The Sun has a good piece on the slots debate heating up. We had a long lull, but now that we're past Labor Day things are going to be moving pretty quickly. The most interesting part of the article, for me, was this:
"I'm a proponent in a major, active way," O'Malley said during a radio appearance last week, explaining his stance on slots. But he added: "I will not demagogue on it. I don't believe, as some have said in the past, that the only way to fund essential government services is through gambling. I don't subscribe to that."But O'Malley, whose job approval rating bounced from a low of 37 percent in March to 45 percent this month in the Gonzales poll, faces a dilemma over whether to become the face of the pro-slots movement.
If the slots measure loses, the failure could be seen as a midterm election loss.
Slots are a lot more popular among Republicans than among Democrats and Independents. In other words, the referendum could easily become an albatross around O'Malley's neck, both in a primary and in a general, the former because angry Democratic voters could revolt and the latter because they could decide that volunteering isn't worth it, handing the race to a Republican Party on the positive end of an enthusiasm gap.
One very smart politician I talk to once told me that he thinks of the Democratic base in Maryland in terms of three groups:
- Dedicated Democrats: white middle to upper class dems mostly west of 95
- Demographic Democrats: black and latino voters, concentrated in Prince George's County, Baltimore City, and a strip of eastern Montgomery
- Dundalk Democrats: white working class voters mostly east of 95
According to his theory, O'Malley feels confident about the first two groups. He doesn't think middle and upper class progressives or the black communities will ever leave the party, so he focuses on the Dundalk Democrats. According to my politician firned: "We are now living under the Dundalk principle. We can only do things that play in Dundalk."
Unfortunately for O'Malley, this is a pretty myopic view. You've got to keep all portions of the base happy, and slots is an issue that deeply divides them. And what's more, on slots, O'Malley is on the wrong side of the enthusiasm gap. It's exactly those dedicated dems, many of them staunchly progressive, and the black church-going voters who most hate the idea of bringing gambling parlors to Maryland. And they're a lot more passionate about the issue than those who like the idea of slots.
On the other hand, O'Malley's pretty strongly associated with slots. So perhaps ratcheting up that association won't really change much in voters minds. How do I know? If you looked closely at the cross-tabs from the Gonzales Poll, you saw something really interesting. Both Democrats (48-44) and Republicans (53-38) support the referendum, but Independents oppose it by a 14% margin. There are only two reasons I can think of the Damocrats support it despite the more reasoned and reasonable opposition of independents - either the fear-mongering about service cuts has worked or, more likely from my perspective, there are a lot of Democrats who don't feel strongly either way and are simply following O'Malley's leadership. So not only do I think O'Malley is tied to this thing, but I think his association with it is the major thing keeping the referendum afloat right now.
But, form a purely political perspective, there are really four options here for O'Malley at this point:
A. O'Malley supports slots more strongly, and they pass, in which case he gets slots but has still alienated big chunks of his base.
B. O'Malley supports slots more strongly, and they fail, in which case he both alienates his base and looks ineffective.
C. O'Malley backs off on slots, and they fail, in which case the base isn't so annoyed at him but Mike Miller and pro-slots Democrats are.
D. O'Malley backs off on slots, and they pass, in which case Mike Miller may still be annoyed at him, but the base is happier and pro-slots Dems got what they wanted anyway.
I guess you could also make a couple options for whether O'Malley gets the lion's share of blame for the referendum's passage or failure. But that's getting a little complex for a Sunday morning. As to the four options above, though, it seems to me like a fairly obvious choice. Backing off the issue some reduces the political risks considerably. But, then, I'm biased.
If this were a couple hundred years ago, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Senate President Mike Miller would be meeting some dark night on the Bladensburg dueling grounds. The spat between Miller and Franchot has reached a new, childish low, as the've exchanged a pair of nasty letters. Miller accused Franchot of rank amateurism and of arguing against things now that he has supported in the past. Franchot , for his part, responded to Miller by attacking the fact that he attacked Franchot, and, as the Sun's Jay Hancock points out, used the ancient method of paralipsis - 'I could attack you too for being such a jerk, but I won't' - so that he gets hits digs in on Miller but gets credit for not attacking him.
