Thursday, June 23, 2011

Welcome to the Party, Democrats!

from the Baltimore Sun
Nearly 30 percent of the signatures on a petition opposing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants are from registered Democrats, according to data released this afternoon from the State Board of Elections.

The data comes from the initial batch of 47,000 valid signatures turned in to the State Board of Elections last month. A second (and final batch) is due at the end of next week.

Republicans made up the majority of signers in all areas save one: Baltimore City, where 80 percent of voters are Democrats. There 56 percent of signers are Dems.

There were also large numbers of Democrats signing in Baltimore County (39%) and in Prince George's County (38 percent).

Organizers of the effort have long said that the new law generates anger from all parts of the political spectrum, though it passed in the General Assembly on a mostly party line vote.
Update 6/30 from The Baltimore Sun
The Republican-led group trying to repeal the controversial new state law granting new benefits to illegal immigrants reported that they've met their goal of 100,000 signatures opposing the law.

The group submitted 57,000 signatures last month and plan to turn in the balance this evening in Annapolis. So far, the State Board of Elections has determined that 47,000 of the signatures are valid. The group needs another 8,400 acceptable signatures to have the law put to voters in November 2012.

Supporters of the new law, which grants illegal immigrants in-state tuition at Maryland's colleges and universities, held a rally in Baltimore earlier today where they pledged a state-wide campaign supporting the measure.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

More Economic Surprises Courtesy of Local Politicians

Do we understand the true cost of government and what the politicians aren't telling us as when make their promises? Shouldn't we require at least as much FULL DISCLOSURE and TRUTH IN ADVERTISING for the public sector as THEY require for the private sector?

New from Chicago Business...
The average Chicago household now owes a staggering $63,525 to cover local government debt, according to Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas.

Suburbanites are deeply in the red, too, with the average household owing $32,901, according to the treasurer.

Among the biggest reasons: $25 billion in unfunded pension liability.

In comments after an appearance Tuesday before the Civic Federation, a watchdog group that has released somewhat similar numbers in recent years,
Ms. Pappas said she was "stunned" to learn that county taxpayers on the whole owe more than $108 billion toward local debt.
(The actual total may be even worse.)

The figures were derived from a recently passed debt disclosure law. Ms. Pappas said the numbers have never before been compiled in this fashion.

"This goes well beyond big cities," she said. "These fiscal problems permeate townships, villages, school districts, park districts, fire protection districts and more, and the taxpayers are on the hook."

Overall, she said, municipalities have $61 billion in debt. And educational districts, $20 billion. Cook County owes $18 billion, and various sanitary districts collectively owe $4.4 billion.

In some ways the problem is actually worse than it appears. Ms. Pappas' report does not include totals from 55 of the county's 553 local units of government, which failed to report their debt figures to her.

On pensions, only one-quarter of the Cook County government units involved have at least 80% of the assets on hand needed to pay expected retirement plans for public employees, she said. Most financial watchdogs say 80% or even 90% is appropriate.

State lawmakers last year adopted changes that will reduce pension liabilities over time, but only for new employees. A bill that would reduce benefits or increase payments for current workers failed to pass in the spring legislative session but may come up this fall.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

More than 1,000 Harford County Residents Protest Toll Increase

from the Harford County Dagger
A public meeting to discuss increasing the tolls on the state Route 40 Hatem Bridge over the Susquehanna River brought together more than 1,000 residents of Harford and Cecil counties Thursday night to speak out against the toll hike.

Many of those present also protested against the proposal prior to the hearing at Perryville High School, carrying signs outside the building with messages including “Hold the elected accountable,” “Tolls are for trolls” and even one that called for the impeachment of Governor O’Malley.

While many government officials and representatives were present, state Senator Nancy Jacobs was at the forefront of the protest, leading a small crowd in chants of “Who should pay!? No one!”

The atmosphere inside the school was similarly hostile, with members of the crowd shouting out “thieves!” and “cowards!” when members of the Maryland Transportation Authority addressed the audience.

Prior to the public assembly, those attending were given the opportunity to talk to Transportation Authority representatives and were shown a video prior to the public discussion. Under the current proposal, outlined on Transportation Authority handouts, phase one of the proposed toll increase calls for the Hatem Bridge toll to increase to $6 from $5 by October 1. The current annual decal program will be discontinued and changed over to the E-ZPass program. As a result, the annual fee to cross the bridge will increase to $36 to $10.

Effective July 1, 2013, the toll will increase to $72 from $36, MdTA officials said.

