Thursday, February 28, 2013

Maryland Senate Approves Assault Weapons Ban & Other Gun Laws // ROLL CALL: See How Your State Senator Voted

GUN REGULATIONS PASS 28-19 // SEVEN DEMOCRATIC SENATORS JOINED GOP: Governor Martin O'Malley's assault weapons ban and stricter gun licensing requirements passed the Maryland Senate today. The Capital Gazette reported on the development (excerpt below):
CAPITAL GAZETTE: The Maryland Senate passed Gov. Martin O'Malley's comprehensive gun control plan on Thursday. After more than four hours of debate this morning, the Senate voted 28-19 to pass Senate Bill 281, the Firearm Safety Act of 2013. If it passes the House, the bill would ban the sale of most assault weapons, require gun buyers to provide fingerprints and make it harder for people with mental illnesses to buy guns.

Thousands are expected to come to Annapolis when the House Judiciary and Health and Government Operations committees are scheduled to hear the legislation at 1 p.m. Friday. The bill has 38 sponsors in the House.

Below, Maryland Juice provides the roll call vote in the Maryland Senate. We highlight in "blue" the seven Democratic Senators who joined the GOP in opposing the gun laws:

  1. Joanne Benson
  2. Jim Brochin
  3. Joan Carter Conway
  4. Ulysses Currie
  5. Bill Ferguson
  6. Jennie Forehand
  7. Brian Frosh
  8. Rob Garagiola
  9. Lisa Gladden
  10. Verna Jones-Rodwell
  11. Ed Kasemeyer
  12. Delores Kelley
  13. Nancy King
  14. Rich Madaleno
  15. Roger Manno
  16. Nate McFadden
  17. Mike Miller
  18. Karen Montgomery 
  19. Anthony Muse
  20. Douglas J.J. Peters
  21. Paul Pinsky
  22. Catherine Pugh
  23. Victor Ramirez
  24. Jamie Raskin
  25. Jim Robey
  26. Jim Rosapepe
  27. Ron Young
  28. Bobby Zirkin

  1. John Astle (D)
  2. David Brinkley 
  3. Richard Colburn 
  4. Ed Degrange (D)
  5. Roy Dyson (D)
  6. George Edwards
  7. Joseph Getty
  8. Barry Glassman
  9. Nancy Jacobs
  10. J.B. Jennings
  11. Allan Kittleman
  12. Katherine Klausmeier (D)
  13. Jim Mathias (D)
  14. Mac Middleton (D)
  15. E.J. Pipkin
  16. Ed Reilly
  17. Chris Shank
  18. Bryan Simonaire
  19. Norm Stone (D)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Gun Debate Cliffhanger Emerging in Maryland: Democratic Senators Astle/Middleton Hold Key to Preventing Filibuster

PLUS: Anti-Gun Violence Forces Scrambling to Fight NRA Efforts with Mass Rally on Friday  //  DETAILS BELOW

BACKGROUND: The Maryland gun law backstory may be well known to some Maryland Juice readers, but it is worth reiterating today. After the mass shootings Newtown, Connecticut, policymakers quickly revived a long-stalled discussion about what sorts of gun regulations would be reasonable and respectful of the Constitution. Indeed, after years of abandonment by the Democratic Party -- gun control had become an overnight priority across the nation. 

 In Maryland, Governor Martin O'Malley and legislative leaders quickly zeroed in on an assault weapons ban and other licensing requirements as their response to the Newtown massacre. The effort is currently moving in the Maryland State Senate, but the bill does not yet have a final form. Senators have been weighing many Republican amendments to the bill, and our sources indicate that Senate President Mike Miller's office has been working to water down the regulations proposed by Gov. O'Malley and Senator Brian Frosh -- a candidate for Attorney General in 2014. Right now it looks like the Senate floor vote could happen Friday.

The Capital Gazette described the current version of the bill as follows (excerpt below):
CAPITAL GAZETTE: O’Malley’s Firearm Safety Act of 2013 would give Maryland some of the country’s strictest gun regulations.
It bans military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, mandates fingerprinting and licensing for future gun owners, and tightens rules to make it harder for former patients of mental hospitals to purchase guns....

