House Repubicans: Inaction of O’Malley/Brown Administration and Democratic Leadership Contributed to Prison Scandal

Annapolis – Today, members of the House Republican Caucus condemned the O’Malley/Brrown Administration and Democratic Leadership in the Maryland General Assembly for their failure to address the corruption in the state’s correctional facilities.

“Republican members of the House of Delegates are disappointed in the lack of action and response by the Administration and Democratic leaders in the General Assembly in addressing the conditions that led to rampant corruption and a Federal indictment,” said House Minority Leader Nicholaus Kipke. “While the Governor may see this as a ‘very positive achievement’ for the state, we see great cause for alarm.”

Corruption in Maryland’s correctional system has been endemic throughout the O’Malley/Brown Administration and has yet to be addressed, despite efforts of Republican legislators working with public safety and law enforcement at the state and local levels.

“In the 2008 and 2009 session, I proposed legislation to create a substance abuse treatment program that would have redirected many gang members away from their daily drug dealing and into treatment programs,” said Delegate Ron George of Anne Arundel County. “This bill was supported by the Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services as a way to rehabilitate inmates and reduce drug dealing within correctional facilities, but was ignored by Democratic leaders.”

Since 2010, legislation to strengthen penalties for transportation and possession of cell phones in correctional facilities has been before the House Judiciary Committee, but has been defeated by Democratic leadership for the past four years.

Delegate John Cluster of Baltimore County, sponsor of the legislation in 2013 said, “The Administration and Democratic leaders again defeated a bill that could have prevented or mitigated the latest prison scandal. Members of the House Judiciary Committee were presented with evidence illustrating the serious issue of cell phone possession in jails long before the Federal indictment was issued.”

Black Guerrilla Family Founder Ray Alevas and top Maryland BGF member Eric Brown. Photo taken in prison ona cell phone camera by another inmate

Black Guerrilla Family Founder Ray Alevas and top Maryland BGF member Eric Brown. Photo taken in prison ona cell phone camera by another inmate.

This compelling evidence included a photograph of Black Guerrilla Family Founder, Ray Alevas, talking on a cell phone with top Maryland Black Guerrilla Family member, Eric Brown. This photo was taken in prison on a cell phone camera by another inmate.”Despite the evidence and the support of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Baltimore City Police Department; Democratic leaders killed the bill,” continued Cluster.”House Republicans are disappointed by inaction on this issue. It took days to hear from the Administration and hearings to address this scandal have been pushed off until next month,” said Kipke. “We encourage the Legislative Policy Committee to conduct a full investigation into all state correctional facilities that will identify ways we can work together to finally take action. While prison reform may not be a hot issue for a Presidential campaign, it must be a priority for the State of Maryland.”Click here for a PDF of the official press release.

More Articles On the Unfolding of the Prison Scandal

WJZ CBS Baltimore: Md. Lawmaker Wants Tougher Penalties For Inmates Amid Prison Scandal

Washington Post: As Baltimore jail corruption case unfolds, cellphone-penalty legislation returns to spotlight

Baltimore Sun: Inmate, 17 other alleged Bloods indicted on racketeering charges

Baltimore Sun: O’Malley promises corrections reform after corruption allegations

Washington Post: Md. Republicans call for independent investigators for state prisons

The Minority Report: Session 2013

The following is a summary report of the major issues of the 2013 Legislative Session.

BUDGET & FISCAL ISSUES

Operating Budget. Despite claims that he has reduced state spending by almost $8 billion since taking office, Governor O’Malley’s FY2014 budget continued the trend of increasing the state’s overall spending by more than $1 billion each year, a 25% increase since 2007.

Maryland%27s Total SpendingTouted as “fiscally prudent and socially responsible,” the FY2014 budget is anything but. As 26% of Maryland’s budget is supported by the Federal Government, our citizens will be affected by the federal sequester more than most. With the full effects of federal sequestration still an unknown, Governor O’Malley continues to irresponsibly increase spending. State spending continues to outpace personal income growth as Maryland’s government keeps getting bigger while taxpayers struggle to keep up with new taxes and fees. O’Malley’s budget increased spending by over $1 billion dollars in FY 2014 – a 3% increase from last year.