Fact is, they're both preening for the press, and neither of them is accomplishing anything really useful for the state. It makes you wish there was an adult in Annapolis that could send them to separate corners. Or that they'd just have a fistfight on Lawyer's Mall and get it over with.
I'll be out of town for a couple days on vacation, so expect a gap in my posting.
But I thought I'd leave you with another interesting thought that I talked through with one of our state senators a couple weeks ago. I had posted earlier about the theory that's making the rounds that Mike Miller is really planning on retiring in 2010, all signs to the contrary, in order to prevent a succession battle. Personally, I'm not enough on the inside to know whether the theory is wishful thinking. But whether Miller retires in two years, or in six, there will be a succession fight and it has and will continue to affect how the State Senate functions.
The curveball thrown into everything, though, has been the scandal surrounding Ulysses Currie and his relationship with Shoppers Food. It's obvious at this point that, at the very least, Currie failed to properly report income on his financial disclosures. Given that, the previous three-man race for State Senate President has largely been reduced to two, because the chances of the Senate caucus electing a leader surrounding by a real or imagined cloud of corruption are slim to none.
Which leaves Montgomery County's Brian Frosh and Southern Maryland's Mac Middleton as the two front-runners in the race. It's theoretically possible for another candidate to appear, but there are few leaders in the Senate with the sort of base of support and long experience of Frosh and Middleton. Joan Carter Conway, for example, has a shorter tenure in the Senate and hasn't built the alliances that Frosh and Middleton have. Had Currie been in the race, he would likely have locked up most, if not all, of the support from African-American legislators and perhaps his own Prince George's County delegation. Without him, there is now a large group of what are, in effect, free agents. I've talked to two Senators about this, and each of them seems to think that Frosh will be the beneficiary, because these Senators will likely see more chance of passing their agenda under Frosh than Middleton. But you never know, and two, or six, years is a long time.
In the meantime, there are a couple things we can expect. Frosh and Middleton will be competing to see who can do a better job of appealing to these free agents. That bodes well for Prince George's County especially. It also means that the two candidates will be competing to see who can look the most like Miller. Miller, as much as we peg him as a conservative, is really a product of political pragmatism. He's in the center when he can be. But he tosses the left a bone when necessary to keep people happy. So Frosh will be attempting to look more moderate, and Middleton will try to look more progressive. Good news for bills passing through Middleton's Finance Committee, perhaps, but not such good news on Judicial Proceedings.
For Progressives, the choice is clear. Frosh is a progressive. Middleton is not. Middleton's smart enough that, were he to be elected Senate President, he would do what Miller does and give progressive groups one bill a year to keep them on the leash. That would be little more than an extension of Miller's tenure, and I think progressives are ready for real progress on their issues. So, when the fight comes, progressive interest groups will need to line up behind Frosh in a big way. Because, if nothing else, Mike Miller has shown how incredibly powerful the Senate Presidency can be.
A couple days ago I wrote about a theory I'd been hearing that Mike Miller wouldn't be so sad if the slots referendum failed. Here's another theory I've heard in two different places now, one that is intriguing to say the least. This theory says that Mike Miller's very public decision to run for re-election is a bluff, and that he is still planning to retire in 2010. Here's the logic behind it:
Martin O'Malley's polling numbers have been, in the words of one West Wing character, 'Less than yeasty.' He needs to bring those poll numbers up to have a good shot at re-election. In order to bring up his poll numbers, the Governor is going to need the legislature to, you know, legislate. And not just normal naming of post office legislating, but big time get popular and ground-breaking stuff done legislating. Now, if Miller is retiring in 2010, and that fact is public knowledge, the State Senate's Democratic Caucus would spend the next two years splitting into factions as Senators Frosh and Middleton jockey for position.