POLL SHOWS OVERWHELMING SUPPORT FOR O'MALLEY GUN LAW PACKAGE - Meanwhile, a new Washington Post poll shows that Marylanders overwhelmingly support O'Malley's gun control package (excerpt below): 
WASHINGTON POST: Maryland residents overwhelmingly support Gov. Martin O’Malley’s plan to force gun buyers to submit to fingerprinting, safety training and more background checks, according to a new Washington Post poll.

Across the state, fully 85 percent back the governor’s licensing plan and 73 percent do so “strongly.” They also support banning high-capacity ammunition clips and assault weapons — two other portions of O’Malley’s (D) bill, which in the wake of the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn., would give Maryland among the nation’s strictest gun-control laws.... 

WARNING: GUN LAWS MAY FACE FILIBUSTER - Democrats in the State Senate believe they  have a majority of the body on board to pass O'Malley's gun control package, but they have not yet pinned down enough votes to avoid a filibuster. 

Maryland Juice's inside sources are concerned that Democratic State Senators Mac Middleton and John Astle may join the GOP filibuster of the Democratic gun control package-- thereby preventing their colleagues from getting to vote on the assault weapons ban and other licensing requirements. Its now now or never folks. If you want to affect gun control policy in Maryland, contact these guys now:

Senator Mac Middleton: 
(410) 841-3616

Senator John Astle 
(410) 841-3578

It seems difficult to imagine that Senator Mac Middleton could hope to succeed Mike Miller for Senate President if he joins his caucus in filibustering priorites like gun control. This should be interesting.

NRA SCARE TACTICS SUCCEEDED IN SHAKING SOME DEMOCRATS // RALLY ON FRIDAY TO GET THE BACKS OF GUN LAW ADVOCATES - Throughout this process, Maryland Juice has heard numerous tidbits indicating that closeted conservadems in the Senate have been dragging their feet in opposition to some gun control measures. Others yet started wavering after the NRA's scare tactic of bringing out a mob of protestors and gun control opponents to Annapolis:

Marylanders line-up to testify on gun control legislation (Source: Maryland Shooters)

Maryland Democrats and gun control supporters are pushing very, very hard to try and get members of the public to not be complacement this time. They want to drown out the NRA scare tactics by bringing out their own mob of gun control supporters on Friday:

HOUSE HEARING ON FRIDAY // DETAILS BELOW - Friday is also the date that gun law hearings will take place in the Maryland House. Details below:
(1)  Hearings will begin at noon (not 1:00 p.m.) in the Joint Hearing Room.

(2)  Expert testimony will run for a maximum of 4 hours: 1 hour proponent; 1 hour opponent; 1 hour proponent; 1 hour opponent. This means the Administration will have approximately 2 hours for all our panels, thus statements should be very brief.

(3) Following expert testimony, members of the public will have 1 minute each to testify.

(4) No end time will be placed on sign-ups or the hearing but we will put a statement on the front of the MGA web page indicating that based on the number of people expected to show up on Friday, building capacity, staff limitations and time limitations mean that it is unlikely that every individual will have the opportunity to speak.   MGA will remind people (or inform them) that the hearings will be live streamed and available to watch over the internet.   MGA will also outline all of the ways, besides live testimony, that members of the public can register their thoughts and opinions on this issue with their elected representatives (written testimony, email, letters, phone calls).

(5) Other information that will go up on the MGA website tomorrow: (a) start time for testimony sign-up (8:30 a.m.); (b) a statement that expert testimony will be heard from 12 – 4:00 p.m.; (c) a statement that testimony, outside of expert witnesses, will be limited to 1 minute per testifier; (d) a statement that people who wish to provide written testimony should bring 70 copies with them on Friday. 
(6) Written testimony can be submitted in 3 places: outside (for those wanting to avoid the lines ); in front of the JUD committee; and at the sign-up tables.