House Republicans urged the Governor to exercise caution during these uncertain fiscal times and reduce his budget proposal by 2%, which equaled the same paycheck reduction all Marylanders saw when the federal payroll tax holiday expired in January. This proposal was rejected by the Administration and House Democrats, who are content to continue their spend-and-tax cycle.

Click here to view the House Republican Caucus press conference on the budget.

Pensions. The House Republican Caucus championed pension reform in the 2013 Session. Chronic mismanagement and underfunding of the state’s pension fund has left state employees and the state’s fiscal health in jeopardy. The Republican legislative package would have required full-funding of the state’s pension obligation and a more realistic estimation of return on fund investments as well as a stringent limitation on risky pension investments. Additional Republican proposals included the creation of a 401(k)-type retirement option for all state employees and would have added two more county representatives to the State Pension Board.

While the Republican initiatives were rejected, the General Assembly did pass alternative legislation to phase in the full-funding of the State Pension Fund, albeit at a slower rate than the Republican suggestion.

Click here to read a Baltimore Sun article about the GOP Pension Reform Proposal.

Debt Grows, Debt Payments Grow, But Funding Source FlatCapital Budget. This year, Governor O’Malley’s Capital Budget authorized $1.11 BILLION in new state debt. While the Capital Budget includes many worthy items such as school construction, the constantly increasing debt of the O’Malley-Brown Administration is not sustainable long-term. Maryland’s debt payments are funded primarily by the state’s property tax revenue. Due to the decline in home values over the last several years this revenue source has fallen short of covering our debt payments. With the debt that has already been undertaken and the additional debt that is authorized this year, the gap between what is owed and what is covered by the property tax widens significantly, making an increase in the property tax rate a very real possibility. The bottom line is that over the last seven years the O’Malley-Brown Administration has been content to max out the state’s credit card and stick present and future generations of Marylanders with the bill.

ELECTIONS

ballot boxHB 224: Election Law – Improving Access to Voting.  Governor O’Malley’s Improving Access to Voting legislation relaxes the requirements needed to register to vote by allowing same day registration, expanding early voting and allowing online access to absentee ballots. House Republicans opposed this bill on the grounds that it creates more opportunities for voter fraud and compromises the integrity of the election process.

HB 244 passed the House 92-43 and the Senate 36-11.

HB 493: Referendum Integrity Act.  While not passed, HB 493 would have placed additional burdens on the petition process and dissuaded citizens from signing onto a referendum.  If passed, HB 493 would have required petition sponsors to create a campaign finance committee for each law being petitioned, required signers to include their birthdate with their signature, required each signature page to contain language that signer information is subject to public disclosure, required petition circulators to take a training course and prohibited payment per approved signature.

This legislation was Democratic retaliation following three successful petitions that resulted in ballot initiatives in 2012: repeals of the DREAM Act, same-sex marriage and the newest legislative redistricting plan. While the legislation didn’t move forward this year, it will be something to keep an eye on in the future.

GAS TAX – TRANSPORTATION

HB 1515: Transportation Infrastructure and Investment Act of 2013

No Gas Tax HikeGas Tax. At the 11th hour, Governor O’Malley introduced the complicated and convoluted Transportation Infrastructure and Investment Act of 2013 sneaking it in just minutes before the deadline to introduce legislation in the session. This $2 billion revenue bill puts a disproportionate burden on motorists by:

  • Indexing the existing excise tax on gas using the Consumer Price Index. This means that the excise tax is indexed to inflation and will put gas tax increases on auto-pilot. The gas tax will continue to go up year after year with no legislative oversight.
  • Creating a new 1% sales tax on the retail price of gas effective July 1, 2013 that will increase to 2% on January 1, 2015, and to 3% on July 1, 2015. These amounts assume that the federal government will authorize online sales tax collection, but if that does not happen,
    the sales tax on gas will increase by 4% on January 1, 2016 and to 5% on July 1, 2016.

As a result, even with a conservative estimate of inflation, the total gas tax will increase by 88% by FY2017 and Marylanders could be paying 44.1 cents per gallon in Maryland gas taxes alone. To add insult to injury to motorists, the majority of the money raised through these new taxes will not even be used to build and repair roads and bridges, but instead will be directed to seldom-used mass transit. While just 8% of Marylanders use mass transit to commute, mass transit receives more than four times the funding for highways. Motorists are being asked to foot the bill for a service many of them don’t and will never be able to use.

