Wednesday, March 27, 2013

2014 RUMBLE: Former Del. Cheryl Kagan Blasts Luiz Simmons on Gun Control // Del. Simmons Fights Back with Town Hall

The raging debate over proposed new gun laws in Maryland is quickly becoming a 2014 campaign issue for Democratic Primary candidates. Below we highlight one clear example of a potential contender wielding the proposed assault weapons ban against a rival candidate.

BACKGROUND: Maryland Juice previously discussed rumors that Delegate Luiz Simmons might seek the District 17 State Senate seat currently held by fellow Democrat Jennie Forehand. Notably, Simmons was the lone Delegate representing Montgomery County to vote against Gov. Martin O'Malley's transportation funding bill (aka the gas tax hike).

But over the weekend, from the proposed ban on assault weapons in Maryland. The Washington Post's editorial board writers noted Montgomery County's liberal political climate and suggested that a ban on AR-15 rifles "would reflect the interests of their constituents." But Delegate Dumais strongly objected to The  Post's characterization of her views on guns, in a lengthy guest post on Maryland Juice yesterday. We also printed a leaked copy of objecting to their characterization of his views.

FORMER DELEGATE CHERYL KAGAN SLAMS LUIZ SIMMONS ON GUN CONTROL - In spite of to discussing his views on gun control -- a potential rival candidate is coming out swinging on the issue. Former District 17 Delegate :
CHERYL KAGAN: How can one of my Delegates in Annapolis, Luiz Simmons, speak just a few days ago about allegedly working to tighten Maryland's gun laws... and then be actually working behind the scenes to weaken them??! He has already been criticized by the Washington Post but needs to hear from his Rockville & Gaithersburg constituents!

Notably, in 2010 Cheryl Kagan ran for the District 17 State Senate seat Simmons is rumored to be eyeing. , and her attacks on Simmons are a pretty good sign that she's weighing a 2014 State Senate run.

DELEGATE LUIZ SIMMONS ANNOUNCES TELEPHONE TOWN HALL ON GUN CONTROL TOMORROW - For his part, Delegate Luiz Simmons is challenging Cheryl Kagan's framing of his views on gun control, and he is now taking his response straight to voters. Maryland Juice received a copy of a taped robocall from Del. Simmons announcing a telephone town hall meeting tomorrow night, to discuss the proposed Maryland assault weapons ban (listen below):

More on the gun control battle & the 2014 races soon!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

GUEST POST: Del. Kathleen Dumais Responds to Washington Post Editorial on Gun Control // PLUS: Luiz Simmons Fires Back

Earlier today Maryland Juice discussed reports from The Washington Post regarding alleged efforts by two members of the House of Delegates to exempt AR-15 weapons from Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposed assault weapons ban. The Post's editorial board specifically called out Delegates Kathleen Dumais and Luiz Simmons for their views on gun control, but both Delegates are contesting . Below Maryland Juice prints the complete and unedited responses of Delegates Kathleen Dumais and Luiz Simmons to .

GUEST POST: DEL. KATHLEEN DUMAIS RESPONDS TO WASHINGTON POST GUN CONTROL EDITORIAL - Del. Kathleen Dumais provided the following comments in a guest post to Maryland Juice:
DEL. KATHLEEN DUMAIS - Dear Juice: It is unfortunate that the recent Washington Post Editorial (3/22/13) and other articles focused on only one aspect of the important gun safety legislation currently pending before the Maryland General Assembly this session.   No decisions have been made yet and characterizations in the press have been made for the sole purpose of strong arming the Governor’s agenda.  When you have the bully pulpit, I guess that’s your prerogative.

And, I noticed in your posting this morning, it seems whatever the Post prints is taken as the gospel and/or truth.  So, I thought I would provide some background.

Here's the "rest of the story."  In the House of Delegates, the Governor's bill is assigned to two Committees - the Judiciary Committee, where I am Vice Chair,  and the Health & Government Operations Committee (HGO), because the bill encompasses multiple sections of the Maryland code including Criminal Law, Public Safety, Courts, and Mental Health.  At the beginning of the session when the bill was introduced, the Speaker appointed a bi-partisan work group composed of 6 members from each Committee.  He has done this in the past on complex legislation.  I co-chair the work group with Chairman Pete Hammen from the HGO.   The work group spent many hours meeting with various groups interested in the legislation.  In fact, over a four week period, the work group met at least 4 days a week for approximately 2 hours.

We met with multiple members of law enforcement, including Chief Johnson from Baltimore County who serves on President Obama's Commission on Gun Safety and Commissioner Batts from Baltimore City; mental health professionals; the Maryland Secretary of the Department of Mental Health & Hygiene, Dr. Sharfstein; the Maryland Gun Dealer's Association; Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence; the NRA; representatives of gun manufacturers; representatives of gun clubs; the MD Superintendent of Schools; and many others.   We also had a presentation by Daniel Webster, the researcher from Johns Hopkins who edited the book "Reducing Gun Violence in America," -- which I've read; and reviewed other articles and research regarding what works in the area of preventing gun violence.   The concept behind the work group is that there would be a critical mass on the committees with more than a working knowledge of the issues, law and statistics that the Governor's legislation addresses.

The Committees then had the hearing on the bill on March 1.  Over 1300 people came to Annapolis and signed up to testify – on both sides of the issues.  We made special accommodations to allow for sign up and to allow for the witnesses to listen to and watch the hearings in other rooms.  The hearings started at noon on Friday, March 1 and ended at 3:45 am on Saturday morning March 2.

Now, the House Committees are in the process of working through the bill and making decisions on a final product.  It is correct that I recently said to a reporter that based on the research done by the work group and based on my 10 years on the Judiciary Committee listening to testimony and reviewing gun legislation and Maryland law, I have some doubt about whether a total "assault weapon ban" is necessary or effective in accomplishing the goal of preventing gun violence.  However, no decisions have been made by the Committees and no specific weapons have been identified.

