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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Maryland Special Session Predictions

Is Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley risking his political future with calling this special session of the General Assembly? Or is he making a wise and calculated choice to focus on resolving Maryland's projected 1.7 Billion budget deficit in a special session?

Last Monday evening in a brief five minute opening address to the Maryland general assembly he talked about the challenge is consensus. He also used a phrase I heard him use for the first time at a fundraising event I held in Frederick for the local Democratic Party following his being elected Mayor of Baltimore –"there is more that unites us, than divides us". The phrase that caught my attention last night was when he said "will we continue to let the circumstances change us or will we change our circumstances"?

The other statement that caught my attention was when he said "Maryland Teachers have said a vote for this plan is a vote for public schools". A significant one sentence statement for it indicates he has the support of Maryland Teachers, an important organization.

This week, the legislation proposed by the Governor will be presented and the details will become available for the legislators and the public to review. This schedule is posted on the Maryland Governor's web site – the link is on our Home Page under Government.

It appears Slots - video lottery terminals, a heated and much discussed topic may be headed for a Referendum by the voters in 2008. Again, O'Malley has used a catchy and descriptive phrase to describe the turmoil here by saying the debate on slots in Maryland has lasted longer than the Civil War and it is time to resolve this issue. Yet to get this Bill onto a ballot it will require a 3/5 vote by Delegates and Senators in the general assembly. Interestingly, a simple majority would pass a Bill.

However, that is easier said than done. It has been said that Maryland Senate Republicans who supported Slots under former Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich will vote against O'Malley's proposal and instead offer their own version which will involve auctioning off the video lottery terminals to the private sector for what they say will result in a faster revenue source for the state.

A strong supporter of Slots, Md. Senate President Thomas V. Miller (D) has reportedly stated that representatives are elected by the voters to make these decisions, not to put them off in a referendum.

And then we have Democratic leaders House Speaker Michael Busch and Md. Comptroller Peter Franchot who oppose slots. So a lot of muddy water here to go along with debating the details of how Slots would actually operate in Maryland.

Maryland Senate President Miller has a valid point – trying to determine what would go on a ballot for voters to decide is much more cumbersome than the elected representatives in the House and Senate reaching consensus and passing legislation that is clearly laid out for the voters to see and understand.

If passage of Slots in Maryland becomes dependent on a Referendum in 2008 the Civil War referred to by Governor O'Malley will become more heated and last another year. Proponents and Opponents of Slots would organize even more than they have to date and the media blitz detailing their position on how to vote on the referendum will surely follow.

Even though it looks bleak now, a move by the general asembly to pass Slots in the special session could still happen. It makes much more sense to resolve the Slots issue now in a clear manner and have the state budget benefit sooner from the revenue generated.

An increase in the sales tax from 5 to 6 cents is likely to pass for several reasons - it is fairly easy to do and is an across the board increase which will generate the highest amount of revenue (500-750m) of any action proposed. Maryland's current 5 cent tax is lower than our neighboring states but Republicans will argue it is a regressive tax and unfair but they will not have the votes to stop it from going through.

Changes will also occur in Maryland taxes to make them fairer to working families and the phrase being used by O'Malley here is the modernization of Maryland's taxes.

The increase of tax on tobacco to help fund health care programs will be strongly debated but will most likely be passed as well with a reported $1.00 increase on a pack of cigarettes. This is a reversal of a position held by Governor O'Malley prior to his election when he was reported as having said he was opposed to funding health care programs by taxing cigarettes when we are trying to get people to quit smoking. Certainly, a program funded by these sources should be budgeted out with declining revenues over the years as people hopefully quit smoking.

Governor O'Malley has taken a very deliberate approach to this special session. He has made a strong case for his proposed legislation. The schedule has been clearly laid out and the presentation of the legislation will unfold this week.

Now the challenge is for the state Delegates and Senators to reach consensus, pass meaningful legislation and put the budget deficit behind us.

A Battering but not a Knockout

Last night's Democratic Presidential Debate must have felt like a 12 round boxing match to Senator Hillary Clinton (NY). It was a long two hours for her as the questioners, Brian Williams and Tim Russert of NBC began and ended the debate with leading questions aimed at prodding her closest rivals Sen. Barrack Obama (ill.) and former Sen. John Edwards (S.C.) to attack her positions on the issues and they readily accepted the bait.