The Fake Transportation Trust Fund Lock Box
The Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) has been Governor O’Malley’s overdraft protection as he continues to spend beyond the State’s means. The TTF has repeatedly been raided to balance the state’s budget and $1 billion of local highway user funds have yet to be paid back.

SB 829: Transportation Trust Fund – Financing – Use of Funds
In order to provide themselves with political cover after passing the gas tax, Democrats, following the lead of Senate President Mike Miller passed SB 829 – a fake lockbox on the Transportation Trust Fund – during the last hour of the 2013 legislative session. Instead of actually protecting the TTF from future raids, SB 829 codifies this reckless spending behavior and encapsulates it into the State Constitution. The bottom line is that SB 829 does absolutely nothing to ensure that TTF dollars are actually spent on transportation.

SB 829 passed the House 106-32 and Senate 45-2.

House Republicans strongly opposed the gas tax and advocated for the protection, alignment and restoration of the Transportation Trust Fund. They supported legislation that would create a true lockbox on the Transportation Trust Fund, bring TTF spending into alignment with the needs of Marylanders by directing more funding towards highways, and restoring nearly $1 billion in highway user funds back to the TTF. Unfortunately for Maryland’s motorists, the Republican proposals were rejected by House Democrats. While they were willing to grab more than $2 billion out of Marylander’s wallets, they were very unwilling to pass legislation to guarantee that the money raised through these new taxes would actually fund transportation infrastructure.

HB 1515 passed the House 76-63 and Senate 27-20.

Click here to view the House Republican Caucus press conference on the gas tax.

Click here to read one of many articles chronicling Senate President Mike Miller’s infamous “neanderthal” comments regarding the House Republican Transportation plan.

 LABOR ISSUES

 Mandatory Union Fees for State Public School and Higher Education Employees – HB 667 & SB 841

Governor O’Malley and his fellow Democrats continued to cave to union pressures with the passage of HB 667 and SB 863. These bills create a “fee to work” by requiring that all state public school and higher education employees pay a fee to a union regardless of whether they are a member of the organization, support its political or ideological views, or wish the organization to negotiate or advocate on their behalf. Essentially this bill takes hundreds of dollars a year out of employee paychecks and makes a deposit to the union’s banking account without the employees’ consent.

HB 667, Public School Employees – Collective Bargaining – Representation Fees, passed the House 95-43 and the Senate 31-13.

SB 841, the Higher Education Fair Share Act, passed the House 94-45
and the Senate 34-12.

NATURAL RESOURCES & ENERGY

wind turbinesHB 226: Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013. Governor O’Malley was finally able to pass his Offshore Wind bill after working with Senate President Miller to rearrange the make-up of Senate Finance Committee to remove detractors. House Republicans opposed the bill on financial grounds. When the 200 megawatt wind project comes on line in 2018, ratepayers will bear the $112 million annual net cost of the project, which is more than twice the cost than projected conventional energy costs. Offshore wind is also a bad investment for Maryland ratepayers as is it projected to lose more than $1.4 billion over the 20-year life of the project. The increased costs to ratepayers will disproportionately affect the state’s most vulnerable low-income earners that cannot afford the latest residential upgrades or energy-saving appliances who already pay higher than average utility bills. Despite their pontificating about creating jobs in Maryland, House Democrats rejected an amendment requiring a substation be built in Maryland, thus creating sustainable jobs in the state. Democrats also rejected other amendments to cap the costs to ratepayers and ensure that companies working on the project were US-based and also used US-made materials. The bill passed the House 88-48 and the Senate 30-15.

PUBLIC SAFETY

 SB 276: Death Penalty Repeal. SB 276 repealed the Death Penalty in Maryland and made the maximum penalty issued by the state life without parole. Most members of the House Republican Caucus opposed this legislation and offered multiple amendments to the bill that were ultimately rejected. House Democrats opposed retaining the death penalty as a sentencing option in cases of mass murder, terrorism, school shootings, contract killing, murder of law enforcement and first responders, and correctional officers. House Democrats effectively removed an important tool for prosecutors and have also endangered the safety of correctional officers working in the state prisons, as there is now no deterrent to keep the most vicious criminals from committing acts of violence against them. House Democrats also rejected an amendment that would have removed prison “perks” from those serving life from parole such as TV, internet access, recreation time, and family visits.

The Death Penalty Repeal passed the House 82-57 and the Senate 27-20.