What is disconcerting, disappointing and frustrating is that the work group and the whole Committees have put in an incredible amount of hours and are still working on the bill.  To be honest, the House bill will be stronger in many ways than what the Maryland Senate passed.  But, before our work is finished -- it's criticized.  And, what is worse, it's criticized by individuals at the Post who clearly had no idea what the research on the effectiveness of assault weapons bans shows or the research on other aspects of gun control legislation; what the proposed legislation includes; or what the committees are considering.   I wonder if anyone involved in the drafting of the Editorial even knew anything about Maryland's existing laws regarding the purchase of centerfire rifles -- particularly how strict Maryland's laws are compared to other States.   I doubt anyone drafting the Editorial considered the number of deaths in Maryland from rifles compared to the number of deaths from handguns when determining what the legislation for MARYLAND should address.  In fact, of the 398 deaths resulting from guns in Maryland in 2011, only 2 were from rifles – all of the others were from handguns.  Clearly, that is where our focus needs to be.

The components of the legislation that I think will make a real difference in the lives of Maryland citizens are as follows:  a limit on the size of the magazines to 10; enactment of a license to purchase process for handguns that includes fingerprinting – based on the empirical research conducted by Dr. Daniel Webster from Johns Hopkins University; strengthening the provisions of our law regarding who is prohibited from purchasing guns if they have had mental health issues; requiring training before the purchase of a handgun; strengthening the ability of law enforcement to review the records of gun dealers on a regular basis; prohibiting the sale of “cop killer bullets”; adding a provision to our laws regarding the reporting of lost and stolen guns; requiring individuals to register specific types of guns when they move to Maryland; and other provisions that are still being considered. 

It is easy to jump on a National bandwagon and, no pun intended, take pot shots at legislators doing their jobs in order to advance a particular agenda.  But, I really wish someone on the Post Editorial Board had investigated beyond this single, oversimplified issue of an "assault weapon ban."   Or, had even taken the time to understand the rest of the components of the pending legislation. 

No one talks about the fact that there are well over 60,000 so called assault rifles in Maryland that have been legally purchased in Maryland over the past twenty years -- all of which will be grandfathered in under the proposed bill.  Those are the guns we know about because they were purchased in Maryland.  If current residents moved here with "assault" weapons legally purchased in other states, we have no record of them and have no idea how many exist in Maryland.  So, the proposed assault weapon ban is a bit of a panacea.  Therefore, requiring strict regulation and registration at purchase and limiting magazine size -- as well as banning some weapons per law enforcement recommendations is one option.   Or, a complete ban may well be the right course.

The House of Delegates is doing a comprehensive analysis and thorough vetting of the legislation.  Instead of being commended for taking the time to be thoughtful and fair, we are being slammed for not rubber stamping the Governor's agenda.    Please note that the Committees may well decide that a complete ban is the right course for Maryland.    We will deliberate this week.    Whatever decision is made, it will not be made lightly and will be based on empirical data and research, and a great deal of soul-searching.

Best regards.

Kathleen M. Dumais
Maryland House of Delegates
Vice Chair, House Judiciary Committee
District 15, Montgomery County

LETTER TO THE WASHINGTON POST: DEL. LUIZ SIMMONS RESPONDS TO WASHINGTON POST GUN CONTROL EDITORIAL - Maryland Juice obtained a copy of the following letter sent by Del. Luiz Simmons to The Washington Post:

More on the MD gun debate soon!

JuiceBlender: 2 MoCo Democrats Trying to Weaken Assault Weapons Ban, PG School Takeover & Anger Over Frederick Cops

Below Maryland Juice highlights several tidbits of notable news and analysis for politicos:

JUICE #1: DELEGATES KATHLEEN DUMAIS & LUIZ SIMMONS UNDER FIRE FOR EFFORTS TO WEAKEN ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN - Maryland lawmakers are currently debating various efforts to curtail gun violence, including a ban on assault weapons. But the NRA has succeeded in scaring some lawmakers about these efforts -- even though . Now Democratic Delegates Kathleen Dumais and Luiz Simmons of Montgomery County are trying to exempt AR-15 weapons from the proposed gun laws:

AR-15 rifle with a Stag lower receiver California legal (only with fixed 10-round magazine). Photo Source: .

The Washington Post editorial board this weekend condemned (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST[The] Maryland lawmakers now wavering on banning military-style weapons include Democrats who are highly unlikely to face a serious challenge in a general election. In fact, a number of them represent districts in Montgomery County where large majorities of voters favor gun control. They should favor prohibiting the sale of assault weapons such as the popular AR-15 because it’s the right thing to do to promote public safety and it would reflect the interests of their constituents.

After all, a variant of the AR-15 was used by John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo when they stalked innocent victims during their killing spree in the Washington area in 2002....

A pair of Montgomery County Democrats, Dels. Luiz R.S. Simmons and Kathleen M. Dumais, both members of the House Judiciary Committee, said they were inclined to exempt the AR-15 from the weapons ban....

Indeed, . Specifically, some veterans have been arguing against the ban by claiming that shooting assault weapons is relaxing. But Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown calls that argument "nonsense" (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: Since he has returned from Afghanistan, A.J. Wynne, 24, who was a corporal in the Marines, has spent countless hours shooting in the farmland north of Frederick.... “It’s not yoga — it’s not graceful in any sense of the word, but I could do this all day long,” he said....

Del. Kathleen M. Dumais, a Montgomery County Democrat and vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said veterans and competitive sportsmen were central factors in her thinking that a total ban may be inappropriate....

“It’s nonsense,” said [ Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown], the highest-ranking U.S. elected official to have served in Iraq. “The military trains us on these military-style assault weapons to perform a combat mission, and that combat mission does not exist in the communities of Maryland or anywhere in this country....”