Monday, February 25, 2013

MARYLAND GOVERNOR 2014: Atty General Doug Gansler Calls Death Penalty a "Wonderful Tool" // It's "Fair" & "Race Neutral"

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler appeared on NPR's Kojo Nnamdi show last Friday -- one day after the State Senate's judiciary committee approved an historic death penalty repeal bill. But in advance of his 2014 run for Governor, Gansler is defending the use of state executions -- in spite of the momentum for abolition of the practice. Interestingly, Gansler will be running for Maryland's Democratic gubernatorial nomination with a potential death penalty repeal referendum as the backdrop to a 2014 campaign.

GANSLER SAYS DEATH PENALTY IS WONDERFUL AND FAIR  //  PROSECUTORS CAN AVOID HAVING TRAILS: Below Maryland Juice highlights notable commentary from Doug Gansler on Maryland's death penalty system; he told Kojo the system is "wonderful," and "fair" and "race neutral."  Moreover, Gansler described how prosecutors can coerce plea deals out of defendants and avoid having to have a trial -- with, you know, evidence and stuff -- by threatening them with execution. An attorney called in to the show to call foul on that statement and Gansler appears to have not considered the idea that coerced plea bargains are an affront to our right to trial. Oy vey!

GANSLER CREDITS UNWILLINGNESS OF PROSECUTORS IN BLACK JURISDICTIONS TO SEEK EXECUTIONS AS REASON WHY DEATH PENALTY NOT RACIST IN MD: Strangely Gansler is also in favor of executing people in Maryland but goes on to say the system could still stand to be fixed. He also claims that the death penalty's success at not being racist in Maryland is due mainly to the refusal of prosecutors in Baltimore and Prince George's to seek the death penalty. But that's not much of an argument for the safety of the system. Its more of an argument to not elect pro-death penalty State's Attorneys!

GANSLER SAYS MOST DEATH PENALTY OPPONENTS WOULD SUPPORT EXECUTIONS IF THE VICTIM WAS IN THEIR FAMILY: At one point in the interview, Gansler also seems to imply that death penalty opponents are being hypocritical and alleges that most of us would support executions if the victim was in our family. While some crime victim families do in fact support executions, in reality, lawmakers in Annapolis have been moved by the testimony of crime victim families who are still opposed to the death penalty.

The full transcript is available at WAMU, but I've excerpted some choice portions below. The transcript includes dialogue from Kojo Nnamdi, Doug Gansler, journalist Tom Sherwood, and some callers:


NNAMDI: A state Senate committee moved the plan forward yesterday that would abolish Maryland's death penalty.... What's your sense for the place it should have in Maryland right now?

GANSLER: Well, I think there are certain criminals who commit certain crimes that they forfeit their right to live on the planet if something that we know for sure beyond any reasonable doubt that they are, in fact, the people that committed the crime....

GANSLER: As a prosecutor, it's a wonderful tool to have because if you have that and life without the possibility of parole on the books as we do now in Maryland, you can have somebody plea to take the death sentence off the table and then the plea guilty to life without the possibility of parole....

GANSLER:  I didn't testify this year one way or the other....  my concern is if you have the death penalty to make sure that it's administered in a fair, impartial, race neutral, socio-economically neutral way. And that's what we have fortunately in Maryland.

GANSLER: This system, though, the law that we do have in Maryland certainly could be fixed....

NNAMDI: ...the head of the NAACP, that organization is very involved with this debate in Maryland. He feels ... that race is nearly impossible to detach in how the death penalty is administered. Where do you feel race fits into this conversation?...

GANSLER: In Maryland, we don't have those issues because, if anything, you're far more likely -- if you're a white defendant who has committed a capital crime, potential capital crime to get the death penalty....

: Most of those defendants are African-American, and most unfortunately, the victims are African-American as well. But the state's attorneys, those two jurisdictions traditionally don't even seek the death penalty. So in Maryland, we have a very good system in terms of that piece....

GANSLER: ... The last point I'll make is that I find that all death penalty conversation a little troubling only because we focus so much on it when we've had five people executed last 50 years in Maryland.

GANSLERMost people who are against it, by the way, are for it when somebody in their family is raped, murdered and tortured, and you know who did it. So it's a very interesting issue on an intellectual level.

SHERWOOD: Opponents have vowed to take it the people for a vote. Will you take a position when it's on -- if and when it becomes something on the ballot? ... 'Cause you are expected to be a candidate for governor, you're going to have to have a position, wouldn't you?

