Sunday, July 31, 2011

Is the Tea Party REALLY Changing the DC Culture?

Is the "tyranny of the 87" freshmen congressional Tea Party delegates making a real difference, or will they be co-opted and absorbed into the Republican sect of the Washington DC, "go along to get along" culture?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Maryland Tuition Petition Garners Bipartisan Support

from the Baltimore Sun
Nearly one out of every three people who signed a petition opposing the Maryland Dream Act are registered Democrats, according to data from the state board of elections.

The information backs up contentions by GOP Del. Neil Parrott and others that the Republican-led effort to repeal the law has bipartisan support. The state board of elections on Friday said that enough valid signatures were collected to trigger a referendum on the law in 2012.

The party identification data tracks with figures from an initial batch of petitions due at the end of May. The opponents of the new law turned in a total of 108,923 valid signatures. Just over 32,000 came from Democrats.

The law would allow illegal immigrants access to the same discounted in-state tuition at Maryland's colleges and universities that legal residents pay. Undocumented students would have to prove their parents filed tax returns and show that they'd attend a Maryland high school for three years. It was supposed to be enacted in July, but has been suspended because of the referendum.

There's been no polling (that I'm aware of) on the in-state tuition law. But, if the voter registration trends from the petition hold, the law could be in trouble. Should the GOP vote en mass against the bill and pick up one third of the state's Democrats, the law would theoretically lose by about 140,000 votes. (Of course, that assumes perfect turnout. Email me if you are dying to see the math.)

It was also noteworthy that Democrats were slightly less likely to go a sophisticated new website that Parrott created to generate petitions. The website caught the attention of the Maryland ACLU, which raised questions about whether the method would pass constitutional muster.

According to the state board, one in four internet generated petitions came from Democrats. Sixty percent were Republicans. He is saving his list of names and re-purpose the site for other repeal efforts.

Parrott's website can be credited with collecting one third of the valid signatures for the effort. It's a big number, but as it turns out so many people signed the petition that opponents would have been successful even without it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Harford County Republicans Will Do Their Own Dividing

from the Harford County Dagger
From the Republican Central Committee of Harford County:

The Harford County Democratic Party had their hopes for favorable judicial ruling crushed on Wednesday when Harford County Circuit Court Judge John F. Fader II threw the case out, remarking “You’re asking me to make new law, I’m not willing to do that.”

The Harford County Council had previously followed the suggestion of legal counsel to follow the County Charter and only appoint members to the County Redistricting Commission of political parties that earned more than 15% of the votes cast for County Council. This meant that only nominees of the Republican Party were appointed, since the Democratic Party candidates received less than 12% of the votes cast county-wide.

The Democrats could have legally had a seat at the table if they had only found candidates to run. There were 7 Councilmanic positions including 2 incumbent Democrats, and a total of only 3 total Democratic Party Candidates.

Harford County Democrats wrote the County Charter when they were in power but now they want judges to change the law to suit their current, weakened position.

The Harford County Republican Party is vibrant and healthy. In 2010, for the first time ever, more Harford voters were registered as Republicans than as Democrats.

Today, according to the Board of Elections figures, there are greater than 2,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats.

The Republican Party message of individual freedom, limited government, and the rule of law are winning out in the public, and the future for Harford County is bright as a result.

The Republican Central Committee of Harford County meets every third Wednesday of the month at the Harford County Government Administrative Office Building at 212 S Main Street in Bel Air at 7PM. All are welcome to attend these public meetings.
More on proposed new districts.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

State Democrats Get Set to Divide and Conquer

MAP 1: At least 59% Obama in each district; both black-majority districts preserved

from the Baltimore Sun
A series of Democrats from Maryland's westernmost corner sent a clear message to legislative map makers at a meeting this afternoon: Give us a chance to take this congressional seat.

"My job is to turn Frederick blue," said Myrna Whitworth, a self-described partisan who testified at the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee in Frederick. She said that the overwhelming number of Republicans packed into the district means state and national parties ignore the area, assuming it would be impossible to win.

Don DeArmon, a former Democratic candidate for Congress, declared: "We have a chance to create competitive districts."

The sentiment is at odds with a view pushed by U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, who has repeatly talked about using the redistricting process to pour Democrats into the 1st congressional district on the Eastern Shore. It is held by freshman U.S. Rep. Andy Harris.

The Western Maryland congressional seat is occupied by U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Jr., a founding member of the Tea Party Caucus. He's held it since 1993 and is wildly popular, taking 61 percent of the vote last year. But at 85 years old and displaying lackluster fundraising, some Democrats in Annapolis privately wonder if he's the easier target.

