A group trying to repeal Maryland's new same-sex marriage law said they submitted 39,743 additional signatures to the state Monday, bringing to 162,241the number of people who asked to put the law on the November ballot.
The amount far surpasses the nearly 57,000 needed to trigger a referendum and exceeds a self-imposed goal of reaching 150,000 signatures made by the Maryland Marriage Alliance, a group spearheading the repeal effort.
"These incredible numbers clearly show that Marylanders strongly reject the idea of redefining marriage," said Derek McCoy, the executive director of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, in a statement.
The group did not respond to several emails requesting a copy of their ballot fund report, a document that shows who gave them money and how they spent it. The report will be public Tuesday.
Maryland's state board of elections has already verified 109,313 signatures from the group's initial submission a month ago -- roughly twice the needed signatures to qualify the question for the ballot. The board of election will have to sift through today's signatures before they certify the results.
Josh Levin, the campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, which supports gay marriage, said in a brief statement: “As we expected, our opponents met the legal signature threshold and the Civil Marriage Protection Act will be on the ballot this fall."
Saturday, June 30, 2012
Saturday, June 23, 2012
According to the city slickers at the Sun, it's all about what happens OFF the farm.
from the Baltimore Sun
The U.S. Senate passed a sweeping, five-year farm bill on Thursday that would change the way the government subsidizes agriculture and maintain funding for Chesapeake Bay restoration -- despite earlier threatened cuts -- Maryland lawmakers and environmentalists said.
The legislation eliminates a Chesapeake Bay-centered program that brought in $50 million annually for conservation efforts. But regional lawmakers said they fought for and won changes in proposed new programs that would prioritize the bay and recoup the money.
Sen. Ben Cardin, chairman of the Senate Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, said in an interview that he expects the new structure will be "very favorable" to Chesapeake clean-up efforts, though it is difficult to say precisely what future funding levels will be. "It's been done in a way that has broad support," Cardin said.
The Senate voted 64-35 to approve the farm bill, which captured support from 16 Republicans. Its future is uncertain in the House, where Republican leaders have said they will delay action on their version of the bill. The politics of agriculture funding can be particularly messy because support and opposition often falls along regions of the country -- and predominant crops -- rather than along partisan lines.
The bill calls for about $23 billion in spending reductions, including about $6 billion for conservation programs overall.
But Doug Siglin, the top lobbyist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said the outcome put bay restoration advocates on a strong footing heading into negotiations with the House. The current farm bill, which was approved in 2008, will expire in September.
“It's really good news for us," Siglin said.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
from the Baltimore Sun
Several Maryland Democrats on Friday backed President Barack Obama's decision to allow certain young illegal immigrants to remain in the country, a policy that advocates say will affect as many as 800,000 people nationwide.
"The announcement today recognizes that we should not hold hardworking, innocent children responsible for the actions of their parents," said Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat who is up for reelection this year. "We should focus our immigration enforcement on the most dangerous individuals rather than children who mostly have known no other country than the U.S."
But Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, a Republican who faces a difficult reelection this year, said he felt the decision undermined the Constitution.
"President Obama's decisions will encourage more illegal immigration, weaken our border security and make it more difficult to have a bipartisan dialogue to reach consensus to fix our national immigration crisis," Bartlett said in a statement.
Rep. Andy Harris, the state's other Republican lawmaker, did not respond to requests for comment.
Obama's announcement comes almost two years after Congress failed to pass legislation that would have provided a path to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants who were brought to the country by their parents and who attended college or served in the military. The bill once had bipartisan support, but has recently drawn significant opposition from Republicans.
Under Obama's proposal, illegal immigrants would be allowed to apply for a work permit if they were brought to the country before they turned 16 and have no criminal record. They must also be under 30 years old and have graduated from high school or served in the military.
"These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they're friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag," Obama said during a Rose Garden address Friday. "They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper."
Maryland Democrats, many of whom had voted for the federal DREAM Act previously, were not surprisingly supportive.
"I believe in immigration reform that protects our borders, protects American workers and rewards those who work hard and play by the rules," Sen.Barbara A. Mikulski said in a statement. "Young people who were brought here as children should be able earn an education and serve their country without threat of deportation."
"The focus of our deportation policy should be removing those individuals who are dangerous -- rather than punishing young people who were brought here as children and now want the opportunity, without the threat of deportation, to earn an education or work, especially those who already have served our country," Baltimore Rep.Elijah E. Cummings said in a statement.
Many congressional Republicans decried the move.