In the words of one State Senator I talked to, "It'll be anarchy when Miller leaves." Why? Consider this - only three members of the State Senate have ever served under another Senate President, Norman Stone, George Della, and Miller himself. And whoever wins the battle for the Senate presidency will not only have serious control over the future of the state, but will have the ability to hand out plum assignments, and especially the committee chairmanships, to their supporters. In that atmosphere, where the caucus would be fighting amongst itself with no clear successor, O'Malley would have a hell of a time getting his agenda passed.
So, the theory says, Miller decided to make it look like he was staying. That way, he keeps the caucus in line, and he keeps the Democratic Senators focused on getting the Governor's agenda passed and on fundraising for Senate races in purple districts. And sometime around April of 2010, perhaps on Sine Die itself, he announces that he's changed his mind again, and won't be seeking re-election.
Or not. It is, after all, just a theory. But as for the whole idea of keeping the Senate Democratic Caucus in line, here's something our Democratic State Senators need to remember - if O'Malley loses, all of us lose. Not just in the larger sense of getting stuck with another four years of Bob the Golfer. But also in two very serious ways: 1. A strong showing by a Republican gubernatorial candidate could increase Republican turnout and swamp some of our Senators in the more marginal districts, decreasing our advantage in the Senate, and 2. Whoever is elected Governor in 2010 will have significant power over the redistricting after the next census, and could create districts in such a way as to completely screw with Democrats, as happened with the Republican gerrymandering in Texas. Sitting Senators stuck in the same district. The map redrawn to create Republican districts in Democratic jurisdictions, such as northern Montgomery County. It. Would. Be. A. Disaster. In other words, if the Senate didn't do its job without papa Miller to ride herd, they wouldn't deserve re-election, because they'd be doing serious damage to the party.
Anyway, just an interesting theory. Thought I'd share.
Ever since the assembly passed the special session package that included a referendum on slot machine gambling, I've thought this was a dream come true for the pro-slots forces. Finally, they've got a serious shot at getting slots passed by an electorate that, according to polling, supports them.
Until yesterday, when a member of the general assembly explained to me that the referendum is by no means Miller's ideal slots law. Why? The version that passed the legislature last fall was a compromise. First, it strictly limits the locations where slots can be built and the number of machines that can be used. Second, it allows for local zoning control of the slots casinos, so if the local jurisdictions where slots will be placed decide they no longer wants slots around, they can literally zone slots out of existence. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the referendum will require that any future expansion of slot machine gambling be approved by referendum as well. As hard as it is to get a gambling referendum passed, this last proviso will likely keep slot machine gambling from expanding further. And also, the language in this last bit is fairly inexact, so you could end up with a situation where anti-slots forces take the casinos to the Court of Appeals any time any additional work is done to create 'destination gambling' or get new, more addictive machines, arguing that the changes constitute an expansion of gambling. So, according to the legislator I talked to, this may be Miller's ideal scenario, in his heart of hearts...
The slots referendum in November fails. State government is thrown into a panic as the structural deficit rears its ugly head again. No one wants to raise taxes two years out from an election, so the legislature looks around for a revenue solution that the people will accept. In steps Mike Miller, the savior, claiming that the people really only rejected the referendum because of some detail, and offering a much broader slots plan not subject to referendum for expansion. Legislators who oppose slots, but care about their own chances for re-election more, pass the measure.
It sounds at least plausible. But what's certain is that no one is completely happy with the version of slots we'll have if the referendum passes. It's too limited for most slots supporters, and the mere fact that slots would be in Maryland is too much for slots opponents.
Says he will consider removing Ulysses Currie as Chair of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee if the federal investigation into Currie's activities regarding Shopper's Food Warehouse persists into January. I would prefer a shorter timetable, but it's good to see Miller appreciates the gravity of the situation here.