Bartlett's district now includes eight counties, seven of which stretch along the Mason-Dixon line. It was designed 10 years ago by Gov. Parris Glendening to contain as many GOP voters as possible.

But those testifying Saturday repeatedly argued that Frederick tilts toward Washington, D.C. and suggested lopping off the eastern chunk of the district. That would mean losing Carroll, Baltimore and Harford counties. Instead the new district would jut further into northern Montgomery County where they could pick up Democrats.

Several argued that transit lines and commuting patterns flow from Western Maryland to Washington, D.C. They said the population from Fredrick out the Garrett has little in common with Baltimore County, which is more oriented toward Charm City.

But a handful of Republicans, including Sens. David Brinkley and Joe Getty, asked to keep the district mostly the same. They argued that the eight rural counties have more in common than not and should stay together.

The five-member redistricting panel will meet again Monday evening in Prince George's County. The congressional map will have to be approved by the General Assembly, which is set to meet again for special session in October.
Here's a primer from the Harford County "Dagger" on the redistricting process.

More DC Delusional Delusions...

from the Baltimore Sun
Democrat Frank Kratovil hasn't decided whether to run for his old seat in Congress next year, but he nevertheless made an interesting play Friday by showing up to President Barack Obama's town hall at the University of Maryland. The move appeared to pay off.

Obama, speaking to 1,000 students on the College Park campus -- not to mention a national television audience -- shouted out to the former Eastern Shore congressman three times during the event, which was focused on the economy and the debt ceiling negotiations.

"Former congressman Frank Kratovil is here," Obama said, as he thanked several currently elected Maryland officials in the audience for attending, such as Gov. Martin O'Malley and Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin. "You wouldn't know it looking at him, but Frank is an outstanding basketball player. The Terps might be able to use him, even at this age...He's got all kinds of moves."

Kratovil, a lawyer, was one of dozens of Democrats who were swept into the House of Representatives in the 2008 election that sent Obama to the White House. He was swept right back out in 2010 by Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican anesthesiologist. Despite a fair amount of speculation, Kratovil hasn't said whether he'll run again.

"A lot of his talk is very much where I am philosophically," Kratovil said of Obama's address. "We are very good at getting people elected, but we're not very good at electing people who can lead."
Hey, you've got to give Kratovil credit for that LAST correct observation.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Are MD Bond Rater Risks Well Founded?

from the Baltimore Sun
The federal government plans to close 20 data centers in Maryland by the end of 2012, part of a nationwide effort to reduce redundancy and save money on electricity-hungry computer servers, the White House said Wednesday.

Officials plan to close 373 centers nationwide by the end of next year and 800 by 2025, moves that the Office of Management and Budget estimates will save taxpayers more than $3 billion.

The centers, which typically house computer equipment, can be as large as a building or as small as a closet.

In one example cited by the White House, the Treasury Department will close a roughly 13,000-square-foot facility in Lanham.

According to OMB, that data center hosts 250 servers and costs taxpayers more than $400,000 a year in leasing and electricity costs alone. In addition to the cost of powering the servers themselves, the equipment usually requires round-the-clock air conditioning and heating.

“With data centers that run as large as three and a half football fields, shutting down excess datacenters will save taxpayers billions of dollars by cutting costs for infrastructure, real estate and energy,” U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra said in a statement.

The number of data centers managed by the federal government has increased from 432 to more than 2,000 since 1998, according to the OMB. Those facilities have been using only 27 percent of their computing capacity.

Data provided by OMB show that the federal government has already closed 13 sites in Maryland, most in Greenbelt and Bethesda. Those that remain to be closed include a Department of Transportation facility in Baltimore and a Department of Homeland Security center in Abingdon.

The government’s effort to cut down on server farms follows similar moves in the private sector, which has relied increasingly on cloud servers to store certain data on the internet.

Today's Unanswered Question

At the edge of Empire, relearning the lesson of the Gracchi

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Is Democrat Control Endangering Maryland's Credit Rating?

from the Baltimore Sun
A national rating agency threatened Tuesday to take a second look at Maryland’s gold-plated credit status because of the protracted debate in Washington over raising the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

Moody’s Investors Service said it would review “for possible downgrade” the credit ratings of five states: Maryland, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. The announcement comes days before Maryland is expected to begin selling $718 million in bonds.

Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have both threatened to downgrade the nation’s credit rating in recent weeks – a move that, if carried out, would have a dramatic impact on interest rates. But so far the threats appear to be aimed more at the political process than the bond market.