GANSLER: Well, my position's fairly clear. I want to -- if we have a death penalty, it should be fair.... I never sought the death penalty. But I do think it's a valuable tool to have....

NNAMDI: I do want to move on to DNA. But Kathleen in Annapolis, Md., is apparently an attorney who disagrees with the notion that it's a good tool to have....

KATHLEEN: But regarding the use of the death penalty, when it's used as a negotiating tool, when it's really not a case that's appropriate for the death penalty, my concern about it -- about the use of the death penalty in cases where the reality is it would not be a death penalty case but is used to almost coerce a defendant into taking a plea guaranteeing a life sentence as opposed to the exposure to the death penalty. And I wonder if you had an opinion about that use of the death penalty. I mean, I understand you sort of...

GANSLER: Yeah. I think it's a legitimate concern. I've never actually heard that being used or an argument against the death penalty. But you can only use the tool of seeking the death penalty if the defendant is -- has committed a case that's death penalty eligible. And that's very difficult to do in Maryland because you have to prove -- they have to be a principal in the first degree.

Friday, February 22, 2013

UPDATE: Maryland Death Penalty Repeal Faces Full Senate Vote Tuesday // Senate "Judiciary" Committee Approved Bill 6 to 5

UPDATE: The Maryland Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee did indeed approve death penalty repeal legislation last night, in a 6-5 vote. As predicted, Sen. Bobby Zirkin joined his Democratic colleagues Jennie Forehand, Brian Frosh, Lisa Gladden, Anthony Muse, and Jamie Raskin in supporting repeal.

Also as predicted, Democratic Senators Norm Stone and Jim Brochin joined the three Republican Senators in opposing death penalty repeal. According to Maryland Citizens Against State Executions (MD CASE), the measure now heads to the full Senate for a vote on Tuesday. Here are a couple Tweets reporting on the big news:

STEP TWO: Let's gear up to pass death penalty repeal on the Senate Floor without amendments:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

League of Conservation Voters Rates Maryland U.S. House Members // Rep. Sarbanes & Edwards #1 for Environment

The environmental advocates at the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) have released their annual scorecard for members of Congress on the environment. Below we show how Maryland's U.S. House delegation stacks up, including information on what bills led to their ratings. We didn't bother to write about Senators Ben Cardin & Barbara Mikulski, given that both had a 100% LCV rating in 2012. Here's a quick snapshot of Maryland's U.S. House members:

2012 LCV Rankings
  1. Rep. Donna Edwards & Rep. John Sarbanes - 97%
  2. Rep. Steny Hoyer & Chris Van Hollen - 91%
  3. Rep. Elijah Cummings - 89% 
  4. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger - 71% 
  5. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett - 26%
  6. Rep. Andy Harris - 16%   

Lifetime LCV Rankings 
  1. Rep. Chris Van Hollen - 98%
  2. Rep. Donna Edwards - 97%
  3. Rep. John Sarbanes - 96%
  4. Rep. Elijah Cummings - 94%
  5. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger - 83%
  6. Rep. Steny Hoyer - 80% 
  7. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett - 20%
  8. Rep. Andy Harris - 7% 

To come up with these ratings, LCV monitored votes on a range of issues. You can read the full LCV issue summaries below. But first, Maryland Juice highlights the environmental bills that our Congressional Democrats did not support. The numbers next to each issue correspond to the explanations in LCV document below.

Democratic Votes Against LCV Environmental Position:

Rep. Elijah Cummings (Good on 31/35 Issues):
  • Bad Votes: (5) Freeway in St. Croix, (18) Fossil Fuel Corporate Welfare 
  • Absent: (15) Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline, (21) Broad Assault on Federal Land & Wildlife

Rep. Donna Edwards (Good on 34/35 Issues):  
  • Bad Votes: (18) Fossil Fuel Corporate Welfare