Senate President Mike Miller brokered a meeting between Martin O'Malley and Orioles owner (and Nationals nemesis) Peter Angelos. It's a good move, especially if O'Malley can convince Angelos to support him or remain neutral in the 2010 race. Angelos, despite his support for Democrats nationally, was among the most prominent Baltimoreans who opposed O'Malley and supported Ehrlich in the 2006 race. The conflict goes back to O'Malley's stint as Mayor, when they butted heads over a number of issues. So winning over Angelos would help O'Malley make sure his base in Baltimore City remains strong. But having to shore up his base is not where the Governor wanted to be right now.
A little more than two years out from the 2008 general, O'Malley's got an uphill climb for reelection. The latest Gonzales poll, perhaps a little dated now since it was released in March, had him at 37% approval and 48% disapproval. The disapproval stems from anger based around the tax increase, but the state of the economy and the potential for more painful budget cuts next year don't help the matter. Not to mention, O'Malley's been on the wrong side of a couple of issues important to many in the black community, which makes up something like half of Maryland's Democratic base. First, he became a champion of slots, which is something that doesn't go over well in a lot of the black churches. And then his endorsement of Hillary Clinton blew up in his face when the Obama wave swept over the state.
So he's got problems with the Democratic base while Peter Franchot is waiting in the wings for a potential primary challenge. Franchot, of course, has been on the right side of both the slots issue and the presidential primary, and his base in the DC suburbs gives him an additional advantage in a primary. Meanwhile, the Republican base has lost nothing of their fervor for Bob Ehrlich, and Ehrlich has managed to maintain prominence in the state political scene via his radio talk show.
Which is a long way of saying that O'Malley needs absolutely solid support from Baltimore City in order to beat both Franchot (if there is a primary challenge) and Ehrlich (if he is the eventual Republican candidate). And why did Senator Miller set up the meeting? Simple. Miller dislikes Ehrlich, despises Franchot, and seems to have real respect for O'Malley. So, with Miller running for re-election and four more years as Senate President, he's got a real stake in who wins the 2010 gubernatorial race.
If I were a Republican strategist looking ahead to 2010, I'd be positively gleeful of some of the recent developments concerning the state Senate leadership:
President Mike Miller has gotten in trouble over the nomination of four District Court judges, including his own son, and which resulted in the resignation in protest of three members of the Anne Arundel County judicial nomination commission. Despite this, Miller has decided to run for reelection, if not as Senate President.
Sen. Nathaniel Exum, meanwhile, is still suffering fallout from allegations of influence-peddling on behalf of both an auto inspection station in his district, and even the scrap metal company he works for. The Washington Post's editorial page has admonished him that "a 'servant of the people' would not use his privileged position in the legislature to do favors for his friends."
And then, of course, there's the federal investigation of Sen. Ulysses Currie and allegations of him using his office to speed up construction of a traffic stop near a Shopper's Food Warehouse, for which Currie has been a consultant. Let's not even get into reports of marijuana being found in Currie's house.
If you're a Democrat looking at this, you should be incredibly frustrated. It's not as if there's some grand principle at stake here: if the allegations in all these cases are true, then it's simply petty corruption, a bipartisan phenomenon in this country, unfortunately. Indeed, as I was putting this post together, I came across this item about another federal raid, this time on the former head of the New York Republican Party.
My advice to the Democrats, at least in the Senate, is to take a hard look at the leadership we have in that body. Is it wise to have the same person in charge for over 20 years, who even works in a building named after himself, and runs the Senate like a personal fiefdom? Is it wise for the chair of the Budget and Taxation Committee or the Senate committee on insurance and workers' compensation to be found doing favors for companies they work for? These are the sorts of things that can lose you elections, people. Perhaps not enough to flip the Senate, but enough to invite comparisons to, say, the Labour government in Britain, which has been hemmorhaging seats in Parliament due in part to the inertia that has set in among the party leadership. Good thing the Senate Dems didn't start a war on false pretenses, I suppose.
Many of the higher profile lobbyists in Annapolis these days are also former staffers to Senate President Mike Miller. Not a surprise, I guess, given Miller's longevity in office and his way of running things. Another thing to notice, however, is that, as the article notes, the particular job skills one gets working in a legislature don't transfer very well to other careers besides lobbying. Most businesses, outside of their government relations departments, don't have much need for people who can dissect bills and navigate the committee process. This isn't necessarily a problem, but it does speak to the difficulty involved in keeping the relationship between politicians and lobbyists from getting too cozy.
