Tag: annapolis

Senators Have Their Own Kind of Fun with Smoking Bill Amendments

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Maybe because they knew they had to bite the bullet and play it pretty straight to combat a 23 percent increase to judges’ salaries, the Maryland Senate engaged in some screwball maneuvering regarding a bill that would ban smoking in a car with a child 8 years old or younger.

Sen. John Astle, who considers the bill a slippery slope, proposed an amendment intended to make the bill even less attractive, lowering its chance of passing. Oddly enough, his amendment — to raise the age from 8 to sixteen — passed 24-19 on Friday. Then, just before recess and without further debate, Sen. Bill Ferguson, who voted yea on the amendment the first time around, motioned to reconsider it. On the second vote it was defeated 19-25.

Is this how legislators unwind? With joke-voting? Were multiple senators in on it? I’ll probably never know. Thankfully, it’s not really all that important.

By the way, the Senate approved the bill last night, with no goofy amendments.

Smoking in a Car: Child Abuse or an Inalienable Right?

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Maryland Senator Jennie Forehand has authored a bill to ban smoking in cars carrying children under eight years old. This is the kind of bill that sorts voters into neat, partisan categories. If you support it, you’re a big government liberal who thinks people shouldn’t be allowed to make their own decisions; if you’re against it, you’re a conservative ideologue who’s so obsessed with personal freedoms you can’t recognize that smoking in a car with a kid is child abuse, pure and simple.

That said, I’m a little nervous to say what I think about the bill. Okay. Promise you won’t be mad at me. I think that regulating behavior in a car strikes me as a little… opportunistic. Are you still there?

Also, I think a public health campaign aimed at changing people’s minds and making refraining from smoking in a car with children the societal norm would be preferable to unenforceable legislation that will only make car-smoking parents resentful and non-smokers even more self-righteous and judgmental. Wow, that was scary! but we got through it. And you’re still friends with me, right? Right?

Anyway, what’s your position? Are you an elitist, know-it-all liberal? an uncaring conservative? something inbetween?

In Maryland Justice Is Blind, and Underpaid, and Considering Joining the Private Sector

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The Judicial Compensation Commission recommended a $29,000 increase in the salary in Maryland judges by 2016 to avoid losing qualified judges to the private sector. This would amount to a 23 percent raise (over four years) to lower-paid judges. It’s true that if you take into account cost of living, Maryland’s judges’ salaries rank 43rd among states. But it’s unlikely that Maryland will be making its way toward the top of that list any time soon.

Henry E. Dugan, president of the Maryland Bar Association, wrote an opinion piece for The Sun, voicing his support for the proposed pay increase. His founding-father-quote-ridden appeal, while making a strong case for the importance of the judicial branch to the American democratic system, fails to address the details, namely, why taxpayers should cough up $14 million to give judges a more than 20 percent raise amid a sagging economy and a “$1 billion budget shortfall.” Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were brilliant, but they weren’t speaking about Maryland post-housing-bubble.

It looks like they’ll get some kind of raise — they haven’t seen one of those since 2006 —  but given State Delegates’ response to the proposal, it won’t be nearly the size they’re looking for. Delegate Guy Guzzone of Howard County couldn’t see awarding judges a raise out of proportion with other state workers. He would consider giving them a two percent raise. How does that sound, guys?

Mmmm…Arsenic-y!

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Okay, so lawmakers in Annapolis are having it out over whether we should introduce a statewide ban on arsenic in chicken and turkey feed.

You’ll excuse me if I think this one is a no-brainer. Especially when not only have “low levels of arsenic” been found in the livers of broiler chickens, but the stuff we’ve been feeding poultry to kill parasites and boost growth has apparently been “adding 30,000 pounds of arsenic to Maryland’s soil every year for decades.”

Of course the argument for continuing to feed our poultry poison (in really small amounts, we swear) is essentially an economic one: the FDA may very well approve the arsenic-containing drug Roxsarone for use nationally, which would put Maryland poultry farms at a disadvantage if it were banned in the state.

I don’t know about you, but if I were shopping for chickens in the grocery store and one of them was marked “ARSENIC-FREE,” that’s the one I would buy. And I’d certainly be willing to pay some kind of premium for it.

Really, the whole but-if-we-don’t-feed-our-chickens-poison-how-will-we-remain-competitive? argument reminds of that old Jack Benny joke, the one where the mugger says, “Look, Bud. I said your money or your life!” and Jack Benny says, “I’m thinking it over!”

The only reason it’s funny is that anyone would rather protect his life (and, so we would hope, the lives of others) than his money, right? I mean, right?

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