Observations and Reflections on Legislative Activities
By Delegate Michael A. McDermott
Week 7 February 20-24, 2012
Monday Evening-President’s Day Speech
According to House traditions, the House Democratic Caucus selected one of their members to deliver the President’s Day Speech to the members. Delegate John A. Olszewski, Jr.was chosen and provided a reflection on President Washington which implied that he liked taxes. I’m quite sure I do not share the good delegate’s opinion of Washington...but maybe he was referring to Washington DC.
Challenge to Vote Count
Minority Leader Tony O’Donnell voiced a challenge to the recorded vote on the O’Malley-Brown Same Sex Marriage bill (HB-438) which occurred on the previous Friday. As I previously reported, the vote count on the board at the final call showed 71 in favor and 67 opposed. After the session, the Speakers Office released a press release stating that Delegate Bohanan (D-St. Mary’s Co.) had voted in favor of the bill but his vote was, somehow, not counted. This is highly irregular and, when it occurs, the delegate is required by House Rules to stand immediately on the floor and make this known to the Speaker. Delegate Bohanan did not do so. The Speaker blamed it on a mechanical failure within the computer voting system. We are, to say the least, highly skeptical of this explanation. Bottom line, it appears that the delegate’s vote was not needed and he cleared his vote from the board. Since his green vote was seen on the board by the media, this “explanation” was laid out in the aftermath of the vote. As a result of the challenge to the vote, the days journal has not been agreed to and is currently standing in limbo.
On a side note...I was behind a couple of IT guys going into the State House building on Tuesday morning with their equipment in tow. They were talking about finding this “missing vote”. I said to them, “you guys here to solve that missing vote problem?” to which they looked at each other and one said, “yeah...ha ha...right”.
Conclusion: there is no missing vote problem...just a case of some missing integrity.
Judiciary Committee Hearings, Tuesday: Gun Day
Today is traditionally referred to as “Gun Day” on the committee as this is the day when we review all of the bills filed which have to do with gun rights or restrictions. The star for the day on the pro-gun legislation were several bills all similar to HB-45. This bill seeks to make Maryland a “shall issue” state as it relates to Gun Permits issued by the Maryland State Police. Currently, the law requires a citizen to provide a “good and substantial reason” to show a need to protect themselves with a pistol carry permit. The proponents of the bill believe, as is the case in 40 other states, that the burden should be upon the state to show cause why a permit should not be issued as opposed to the burden being on a citizen to show they have a good reason.
The Chairman has refused to allow these types of bills to come out for a vote, even if they are well supported on the committee. That appears to be the case this year as well. There is a clear demand from many citizens from all over the state that they should be allowed to protect themselves and their families no matter where they travel in Maryland. Some of the bills sought reciprocity agreements with surrounding states for their permit holders. Liberals are always interested in restricting 2nd Amendment rights in Maryland and we will continue to be a very unfriendly state for gun owners. The pro-gun bills included:HB-45, HB-256, HB-300, HB-396, HB-430, HB-488, HB-579
There were a few regulatory bills regarding firearms. Some dealt with mental health issues and the ability to purchase firearms, the criminal use of firearms during criminal acts, and the possession of stolen firearms. The regulatory bills included:HB-618, HB-856, HB-968, HB-1100, HB-1104, HB-1113, HB-114, HB-1135
There was a bill to restrict the sale of certain compounds that are currently marketed for explosive targets. The components are purchased and then combined together to create something that can be detonated as a target shot by a firearm with significant velocity. There was debate abut information available on line about other common compounds readily available. The State Fire Marshall has come back again this year with HB-875 to address the potential misuse of this one particular binary compound by determined individuals.
Judiciary Committee Hearings Conducted Wednesday
Today was DWI Day in the committee. All filed bills that address aspects of driving under the influence were heard. Most seek enhanced penalties for certain acts committed while driving under the influence such as having children in the vehicle or causing death or serious injury. Those seeking enhanced penalties included:HB-535, HB-608,
Those bills addressing deaths resulting from motor vehicle accidents included enhancing penalties, making them must appear offenses, and mandating drug and alcohol testing under certain circumstances. These bills included:HB-469, HB-462, HB-649, HB-1022
HB-778 seeks to expand the definition of “operator” of a motor vehicle in cases of vehicular manslaughter when the actions of a driver create a dangerous situation that results in the death of another.HB-1179 seeks to expand the definition for a police vehicle for purposes of charging an individual with fleeing and eluding police.HB-1082 seeks to address a problem in Carroll County with the use of Drug Recognition Experts. While they are accepted across the state, it seems a certain judge is holding up decisions in his county due to his interpretation of the law concerning these trained law enforcement experts.