You can contact the two MoCo Delegates who are wavering on the assault weapons ban below:

JUICE #2: MEDICAL EXAMINER RULES DEATH OF FREDERICK MAN WITH DOWNS SYNDROME HOMICIDE, BUT NO CRIMINAL CHARGES FOR 3 RESPONSIBLE COPS - Maryland Juice has been following the shocking story of a Frederick man with Downs Syndrome who was recently killed while in custody of three off-duty cops in Frederick, Maryland. The poor guy was watching a movie and wanted to stay for another showing -- but that was apparently too much for a movie theater employee, who proceeded to call three rent-a-cops (on loan from the Frederick County Sheriff's Office). From there, the cops apparently allowed the situation to escalate to the point that they handcuffed the young man and put him face-down on the ground. The case was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, but this weekend (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: Less than five miles from the theater where a man with Down syndrome died at the hands of the law enforcement officials he idolized, a grand jury on Friday heard the details of the case and decided that no crime had been committed....An attorney for the parents of Robert Ethan Saylor, who died at the age of 26, described their reaction as “extremely disappointed and saddened and concerned....”

Nationally, the case has drawn wide attention from parents of children with Down syndrome and advocacy groups. More than 1,000 angry messages also fill the Facebook page of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office....  [The] family has been concerned that the investigation was handled by the same sheriff’s office that employs the deputies....
in response to the news. If you are unfamiliar with the basic facts, (except below):
WASHINGTON POST:  Robert Ethan Saylor died last month in the custody of off-duty Frederick County sheriff’s deputies after he refused to leave a movie theater. The county is investigating, and parents of other children with Down syndrome have voiced concern.

As officials tell it, Saylor had been watching “Zero Dark Thirty” at a Frederick movie theater last month and, as soon as it ended, wanted to watch it again. When he refused to leave, a theater employee called three off-duty Frederick County sheriff’s deputies who were working a security job at the Westview Promenade shopping center and told them that Saylor either needed to buy another ticket or be removed....

The deputies restrained him using three sets of handcuffs linked together and escorted him from the theater. At some point, Saylor ended up on the ground and began showing signs of medical distress. A short while later, he was pronounced dead at a local hospital.... Late last week, the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Baltimore ruled Saylor’s death a homicide as a result of asphyxia....

Hundreds of residents have been speaking out in outrage over the incident on the . (Note that also happens to be a .

Maryland Juice highly doubts that ordinary residents earn the same benefit of the doubt or sympathy from prosecutors that the cops in this case likely received. Typical.

In the meantime, Delegate Jill Carter thinks she may have a legislative response to the death of Robert Saylor. She posted the following drawing attention to , which would require training in the proper use of force and dealing with diverse residents. The bill recently passed the Maryland House 110-21 and is now being heard in the State Senate:

JUICE #3: COUNTY EXECUTIVE RUSHERN BAKER'S ATTEMPT TO TAKEOVER THE SCHOOL SYSTEM GENERATES CONTROVERSY - Last week Maryland Juice appeared on News Channel 8's NewsTalk show to discuss some of the legislative battles going on in Annapolis. But host Bruce DePuyt also brought on Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker to discuss his newly launched effort to take control of the county's public school system. The effort was quickly introduced in Annapolis last week, and (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III is planning a takeover of the county’s struggling school system, seeking state legislation that would put him in charge of the school superintendent and $1.7 billion budget while significantly reducing the power of the elected Board of Education.

Should Baker (D) succeed, it would mark a dramatic shift in power and result in a hybrid of the restructurings that have taken place in big cities across the country, such as the District and New York, where reform-minded executives have wrested control of embattled school systems....
In comments appearing on News Channel 8 (watch below), Maryland Juice highlighted some of the potential political risks involved in Baker's school takeover plan. Below you can watch the News 8 discussion with County Exec Rushern Baker and Maryland Juice, followed by my comments on the death penalty, gas tax and more.

If you really want to dig into the schools issue, the . Note however, that the PG Politics blogger is decidedly opposed to Baker's plan and has written a five-part series critiquing the schools takeover plan: , , , , .




GOOD MD BILLS: 1) Privacy for Minor Crimes, 2) Ban Shackling While Pregnant, 3) End Pollution Subsidies, 4) End of Life Care

HELP THESE GOOD MARYLAND BILLS PASS THIS SESSION - There have been many high profile pieces of legislation debated in Annapolis this session (eg: death penalty, gun control, and the gas tax). But out of sight of the cameras and press corps are a number of common-sense proposals to solve real problems, albeit on a smaller or less sexy scale. Below Maryland Juice highlights several "good" bills that could use more attention (and your help) right now.  Details on our four highlighted bills are below, and you can online.

GOOD BILL #1: END MARYLAND'S SUBSIDIES FOR "BLACK LIQUOR" // DEL. CHARLEY BARKLEY OF MOCO MAY BE KEY VOTE - Delegate Johnny Olszewski & Senator Rob Garagiola have sponsored worthwhile legislation to promote the environment and end unnecessary corporate welfare in Maryland. & would close a loophole in Maryland's renewable energy laws that allow old polluting facilities to qualify for renewable energy credits.

Under current state law, Marylanders pay a subsidy each month on their electric bills that actually rewards producers of greenhouse gas pollutants and other air toxins. Old paper mills -- most of them out of state -- currently exploit a loophole in state law to claim renewable energy credits for burning a substance called “black liquor.” In 2011, almost half of Maryland's renewable energy dollars (nearly $4 million) went to out of state facilities that do not need or deserve this subsidy.

HB1102/SB 684 will phase out old biomass facilities and only allow new and efficient biomass to qualify for renewable energy credits. The bill also has a provision that continues financial support for the one Maryland paper mill (Luke Mill). The bill recently passed the Senate Finance Committee by a bipartisan 9-2 vote, but lobbyists (mostly representing out-of-state paper mills) have descended on Annapolis to kill the bill in the House.