"How can the administration justify allowing illegal immigrants to work in the U.S. when millions of Americans are unemployed?" Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. "President Obama and his administration once again have put partisan politics and illegal immigrants ahead of the rule of law and the American people."
The decision comes a year after the Maryland General Assembly approved a related measure that would allow certain illegal immigrants to attend state universities at in-state tuition rates. That measure, which has been challenged by state Republicans, will now appear as a referendum item on the ballot in November.
In a statement, Gov. Martin O'Malley urged state voters to "build on this momentum" by supporting the state law, known as the DREAM Act. The new policy, O'Malley said, is a "very positive and important step for young people in our country who consider themselves Americans and deserve the opportunity to contribute to our country’s future without the fear of enforcement action."
Republican Dan Bongino, who is running against Cardin in November, said in a statement that "we have always welcomed a diverse immigrant community with open arms but those who choose to make the United States their home must respect the established, legal process. We are either a nation of laws, or not."
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
from the Daily Caller:
California Governor Jerry Brown recently announced that his state’s projected budget deficit had nearly doubled over the span of a few months, going from $9 billion to $16 billion. While Brown maintains that the huge jump is due to an error in revenue forecasting, the real reason is obvious: California is spending too much and is too reliant on a shrinking tax base. Decades of liberal policies that accelerated spending and grew government employee entitlements have led to a loss of population and wealth.
According to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, California has the third-worst business tax climate in the country. The Golden State also has the highest individual income levy in the nation, the lowest credit rating and, according to a recent Stanford University study, a public employee pension system that’s a $290 billion unfunded liability. Unsurprisingly, the unemployment rate stands at a sky-high 11% and tax collections from wealthy Californians are down nearly one-third. The ninth-largest economy on earth is in serious danger of spending its way into bankruptcy.
One would think that other states would be desperately trying to avoid repeating California’s mistakes. Enter Maryland’s Democratic governor, Martin O’Malley. Just days after Brown’s embarrassing declaration, O’Malley signed into law one of the largest tax hikes in Maryland history, capping a special legislative session where he increased spending by half a billion dollars.
While Maryland’s problems are not as severe as California’s and the bloated federal workforce generally shields Maryland from high unemployment, Maryland risks becoming the next California. O’Malley and his Democratic supermajority in the legislature have certainly put the state on a similar, unsustainable path.
It wasn’t always this way for the Free State. O’Malley’s predecessor, Governor Bob Ehrlich (R-MD), was a fiscal conservative. Ehrlich consistently defeated the liberal legislature’s tax-hike proposals, reduced the overall size of government by 10% and even left a $1 billion surplus in 2007. However, the downward spiral began shortly after O’Malley’s swearing-in.
Like California, Maryland has one of the worst business tax climates in the country (42nd out of the 50 states). That explains why nearly 3,500 businesses have either left Maryland or closed up shop since 2006. Only one Fortune 100 company is headquartered in the state.
Like California, Maryland punishes success. The O’Malley administration has made raising taxes on the “rich” a high priority. In the most recent special session, O’Malley and his allies redefined “rich” to include individuals earning just $100,000 annually — nearly 14% of the state’s population.
Maryland’s politicians, like California’s, have put their state on an unsustainable spending path. Between 2009 and 2011, the stimulus package bumped up aid to states for programs like school construction and Medicaid. Other states cut spending after the stimulus funds dried up. Not Maryland: O’Malley and the legislature have continued spending at the astronomical stimulus levels. In just six years, O’Malley has increased spending by a whopping 19%.
Both California and Maryland are facing a ticking time bomb of state employee pensions. Maryland politicians, like their California counterparts, have over-promised for the last two decades and, because of pressure from public employee unions, have avoided serious pension reform. Unlike Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, O’Malley has decided not to lead on this important issue. Recently, O’Malley signed a bill to push all teacher pension liabilities from the state to the counties — a plan that will lead to massive property tax hikes and could bankrupt the already cash-strapped counties.
O’Malley’s lack of leadership has put Maryland on a path to fiscal insolvency. He is repeating California’s mistakes by foisting out-of-control spending on a shrinking tax base. If it weren’t for the federal government employing tens of thousands of Marylanders, O’Malley would be out of a job and most certainly out of the 2016 presidential sweepstakes.
Each year, Maryland’s politicians make the state’s problems worse by forcing the most productive Marylanders to pay for the least productive ones. In today’s world of extreme social and career mobility, the federal government shield won’t last forever and those with means will seek asylum elsewhere. It’s happening in California. If Annapolis continues on its current fiscal path, it will happen in Maryland as well.