Rep. Steny Hoyer (Good on 32/35 Issues):
  • Bad Votes: (5) Freeway in St. Croix, (18) Fossil Fuel Corporate Welfare, (19) Nuclear Energy Corporate Welfare
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (Good on 25/35 Issues):
  • Bad Votes: (1) Oil Shale Exploration on Public Land, (5) Freeway in St. Croix, (18) Fossil Fuel Corporate Welfare, (19) Nuclear Energy Corporate Welfare
  • Absent: (32) Climate Science Denial, (33) Clean Water Safeguards, (34) Smog & Air Pollution, (35) Broad Environmental Assault

Rep. John Sarbanes (Good on 34/35 Issues):  
  • Bad Votes: (18) Fossil Fuel Corporate Welfare 

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Good on 32/35 Issues):  
  • Bad Votes: (5) Freeway in St. Croix, (18) Fossil Fuel Corporate Welfare, (19) Nuclear Energy Corporate Welfare

Last year, Maryland's two Republican Congressmen (Roscoe Bartlett & Andy Harris) voted against most of the environmental protection bills in Congress. As a result, rather than highlight their bad votes, below we flag the good votes that the two GOP officials made. Again, the numbers next to each issue correspond to the explanations in LCV document below.

Republican Votes FOR LCV Environmental Position:

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (Good on 9/35 Issues):  
  • Good Votes: (2) Offshore Drilling Corporate Welfare, (13) Climate Change Education, (14) Flood Insurance Reform, (17) Renewable Energy Funding, (21) Broad Assault on Federal Land & Wildlife, (23) Clean Air Standards, (25) Migratory Bird Protections, (30) Land Conservation Funding, (31) Minnesota Land Swap

Rep. Andy Harris (Good on 2/35 Issues):  
  • Good Votes: (14) Flood Insurance Reform, (30) Land Conservation Funding

Maryland Death Penalty Ban Expected to Pass Senate Judiciary Today // Sen. Bobby Zirkin Announces Support for Repeal (!)

Yesterday Maryland Juice reported that the Maryland Senate's judiciary committee (aka the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee) was deadlocked on death penalty repeal. We further noted that State Senator Bobby Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat, was the swing vote on the 11-member committee.

Amazingly, The Washington Post's John Wagner reported late last night that Sen. Bobby Zirkin has announced he will support repeal of the death penalty in Maryland! Check out this excerpt from the WaPo coverage:
WASHINGTON POST: Sen. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) said Wednesday night that he plans to vote in favor of repealing Maryland’s death penalty, which means the measure now has the support of a majority of members on a key committee.... A majority vote by the committee would allow the bill to move to the full Senate, where there appears to be enough votes for passage....

“From an emotional standpoint, I want to kill these people myself,” Zirkin said. “But that’s a different question than whether, legally, the state should be involved in their death....” Zirkin’s support provides a clearer path to passage for the legislation.

Original version of the repurposed photo above available at Maryland Reporter.

You can thank State Senator Bobby Zirkin at: 

Senator Zirkin's wife Tina also deserves some credit on this win. She's been lobbying her husband to support #MDrepeal. Thanks Tina!

STEP TWO: Let's gear up to pass death penalty repeal on the Senate Floor without amendments:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

THURSDAY: Death Penalty Vote in Maryland Senate Judiciary // PREDICTIONS: Sen. Bobby Zirkin = Key Swing Vote & More!

With a key vote coming on Thursday, Maryland Juice decided to provide an update on the effort to repeal the death penalty in the Free State. If a majority of State Senators support an end to executions in Maryland, Senate President Mike Miller promised he would find a way to bring the measure to the floor for a vote by the full membership. And though a sufficient number of State Senators have now indicated they will support repeal, the dynamics and backstories are not as simple as it would seem. Below we highlight a few elements of the complicated legislative maneuvering going on in Annapolis:

STEP 1: PASS DEATH PENALTY REPEAL IN SENATE JUDICIARY (AKA CONTACT SEN. BOBBY ZIRKIN NOW) - The reason why Mike Miller's intervention was thought to be necessary for death penalty repeal to advance is that the bill is originating in the Maryland Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee, where it has always faced an uncertain fate. So if a majority of Senators wanted to get rid of the death penalty but simply couldn't get the judiciary committee to release the bill, Miller promised to intervene and bring the measure for a floor vote. We never heard what legislative tactic Miller would employ to achieve this result, but there is now a good chance death penalty opponents may not need to bypass the Senate judiciary after all. But this all depends on whether or not State Senator Bobby Zirkin will join death penalty repeal opponents.