ACT NOW TO ADVANCE THE BILL IN THE HOUSE ECONOMIC MATTERS COMMITTEE: Sources indicate that a vote on "black liquor" subsidies will be held in the House Economic Matters Committee any day now and Delegate Charles Barkley from District 39 in Montgomery County is a key committee vote. Please give him a call or send him an email today to urge his support on HB 1102 at charles.barkley@house.state.md.us or (410) 841-3001. The provides a quick summary of  :
CHESAPEAKE CLIMATE ACTION NETWORK: Maryland's most important clean energy law -- the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) -- was intended to ensure that an increasing percentage of our electricity comes from true clean energy sources, like wind and solar power. Instead, a big loophole is currently allowing nearly half of our state's renewable energy dollars to pay for dirty sources of energy -- a paper mill by-product called "black liquor" and wood waste. Spending Maryland ratepayer money on these old, polluting energy sources is a rip-off for our climate, our health and our economy. A key committee vote on a bill to close this loophole -- HB 1102 -- could come as soon as today, and one of YOUR state delegates will help decide the outcome.
 [ ACT NOW: ]  

GOOD BILL #2: ALLOW RESIDENTS TO SHIELD MINOR NONVIOLENT "CRIMES" FROM PUBLIC VIEW AFTER A FEW YEARS // CONTACT STATE SENATORS - A group of Maryland lawmakers is attempting to bring some sanity to our criminal "justice" system by allowing residents to shield minor crimes from public view after a few years (think minor nonviolent misdemeanor offenses and simple pot possession charges, as examples). Currently, a conviction for one of these minor crimes could stick on one's public record for years and create unnecessary obstacles to employment. Delegates Curt Anderson & Jeff Waldstreicher, alongside Senators Verna Jones-Rodwell & Brian Frosh have proposed a legislative fix in the form of and . Some of the include:
  • possession of alcohol in an open container
  • marijuana possession
  • possession of bongs and other drug paraphernalia
  • disturbing the peace
  • theft under $100
  • public intoxication
  • littering under 100 pounds 

CONTACT YOUR STATE SENATORS TO SUPPORT THIS COMMON SENSE REFORM - This effort is a priority of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus, due to the disproportionate impact a criminal record has on minorities.  On Thursday February 28th, over 400 people from around the state came to Annapolis to urge legislators to support the shielding of nonviolent misdemeanor convictions. Thanks to these efforts, the HB1006 passed the House of Delegates by a 99 to 38 vote, but the measure has been watered down and now heads to the State Senate for approval. Maryland's Job Opportunities Task Force sent out an action alert this morning to help restore some of pieces of the bill that were removed in the House (details below):
JOB OPPORTUNITIES TASK FORCE: As some of you may know, the House shielding bill (HB 1006) passed out of the House Judiciary Committee this past Friday with bi-partisan support and successfully cleared the entire House chamber yesterday.  While we are pleased the House recognizes the value of shielding, House bill 1006 contains restrictive language that significantly limits its impact including the following:
  • It would restrict shielding to only one (1) eligible stand-alone conviction, per lifetime, that is chargeable by citation (see attached list of crimes),
  • Only convictions for crimes committed while under the age of 26 are eligible for shielding,
  • Removes an offense of prostitution from the list of misdemeanors eligible for shielding and
  • Individuals could petition the courts no earlier than 5-years after satisfying any parole, probation or mandatory supervision. 
The Senate version of this bill does not have these limits.  Senate committee members need to hear from you. Please take a moment to call and/or email members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and urge them to reject harmful amendments that would impose an age limit and restrict the number of convictions eligible for shielding.... With less than 2 weeks left of session, things are moving very quickly and the Senate Committee could act in the next few days. A phone call and/or email can go a long way. 
[ ACT NOW: ]

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THIS LAW MAY HELP REDUCE RECIDIVISM - Lawmakers are increasingly grappling with the long-term social and economic consequences of our lazy and draconian criminal justice system. Indeed, HB1006/SB701 were created as a response to legislative recommendations from the Governor's Task Force on Prisoner Reentry but, surprise surprise, they are facing opposition. Maryland's Job Opportunities Task Force explained some of the reasons for adopting the proposed policy changes:
  • 1 in 4 adults has a criminal record.
  • The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that recidivism risks are highest in the first 3-5 years
    following incarceration, with the first year accounting for nearly two-thirds of all the recidivism of the first 3 years.
  • Studies have shown that providing individuals the opportunity for stable employment actually lowers crime recidivism rates and increases public safety.
  • One prominent researcher found that a criminal record reduces the likelihood of a job callback or offer by nearly 50%. The effect is even more pronounced for African American men.
  • 28 other states have policies in place to limit public access to certain prior criminal convictions in order to mitigate the collateral consequences of a criminal record.
Not surprisingly, some politicians have been scared to embrace anything that could be interpreted as "soft on crime." But the Job Opportunities Task Force also noted some of the safety measures they've left in place to preempt potential concerns from residents:
  • Shielded records would remain fully accessible to criminal justice units for legitimate criminal
    justice purposes. 
  • If a subsequent conviction occurs during the waiting period, the initial offense can no longer be shielded until the subsequent offense becomes eligible for shielding.
  • Employers and certain entities with a statutory requirement to inquire into a candidate’s criminal background history will have full access to shielded records.

GOOD BILL #3: RESPECT THE END-OF-LIFE DECISIONS OF MARYLAND RESIDENTS // CONTACT HOUSE MEMBERS - Senator Roger Manno is sponsoring , a bill which is designed to help ensure the end-of-life decisions of Marylanders are respected -- even if they are incapacitated. The notes:
Advance directives protect an individual’s right to choose or to refuse various forms of health care (even in the face of the development of decisional incapacity) by transferring a critical health care decision point from the time of a patient’s decisional incapacity to an earlier time when the person is fully competent.
SB236 helps provide funding to establish a registry of advance directives in Maryland. The effort passed the State Senate by a vote of 41 to 6 and is now being heard in the House of Delegates. Advocates at the organization Compassion & Choices have sent the following action alert to Maryland residents:

Compassion & Choices

Dear Juice,

Although an “unfavorable” committee report  appeared to have doomed passage of SB 790, a bill that would mandate funding of the Maryland online advance healthcare directive registry, a last-minute effort resulted in the Senate passing the bill on Friday. It is on its way to the House for a hearing and vote.

