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Through the Maryland Legislative Watch project, during the just-concluded 2013 session, many volunteers and I read hundreds of pieces of legislation; the focus was on bills which may infringe upon our natural rights and/or extract our wealth. An interesting observation: while government – of course – grew larger, there was not the level of expected opposition from Republicans.
Maryland Republicans have long held that they are outnumbered and unable to put up a fight against the ever growing government and budget. But does the rhetoric match the actions?
Many bills that had a potential detrimental impact on small businesses were introduced this session, and a number of them did manage to pass. One such bill was HB 1440 – regulation of composting facilities – where the “in favor” vote in the House Environmental Matters committee was unanimous. On the House floor, only Delegate Don Dywer (R – Anne Arundel) voted against. On the Senate side the floor vote was 44-0. HB 1440’s accompanying fiscal note says this will have a meaningful impact on small business, as it will increase workloads for the Maryland Department of the Environment and may impose a mandate on a unit of local government.
Another bill that could conceivably affect small business is SB 1068. Introduced late in the session, this bill created a commission to study payroll processing companies. The commission, composed primarily of bureaucrats whose job it is to regulate business, will decide whether Maryland should regulate this industry (“the feasibility and cost of establishing State licensure or registration of payroll service companies, including requiring qualifying examinations and the potential benefits of licensure or registration”). This is a great small business with low barriers to entry and low to medium profit margins. The vote in the Senate was 44-0, while the vote tally in the House was 130-1.
How about campaign finance? HB 1499 is the Maryland Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2013, a bill that not only enables public campaign financing (to be approved by each county), but also allows candidate committees to now shield up to $25,000 in aggregate contributions under $50. Currently, contributions by check must be recorded. In the entire 188-member General Assembly, only Sen. Bryan Simonaire (R – Anne Arundel) and Del. Christopher Shank (R – Washington County) voted against – although, the vote changed slightly in the House after the conference committee report.
Another bothersome issue stems from a government that punishes crimes committed against government employees more severely than those same crimes committed against the People. HB 489 is a prime example; it not only makes States Attorneys a protected class, but the bill was also amended to add Public Defenders. HB 489 serves notice that there is one set of rules for government employees and another set for the People. Only Delegate Nathaniel Oaks (D – Baltimore City) voted against HB 489.
Property rights are another area in which Republicans claim they are staunch defenders. As such, any bill referencing, “sustainable communities” should be an easy, “nay” vote. While more Republicans voted “nay” than on the bills above, there were Republicans who voted “yea” for HB 613, the “Sustainable Communities, Designation and Financing” act. This bill, among other things, allows “sustainable communities” to issue bonds to buy, lease, condemn, or otherwise acquire property, or an interest in property.” From the fiscal note: “Local Effect: Potential increase in property and other tax revenues for local governments that exercise their authority under the bill to finance infrastructure investments in sustainable communities.” The Senate passed this 46-1. The House had many more Republicans voting against, although they were not unified in their objection on the initial passage or the conferenced bill.
Finally we had an exercise in bipartisanship that was truly scary; thankfully it did not pass out of committee. HB 969, which had over 70 co-sponsors, would have created a commission to study the effect of video games on our youth. This bill would not only have drawn countless children into the juvenile or mental health system, but the legislation was so broad that it included a section that read, “create a system whereby individuals in schools or colleges who display a negative or “dark” affect can be identified and monitored”. HB 969 died in committee.
Republicans champion themselves as the party of small government, lower taxes, and friends of small business. In Maryland, their actions do not consistently match their rhetoric. Until this is remedied, either by legislators voting with their claimed principles or until many of current office holders are replaced, the Grand Old Party is doomed to languish in its current state of irrelevance.
Tags: Maryland Legislative Watch, Maryland Republicans, Republicans, Small Business
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