JUDICIARY WHIP-COUNT? - Indeed, there will be a vote on repeal in judiciary this Thursday, and it is currently unclear what will happen. But if the whispers Maryland Juice hears are correct, a likely snapshot of the current committee whip-count on death penalty repeal is as follows:

  1. Sen. Jennie Forehand (DEM)
  2. Sen. Brian Frosh (DEM)
  3. Sen. Lisa Gladden (DEM)
  4. Sen. Anthony Muse (DEM)
  5. Sen. Jamie Raskin (DEM)

  1. Sen. Jim Brochin (DEM)
  2. Sen. Joseph Getty (GOP)
  3. Sen. Nancy Jacobs (GOP)
  4. Sen. Chris Shank (GOP)
  5. Sen. Norm Stone (DEM)

  1. Sen. Bobby Zirkin (DEM)

SEN. BOBBY ZIRKIN UNDECIDED ON DEATH PENALTY REPEAL // CONTACT HIM ASAP - Maryland Juice visited the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last week and had the opportunity to discuss death penalty repeal face to face with State Senator Bobby Zirkin. He indicated that he is undecided on the issue and apparently, his wife and rabbi are lobbying him to support death penalty repeal. Maryland Juice encourages those who want to end executions in Maryland to contact State Senator Bobby Zirkin ASAP and explain your feelings on the issue:
Sen. Bobby Zirkin 
(410) 841-3131

STEP 2: PASS DEATH PENALTY REPEAL ON SENATE FLOOR WITHOUT AMENDMENTS - Let's get real about death penalty strategy for a second. Right now, we have the votes in the Senate to pass a repeal bill, assuming that the bill can make it to the floor for a vote. There are currently two routes to advance the bill in the Senate: a) pass it in the Judiciary committee, or b) Sen. Mike Miller intervenes and finds a way to send it to the floor. For many reasons, it is far preferable to have the repeal bill advance through Judiciary than to have to rely on the assistance of Mike Miller. Remember that Sen. Mike Miller is a supporter of death penalty executions and will likely try and tamper with (aka amend) the bill before seeing it through to its destined passage.

SEN. MIKE MILLER TRYING TO SABOTAGE DEATH PENALTY REPEAL? - Even while he pledged to "allow" the bill to be voted on by the full body, Senate President Miller predicted that the death penalty ban would be petitioned to a referendum. What he didn't mention is that he was planning on intervening to try and increase the likelihood of a 2014 referendum on the death penalty. WAMU reported on Miller's backdoor efforts to subject death penalty repeal to a popular vote in 2014. Indeed, Miller is trying to placate the progressive majority in his caucus while undermining their efforts at the same time (excerpt below):
WAMU: ...Senate President Mike Miller, a supporter of the death penalty, expects a repeal of it to pass his chamber this year — something that did not happen when the measure last made it to the Senate floor in 2009 — getting to that point is still not a guarantee.

A part of this year's bill includes an appropriation, which means it wouldn't be able to petitioned to a ballot referendum for voters to decide, and Miller wants that changed.

"It's a subterfuge to avoid having it petitioned to referendum," Miller says. "And, although I don't like to see bills petitioned to referendum, I don't believe in trying to thwart the constitution and the laws of the state which allows for petitioning to referendum...."

MIKE MILLER WANTS TO STRIP FUNDING FOR CRIME VICTIMS OUT OF DEATH PENALTY REPEAL BILL - What's going on here is that in Maryland, residents can subject laws passed by the state legislature for repeal votes -- but only if they do not concern appropriations. Whether a law is sufficiently about "appropriations" to prevent it from being petitioned to a popular vote is a subject of great debate. But some are skeptical that dedicating the taxpayer savings from death penalty repeal to crime victims is sufficient for the bill to avoid a referendum. Indeed, this matter would need to be heard by a court in Maryland to decide on this issue.