Thanks to Thornton funding, we are making clear progress in raising student achievement across the state. Our greatest moral responsibility is to continue this progress by ensuring that educators and schools have the resources they need to give every child access to great public schools.
Bringing up morality in the context of a vote to support increased gambling is sure to raise some hackles.
There's division within MSTA over slots in general, and if the MSTA Board had allowed this issue to be debated at the spring Representative Assembly, it would have had a good chance of happening anyway. But what the Board has done here in caving to Miller's blackmail is cut their members out of the debate, and in doing so have probably angered many of them. Adam at MPW thinks ire about this may be directed at Senate President Mike Miller, but I think it more likely to be directed at the leadership of MSTA. Only time will tell.
In any case, the pro-slots crowd has another big argument in their favor now. Slots help kids. Even the teachers think so. And Clara Floyd and the MSTA board are now right out there in front shilling for the big gambling companies.
Clarification: Given a couple of e-mails I've received, I think I need to clarify my point in this posting. While I vehemently oppose slots, I think that in the end I am probably among the minority of MSTA members. Remember that the membership of MSTA does not include Baltimore City, which is likely to include many slots opponents, because the city teachers are represented by the AFT instead of the NEA.
So my point was not that Miller had blackmailed teachers into supporting slots, because there are enough out there who buy the fairy tale that slots will solve the problems of public school funding. What I do think is that Miller's threats forced the MSTA Board to act now. There is no other real reason for them to do so. The referendum is still 8 months away, and the Board could have just as easily put the question to the membership in the MSTA election we just had or put the question to the spring Representative Assembly. But they chose not to. I believe that to be undemocratic. And I can't see any reason for it besides fear of Mike Miller.
And in re: Roadblock, who in the comments made the point that this is just the way politics works. You're right, of course. And when I get angry about these things people often accuse me of being naive. But it's a sad, sad thing that this sort of extortive politics is what passes for public debate in Maryland. We should expect better of our government.
Senate President Mike Miller is no stranger to hardball politics. That's been his style for a long time, and one reason why he's kept such a tight hold over the Senate. So I can't say I was surprised to hear that he's using hardball tactics to build support for the slots referendum this fall.
And one of the groups he has his eye on is the Maryland State Teachers Association (MSTA), whose 60,000-some members could lend both serious political support and a powerful rhetorical advantage to the pro-slots campaign. (full disclosure: I'm an MSTA member and on the Board of its local Montgomery County affiliate, MCEA) My impression is that MSTA members, like pretty much every randomly selected group in the state, are thoroughly split over the referendum. And all things being equal, I'd suspect that the association would stay neutral on the referendum, at least until its spring representative assembly when the issue would likely be the subject of a serious floor fight.
But all things aren't equal. The MSTA's top two priorities this session of the general assembly are preventing budget backsliding on teachers and public schools, and passing a bill to create an independent labor relations board. The former is important to maintain the recent success of Maryland schools who have been buoyed by Thornton funding. The latter is important because the State Board of Education is the current final arbiter in contract disputes, effectively giving the management of our management final say over disputes between workers and management.
So what? Well, SB 850, which would establish the Labor Relations Board, is sitting in the Senate Rules Committee. If Senator Miller so chooses, it could sit there the rest of the session. And on the issue of state funding for teachers, the persistent rumors that the Senate is interested in dishing off the costs of educator pensions onto the counties, which would ravage the budgets of local school systems, are still floating around Annapolis. In other words, Senator Miller has bargaining chips, and it's not much of a stretch to say he's willing to hold the priorities of teachers hostage to his own slots crusade.
It's yet another example of the cut-throat backroom politics that has soured a lot of Marylanders on Annapolis. And it belies the argument that this slots referendum is about putting the question to the people. For MSTA, at least, the choice is between being forced into support for slots without a real democratic debate among members, or losing on important legislative priorities.