Dave Schwartz is Maryland State Director of Americans for Prosperity. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
from the Harford Dagger:
From the New Harford Democratic Club:
The Dream Act, which would allow resident immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Maryland public colleges and universities, is supported by a majority of Marylanders according to recent polls, but misinformation from those opposed could affect the outcome of the November referendum, according to a supporter of the legislation.
“This is a very winnable issue but it is going to take a big effort to get out the vote, “ said Elizabeth Alex, Lead Organizer for Central Maryland of CASA De Maryland, an immigrant support group leading the “YES” vote campaign. “We are reaching out to organizations throughout the state to register voters and urge them to vote yes.”
Speaking before the New Harford Democratic Club on Wednesday (June 6), Alex said opponents of the act, which was passed by the legislature last year, have been citing false information in order to convince voters to reject the act. Although the act passed the legislature, opponents were able to gather enough signatures from registered voters to have the legislation put to referendum in November.
The Dream Act would allow immigrants who have graduated from Maryland high schools to pay same tuition as all other graduates at Maryland’s public colleges and universities, if they meet certain criteria. “It’s a question of fairness and doing the right thing,” said Alex. “Even so, the bar is set very high and it is not certain how many immigrant students would be able to take advantage of the legislation.”
That hasn’t deterred opponents from issuing “myths” designed to convince voters to reject the act. She cited these examples:
• MYTH: The Dream Act will be too expensive for Maryland.
FACT: In the 11 other states with a similar program, short term revenue losses were offset by increased student enrollment.
• MYTH: The MD Dream Act will displace U.S. citizen children from limited in-state tuition slots in our universities.
FACT: Eligible students will first have to enroll in a community college (which is open enrollment) and then transfer to a 4 year university for the final two years. They would not be competing for in-state slots with other Maryland students; their slots would come from the quota for out-of-state students.
• MYTH: The Dream Act will only help undocumented immigrant kids whose parents don’t pay taxes.
FACT: To be eligible, students and their parents will have to file Maryland state income taxes for three years prior to graduating from high school and throughout their college career. The act also would benefit those awaiting relief such as asylum applicants, as well as military families and veterans.
“We believe that once the public separates the facts from the “myths” they will vote yes in November and allow the Dream Act to go into effect early next year,” said Alex. “But we can’t do it alone and need help from as many organizations and groups as we can get.”
The New Harford Democratic Club vote unanimously to provide financial support to CASA de Maryland in their effort to promote a YES vote in November.
For additional information on CASA de Maryland, visit their website: www.casamd.org
Monday, June 4, 2012
from the Baltimore Sun
Harford County Executive David R. Craig has asked a work group appointed by Gov. Martin O'Malley to consider allowing a casino to open in that jurisdiction despite the proximity of an existing slots parlor in neighboring Cecil County.Given the County executive's reasoning, a cathouse would surely make Harford County the "destination of choice" among East Coast gambling destinations. < / sarcasm>
Craig, considered a likely candidate for the Republican nomination for governor in 2014, sent a letter to panel chairman John Morton III asking that a Harford location be put on the agenda. At its first meeting last week, the panel focused a proposals to locate a sixth casino -- in addition to the five allowed under current law -- in Prince George's County.
O'Malley named the panel last month to conduct a quick study of options for expanding gambling beyond the slots-only casinos permitted in Perryville, Ocean Downs, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore and Rocky Gap in Allegany County. The work group is attempting to reach consensus around a plan that could be put to a vote in a special session of the General Assembly. O'Malley has said that if a deal can be achieved, he would call lawmakers back to Annapolis July 9 for what would be the second special session of the year.
In his letter, Craig told Morton that a Harford casino would generate tens of millions of dollars for the state as well as providing a new source of revenue for the county to help make up for the legislature's recent decision to shift a large share of teacher pension costs from the state to the counties. Craig said he favors enabling legislation that would let Harford voters decide whether they want a casino in the county.
Craig acknowledged there might be concerns about locating a new casino close to the existing Hollywood Casino in Perryville, directly across the Susquehanna River from Harford. But the executive said that having "two first-rate gaming facilities" in Northeast Maryland would help make the region a "tourism hub" that could compete for visitors with nearby states.
The executive asked that the state's consultant, PricewaterhouseCoopers, expand its current study of the gambling market to include a Harford location and expressed a desire to make a presentation to the work group, which will meet again June 12.