Under the subject line “a very real threat,” Gov. Martin O’Malley’s political campaign sent an e-mail arguing that over the past few weeks the country has “seen divisiveness and political gamesmanship like we've never seen before.” The Democratic governor blamed conservative Republicans, suggesting their real mission is to defeat President Barack Obama in the 2012 election “even if it means killing the jobs recovery and risking our country's financial stability.”

With an Aug. 2 deadline fast approaching, lawmakers in both parties are wrestling over how to increase the debt limit without facing political fallout. House Republicans are poised to approve a measure that would raise the limit in tandem with significant budget cuts and a constitutional amendment that would require a balanced budget.

Obama has threatened to veto that measure, which would cut spending to levels not seen since 1966.

Senate leaders, meanwhile, are working on a separate proposal that would allow the White House to raise the debt ceiling through next year without the express permission of Congress. That measure, once viewed as a backup plan, is gaining momentum as one of the last remaining options.

"The problem we have now is we're in the 11th hour and we don't have a lot more time left," Obama said at the White House Tuesday.

The president praised a more comprehensive plan put forward by a by a bipartisan group of senators that would cut $3.7 trillion over 10 years. But the measure includes $1 trillion in new revenues, which House Republicans have strongly opposed. It also is not clear whether there is enough time to advance such a significant package through Congress in such a short time.

The Moody’s announcement was directed at states with close ties to the federal government, either because of their high concentration of federal employees or contractors. The rating agency said it would announce any change to the state’s credit rating within seven to ten days of downgrading the nation’s rating.

The announcement "underscores the urgency of our ongoing debt negotiations at the federal level," Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the House, said in a statement. "We must continue working to ensure a meaningful outcome that protects our communities and families, while bringing down the deficit and ensuring America pays its bills.”

Sue Walitsky, a spokeswoman for Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, said the threat was "yet another reason why Senator Cardin believes that default is not an option because it’s too great a risk to our nation.

"He has said repeatedly that our deficits are not sustainable, but the responsible course of action is to increase the debt ceiling and develop a credible, balanced plan that will enable us to manage our deficits," she said.

Maryland State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, who will oversee the state’s bond sales, said that at this point she intends to go through with the borrowing, which will begin Friday. But, she said state officials are watching closely for any change in interest rates.

The money will be used for school construction and also refinancing older debt.

“We are a strong state…but there is no doubt that on a macro-economic level we are impacted by serious problems in the federal government,” Kopp told The Sun. “I think, in the end, they will come to the conclusion that we will stand on our own legs.”

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fear Mongering and Demagoguery Driving Debt Ceiling Debate

FEAR Tactics!

Senator Cardin (D-MD) Builds a Wall of Money for 2012

from the Baltimore Sun
Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin will report raising more than $1 million in the second quarter of this year for his 2012 reelection effort, a roughly 32 percent uptick in fundraising from the first quarter, his campaign said Thursday.

More than 1,300 individuals gave to the campaign, according to the announcement, and the Maryland Democrat received the majority of his donations from state residents. Cardin will report having $1.8 million in the bank.

Cardin, who is considered a safe bet for reelection by nonpartisan political observers such as the Cook Political Report, had $1 million on hand at the end of April. The latest figures suggest he spent around $200,000 in the second quarter.

“Helping to create and protect quality jobs, keeping our bay healthy and our drinking water clean, and protecting seniors from efforts to slash Medicare and Social Security are at the top of my daily agenda,” Cardin said in a statement. “It’s humbling to receive such an outpouring of support as I prepare for the 2012 campaign.”

Detailed campaign finance reports for congressional candidates are due to the Federal Election Commission on Friday. Cardin reported raising $756,000 in the first quarter of 2011.

Republican Daniel Bongino, the former U.S. Secret Service agent, will report raising about $11,000, according to his campaign. Bongino created his campaign account June 29, days before the reporting period ended, FEC documents show.

"Senator Cardin's early money advantage will not buy him a winning message with struggling Marylanders who are looking for real answers not political games,” he said in a statement
.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Establishing the Threshold for a Judicial Challenge?

The signature count for repeal of the Dream Act for in-state tuition for Maryland's illegal immigrants continues. One wonders if the only reason they continue to count is to know the number of valid signatures that the ACLU needs to challenge...

from the Baltimore Sun
State officials sifting through thousands of pages of petitions reported that a group trying to repeal the in-state tuition law have 96,441 valid signatures, nearly twice the number needed to trigger a referendum.