Our own Rosalind Kipping, president of Compassion & Choices’ National Capital Area chapter, put her full energies and tenacity into supporting the bill. Its sponsor, Sen. Manno, acknowledges Rosalind’s hard work was instrumental in getting the bill this far.

Rosalind now needs your help to keep the momentum going. Please contact your House Representative and let him or her know you “Support SB 790” and are counting on their (you can find your representative’s name by clicking here: ). vote. Funding to implement this online registry means thousands of Marylanders would have peace of mind in knowing their end-of-life medical care instructions would be easily accessible by their physician in an emergency situation.

roland signature
Roland Halpern
Compassion & Choices
 [ ACT NOW: ]

GOOD BILL #4: PROHIBIT THE SHACKLING OF WOMEN IN PRISON DURING PREGNANCY // CONTACT STATE SENATORS - Delegate Mary Washington, joined by a handful of colleagues, has proposed common-sense legislation to ban the shackling of female inmates during labor and delivery of children. and is now being taken up by the State Senate. You can on a previous appearance on Marc Steiner's radio show. and described the experience of inmates who were shackled during their pregnancies (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: Eighteen states — including Arizona, Texas and New York — have passed anti-shackling legislation, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which supports the proposal.... Sara Love, public policy director for the ACLU’s Maryland chapter, credited Maryland prison officials with revising their restraint policies for pregnant women in written testimony she submitted to the judiciary committee late last month. But she said that “many women” are detained in more than 20 local detention centers that are not subject to the state’s policy....

In one case, Danielle Sweigert, who was seven months pregnant at a detention center in Jessup, said her leg and hand were shackled to a bed frame during delivery. “I was kept in shackles and handcuffs throughout my actual labor,” she said in written testimony....

Rebecca Swope, also a former pregnant inmate at Jessup, said she was “strapped at my breast, midsection, upper thighs and lower legs to the stretcher” and also handcuffed at the “wrist and ankle” during her ambulance ride to the hospital. She described the experience as “10 miles of torture.”

 More on the 2013 legislative session soon!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Maryland Senate Votes to Decriminalize Pot Possession While House Approves Medical Marijuana // ROLL CALL ANALYSIS

UPDATE: Maryland Juice just received the following legislative tidbit from a reader on Facebook encouraging Marylanders to contact Delegate Joe Vallario and urge him to stop holding up marijuana decriminalization:  joseph.vallario@house.state.md.us or (410) 841-3488.
READER: Students for Sensible Drug Policy sent out an email blast calling on its MD members to "Urge Chairman Vallario to pass marijuana decriminalization in Maryland" etc. with some indication that he as the committee chairman "has been the main obstacle to passing positive marijuana legislation in Maryland." Let's hope this common sense reform makes it through!

Reforms to Maryland's draconian laws regarding marijuana are finally advancing in the State Senate and House of Delegates. After years of severe lag-time, Maryland Democrats have finally caught on that the world is moving on after blindly experimenting with the last generation's failed "War on Drugs."

Maryland currently spends roughly $226 million a year on marijuana enforcement -- with little meaningful impact on the public's use of recreational drugs.  Meanwhile, young Marylanders and people of color are arbitrarily and disproportionately welcomed into the criminal justice system, subjecting them to potential ineligibility for student loans and persistent problems finding employment.

MARYLAND SENATE APPROVES MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION - Last week the Maryland Senate approved a bill to eliminate the possibility of jail terms for "de minimis" marijuana possession (aka a few joints or less). A bill sponsored by Senator Bobby Zirkin proposes to reduce the penalty for minor pot possession to no more than a $100 fine with no jail time at all. The bill was approved by a vote of 30-16 in a surprisingly smooth vote, and (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: The Maryland Senate’s vote to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana would not, as some critics warn, make it okay to use the drug. Such use would still be illegal, but it would be a civil offense, punishable by fines rather than imprisonment. Not only would this save law enforcement valuable resources but also prevent the lives of many young people from being ruined. We hope the House of Delegates follows the Senate’s lead and that Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) signs this sensible measure into law....
Currently Maryland law allows for up to a shocking 90 days in prison and a $500 fine for possession of minor amounts of pot. But despite the common-sense nature of this "decriminalization" law, the vote to start ending the War on Drugs in Maryland revealed interesting divisions between lawmakers. You can , but below Maryland Juice highlights a few notable tidbits.

NINE SENATE DEMOCRATS VOTED TO MAINTAIN 90 DAY JAIL TERMS FOR MARIJUANA - The vast majority of Senate Democrats voted to eliminate the possibility of 90 day jail terms for residents caught with small amounts of marijuana.  Democratic leaders --  including Senate President Mike Miller -- voted for marijuana decriminalization, and only nine of Maryland's thirty-five Democratic Senators voted to support continued incarceration of people caught with pot. But surprisingly, two of the "no" votes came from Senators Nancy King and Roger Manno, who represent liberal Montgomery County. Below you can see the nine Democratic Senators who voted against peeling back the War on Drugs in Maryland:
  1. John Astle (Anne Arundel County)
  2. Ed Degrange (Anne Arundel County)
  3. Roy Dyson (Calvert, Charles & St. Mary's Counties)
  4. Nancy King (Montgomery County)
  5. Katherine Klausmeier (Baltimore County)
  6. Roger Manno (Montgomery County)
  7. Jim Mathias (Somerset, Wicomico & Worcester Counties)
  8. Jim Robey (Howard County)
  9. Norm Stone (Baltimore County)

SENATOR ROGER MANNO EXPLAINS VOTE TO MAINTAIN POSSIBILITY OF JAIL FOR POT POSSESSION - Interestingly, shortly after the historic marijuana reform vote, Senator Roger Manno explained to Maryland Juice why he voted to maintain possible 90 day jail terms for minor pot possession. Manno stated that he thought the War on Drugs was a failure but that it was arbitrary to only roll back penalties on marijuana. I'm still a little confused by this argument, but if drug reform advocates take Senator Manno at his word, that means he should be approached to sponsor an even larger unraveling of the War on Drugs in Maryland  -- perhaps a bill that comprehensively audits and revisits jail terms assigned to all cases of simple possession?