It started with Sen. Obama's answer to the first question asked in the evening in which the Senator accused Sen. Clinton of flip flopping her positions on the war in Iraq and being for and then against NAFTA.

Continuing with this line of thought was Sen. Edwards who accused her of double talk on the issues and going from primary election mode to general election mode and expressing concern with her vote on Iran, part of which included the labeling of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. He also accused her of flip flopping on social security concerning lifting the cap on taxable income currently capped at $97,500.

Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) focused some of his comments on his concern of her ability to win in the general election pointing out that 50% of the voters in a recent poll said they will not vote for her and also criticized Clinton on her vote on Iran.

Governor Bill Richardson (NM), after pointing out his strength in diplomacy, actually came to Sen. Clinton's defense by saying although he differed with her on many of the issues she should not be attacked personally.

Sen. Clinton came across in the debate as though she was fighting a fight not to lose and never delivered any significant punches of her own to any of her opponents. Yet she held her own throughout the debate deflecting most of the punches. With only minutes to go she was asked a question by Tim Russert concerning the issuance of Drivers Licenses to illegal immigrants.

Mr. Russert pointed out that the NY Governor was proposing issuing these licenses to illegal immigrants and Sen. Clinton had indicated she supported the Governor.

Sen. Dodd jumped on her response and stated that he felt the issuance of a driver's license was a privilege and not a right and he opposed this proposal. After his response Sen. Clinton tried to clarify her position but clearly failed in this effort.

This illegal immigrant issue was also immediately jumped on by the press covering the debate who immediatley following the debate pointed out Republicans were going to make illegal immigration a big issue in the 2008 election.

The best line of the debate goes to Senator Joe Biden who said that outside of being able to use a noun, a verb, and 9/11 in a sentence, former Republican New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was not qualified for President.

The weirdest question was something like "Do you believe in UFOs or have you seen a UFO" with Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) answering that he had seen a UFO.

The MSNBC text message poll conducted after the debate asking who won the debate had the following results: Obama-29%, Clinton-21%, Biden-18%, Edwards-17%, Kucinich-7%. Richardson-5%, Dodd-4%.

Now the spin begins as to who won the debate with communication directors of all the candidates and the press issuing their take on the debate.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Md. Budget Update: A Vote for Public Schools

I received the following email this afternoon.

October 30, 2007

Dear George,

Last night, we opened the Special Session to solve the $1.7 billion budget deficit we've inherited. And today, the General Assembly began its hearing on our long-term solution that's fair to middle class families.

This afternoon, the Senate and House are holding a joint hearing on how best to secure our historic investment in education through the Thornton law.

Five years ago, legislators of both parties supported this important $1.5 billion investment in our schools - at about the same time that they, again, on a bipartisan basis, reduced revenue with a $1 billion income tax cut. These two decisions combined to create our current structural budget deficit.

In our budget solution, we're finally going to keep our promise - continuing to improve Maryland's schools - by adjusting growth, while maintaining record funding for schools. As a result, Maryland's teachers have said: A vote for our plan "is a vote for public schools."

This morning's hearing focused on the cuts we've already made and are proposing in our plan.

  • In January, we made $400 million in cuts to balance this year's budget - keeping budget growth at just over 2%, which is lower than the rate of inflation.
  • In July, we cut another $280 million.
  • And our long-term budget plan would reduce spending growth by $1 billion over the next two years.

The hearing also examined the damage that would be done if we fail to come to consensus and are forced to introduce the Cost of Delay budget in January - balancing the budget with $1.7 billion in cuts. Those cuts would result in raising college tuition, reducing school funding, raiding open space funds, and sliding backwards on healthcare, rather than making it more affordable.

The General Assembly will continue to discuss and debate our budget solution in the coming days, and we will keep you posted on our progress. Additionally, if you're interested, you can read or watch my speech opening this special session.