SB 715: Maryland Highway Safety Act of 2013. Deceptively named the Maryland Highway Safety Act of 2013, SB 715 authorizes the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to issue drivers licenses and identification cards to illegal immigrants. These “second tier” licenses could not be used for federal purposes such as purchasing a firearm, boarding a flight, or entering a federal building.

House Republicans opposed SB 715 with concerns that the requirements to obtain a drivers license were not stringent enough and with no way to reliably verify an applicant’s identity, multiple licenses could be issued to the same person. With Maryland being the only state on the East Coast to issue licenses to illegal immigrants, our state becomes a gateway for potential terrorists and others seeking to obtain ID for questionable purposes. Additionally, the two-tiered ID system, downgrades all Maryland-issued drivers licenses and IDs and makes Maryland non-compliant with the Federal REAL ID Act. Once this measure goes into effect, no Maryland-issued ID may be used for federal purposes, including boarding a plane or entering a federal building.

House Republican amendments to require fingerprinting of illegal immigrants who were issued an ID, and to make the second-tier ID a different color, among others were rejected. SB 715 passed the House 82-55 and Senate 29-18.

SECOND AMENDMENT

 SB 281: Firearm Safety Act of 2013. The House Republican Caucus vehemently opposed SB 281 on the grounds that it severely limits the Second Amendment rights of Marylanders and effectively punishes Marylanders that legally exercise their right to own a firearm. Billed as a way to make our families and streets safer following the tragedy in Newtown, CT, SB281 does nothing to curb gun-related crime.

wethepeopleA majority of Democrats opposed amendments that would have eliminated “time off for good behavior” and other perks for those convicted of crimes with a firearm. They also opposed amendments eliminating the fingerprinting requirement, creating a special license for competitive shooters, creating a public campaign to end the stigma of mental illness, expanding conceal-carry permits, as well as many others.

While the bill limits firearm access for the mentally ill, the O’Malley Administration left many critical mental health and early intervention programs grossly underfunded so those most at-risk are not able to receive the services and support they desperately need.

Unfortunately for Maryland, Governor O’Malley decided to pave his way to the 2016 Presidential Campaign by trampling on the rights of law-abiding citizens and exploiting recent tragedies for political gain.

After almost 24 hours of hearings and debate and thousands of Second-Amendment supporters traveling to Annapolis to make their voices heard, SB 281 passed the House 78-61 and the Senate 28-19.

SB 281 makes sweeping changes to Maryland’s gun laws and goes into effect on October 1, 2013. The bill is not retroactive, meaning that it only applies to firearm purchases made on or after October 1st. The major highlights are as follows:

Assault Weapon Ban. SB 281 designates 45 rifles as “Assault Long Guns” including the AR-15, SKS, as well as any of their “copycats” and bans the sale of these firearms effective October 1st, 2013. This bill is NOT retroactive. If you currently own one of these firearms, or purchase prior to October 1st, 2013 you can continue to possess your firearm. In addition, these firearms can continue to be passed on through inheritance provided the heir is not otherwise disqualified from possessing a Regulated Firearm.

Magazine Capacity/Ammunition.  Effective October 1, 2013 magazine size for all firearms is restricted to 10 rounds or less. The purchase, transfer, or sale of higher capacity magazines is prohibited. This bill is NOT retroactive. If you currently possess a large capacity magazine, you may continue to do so.

SB 281 bans a person from possessing any ammunition if they are disqualified from possessing a regulated firearm (by virtue of a criminal conviction, drug or alcohol abuse, is a fugitive from justice, or suffers from a mental disorder)

Handgun Qualification License: Fees, Training and Fingerprinting. Anyone who wishes to purchase a handgun after October 1, 2013, must apply to the Maryland State Police for a handgun qualification license. Applicants are required to complete 4 hours of training and submit fingerprints and complete a criminal background check. The cost of the initial licensing, fingerprinting, and background check is paid by the applicant and is estimated to be over $100. Once issued, the license is good for ten years. The license can be renewed for a $20 fee and additional training is not required for renewal. If you currently own a regulated firearm you do not have to ever complete the training to apply for the handgun purchase license.

Mental Health Provisions. SB 281 restricts a person who has ever been a subject of an Involuntarily Commitment or those who are currently under a protective order from possessing any firearm and requires them to surrender any firearms to law enforcement for safe keeping. A hearing review process is available for individuals to petition to regain their rights to possess a firearm.