NEARLY 50% OF REPUBLICAN SENATORS VOTED AGAINST 90 DAY JAIL TERMS FOR POT - While some Democrats struggled to stay on top of shifting public sentiment on marijuana, the Republicans are beginning to catch on. Notably, five out of twelve Republican Senators (or nearly 50%) voted to eliminate the threat of 90 day jail terms for minor pot possession:
  1. David Brinkley (Carroll & Frederick Counties)
  2. Richard Colburn (Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot & Wicomico Counties)
  3. Nancy Jacobs (Cecil & Harford Counties)
  4. Alan Kittleman (Carroll & Howard Counties)
  5. Ed Reilly (Anne Arundel County)

MEANWHILE, MD SENATE VOTES TO MAKE POSSESSION OF SYNTHETIC MARIJUANA PUNISHABLE BY FOUR YEARS IN JAIL - In one of the signs of how dysfunctional and irrational drug policy is in America, only days after the Maryland Senate voted overwhelmingly to decriminalize pot possession -- . Last week, Maryland Senators voted to add synthetic marijuana to the state's list of "Schedule I" substances -- making simple possession a crime that could land you in jail for years. This may have been a pro-forma step to conform Maryland's criminal code with the Federal Schedule I, but we are already beginning to move away from compliance with . One step forward, two steps back on ending the failed War on Drugs in Maryland? Oy!

MARYLAND HOUSE FINALLY APPROVES MODEST MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAW - While the Maryland Senate was busy decriminalizing possession of minor amounts of pot, the House of Delegates was debating whether to allow medical marijuana in Maryland. But today they finally voted to approve a modest program to allow distribution of marijuana for medical purposes. The . on the break in the logjam (excerpt below):
CAPITAL GAZETTE: The House of Delegates passed a bill Monday to allow a small number of academic medical centers to distribute marijuana to patients beginning in 2016. Delegates voted 108-28 to pass House Bill 1101, introduced by Del. Dan K. Morhaim, D-Baltimore County. The bill would create a commission through which academic medical research centers could apply to operate medical marijuana programs. The bill now heads to the Senate, where it could get a hearing as soon as this week....

With just 15 days left in the General Assembly's 90-day session, marijuana will be an important issue in both chambers. On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee is expected to take up Senate Bill 297, which would decriminalize possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana. The Senate passed that bill on March 19....

THERE'S DEFINITELY SOMETHING IN THE AIR - Most Americans consider the War on Drugs a policy failure, and Maryland Juice has been pointing out for months that a super-majority of Democrats and liberals nationally now support full-on taxation and regulation of pot (even Senate President Mike Miller). Indeed, :
HUFFINGTON POST: A solid majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana, either with or without taxes and regulations similar to those imposed on alcoholic beverages, according to a new survey conducted by YouGov for The Huffington Post.

The poll found that 51 percent of adults support legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol.... Only 26 percent of respondents said that marijuana should not be legalized.... Those under age 29 and between ages 45 and 64 were most likely to support legalization pure and simple...
The poll found more variation among people of different political parties. Sixty-four percent of Democrats ...  said they supported legalization with taxes and regulations. Overall, opposition was highest among Republicans, but even so, more Republicans favored one of the two legalization options (47 percent) than opposed legalization entirely (44 percent).

 and noted that a whopping 69% of liberals support the legalization effort. Check out a few summary tables below:

Are Maryland politicians figuring out that public sentiment has changed? More on the War on Drugs soon!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

ARGH: Lockheed Martin Corporate Welfare is Still Alive! // Del. Sheila Hixson Explains $1 Million "Compromise" to Local Dems

BACKGROUND: Maryland Juice has been following the persistent effort by state lawmakers to give a taxpayer-funded handout to weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin -- in exchange for nothing at all.  After years of failed attempts to persuade Montgomery County Councilmembers to issue Lockheed Martin millions of dollars in taxpayer funds, the Pentagon contractor's lobbyists are now pushing the state legislature to force MoCo to give Lockheed money. The public resistance to the Lockheed welfare plan has slowed down momentum for the legislation, but the bill simply won't die. Legislative leaders seem determined to give Lockheed Martin our tax dollars, and they are now on their third attempt to give away our money:

WELFARE ATTEMPT #1 - First our representatives tried to give Lockheed $1.8 million in straight up cash, plus $4.5 million in tax cuts every ten years.

WELFARE ATTEMPT #2 - After outcry from progressive advocates, the State Senate voted for a modified plan to "only" give Lockheed $4.5 million in tax cuts every ten years in perpetuity.  The State Senate recently voted 37-9 in favor of this "compromise" welfare plan for Lockheed.

WELFARE ATTEMPT #3 - After the Senate voted to support a handout for Lockheed, the bill advanced to the Maryland House Ways & Means Committee. In anticipation of the successful Senate vote,  Lockheed lobbyists planned a steak dinner at Ruth's Chris for Ways & Means members -- but they mysteriously canceled the dinner a few hours before it was scheduled to begin. Meanwhile, to kill the handout. We've been waiting for a sign as to whether Delegate Hixson planned on helping us out, and . It appears that the public pressure is working, and Hixson may be being helpful in trying to weaken the Lockheed bill:

But it should be made clear that this third version of the Lockheed welfare bill is still unacceptable on substance, and the primary ask is for Committee Chair Sheila Hixson to simply kill the Lockheed bill once and for all. The compromise plan would still grant nearly $1 million in unjustified tax cuts to Lockheed at the expense of other vital services for Montgomery County residents.