The group surpassed the needed 55,736 signatures last week, but the surplus gives them a healthy cushion in case a court throws out some of the signatures. Casa de Maryland and the ACLU have both raised legal questions about methods used to gather signatures.

The controversial law allows illegal immigrants to pay the same discounted in-state tuition at Maryland colleges and universities available to legal residents. To qualify, the undocumented students must show that their families filed tax returns and attended three years of high school in Maryland.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Maryland Unions Begin to Tax Non-Members

from the Baltimore Sun
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the largest union of state workers, has set its nonmember fee at $13.84 per biweekly pay period -- roughly a dollar less than full-fledged members pay, an official said this morning.

Beginning this month, thousands of non-union state workers will see their paychecks reduced by $10.80 to $14.96, thanks to The Fair Share Act. Passed in 2009 by the General Assembly, the Gov. Martin O'Malley-backed bill kicked into gear after state workers this year approved broad contracts containing the nonmember union fee provision.

Sue Esty, AFSCME's assistant director, said the nonmember fee is based on a union expense amount that auditors have determined is "chargeable," meaning that it doesn't directly relate to political activities.Unions like AFSCME say charging nonmembers is a matter of fairness because the contracts they negotiate with the state apply to dues-paying members and nonmembers alike. But some of the state workers who don't want to be part of a union but must now pay anyway say the fees are tantamount to stealing.

AFSCME bargains on behalf of about 21,000 state workers and only about 8,000 pay dues. This new fees mean the union stands to gain as much as $4.7 million over the next fiscal year, about double what it takes in now. Maryland is one of about two dozen states with "fair share" laws.

AFSCME notified employees of the new fees last month, and more than 1,000 workers have decided to sign up for the union, paying about $389 per year.

Those who decline to be members but haven't objected in writing will pay $360 per year. And those who have objected in writing -- "political objectors" -- will pay about $280 annually. Last week, AFSCME reported that about 610 workers have asked to be political objectors.

The Fair Share Act also enables those with a religious objection to refrain from paying any union dues or fees -- but those workers must provide proof of their religious objection and must donate an equal amount to a qualified charity.

Many state workers who are in bargaining units represented by other unions, including the American Federation of Teachers and the State Law Enforcement Officers Labor Alliance, also are now subject to nonmember fees.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Dream BIG, America!

...but never for a second believe that you can cast a ballot and then, some government bureaucrat is going to "legitimately" GIVE it to you without first legislating immorality! Whatever you must rely upon government to give you can JUST as easily be taken away. κάνετε για σας (DIY!)

Marylanders to Vote on In-State Tuition for Illegals


from The Washington Times
Organizers of a petition against Maryland’s Dream Act collected enough valid signatures to force a November 2012 referendum on the issue, according to numbers released Thursday by the state Board of Elections.

Elections officials said Thursday afternoon that they have validated 63,118 signatures from voters who oppose the controversial law, which would allow in-state tuition rates for many illegal immigrants. Petitioners needed to collect just 55,736 valid signatures to suspend the law and force a statewide vote.

“This is a huge victory for the voters of Maryland,” said Delegate Neil C. Parrott, Western Maryland Republican, who led the petition drive. “When this goes to referendum, Marylanders will support our effort because it’s just a matter of common sense.”

Dream Act opponents began collecting signatures in late April — days after the General Assembly narrowly passed the law — and turned in more than 132,000 signatures by the June 30 deadline.

About 57,000 of those signatures were submitted May 31 to elections officials, while the other 75,000 were turned in June 30.

Officials last month validated 47,288 signatures from the May 31 batch, leaving petitioners just 8,448 short of their goal. Officials began reviewing the new batch this week, and approved nearly 16,000 more signatures by Thursday, pushing Dream Act opponents well past their goal.

Petitioners initially hoped to collect 100,000 signatures, but greatly exceeded their expectations thanks to a website that allowed residents to download petitions and support from across the political spectrum.

Elections officials said about 30 percent of the approved May 31 signatures came from registered Democrats.

While petitioners have met their goal, elections officials will continue reviewing the more than 56,000 remaining signatures. They have until July 22 to do so.

Petitioners could need the extra signatures, as Dream Act supporters are expected to challenge their efforts. The Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union last month threatened to sue over the legality of the petitioners’ website, while immigrant advocacy group CASA de Maryland has requested a copy of the signatures for its own review.