As a result, Sen. Mike Miller wants to remove funding for crime victims from the death penalty repeal bill. He is willing to engage in such an underhanded and callous tactic in order to foreclose the very small possibility that Maryland courts might invalidate an effort to subject death penalty repeal to a popular vote.

If you agree with me that Maryland's death penalty represents:
  1. murder by state government employees paid for with our tax dollars
  2. an ineffective crime deterrent & an expensive way of expressing our feelings
  3. a symbol of humanity's vengeful & violent side, unbefitting of codification into law
...then hopefully you understand why the idea of subjecting a ban on murder by the state government to a majority vote seems a bit distasteful. After all, when philosophers and social scientists ruminate on the pros and cons of the initiative and referenda processes in various states, they often fear the effects of so-called "mob rule." But in this instance, Miller literally wants to preserve the right of the pitchfork mob to execute prisoners (using state employees and resources). 

SENATE PRESIDENT TRYING TO UNDERMINE HIS OWN CHAMBER'S POWER TO LEGISLATE? - It may well turn out that we are heading to a death penalty referendum in 2014, especially if the GOP activists again decide to spend their time working on distasteful causes. But the idea that the Senate President would facilitate such a diminution of his own Chamber's powers is perplexing and disappointing. The bloodlust is strong in our Senate President.  Death penalty repeal advocates will need to stop Miller and his allies from trying to amend the bill. All signs indicate they will try and alter the legislation in ways that will increase the likelihood of the effort being subjected to a popular vote. This in turn means that advocates like myself will end up spending countless hours fighting the pitchfork mob in 2014. There are better things we can be working on, so please help prevent this scenario from unfolding. Tell your Senators to support the repeal bill without negative amendments.

MIKE MILLER ALREADY PLANNING DEATH PENALTY EXPANSION AFTER 2014 - It seems absolutely clear that Miller is just going through the motions on death penalty repeal, given that the Senate President is already plotting ways to expand the death penalty in Maryland. The Associated Press (via WBOC) recently reported on Miller's plans to make the death penalty more likely to execute innocent people in Maryland (excerpt):
AP: In 2009, lawmakers decided to restrict the death penalty to murder cases with DNA evidence, videotaped evidence or a videotaped confession.

If voters end up rejecting repeal, Miller says the law should be changed to allow capital cases with fingerprinting or photographic evidence as well.

Last month the College Park Patch also reported that Miller wanted to expand the types of crimes eligible for the death penalty in Maryland. Their coverage gives a taste of the types of ridiculous amendments Miller may try and make for the death penalty repeal bill (excerpt below):
COLLEGE PARK PATCH: While some Maryland legislators want to debate the repeal of the death penalty there is one category of murder Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller would like to add to the list of capital punishment eligible cases.

Miller said Wednesday that he'd like to expand the add teacher killers to the list.... Miller said he has six sisters who are teachers.... "So when we take up this bill, I'd like to see [teacher killers] added to the list of prescribed penalties," Miller said....

STEP 3: PASS DEATH PENALTY REPEAL IN THE HOUSE - Once death penalty repeal passes in the Senate, we'll have to repeat this whole saga in Maryland House of Delegates. But let's park that discussion for now.

STEP 4: HIRE A GOOD LAWYER (NOT ATTORNEY GENERAL DOUG GANSLER) - So let's say we are able to pass death penalty repeal out of the Senate's judiciary committee; and let's further imagine that we are able to preserve funding for crime victims in the bill. Let's also assume that an identical bill passes in the Maryland House.

At this point, there will be a decent chance that Republican activists will try and subject death penalty repeal to a referendum in 2014. In that case, those who support repeal will need a good attorney to argue that the repeal bill is not subject to referendum. Unfortunately, the chief lawyer for the State of Maryland cannot be trusted to argue this case. Indeed, Attorney General Doug Gansler is a supporter of the death penalty, and at last check Gansler was arguing that he could make the death penalty not be applied in a racist manner.

Good luck stamping out racial bias within juries, between neighborhoods and in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion! If Gansler can solve those human problems, then he may deserve a Nobel Peace Prize, rather than the Maryland Governor's mansion.