Active and retired law enforcement officers and military personnel over age 21 as well as firearm manufacturing facilities are generally exempted from the provisions and restrictions of this act.

For a PDF version of this report, please click here.

Winners and Losers of the 2011 Session

Now that the 2011 Session has ended everyone will opine about who the “winners” and who “losers” were.  Who was successful in getting their legislation passed and who was left in the dust.  We are taking the opportunity again this year to put in our two cents. 

Winners

Criminals…whether you are a convicted felon serving a life term or an illegal immigrant flagrantly violating federal law, the Maryland General Assembly had nothing but love and compassion for you this year.  House Bill 302 – Inmates – Life Imprisonment – Parole Approval grants automatic release for those serving life sentences if they have to wait more than 180 days for the Governor to approve their parole.  We wouldn’t want hardened criminals to be inconvenienced now would we?  Senate Bill 167 allows illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition.  Proponents of this bill will tell you that these students have done nothing wrong this will allow them to go to college and become contributing members of society, completely ignoring the fact that once they graduate it will be a violation of federal law to actually employ them.

Labor Unions…a consistent winner in Maryland, labor unions did well again this year.  The Democratic majority along with O’Malley Administration let the unions expand their strangle-hold on the state by unionizing independent home care providers.  As they did with daycare providers several years ago, independent home care providers will now be subject to collective bargaining.  Those who choose not to join the union will be charged a “service fee”.  Unions also secured themselves a victory in the eyes of their membership with the $750 bonus for state employees.  The truth about that “bonus” is that the bulk of it will go to pay the service fee that non-union employees will have to pay starting July 1.  So the unions get to pocket most of the money they’re also taking a tremendous amount of credit for.  Good work if you can get it.

Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, and Baltimore City…after strong “negotiations” (or vote trading) these “big three” jurisdictions are walking away with the lion’s share of the revenues from the Alcohol Tax increase.  While the whole state will pay this bill and suffer the impacts like the closure of small businesses, it is these jurisdictions that will reap most of the benefit.

Losers

Taxpayers…Maryland’s taxpayers have made the loser’s list once again. Last year, they escaped a direct tax increase, but this year they were not as fortunate.   The budget included a number of tax and fee increases…doubling the Vehicle Titling Tax, the Vanity Plate Fee, Land Recording fees, Birth Certificate fees.  Even our sweet little silver-haired grandmothers will be paying the 38% increase in the Nursing Home Tax.  The sales tax on Alcohol was increased by 50%.  Does this menu of tax increases mean that Maryland has finally ended its ongoing budget crisis?  Sadly, no.  In fact, spending increased over 10% from last year to this year and there is talk of more tax increases as early as this fall.  With the increase of the sales tax on alcohol, Maryland’s Tax Freedom Day be pushed to April 18th, meaning the taxpayers will have to work an extra day before they have paid all their taxes for the year.

Vulnerable populations…we all heard the radio commercials, saw the rallies, and read the letters from members of the Maryland’s most vulnerable populations – the disabled and mentally ill.  They were advocating an increase in the Alcohol Tax and dedicating that money to their chronically underfunded programs…a dime a drink with a link they called it.  Maryland’s most vulnerable populations were exploited by the Democratic majority who used them to bring the bill forward but then dedicated the bulk of the money to the “big three” jurisdictions, including Montgomery County – one of the wealthiest counties in the country.

Governor Martin O’Malley…one would think after a landslide win just a few months ago, Governor O’Malley would have the political capital to put his agenda on  a glide path through the General Assembly.  This proved not to be the case.  His Wind Energy Proposal deflated and his Septic Bill was flushed.  The Governor didn’t even stay in town during the critical final days of session…he headed to New Jersey to pick a fight with  Chris Christie, a Governor that is actually doing something.

Tick tock tick tock…

While the 2011 Session is winding down, the General Assembly’s actions are ramping up.  We wanted to take a break to update you on the status of some of the major issues that have moved this week.
 
 
Spend, Tax, Repeat
 
Again this week, the General Assembly displayed how little self control they have when spending the taxpayer’s money. 
 