If petitioners overcome the challenges, theirs would be Maryland’s first successful petition to statewide referendum since 1992, when opponents of a law loosening restrictions on abortions forced a public vote but ultimately lost.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Bill Arrives at the Table and Now the Finger Pointing Begins...

Who ordered these new medical benefits? Who granted these federal worker pensions? Who decided to build this bridge to nowhere? Who decided not to lease those federal lands so as to protect spotted owls? Who do we make pay for all the promises we're NOT going to break from here on out...

Will the ACLU Seek to Thwart the Democratic Process in Maryland?

from The Baltimore Sun
State elections officials on Thursday plan to resume reporting the tally of verified signatures for their petition against the new law that would extend in-state tuition breaks at state colleges and universities to illegal immigrants.

The first batch of signatures, submitted in May, brought petition organizers within less than 8,500 verified names of getting the controversial law suspended and put on the 2012 ballot, where voters would have the final say.

After submitting nearly 75,000 more signatures before the final deadline last week, they are expected to soar past that goal.

“It probably won’t take them long” to get to the threshold, predicted Del. Neil Parrott, the Washington County Republican who has led the effort.

A lawyer from the Maryland Office of the Attorney General told the elections board Wednesday that officials must review all of the petitions submitted, and not simply enough to reach the 55,736 valid signatures needed to trigger the referendum.

The directive reversed advice the attorney general’s office provided for a petition drive against an abortion law. In that effort, the elections board stopped counting once they reached the number required to trigger a referendum.

“We are going to count them,” said David Paulson, a spokesman for Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. “It is the law. All the signatures will be counted.”

Paulson said that the law has changed since the abortion petition was submitted.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, signed the in-state tuition law in May after it was approved by narrow majorities in the Democratic General Assembly.

To qualify for the in-state tutition rate, an illegal immigrant would have to attend high school in Maryland for three years and show that his or her family had filed state tax returns.

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.

Children of military members stationed in Maryland would also benefit from the new law.

The legislation would save eligible students $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 that 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.

Staff and attorneys with Casa de Maryland, a group that lobbied for the law, have requested copies of all of the petitions with plans to review and possibly challenge signatures.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has raised questions about the legality of petitions generated through a website set up by petition organizers.

The 75,000 signatures turned last week in to the Office of the Secretary of State were divided up by county and transferred to local election boards. The boards have until July 20 to finish counting.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

In-State Tuition Petition - By the Numbers

from the Baltimore Sun
A giddy group of mostly freshman Republican delegates and their staff and spouses turned in 74,980 signatures to the secretary of state's office last night -- filling thirteen boxes with petitions from Marylanders who oppose The Dream Act.

Last night's haul brings the total number of signatures gathered to 132,485. The group needs 55,736 valid signatures to bring The Dream Act to referendum. As a fun contrast, 101 senators and delegates voted for the law, which would give illegal immigrants the same college tuition discounts available to properly documented Marylanders. For more background read The Sun's story today.

Last month the group trying to repeal the law turned in 57,505 signatures, and of those 47,288 were valid. That means to succeed the group only needs 8,448 of the 74,980 signatures handed in last night to be valid -- or an 11 percent acceptance rate.More remarkable: The group gathering petitions, MDPetitions.com, reported that they spent $7,500 on their effort. They reported having $12,000 left over. So, in essence, they spent about six cents per signature. (This does not account for volunteer time, which was considerable in this effort.)

And they were getting attaboys until the end. One couple strolling in downtown Annapolis last night stopped because they saw the boxes. The man asked if the boxes contained the first legal shipment of wine (wine by mail became legal today), when he learned the boxes were full of signatures he excitedly explained that he'd signed a petition too.

Del. Neil Parrott, who was the leader of the signature gathering effort, provided a county by county breakdown showing where signatures were gathered. Baltimore County was the hotbed of opposition with Anne Arundel County a close second (full data after the jump.)

* Photos: Top, Del. Kathy Afzali sits atop boxes of signatures; Bottom, final scramble to organize petitions before turning them in Thursday night

The counties by the numbers (most recent signatures)

Allegany: 737
AA: 12,690
Balt City: 1,744
Balt County: 14,119
Calvert: 1,425
Caroline: 871
Carroll: 7,254
Cecil: 2,381
Charles: 517
Dorchester: 527
Frederick: 5,597
Garrett: 250
Harford: 8,547
Howard: 3,315
Kent: 347
Montgomery: 3,335
Prince George's: 1,660
Queen Anne's: 1,321
St. Mary's: 1,434
Somerset: 327
Talbot: 834
Washington: 4,021
Wicomico: 4,021
Worcester: 665