On the one hand, Peter Franchot has won recognition from the Association of Government Accountants for his successful management of Maryland's finances. On the other hand, in his current dispute with Senate President Mike Miller over the size of his staff, this embarassing detail has come out:
Miller has dismissed Franchot's claims as "outrageous" and said the Senate - which takes up the comptroller's budget today - will adhere to recommendations by the nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services.
A new budget analysis by that department said that Franchot's three-deputy executive organization is "not typical" of state agencies and noted that Franchot's deputies - two of whom are former political activists who supported his 2006 campaign - are paid more than deputies of other agencies.
"It is not clear," wrote legislative analyst Jody J. Sprinkle in the report, "that the new structure is the most efficient use of state resources."
Paul Gordon asks the question in response to Mike Miller's elimination of a subcommittee State Senator Rona Kramer used to chair. Remember that Kramer was one of the few Democrats who voted against the tax package Miller supported during the special session. She still has the chair of the Pensions subcommittee and of the Montgomery Senate Delegation, though. The more interesting question is behind the scenes - Kramer had started to gain a reputation as someone who had Senator Miller's ear. Losing that would be a more profound loss in the Senate than the chairmanship of any subcommittee.
Correction: Kramer has apparently been removed as Chair of the Pensions Subcommittee as well. Thus, her only remaining leadership position is as Chair of the Montgomery Senate Delegation, one chosen not by Senate President Mike Miller but by Montgomery's Senators.
Governor O'Malley, Speaker Busch, and Senate President Miller are continuing their calls on Nancy Grasmick to resign for her allegiance to the Bush administration's flawed education policy and her willingness to be an Ehrlich surrogate in the last election (see the State Circle interviews the Sun has up with their general assembly coverage).
So the Post asks Grasmick what she thinks of this. Her response? "Grasmick said Maryland has a long history of 'insulating schools from partisan politics.'"
And where did she say this? At the Republicans pre-General Assembly session strategy meeting.
War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. And Dr. Grasmick apparently believes that she's being non-partisan while schmoozing with her Republican allies in the legislature. Hypocrisy is alive and well.
With the General Assembly due to recovene in less than a week, one of the hotter issues they'll be facing is same-sex marriage. Thus far, neither Mike Miller in the Senate nor Mike Busch in the House has expressed much enthusiasm about civil unions for gay couples, let alone full marriage equality. That could change, however, if Equality Maryland or others put together an effective campaign and overcome the risk-averse nature of our legislative leaders.
I'll just note two things here: 1) Support for both same-sex marriage and civil unions has been growing in Maryland for the past several years, and will likely continue to grow; and 2) unless the only difference between the two is the name, civil unions are really a raw deal for gay couples in terms of the huge number of benefits that accrue to civil marriage. Our sister blog Blue Jersey made this point quite succinctly in this ad:
Maryland schools superintendent Nancy Grasmick has been in office for 16 years and has earned quite a few enemies -- most notably Gov. O'Malley over the Baltimore school system. Now it seems that the State House leadership is moving to have her not be reappointed to the job:
But yesterday, legislative leaders sent a sharply worded letter urging the board to hold off [on an appointment decision] until after July 1 - when a board with new members appointed by Gov. Martin O'Malley could make the decision. The letter said it would be inappropriate for a lame duck board to take the vote.
"Our office received an indication that certain board members were going to seek to embarrass the governor by having a closed-door session to reappoint Dr. Grasmick to a four-year term," Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said yesterday, in explaining the decision to send the letter.
Education policy is not my strong suit, I must admit, so I invite commenters to talk about the implications of Grasmick being tossed out. There also seems to be some ambiguity about whether holding off on an appointment decision is allowable under state law, or whether a "lame duck" appointment can go through.
Martin O’Malley: He’ll be blasted for raising taxes, sure, at the least by the wingers. But in the long run, he’ll get recognition for having the courage to call a special session. And his tax and revenue plan, compared to what came out of the general assembly, looks positively progressive.