As we told you earlier this week, the Capital Budget came to the floor on Tuesday.  The bill is packed full of projects across the state and borrows money to pay for them – money that Maryland will not be able to pay back without increasing in the property tax in the near future.  Republican members offered a series of amendments to reduce the amount of borrowing by 5%, 3%, and 1%.  There was no will among the majority to reduce spending – not even by 1% – and they rejected these amendments.    The bill passed the House 98-41 and the Senate 41-6.
 
In addition to the Capital Budget, final approval was also given to the state’s $34 billion Operating Budget.  In its final form, the Operating Budget leaves a mere $50 million in unspent funds.  The lowest fund balance since 2004 and very little cushion against unforeseen needs or sudden economic problems.  This tiny fund balance was due in large part to the Governor’s submittal of a $62 million supplemental budget – more spending that was submitted to the General Assembly last week.
 
The House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on the Senate’s Alcohol Tax on Friday morning.  At the beginning of session, talk about the alcohol tax was linked to increasing funding for the disabled populations.  As the bill came over from the Senate, the bulk of the tax is going to Prince George’s County and Baltimore City Schools.  As we draft this update, deals are being struck to spread the wealth to other jurisdictions to get this bill passed. It seems like a lot like “buying off” votes to us.  The bill could move as early as this afternoon.  We will update you as the bill moves forward.
 
 
Dream a little dream…
  
The bulk of Thursday’s 6 hour floor session centered around debate on Maryland’s “Dream Act” which would allow illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition.
 
The Republicans offered a variety of amendments to the bill in an effort to improve it somewhat, but none of them were adopted and the bill passed today without amendments.
 
Among the amendments offered were an amendment by Delegate Vitale which would require that the comptroller verify that federal and state tax returns were filed before in-state tuition is granted.  Since people who aren’t in this country legally aren’t able to pay taxes, this amendment would have rendered the bill fairly innocuous.  Minority Leader Delegate O’Donnell offered an amendment that would require an immigrant to have a certified application for permanent residency before being eligible to receive in-state tuition.  Delegate Kipke offered an amendment that would allow counties to opt-out of this program if they wish.  This amendment would have relieved already over strapped counties from the burden of funding in-state tuition for non taxpaying immigrants.
 
After hours of debate on Friday, and additional amendments from Republicans that would limit the amount of money that could be expended on giving slots to illegal immigrants, the bill passed the House 74-66.
 
O’Malley’s Wind Farm Blown Off 
 
Governor O’Malley’s offshore wind proposal HB 1054 was decided by the House and Senate to be studied for the rest of the year. In the final days of session O’Malley increased his “aggressive lobbying efforts from environmentalist and labor unions” but when a number of uncertainties about the bill became apparent, including whether or not the “wind farm would even be built off Maryland’s coast” since the legislation did not specify the location, thus creating the possibility that the site could be located hundreds of miles away, benefiting the local economy of another state. 
 
While the legislation was guaranteed to increase electric bills to Maryland ratepayers in the form of a surcharge, different amounts and totals were never confirmed by the Governor’s office, the Public Service Commission, and the Department of Legislative Services. Governor O’Malley was unable to address these concerns on both the cost of a subsidy and rate increases. While the legislation is being sent to a study over the summer, and is effectively dead for this year, it is likely to reappear in the next legislative session.
 
 
Lock your doors…
  
House Bill 302, sponsored by Delegate Curt Anderson (D, Baltimore City) passed the final hurdle today on its way to the Governor’s desk for signature. Currently, after the Maryland Parole Commission recommends parole for a particular individual, the Governor must approve that parole.  The Governor, in this capacity, acts as the final arbiter on which inmates are released back into the community before their sentences are fully completed.
 
This legislation alters the process to parole a criminal who was sentenced to life imprisonment, making it possible for the inmate to be released without affirmative action by the Governor. Under the new process, if a criminal sentenced to life in prison has served 25 years, and is recommended for parole by the Parole Commission, the Governor has 6 months to write a letter to the commission refusing parole for that inmate. If the Governor doesn’t act one way or the other, the prisoner is granted parole and released. This legislation removes the responsibility of the Governor to consciously and deliberately take action in order to release a potentially violent criminal back into the community.
 
House Republican Caucus members supported efforts to amend the Senate version of the bill in order to deny, rather than grant, parole should the Governor fail to act upon the recommendation of the Commission. This amendment was first approved, but following parliamentary maneuvering, it was ultimately rejected. As the legislative process was completed, the House version moved through the process and was sent to Governor O’Malley for signature or veto. Ironically enough, should the Governor fail to act upon this legislation, it will pass and become law. 
 