The tunnels and bridges, according to MdTA representatives, don’t receive direct benefits from the transportation trust fund, which is used for state highways. Instead, each acts autonomously with toll profits being put directly back into maintenance and upkeep of toll bridges and tunnels. The state officials said the Hatem Bridge hasn’t seen its toll increased in more than 25 years.

However, many residents who spoke in the public comments portion of the hearing said they felt that the toll increase was unfair to those who needed to cross the Hatem Bridge on a daily basis, describing the proposed toll as “highway robbery.”

More than 115 members of the community signed up to speak at the hearing, which drew far more attendees than any of the others held around the county in recent weeks. According to the Transportation Authority, just 22 people attended a hearing in Montgomery County, and 24 attended a hearing in Baltimore City. The largest hearing until Thursday night’s was held in Queen Anne’s county, and drew more than 600 people.

Representatives of the agency said they expect a hearing scheduled for June 27 at the Havre de Grace Activity Center to draw even more people.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Maryland's Radicals on Parade

from The Hill
Rep. Edwards protests against Ryan at town-hall meeting

In a rare move for a member of Congress, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) led a protest Monday outside a town-hall meeting featuring House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Ryan joined Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), and Gov. Nikki Haley (S.C.) for a taping of a town-hall meeting to be broadcast on CBS, at the Newseum in Washington.

“No to Ryan, Yes to Medicare!” Edwards and several dozen protesters chanted.

The American Federation of Government Employees, The National Association of Letter Carriers, Americans United for Change and Planned Parenthood were among the groups protesting the House-passed 2012 budget, authored by Rep. Ryan.

That plan would transform Medicare for those currently under 55 years old into a sort of voucher system that would be used in the private insurance market once they reach retirement. The system now a single-payer system for seniors.

Edwards said that to control the deficit, taxes must be raised on the wealthy and subsidies for oil- and-gas companies must be eliminated before any reforms to Medicare are discussed.

“First of all we’ve got tens of billion in tax breaks going to oil companies, let’s try ending those first. Second of all, a trillion over ten years going to the wealthiest 2 percent of the American public. Let’s try dealing with that first. We are engaged in at least two wars, let’s try ending those first,” she said. “Then you come me and the American people and tell me about things that need to be done to protect programs that protect Americans in their later years.”

Edwards told the crowd that the Ryan budget gives seniors a check to buy their own Medicare. This is misleading, the GOP points out, because the proposed plan is not a true voucher system even though it would operate somewhat like one. Under the budget, government payments for the premiums of seniors would go directly to private insurers.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that because that model, called premium support, does not increase alongside healthcare costs, the result will be much larger out of pocket expenses for seniors once the plan is phased in.

Medicare will be bankrupt by 2024, and Edwards dodged several questions on how to fix it. President Obama has proposed strengthening the Independent Payments Advisory Board to essentially restrict Medicare coverage for what it deems unnecessary treatments. However, this cost-control measure has opponents in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Harford County Patriot Action Alert!

We can make a difference! Learn about the Toll Increases, and how to have your voice heard!

Toll Increase PROTEST then Public Hearing at Perryville High School in Cecil County this Thursday, June 16 at 5PM

Toll Increase PROTEST then Public Hearing at the Havre de Grace Activity Center June 27 at 5PM

The Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA), the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), and the Governor are planning to raise revenue to pay for the 8 tolls and associated infrastructure in Maryland. These include the two toll facilities that span the Susquehanna River from Harford to Cecil County (on I95 and 40), the 2 Tunnels in Baltimore, the Bay Bridge, the Key Bridge, the Nice Bridge in Southern Maryland, and the Intercounty Connector in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties.

The MdTA is an "independent" body tasked with raising the revenue to maintain and police the bridges, tunnels, and toll roads listed above. The Secretary of the Maryland Department of Transporation is Mrs. Beverley Swaim-Staley. She was appointed to this position in 2009 by Governor O'Malley. She is also the Chairman of the Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA). These increases are due to irresponsible planning by legislators and executives in Maryland Government!

Because of the huge costs of the Intercounty Connector in Montgomery and Prince George's County, there is a revenue shortfall, so they say that Harford County's tolls must be raised???

Do you use a decal at the Hatem Bridge in Havre de Grace? The Governor and the MdTA are eliminating the use of the decals and replacing them with a $90.00 per year EZ-Pass plan ($72.00 per year plus $1.50 per month)! This will suffocate commerce between Harford and Cecil Counties!