Mike Miller: For years, Miller has been pushing a boulder with the word ‘slots’ painted in big red letters on it up a hill. And every time he gets it close to the top, it rolls right back down the hill. Now, with the referendum, he’s got a decent (though not certain) shot at getting slots through.
State Legislators: Who, with the exception of those that choose to wade into the debate around the referendum, will finally get to focus on something besides gambling.
Tanning Salons, Health Clubs, Landscapers, Property Managers, Repairmen, Lawyers, and Accountants: All of whom managed to escape being covered by the sales tax expansion. Maryland's General Assembly seems to not have noticed the transition in the U.S. economy from producing goods to offering services. The 19th century lives on in Annapolis.
Half of Major Maryland Corporations: Since the legislature caved on combined reporting, half of major Maryland corporations will be able to juggle their profits and avoid paying taxes. We regular folks, meantime, don’t have any loopholes to slip through.
The Chesapeake Bay, the State Police Helicopter Division, the Prince George’s County Hospital System, and 100,000 Uninsured Marylanders: Despite the challenges of the budget deficit, the Assembly managed to pass some good bills besides the budget package.
Multi-Millionaires: Who managed to talk down O’Malley’s original progressive income tax plan to reduce the tax bracket on the highest earners.
Progressives: On the other hand, Maryland finally has a real progressive income tax after something like a century. Losers
Republicans: Their participation in the debate around the budget crisis amounted to little more than childish foot stamping about tax increases. And the decision of Assembly Republicans to oppose slots when O'Malley proposed them, after supporting them when Ehrlich proposed them, shows just how much integrity the Maryland Republican Party has. None.
The State Senate: Barely deserving the title of Democrats, the Senate caucus gutted O’Malley’s income tax plan, protected mega-corporations by opposing the closure of the combined reporting loophole, and still barely passed the tax package.
The Montgomery County Delegation: Let’s be honest – any delegation as big as Montgomery’s is going to have a broad diversity of ideologies. But, somehow, the more conservative end of the spectrum won out in this session, and the delegation has been pegged as representatives for the rich. The other 95% of Montgomery County voters won’t be happy about it, either.
Computer Services Companies: They got hosed because the assembly needed a little extra money for the package. Find a legislator who can justify taxing computer services but none of the other services discussed, and I’ll give you a dollar.
Homeowners: No property tax decrease passed, despite its inclusion in O’Malley’s original proposal. So no relief for homeowners in a worsening housing market.
Progressives: Who, after one of their best elections in decades, watched the Democratic legislature they helped elect pass a regressive increase in the sales tax and fail to pass a long overdue combined reporting law.
The AP reports that House Speaker Mike Busch is in favor of civil unions over full-fledged same-sex marriage, which would put him in line with Gov. O'Malley (today, at least). Still in opposition is progressive stalwart Mike Miller [/snark] and, interestingly, Equality Maryland, which wants nothing less than full marriage rights.
It's interesting to compare this to the current slot machines debate, in which you have a similar divide within the Democratic caucus -- The Governor and the leader of one house of the General Assembly on one side, the liberal wing of the party and the leader of the other house on the other. The Republicans, meanwhile, are offering these pearls of wisdom:
"My problem with it is, once the state recognizes civil unions, they are recognizing a lifestyle," said [Del. Don] Dwyer, R-Anne Arundel. "Once that happens, there's nothing preventing a judge from ruling that same-sex relationships must be taught in school as normal."
My girlfriend is a 2nd grade teacher in Prince George's County. We were talking about her first week of school when she started to explain the bizarre lesson plan format that they are required to fill out...
(Annapolis without Mike Miller? Perish the thought! - promoted by Isaac Smith)
Yesterday, the Washington Post reported a comment by the Maryland Senate President that he might not step down in 2010, as previously stated and commonly believed. Senator Miller (D-27, Prince George's and Calvert County) is the longest serving Senate President in Maryland's history and his leadership is known for its iron hand.