // MEANWHILE GREG HALL STILL IN LIMBO - Prince George's County's political team has been undergoing constant shifts in recent years, and 2012 was no exception. A few days ago, Delegate Jolene Ivey posted a photo on Twitter of Alonzo Washington being sworn into the House of Delegates. Washington is replacing Democrat Justin Ross who vacated his seat earlier this year. I have to admit, I ~love~ Alonzo Washington's bad-ass hairdo:

Meanwhile, Maryland politicos are still awaiting the final outcome of litigation regarding Prince George's County's other vacant State House seat. Tiffany Alston and Greg Hall continue to battle in court for the right to represent Maryland's District 24. But with the case still in front of Maryland's high court, we may have to wait until 2013 to see how this shakes out.

JUICE #8: NANCY NAVARRO BEGINS MOCO COUNCIL PRESIDENCY, BERLINER REFLECTS ON HIS TERM AS PREZ - Councilmember Nancy Navarro became the first Latina to serve as President of the Montgomery Council this month. She succeeds Councilmember Roger Berliner, who ended a one-year term as President this month. Note that the MoCo Council Prez position changes every year, with the Councilmembers themselves voting on the leader of their body. Below you can see a video interview with Navarro where she describes her plans for the year. You can also see Berliner reviewing his year as President.



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