Judiciary Hearings Conducted on Thursday
Today was Family Law Day. Standing room only crowd for the previous two days and today was the same. We took up bills that involve child custody, divorce law, adoptions, and child support issues. Most of these bills were heard in previous sessions with some modifications hoping for traction this year. The following bills addressed aspects of custody arrangement including HB-459 which seeks a task force to study joint custody of children:HB-485, HB-761 (grandparent visitation), HB-1165
HB-719 seeks to alter access and record searches for adoption records. It would make it easier to search for birth parents by those so inclined and would expand access to adopted individual 18 years of age or older.HB-873 seeks to address some issues surrounding Reproduction Agreements where surrogates carry a baby on behalf of a couple who cannot otherwise have children. This is a comprehensive bill and there was a lot of witnesses in support of some of these changes.
There were two bills addressing Protective Orders. HB-883 seeks to place an actual distance within a Protective Order whereby a person must keep their distance. HB-971 would allow a person seeking a Protective Order to not necessarily need a fixed address for a Respondent. HB-1010 was back for a second year. It would allow a parent who was in arrears with child support payments to take up a second job to get caught up without altering their original payment order amount.
Judiciary Voting Session on Thursday
The following bills received a “Favorable” report from the committee and will bime sent to the House floor for 2nd Reader:HB-96 Probation Before Judgement allowance for second CDS arrest with successful completion of Drug Court and probation.HB-318 Lowers eligibility amounts for small estate settlements.HB-398 Adds the investigation of Theft Schemes to the list of enumerated crimes where a wire tap can be utilized by law enforcement.
On the Senate Side Thursday...
The senate voted quickly on the O’Malley-Brown Same Sex Marriage Bill. They also created two legislative days out of one calendar day and passed the bill in the afternoon. No amendments were accepted onto the bill by the democrats which could have at least made the bill better. These included amendments to address homosexual-same sex marriage curriculum in public schools and a prohibition on a minor being able to enter into a same sex marriage. As a result of these rejections, when the governor signs the bill into law next week, a 16 year old boy will be able to marry a 40 year old man and our schools will be forced to instruct that same sex marriage is a normal option.
As a result, the referendum process has begun. The people of Maryland will have the last word when we force the issue into the ballot box. In the coming weeks, I will provide detailed information on how to get involved in the referendum. For those who helped in the referendum on Illegal Alien In-State Tuition last year, it will be the same process. We will now be on guard in the House for legislation that will seek to make the referendum process more complicated and arduous for the people. We know it is coming.
House Voting Session Friday
In the interest of space, I will highlight bills during voting sessions and share the link where you can see all of the bills voted on during this particular session. Today, my first bill cleared the House and moved onto the Senate. It is HB-251 which allows for criminal history checks to be performed on taxi driver applicants. We also passed HB-104 which makes texting on a cell phone while driving a primary offense.
Judiciary voting Session on Friday
This was a big day for me as two of my bills were up in the voting session. HB-119 will allow law enforcement officers in Maryland the ability to charge most misdemeanor offenses by issuance of a citation instead of requiring them to be taken before a District Court Commissioner for release. This will save the state millions and limit the down time for law enforcement officers tied up waiting on the District Court. This is a companion bill to HB-112 and HB-261 which I introduced to address the problems associated with providing Public Defender access at the Initial Appearance those charged with a crime have before a District Court Commissioner. The bill guarantees a right to counsel in the District Court appearance before a judge but does not require it before a Commissioner. This will save the state anywhere from $30 million to $100 million based upon estimates from the Public Defender’s Office, States Attorneys, and the Department of Legislative Services. Wicomico State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello helped me craft this bill and I also received support from Worcester State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby and Somerset State’s Attorney Dan Powell. The bills have been worked on by many in our committee along with representatives from the Governor’s Office. Both of these bills will now move to the House for Second and Third Reader next week.