CONTACT DEL. SHEILA HIXSON AND HOUSE WAYS & MEANS MEMBERS - On Thursday, the Ways & Means Committee will hold a hearing on the Lockheed Martin handout. Please contact Chair Sheila Hixson and the rest of the committee members  and urge them to kill this special interest handout. Delegate Hixson's email address is: sheila.hixson@house.state.md.us. Below we also provide the email addresses of the Ways & Means Committee members:

  1. Sheila Hixson (D Chair) - sheila.hixson@house.state.md.us
  2. Frank Turner (D Vice-Chair) - frank.turner@house.state.md.us
  3. Kathy Afzali (R) - kathy.afzali@house.state.md.us
  4. Kumar Barve (D) - kumar.barve@house.state.md.us - LOCKHEED BILL SPONSOR
  5. Joseph Boteler (R) - joseph.boteler@house.state.md.us
  6. Talmadge Branch (D) - talmadge.branch@house.state.md.us
  7. Jon Cardin (D) - jon.cardin@house.state.md.us - LOCKHEED BILL SPONSOR
  8. Don Dwyer (R) - don.dwyer@house.state.md.us
  9. Mark Fisher (R) - mark.fisher@house.state.md.us
  10. Bill Frick (D) - bill.frick@house.state.md.us - LOCKHEED BILL SPONSOR
  11. Ronald George (R) - ron.george@house.state.md.us
  12. Nina Harper (D) - nina.harper@house.state.md.us
  13. Carolyn Howard (D) - carolyn.howard@house.state.md.us
  14. Jolene Ivey (D) - jolene.ivey@house.state.md.us - LOCKHEED BILL SPONSOR
  15. Anne Kaiser (D) - anne.kaiser@house.state.md.us - LOCKHEED BILL SPONSOR
  16. Eric Luedtke (D) - eric.luedtke@house.state.md.us - LOCKHEED BILL SPONSOR
  17. Aruna Miller (D) - aruna.miller@house.state.md.us - LOCKHEED BILL SPONSOR
  18. LeRoy Myers (R) - leroy.myers@house.state.md.us
  19. Andrew Serafini (R) - andrew.serafini@house.state.md.us
  20. Melvin Stukes (D) - melvin.stukes@house.state.md.us
  21. Michael Summers (D) - michael.summers@house.state.md.us
  22. Jay Walker (D) - jay.walker@house.state.md.us
  23. Alonzo Washington (D) - alonzo.washington@house.state.md.us


Maryland House Approves Transportation Funding Plan 76-63 // ROLL CALL: Analysis of How Lawmakers Voted on the Gas Tax

Maryland Juice recently highlighted the state's efforts to raise critical transportation funds to help maintain highways & bridges and build new transit lines (eg: the MoCo/PG Purple Line and Baltimore Red Line). Our sources were indicating that the vote on Maryland's $3.4 billion infrastructure funding bill was going to be very close, since the primary vehicle for raising funds was a proposed gas tax increase. But on Friday afternoon, the House of Delegates did indeed approve the historic transportation funding package in a fairly close 76-63 vote.

22 DEMOCRATIC HOUSE MEMBERS JOINED MARYLAND GOP IN OPPOSING O'MALLEY'S TRANSPORTATION FUNDING PLAN - , but below we analyze the details a bit and highlight the unusual votes. First, it should be noted that every single Republican Delegate voted against Governor O'Malley's revenue plan. Meanwhile, 22 Democrats joined 41 Republicans in opposing transportation funding.

Democratic opposition to Gov. Martin O'Malley's transportation funding plan came mostly from ideologically conservative Dems in the House of Delegates (details below). While some of the members surely have alternate explanations for their votes against the gas tax hike, it is worth noting that of the 22 Democratic House "no" votes, all but four members also cast votes against either the , or repeal:

  1. Pamela Beidle (Anne Arundel) - also voted against Dream Act & death penalty repeal
  2. Aisha Braveboy (Prince George’s) - also voted against marriage equality
  3. Eric Bromwell (Baltimore County) - also voted against Dream Act & death penalty repeal
  4. Emmett Burns (Baltimore County) - also voted against Dream Act & marriage equality
  5. Rudolph Cane (Wicomico) - also voted against marriage equality
  6. Frank Conaway (Baltimore)
  7. Norman Conway (Wicomico) - also voted against Dream Act, marriage equality & death penalty repeal
  8. Steven DeBoy (Baltimore County) - also voted against Dream Act, marriage equality & death penalty repeal
  9. Barbara Frush (Prince George’s)
  10. Mary-Dulany James (Harford) - also voted against Dream Act, marriage equality & death penalty repeal
  11. Kevin Kelly (Allegany) - also voted against Dream Act, marriage equality & death penalty repeal
  12. Stephen Lafferty (Baltimore County) - also voted against Dream Act
  13. James Malone (Baltimore) - also voted against Dream Act & death penalty repeal
  14. Joseph Minnick (Baltimore County) - also voted against Dream Act, marriage equality & death penalty repeal
  15. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (Baltimore County)
  16. John Olszewski (Baltimore County) - also voted against Dream Act & death penalty repeal
  17. David Rudolph (Cecil) - also voted against Dream Act & death penalty repeal
  18. Luiz Simmons (Montgomery)
  19. Theodore Sophocleus (Anne Arundel) - also voted against Dream Act, marriage equality & death penalty repeal
  20. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (Prince George’s) - also voted against marriage equality
  21. Michael Weir (Baltimore County) - also voted against Dream Act, marriage equality & death penalty repeal
  22. John Wood (St. Mary’s) - also voted against Dream Act, marriage equality & death penalty repeal

DEL. LUIZ SIMMONS CAST THE LONE "NO" VOTE FROM MONTGOMERY COUNTY - Meanwhile, in liberal Montgomery County, 23 out of 24 Delegates cast votes in favor of the transportation plan. Only Democratic Delegate Luiz Simmons cast a vote against the gas tax (Note: ). Simmons represents House District 17, alongside Sen. Jennie Forehand and Delegates Kumar Barve & Jim Gilchrest. But while Simmons voted against the transportation funding plan, his colleagues Barve & Gilchrest voted for the bill. Maryland-based political consultant :

Indeed, Maryland Juice has been hearing buzz about a potential 2014 run for State Senate by District 17 Delegate Luiz Simmons. The seat is currently held by fellow Democrat, State Senator Jennie Forehand.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE DEMOCRATIC "NO" VOTES IN THE MARYLAND HOUSE - Three Prince George's Democrats voted against the revenue package: Delegates Aisha Braveboy, Barbara Frush, and Geraldine Valentino-Smith. Del. Braveboy represents District 25 in a 3-member House District with Dereck Davis and Melony Griffith. But Braveboy parted ways with her D25 colleagues in voting "no" on the transportation plan. It is worth noting that she's also a potential candidate for Attorney General in 2014.