Who needs private enterprise when you have state government?
 
Concerns continue to surround the Governor’s Invest Maryland program. First and foremost the bill costs taxpayers $100 million in order to raise $70 million.  Taxpayers lose 30% of their investment before a single dollar is even invested.
 
Republican Delegates brought up a number of concerns on the House floor.   Concerns range from the Administrations authority and the Governor’s influence on appointing members to the authority that oversees the government fund. (Not that this governor would ever think of letting his friends benefit from state projects.)  Amendments were also proposed by Republican Delegates which would have removed government control and guarantee the state will receive 100% return of the original investment. However, these amendments were not taken into consideration and left the plan vulnerable for political influence to control this venture fund.   The bill passed the House 94-43.

Delegate O’Donnell Asks Governor O’Malley For Answers on DJS Murder

MEDIA RELEASE

 

July 20, 2010

For Immediate Release

 Contact: Shannon Oxley Alford (410) 841-3401

 (Annapolis, MD) Over five months have passed since Maryland Department of Juvenile Services employee Hannah Wheeling was discovered outside her workplace in Prince George’s County, brutally murdered. The apparent perpetrator has been in continuous custody before and ever since the day of the murder. The murder occurred in a state run facility under control of the Department of Juvenile Services. Today, House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell asked Governor O’Malley for answers regarding the case.

“On February 18, Hannah Wheeling was found savagely beaten and sexually assaulted outside a state-run facility according to press reports at that time,” said Delegate O’Donnell. “Today, July 20, there have been no charges filed, and no updates to Maryland citizens on the reasons for the delay, or on actions taken to prevent future tragedies of a similar nature.  I have asked the Governor for answers regarding the disposition of the case, and the ongoing silence surrounding it.”

Delegate O’Donnell expressed his concern, and requested answers from the Governor to some basic questions about the situation in a letter hand-delivered to the Governor’s office earlier today.   The Minority Leader requested a response to these basic questions be forthcoming in a day or two at the most.

“Members of the public have a right to know that justice is being pursued with proactive determination. If it is not, they have a right to know the reasons why.” said Delegate O’Donnell.

“The public needs assurance that actions have been taken to investigate and correct the failures of the system that allowed this event to occur. If these actions are not taken, citizens have a right to know the reasons why. The Governor has the responsibility to ensure that both the pursuit of swift justice and the prevention of further harm are achieved.  He also has a responsibility to keep the public informed, even when it may cause officials in his own administration embarrassment.”

Winners and Losers of the 2010 General Assembly Session

At the end of every legislative session opinions abound as to who the “winners” and “losers” were for the session.  Which groups benefitted the most by the passage or failure of legislation and vice versa.  Now that Sine Die is upon us, we thought we would give our view of the Winners and Losers of the 2010 Session.

Winners

Trial Attorneys won big this year.  They lobbied hard for a bill that doubled the minimum car insurance liability amounts (and will increase your car insurance premiums) and pushed for the passage of the Maryland False Claims Act.  They got both…but, it could come back to bite them later.  When the False Claims Act drives doctors out of Maryland, the trial attorneys are going to have a longer trip when they’re chasing ambulances.

Labor Unions scored major victories this session as well.  Not satisfied with the with the fact that non-union state employees are now essentially required to pay union dues (a la 2009 Fair Share Act), they made certain that this year, all of the state’s daycare providers pay them as well.  Another bill dubiously titled “Fairness in Negotiations” is a massive expansion of union power allowing them to settle employment disputes including wages, salaries, and other terms of employment (a role previously played by the State Board of Education).  Labor unions also supported a continuation of furloughs in the Governor’s budget.  After all, furloughed employees still pay union dues and service fees.

Code Pink, MoveOn.org, and other anti-military activists got special treatment this session with the passage of a bill that would prohibit schools who administer the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) from releasing those test scores to military recruiters.  The legislation was billed as protecting our children’s privacy, but parents who do not want their children’s information released to recruiters already have the ability to opt out.  This bill is clearly a first step in eliminating the ASVAB testing altogether, disrupting the efforts to build the military which would suit Code Pink and their cronies just fine.