Thank you for your work to move Maryland forward. And if you would like to contact your legislators to support our solution, you can reach them at:


Martin O'Malley

Office of The Governor - 100 State Circle - Annapolis, Maryland 21401-1925

Democratic Presidential Debate Tonight

Tonight, from Drexel University in Philadelphia, the Democratic candidates for President Debate will be moderated by NBC's Brian Williams who will be joined by Tim Russert. It will be broadcast live on MSNBC from 9 – 11 pm and streamed live on

It is now only 60 days until the Iowa caucuses, a very important (and some feel crucial) beginning of the Democratic Primary schedule. Senator Hillary Clinton (NY) has widened her lead in the polls with a 2-1 advantage over her closest competitor Senator Barrack Obama (Illinois).

For those candidates running against her is it heartening to know that Governor Howard Dean (Vt.) was considered a shoo-in for the Democratic Party nomination all the way up to the day of the Iowa caucuses. Governor Dean lost the Iowa caucuses, his campaign imploded – Senator John Kerry (Mass.) became the nominee and the rest is history.

If Senator Clinton wins Iowa it will be hard to stop her with such a front loaded Primary schedule. However, if she does not win Iowa the following six weeks will be very interesting to watch with a possibility that Maryland's primary will play an important part of the nomination process.

Interestingly, NBC did not invite Democratic candidate former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel to appear in the Debate.

I continue to feel Governor Bill Richardson (New Mexico) is extremely well qualified and would be an excellent President. I, along with others, have felt that should Senator Clinton win the Democratic nomination - her polarizing nature would rally the Republican voters and split the Democratic voters and lead to a win by the Republican nominee for President in 2008.

After watching the Democrat Debates to date I have to say that Senator Clinton has performed the best of all the candidates. She has maintained her composure and stayed on message. Her biggest problem among voters continues to be like-ability with half of the most likely voters still saying they won't vote for her – see the Zogby poll posted October 24, 2007 on the Blog.

Although these debates continue to be important and they are a great way for voters to see them in action, it still boils down to campaign organization and available money.

The caucuses in Iowa are unique with some of the voting happening with people voting in front of each other in the living room of one of the caucus goers. It has been explained to me that literally, votes are made and changed by voters walking from one corner supporting one candidate to another corner supporting another candidate until they feel a candidate has enough votes to be eligible for delegates.

With the votes occurring in the manner that they do it takes an extensive on-ground operation. The on the ground organization is what won Iowa for John Kerry four years ago. The three candidates with the largest number of workers in Iowa are Clinton, Obama, and Edwards.

The availability of money continues to play a critical part as campaigns pay for staff on the ground and for television, radio and direct mail. The Dean campaign spent approximately 50 million leading up to the Iowa vote. It appears likely three Democratic candidates will exceed that figure in this election.

Seems like it is time for publicly financed campaigns.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Proposed Racial Equality Act Misleading

Guy P. Djoken



On Mon, 22 Oct 2007, Frederick County Commissioner the Honorable John (Lennie) Thompson sent me the email bellow.

Guy Djoken
President, Frederick Chapter NAACP
RE: Profiling
Dear President Djoken:
     The Monday, October 22, 2007 issue of The Frederick-News Post features a story entitled "Local NAACP fear profiling if law enforcement partners with ICE". The story begins on page A-1, col. 3. The story includes the following passage attributed to you: "We are afraid if (the deputies are granted the authority), they might wind up stopping people based on how they look." p. A-9, col. 5.
     Unfortunately, several county agencies characterize and classify individuals "based on how they look" ( i.e. "profiling").
     My proposed Racial Equality Act is on the web at: 

and at:

     I would appreciate any comments the Frederick Chapter of the NAACP would like to make about my proposed Racial Equality Act.



After consulting with NAACP members and friends, I came out with the following response. Several people contributed in responses by providing ideas among which Carol Antoniewicz, David Rocah, James Upchurch.


The Honorable Commissioner John Thompson,


I have read your proposal over and over again, in hopes of trying to grasp your purpose. It is unclear what you are hoping to accomplish. I consulted with NAACP members and friends to find a rationale behind such a proposal at a time when it is becoming more and more obvious that there are "Two Systems of Justice" currently operating in many part of the country.


The recent hearing of the Judiciary Committee on the "Jena 6 and the Role of Federal Intervention in Hate Crimes and Race-Related Violence in Public Schools" clearly illustrates my assertions.