The toll increases are laid out in the image below, courtesy of the MdTA.

Link to Toll increasses: Toll Increase Chart

You can make a difference! Steps to influencing these political appointees and stopping toll increases:

1. Call the Governor's Office at 1.800.811.8336 and email him with this page:

2. Email each of the Commissioners of the MdTA and ask them not to raise the tolls:
Beverley Swaim-Staley -
Peter J. Basso –
Rev. Dr. William C. Calhoun, Sr. –
Mary Beyer Halsey –
Louise P. Hoblitzell –
Richard C. Mike Lewin –
Michael J. Whitson –
Walter E. Woodford, Jr., P.E. –
3. Join us at the Rally and Hearings on June 16 at Perryville High School and on June 27 at the Havre de Grace Activity Center.

4. Help us get the word out by contacting friends, businesses, and neighbors about this issue! Forward this URL right now!

We'll see you this Thursday, June 16 at Perryville High School at 5PM to STOP THE TOLL HIKES! BRING a Friend!

The Harford Campaign for Liberty meets every 4th Tuesday of the Monday at the 23 Newport Drive in Forest Hill, MD. Join us, and bring a friend!

Copyright © 2011 Harford Campaign for Liberty, All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Doesn't Every Citizen Deserve Representation, Not Just Those Citizens Who Agree With You?

from the Baltimore Sun
The Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the group behind the effort to repeal in-state tuition for illegal immigrants are sparring over the website used in the signature-gathering process -- in what could be a preview of court battles to come.

The ACLU said in a release today that concerns that the website,, is "illegal and vulnerable to fraud," led the group ask the State Board of Elections to "scrutinize" its legality. (Here's a link to the 20-page letter.)

"Online systems for signature gathering in support of a petition drive are new to Maryland, and raise serious questions about whether election officials can meaningfully scrutinize the authenticity of signatures, verify each signer’s intent, and investigate possible acts of fraud," Deborah Jeon, legal director for the ACLU of Maryland, said in a statement.

Del. Neil Parrott, creator of the website and a leader in the petition drive, fired back that the ACLU's allegations are "baseless" and said "Maryland citizens have a constitutional right to continue to sign the petition online."

The Washington County Republican also called the ACLU "hypocritical" for questioning the petition-signer validation process when the same group frequently calls for lesser voter identification standards at the polls.

The back-and-forth comes as the Elections Board is in the process of validating the first round of signatures submitted by the group. About 18,000 were due at the end of Mary, and the board reported today that 44,000 have been deemed valid.

That's nearly 80 percent of the overall requirement; 55,736 must be submitted by the end of this month. If the petition is successful, Maryland voters would decide in November 2012 whether the state should give in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants.

The petition is a reaction to a law passed this year by the General Assembly. It would provide the discounted tuition to undocumented students who have attended at least three years of high school in Maryland and whose parents have filed tax returns. The law is due to take effect July 1, but a successful petition drive would stop it in its tracks.

The ACLU's letter to the board, and its press release, could be a signal that the pro-tuition forces are gearing up for a court battle over the petition.

"The online petition system at could be highly susceptible to fraud," the ACLU said in a statement. "Any user who knows the name, zip code, and birth date of an individual can easily generate a petition for that person, forge the individual’s signature, and fraudulently verify the petition on the individual’s behalf."

"Maryland law prohibits the use of “pre-filled” petition forms such as those generated by the website, instead requiring that each signer of a petition personally provide the relevant information about himself or herself," the ACLU continues.

Parrott said he consulted with the Board of Elections as he developed the website and predicted it will withstand scrutiny. He says the ACLU's move "seems to be their opening salvo to a planned lawsuit."

"The law that they point to clearly states that the information on the form may be typed or handwritten," Parrott writes in a statement. "Nowhere in the law does it indicate that a signer cannot be aided by someone filling in the information for them."

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Status of 'Freedom' in the People's Republic of Maryland

from the Maryland Daily Record
The Free State really isn’t very free, according to a new report from the Mercatus Center in Northern Virginia, a libertarian research group.

According to a study from the Mercatus Center that looks at how truly free each state is, Maryland ranked 43rd, seventh from the bottom. Done by two scholars with the George Mason University-based group, the study ranks Maryland dead last in personal freedom, 44th in regulatory freedom and 28th in economic freedom.

But one surprise in the study was how well Maryland ranks on fiscal issues, coming in 11th among the states on its freedom rankings. The Tax Foundation, business groups and Republicans typically beat up Maryland for high taxes.