CASA de Maryland scored another victory this year, receiving another $200,000 in taxpayer money to fund the money pit Multi-Cultural Center in Prince George’s County.   Of the $13 million in cost for this project, 73% (over $9.5 million) is taxpayer funded through grants, bond bills, tax credits, and other appropriations from the county, state, and federal governments.  Now, CASA may not feel too much like a winner, after all, the request was for $500,000 and they only received $200,000.  Oh well, maybe next year.

Virginia, North Carolina, and any other state with a better tax climate (which is a lot of them) should be very grateful to the General Assembly and should really be at the top of the winner’s list.  They are after all reaping the benefits of Maryland’s uncontrolled spending and reckless tax policies. In 2008 alone, Maryland lost population to 38 states, and lost a net assessable tax base of $993 million.   The Democrats in Annapolis again showed their unwillingness to make any meaningful long-term changes to their spending habits and also indicated their willingness to increase taxes again (after the election of course).  The House and Senate budget committees barely broke a sweat with what little they trimmed off the Governor’s budget proposal ($12 million and $9 million respectively).  All their “work” was really for naught, as just days before the session ended the Governor submitted a supplemental budget.  After the Conference Committee completed their work, the total spending was actually $16 million higher than the Governor’s original proposal!  Thank you notes from Virginia and North Carolina should be arriving soon.

Losers

Anyone who has to pay an electric bill will see their bills go up courtesy of the Governor and the General Assembly.  A bill to prop up the floundering solar energy industry directly translates to an electricity rate increase for residential and commercial customers.  It’s a bit ironic that the Governor pledged to reduce electricity rates but sponsored a bill that would increase them.

County Governments got bludgeoned with “Fairness in Negotiations” this year and only narrowly escaped the albatross that is the teacher pension liability.  With Baltimore City continuing to get the lion’s share of Highway User Revenue and the remainder of the jurisdictions having to divide the scraps accordingly, counties are under increased burden to do more with less.  If they continue to take major hits from the General Assembly, county tax increases could be a very real possibility.

Taxpayers…Maryland’s much-abused taxpayers are the ultimate losers this session.  While they escaped taxes this year, it is a pretty safe bet that they will be hit again soon, right after the next…well you know.  Little was cut from the budget and new spending was approved through several new programs.  An amendment that would have declared the intent of the General Assembly not to raise taxes for the next four years was rejected.  Given that the Governor and General Assembly have continued their overspending habits and refused to make a commitment not to increase taxes it is abundantly clear that is exactly where we’re headed. 

Small Businesses got sold down the river by the Governor, the General Assembly, and the Maryland Chamber of Commerce in one fell swoop.  The Maryland Chamber of Commerce initially opposed the Governor’s Unemployment Insurance bill, but true to form struck a deal that will just be bad for Maryland’s businesses.  The Governor’s bill may hold off rate hikes for a little while, courtesy of another pot of federal money.  But when that federal money runs out small businesses will certainly see their unemployment taxes increase.  The bill expands the number of people eligible to receive unemployment benefits (which is what bankrupted the fund in the first place).  Small businesses couldn’t catch a break on the Governor’s Job Tax credit bill either.  The House rejected an amendment that would dedicate at least half of those tax credits to businesses with 50 employees or less.  An amendment to turn the bill into an across the board corporate income tax reduction was also rejected. 

Children…For all the talk about strengthening sex offender laws this year, with just a few hours left of the 2010 session, little has been accomplished.  The Governor’s bills passed but they barely cross the threshold of actually doing something.  The “Lifetime Supervision” doesn’t last a lifetime and we’ll keep our fingers crossed to see if this revamped Advisory Board ever has a meeting.  The General Assembly had a chance to make a monumental step by increasing the mandatory minimums for those convicted of 2nd degree rape of a child.  As it stands right now, with just a few hours left on the last day of session, this passage of this bill comes down to two men – Joe Vallario, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and Brian Frosh, Chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceeding Committee.  Both chairmen opposed the bill but neither wants to be the one to kill it outright.  Up to this point they have played games with the legislation and the fate of this bill is still unknown.  Even though the General Assembly began with promises and pledges to protect children, with just hours left until the final adjournment, there is not a lot of meaningful change and our children are no safer than they were in January…unless of course you include protection from military recruiters. 

 

Monday Press Clips

Friday Press Clips