Witnesses included Donald Washington, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana; Lisa Krigsten, Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General; Richard Cohen, President and Chief Executive Officer Southern Poverty Law Center; Professor Charles Ogletree, Harvard Law School; Reverend Brian Moran, Pastor of the Jena Antioch Baptist Church and President of the NAACP, Jena Chapter; Reverend Alfred C. Sharpton, President of the National Action Network.


It appears that you are proposing that Frederick County solve the issues of Racial Inequality by no longer keeping score.  We cannot see how solving a problem like traffic enforcement using profiling would be solved by this bill.  Minority persons could still be stopped more often than persons who did not "look" like a minority person.  The difference would be that your bill would not require a record. This might give carte blanche to the small but resolute number of officers who do not abide by the rule to administer justice equitably since there would no longer be any record of accountability.


We have grave concerns that this proposal, contrary to its title, will have the effect of perpetuating inequality by preventing government agencies, Civil Rights organizations, health related institutions and other interested entities from collecting the data necessary to ascertain whether different groups are being treated differently.  

To call it a Racial Equality Act is misleading in the extreme.  It seems to be designed precisely to ensure that equal treatment does not occur. Achieving equality does not mean ignoring the reality of race and ethnicity in a society with a strong history of white privilege. It would be nice if we lived in a color blind society where harms and benefits are distributed equally across all racial or ethnic groups.  But that is not the case.  Pretending it is the case, and denying government and citizens the tools to identify when it is and is not the case, will not make it so, it will only make it less likely that we do anything effective about it.  


A few additional points:

·         Race is a social, not a biological, construct. The video-series "Race – the Power of an Illusion" ( ) is very useful in reviewing the history of racial categories in the U.S. It shows how two people from different racial groups may actually be more genetically similar than two people who appear to be from the same racial group.

·         Racial identity should not be dictated by someone; we each get to self-identify.  Many folks are now claiming a complex ancestry that defies racial categories.

·         Hispanic is not a racial category. Persons of Hispanic heritage can claim African or Caribbean heritage or identify as white.

A good resource for anyone interested in work against racism is the National Coalition Building Institute


I will end by inviting you to take a moment of your precious time to go over this document prepared by the Casey Foundation. It clearly shows when and how race matters.


 We hope you may be willing to engage in some discussion of your thoughts and our reflections.  The interaction of conversation may be a more useful way of coming to a better understanding of one another on such an important issue.




Governor O'Malley Introduces legislation to Address Maryland's Deficit

The following was issued on Friday October 26, 2007. With this legislation intorduced during the special session of the Maryland general assembly meaningful debate will now occur as details come forward. The schedule of when this legislation will be introduced can be found by clicking on the link below or by clicking on Md. Governor Martin O'Malley under Government on the home page.

Press Release - Office of the Governor

Governor introduces comprehensive, long-term solution to deficit;
Six Bills to reform the State's income tax, lower property tax, and legalize slot machines

ANNAPOLIS, MD (October 26, 2007) – Governor Martin O'Malley today submitted six pieces of legislation to the Maryland General Assembly as part of his comprehensive, long-term solution to the State's $1.7 billion structural deficit. Governor O'Malley introduced the legislation in advance of next week's special session of the General Assembly.

"We have put together a comprehensive, long-term solution to the State's structural deficit," said Governor Martin O'Malley. "Under the leadership of Senate President Miller and Speaker Busch, I am confident that members of the General Assembly will come together to move our State forward. The cost of delay is simply too great for us not to take action."

Governor O'Malley introduced six bills today that will continue to make historic investments in public education, reform the State's income tax, lower the state property tax, establish a Higher Education Investment Fund to stabilize college tuition costs in Maryland, and legalize up to 15,000 slot machines at five locations around the State.

The Governor's bills include:

  • Transportation Investment Act
  • Tax Reform Act of 2007
  • Budget Reconciliation Act
  • Maryland Education Trust Fund – Video Lottery Terminal
  • Video Lottery Terminals – Authorization and Limitations
  • Working Families and Small Business Health Coverage Act

Governor O'Malley has spent the last two months rolling out individual components of his solution, which include:

  • Reforming the income tax to make it more progressive and fair.
  • Reducing state property taxes.
  • Closing corporate loopholes.
  • Investing in Maryland by raising the corporate income tax by1%, and splitting it between higher education and transportation.
  • Protecting public education by making the Thornton law sustainable.
  • Making healthcare more affordable and reduce smoking by increasing the tobacco tax by $1 to invest in reform.
  • Helping seniors by doubling the senior income tax exemption – and creating a new sales tax rebate.
  • Modernizing the sales tax – so it's still in line with surrounding states.
  • Recapturing slots revenue, once and for all, by letting the people decide in a referendum.