Jason Sorens, a political science professor at SUNY Buffalo who co-authored the study, said he was “a little surprised” too, given Maryland’s poor rankings in other categories.

The main reason for the good ranking on government taxes and spending is the way the Mercatus study calculated the fiscal burden. Maryland’s state “debt ratio to personal income is very low” compared to other states, Sorens said. “Its ratio of government spending to personal income is also low.”

“On tax collection, Maryland is about average,” he said.

Sorens noted that the Tax Foundation, which ranks Maryland as the 12th highest-taxed state, counts taxes paid to other states. The Mercatus study puts Maryland “right there in the middle.”

Maryland’s tax burden looks higher because personal incomes are higher, Sorens said.

“We hope that this will spark a broader discussion of what freedom looks like, and more of a debate in public policy,” said Daniel Rothschild, managing director of state and local policy for the Mercatus Center.

The study, done every other year since 2007, looks at how government-created rules, regulations and obligations impact residents. The states with fewer obligations on residents are deemed in the study as “more free,” while states with more regulation and deeper debt are “less free.” The data in the study released this week are current as of Jan. 1, 2009.

Regulatory freedoms deal with labor regulations, health insurance policy, licensing requirements for occupations and tort laws. Personal freedoms look at how “paternalistic” state laws are, as well as how many people the laws affect. This category looks at gun control, driving laws, marijuana possession penalties, same-sex marriage and campaign finance laws.

The study goes through a litany of regulations Maryland has in place for its residents — which are responsible for its rock-bottom personal freedom rating.

“Maryland’s impositions on personal freedoms” include many things, the report states. Gun control is tight, marijuana laws are strict, there are many restrictions on motorists, and the state keeps a tight rein on gambling. When making arrests, police can often collect DNA from suspects.

Additionally, the study decries that the state must even approve curriculum used by parents homeschooling their children.

There are also policies that burden the business world, the study says. These include many occupations that are licensed, “severe” labor regulations, health insurance coverage mandates — which the study says adds more than 50 percent to the total cost — and “almost totally unchecked” use of eminent domain.

Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, said the Mercatus Center’s study is looking at personal freedoms in the wrong way. Maryland has instituted many policies that enhance public health and safety — like taxing tobacco so that fewer people smoke, or making it more difficult for criminals to buy guns. The Mercatus Center mischaracterizes “personal freedom,” he said, and Maryland should really be ranked as the nation’s “most free” state.

“There’s nothing better for freedom than being alive,” DeMarco said.

William Ruger, one of the study’s authors, said that many conservative states tended to be freer across the board. On the other end of the spectrum, liberal states tend to bring up the rear. Joining Maryland, with its strong Democratic majority, as some of the “least free” states are California, New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

The “freest” states, according to the study, are New Hampshire, South Dakota, Indiana and Idaho.

Study authors also looked at population trends and saw that people have been moving away from the “less free” states. Meanwhile, “more free” states have seen population growth. The more free states, they predicted, are on track to become the cultural centers where people want to live.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Come November....

“What is history but the story of how politicians have squandered the blood and treasure of the human race?”
— Thomas Sowell

Friday, June 3, 2011

Special Privileges for Illegals Likely to Get Voted on in Maryland

from the Baltimore Sun
Opponents of the new law to extend in-state tuition breaks to illegal immigrants say they are confident they have cleared their first hurdle in stopping the measure by collecting many more than the 18,500 valid signatures they needed by Tuesday to keep their repeal effort alive.

“We have over 40,000,” said Del. Neil C. Parrott, the Washington County Republican who is leading the petition drive to get the controversial law onto the 2012 ballot.

The opponents will need to submit about 56,000 valid signatures to the State Board of Elections by the end of June to suspend the legislation and give the voters the final say. They plan to collect many more, on the assumption that some will get thrown out.

They were required to gather a third of the total by Tuesday. Elections officials now will vet the first batch of signatures.

Organizers of credited their success so far to public opposition to the measure and an easy-to-use website. They said the volume of telephone calls from people asking for a petition to sign or circulate continues to grow.

“The reason this is resonating with voters is because they know this is a bad bill,” Parrott said.

Advocates for immigrants said they will step up efforts to counteract that message while they wait to see how many of the signatures filed Tuesday are accepted as valid. Statewide petition drives must meet minimums within each jurisdiction and statewide.

“The number is very impressive,” said Kim Propeack of the immigrant advocacy group CASA de Maryland. “It underscores that we need to do a better job during the month of June explaining about the benefits” of the law.