Meanwhile, the Delegates representing District 12 continued to demonstrate ideological differences. House District 12 is currently represented by three Maryland Democrats: retiring Delegate Liz Bobo in subdistrict 12B and Delegates Steve Deboy and Jim Malone in subdistricct 12A. But even those these three Delegates are all Democrats, Deboy and Malone persistently join the Republicans on close votes -- even though their new 2014 district will include liberal Columbia, Maryland and scores of new progressive voters. Naturally, Bobo voted for the transportation funds, while Deboy and Malone voted against the infrastructure money. Some of their 2014 Democratic Primary competitors have taken notice of these political dynamics.

Here are a few more instances of Democrats in the House disagreeing with their legislative district colleagues:

MARYLAND GOP HEADS TO SOUTH CAROLINA DURING GAS TAX DEBATE - Amusingly, while the House of Delegates held a close vote on a Maryland gas tax hike, the Maryland Republican Party was holding press events in South Carolina. (excerpt below):
BALTIMORE SUN: Gov. Martin O'Malley took the stage Saturday at a high school in this early presidential primary state, telling an auditorium of South Carolina Democrats that his principles worked in Maryland — and they'd work elsewhere....

The Maryland Republican Party's executive director took issue with the achievements O'Malley cited. David Ferguson drove his truck down to Charleston to stage an event outside the West Ashley High School where O'Malley spoke....


Friday, March 22, 2013

2014 RUMBLE: Anthony Brown Attacks Doug Gansler on Death Penalty // PLUS: HoCo Candidate Highlights Incumbents' Votes

The 2014 campaign season is just beginning to develop, right as the current Maryland legislative session is beginning to wind down. But already we are seeing signs of the battle royale ahead. In the last few hours, Maryland Juice has received two interesting email blasts from candidates in the upcoming Democratic primaries. Both candidates are contrasting themselves with their opponents by highlighting their own opposition to the death penalty:

EMAIL BLAST #1: ANTHONY BROWN ATTACKS DOUG GANSLER FOR SUPPORTING DEATH PENALTY - This morning Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown launched an email blast highlighting an an op. ed. he recently published in support of death penalty repeal in Maryland. But Brown's message also slammed rival gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Doug Gansler for his continued support of taxpayer funded executions (excerpt below):
ANTHONY BROWN: Last week the Maryland Legislature passed legislation abolishing the death penalty. I believe the time has come to repeal the death penalty because it is racially biased, demonstrably unreliable, and not an effective deterrent....

Supporters of the death penalty often rely on false or incomplete information to make their case. Attorney General Doug Gansler is a supporter of the death penalty and he recently attempted to argue that the death penalty was administered in a "fair" and "race neutral" manner. Regrettably, the facts show that the death penalty is anything but fair and race neutral...

Attorney General Gansler suggests that the death penalty is race neutral by stating that in the majority African American jurisdictions of Prince George's County and Baltimore City, the State's Attorneys haven't "traditionally" sought the death penalty. That is simply wrong. In Prince George's County alone, they have sought the death penalty at least 11 times over the last 20 years....

Attorney General Gansler describes the threat of the death penalty as a "wonderful tool for prosecutors" to get a confession and perhaps an eventual plea bargain from a defendant. However, the reality is when presented with the choice of confessing or being sentenced to death, even an innocent person may rationally choose to "confess." The 2008 Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment – led by former U.S. Attorney General Civiletti – found that confessions alone can be unreliable....

EMAIL BLAST #2: HOCO DELEGATE CANDIDATE CLARENCE LAM HIGHLIGHTS D12 INCUMBENTS' SUPPORT FOR DEATH PENALTY - This morning, Maryland Juice also received an email blast from Howard County Democrat Clarence Lam, a candidate for District 12 House of Delegates. Notably, D12 is currently represented by retiring Delegate Liz Bobo (a progressive) and her more conservative colleagues: pro-death penalty Democratic Delegates Steve Deboy and Jim Malone.

In addition to voting against death penalty repeal, Delegate Steve Deboy also voted against the Dream Act and marriage equality, while Delegate Jim Malone also voted against the Dream Act. But D12 has been recently redistricted to increase the influence of the liberal voters in Columbia, Maryland. Clarence Lam has apparently taken note of this fact, judging by his latest email blast (excerpt below):
CLARENCE LAM: Last week, the Maryland General Assembly voted to end the use of the death penalty as a form of punishment against criminals in our state.  As a strong proponent of the repeal of the death penalty, I applaud the delegates and senators who voted to abolish this inhumane practice.  (Click here to see how your or voted.)  My reasons for supporting the repeal are clear and straightforward. 

As a physician, I swore an oath to “do no harm” and committed to saving the life of everyone under my care, regardless of whether the patient was a convicted felon or accused of a heinous crime.  The death penalty is fundamentally at odds with my duty to provide life-saving care to all individuals unequivocally....  For these reasons, many advocacy groups in Maryland such as the ACLU, League of Women Voters, and the NAACP have all expressed support for the repeal of the death penalty.... I’m proud to live in a state where our progressive values continue to be enacted and urge you to support our elected officials who voted in favor of repealing Maryland’s death penalty.... 
Seeing as how neither of the Delegates seeking re-election in Clarence Lam's district supported death penalty repeal, I think his message is loud and clear.

More on the battle for 2014 soon!

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