Propeack, CASA’s director of community organizing and political action, spoke of “replicating some of” the opponents’ methodology.

“We will be putting up a web site,” she said. “I also think that we will be engaging people at the places where they are signing people up.”

Propeack said opponents of the legislation are not describing it fairly. She said they tell people that illegal immigrants who earn degrees wouldn’t be able to work legally; the law requires that participants work to legalize their status.

She said opponents omit mention of the benefits to military families. The side also disagree on the cost to taxpayers.

“This is an education issue,” she said. “It is the best solution for the imperfect situation.”

The Democratic General Assembly approved the measure at the close of the 2011 legislative session in April, and Gov. Martin O’Malley signed it in May. A spokeswoman for O’Malley reiterated his support on Tuesday.

The governor supports people who are “willing to work hard for a better future in Maryland,” spokeswoman Takirra Winfield said.

Sen. Victor Ramirez, the Prince George’s County Democrat who sponsored the legislation in the Senate, echoed Propeack’s concern that opponents are not describing it accurately.

“Why are you taking it out on these kids?” he said. “At the end of the day it is very hard for them to fight back because they are in this situation.”

But Del. Patrick L. McDonough, a vocal critic of illegal immigration, said supporters of the legislation had “miscalculated.”

“For some reason believed they were on the side of the angels,” the Baltimore County Republican said.

While most of the early signers of the petition online were Republicans, he said, now about half are Democrats. He said organizers had gathered a significant number from African-Americans in Baltimore.

“The black community is exploding on this issue,” he said. He said there is a fear that youths will lose out on opportunities as a result of the bill.

To qualify for the break, an illegal immigrant would have to attend high school in Maryland for three years and show that his or her family had paid taxes to the state.

The student then could attend a community college at the in-state rate. After completing 60 credits, he or she could transfer to a four-year college, again at the residential discount.

The legislation would save eligible students from $4,000 to $6,000 per year at community college, according to a legislative analysis. At a four-year institution, the savings would increase: In-state tuition at the University of Maryland, College Park this year is $8,655; nonresidents pay $25,795.

Legislative analysts estimate the measure would cost the state about $800,000 in the first year, rising to $3.5 million annually by 2016. Opponents say the cost could be far higher.

Once opponents finish collecting signatures, McDonough said, they will turn their attention to filing a lawsuit to stop the law.

Opponents acknowledged the difficulty of getting the measure on the November 2012 ballot. Rules for petition drives are strict: To be counted, each signature must match or nearly match the exact name as it appears on the signer's voter registration card. The rejection rate is so high that the elections board advises petitioners to submit at least 30 percent more signatures than the required number.

Consequently, successful statewide petition efforts are relatively rare. A drive to repeal legislation enabling speed cameras two years ago fell short of the required signatures. Opponents of early voting gathered enough signatures in 2006 to get the question on the ballot, but the courts overturned the legislation, rendering the referendum moot.

A recent decision by the state’s highest court has been interpreted as easing the requirements for valid signatures. Under the interpretation, if the components of the voter’s full name as given on the registration card can be pieced together from the voter’s signature and printed name, it counts.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Call the Asylum Quick... One of Your Lunatics is Missing!

from Baltimore Sun
As gas prices in Maryland hover just under $4 a gallon, Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill Thursday to press for legislation that would require auto manufacturers to produce more alternative-fuel vehicles.

The bill, known as the Open Fuel Standard Act, would require that 50 percent of new automobiles manufactured in 2014 be able to run on non-petroleum fuels in addition to regular gasoline. By 2017, the measure would require 97 percent of new vehicles to run on alternative fuels.

“It is a certainty that we’re going to have to be burning different fuels in the future in addition to the oil we burn now,” said the Western Maryland Republican, who has long warned of the nation’s reliance on oil.

Putting more alternative-fuel vehicles on the road would drive up demand for ethanol, methanol and other fuels, creating more competition at the pump, supporters said. Though similar proposals have been embraced by lawmakers in both parties, the idea has failed in Congress in the past – partly under pressure from the auto industry.

As currently written, the measure does not include an enforcement mechanism to penalize companies that do not comply.

Supporters hope the high price of gas can give the measure some momentum in Congress this year. The average price for regular unleaded gas in Maryland is $3.80, about two cents higher than the national average, according to AAA.

“It’s a bipartisan piece of legislation whose time has come,” said Rep. John Shimkus, a Republican from Illinois.
Let's make cars cost thousands more than they have to... another government solution looking for a gullible buyer.