Under the Governor's proposed reforms to the State's income tax, reductions in the state property tax and sales tax proposals, the Maryland Department of Budget and Management estimates that 83 percent of Marylanders will pay less overall.

Earlier this week, Governor Martin O'Malley released a Cost of Delay budget to reflect more than $1.7 billion in cuts that will have to be made to balance the Fiscal Year 2009 budget if the General Assembly is unable to reach a consensus during the upcoming special session.

[ More information on the bills can be found at and ]

October 26, 2007

Refitted SCHIP will fail to Sail

The House of Representatives on October 25, 2007 with a 265-142 vote passed a revised SCHIP bill. Several dozen congressmen did not even vote and the House is once again short of the votes needed to override a certain veto by President George W. Bush.

Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Majority Leader said he will schedule a vote this week by the Senate on the bill. It is most likely to be passed once again in the Senate with a veto-proof margin.

So what is going on? It seems concessions to Republican stated concerns were made in the revised bill presented in the House. A change i n eligibility for family size was reduced from a high of approximately $80,000 to $60,000, a statement to the effect that illegal immigrants would not be served by this program was added, as well as clarification that this was a bill to serve children and not adults.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calf.) has been quoted as saying that if this bill does not pass she will wait until next year to schedule another vote which will push it even closer to the 2008 elections. Obviously a statement meant to put Republicans who voted against the bill on notice they will have to vote again on it even closer to the time when they will be asking voters for their support in their own reelection.

Unfortunatel y, this bill will suffer the same fate as it's predecessor.

There is obviously a lot of politics in action here. Democratic leadership knows the polling data clearly shows a majority of Americans support SCHIP and it's purpose of providing health care for children. While Democrats have made some substantive changes to address some Republican concerns, they are still advocating a substantial increase in funding over what the President had proposed.

Republican leaders realize that although the President's approval ratings are extreme low, the Democratic controlled congress approval rating is even lower and they appear willing to draw a line in the sand on this issue. Their only possible explanation for their action is they will attempt to point fingers at an ineffective Democratic controlled congress and try to tell voters it's time to make a change in next year's election.

Standing in the way of providing health care for our children is simply wrong. We can and must do better in providing health care for our children and all Americans.

What will be remembered by the voters in the fall of 2008 are the Republicans who voted against this legislation.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gore weighs in on 2008 Election

The following is an email I received today. I just clicked on the provided link in the email and briefly checked it out. There are several videos of Al Gore discussing his position on Iraq and other current events. There are also videos of other Democratic candidates for President along with many videos of comments from citizens.

It looks like a site that is worth a click to check out - does this indicate Gore is having second thoughts about entering the race?

Dear George,

Current, the media company I co-founded six years ago with my partner Joel Hyatt, just last week launched a new web site that integrates television and the Web in an unprecedented way. It provides, as never before, a platform for citizens to make the media their own.

One of the features I'm most excited about on is called Viewpoints. Viewpoints is a virtual town hall where you can share your opinions, in video, about the issues that matter in the 2008 election: from global warming to government eavesdropping, and many more.

This digital town hall is already bustling, and you can find viewpoints from me and from a lot of people, including the candidates running for President. Come and listen to their positions and, more importantly, tell them and the rest of the world what you think!

Since Viewpoints is the only place on the Web where you can easily share your view in video, my hope is that you'll take this opportunity to go toe-to-toe with the pundits on TV and help contribute to a new platform for public discourse. All it takes is a webcam and 60 seconds.

And, since we'll be taking the most popular and most compelling viewpoints and airing them on Current TV -- now available in 52 million homes around the world -- you may very well get your voice heard on our global TV network.

I look forward to seeing and hearing you on, as we deepen the discussion on these important topics:

Thank you,

Al Gore

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Zogby Poll

The following was received today by me in an email sent from Governor Bill Richardson's campaign.

From: Zogby Poll
Sent on: October 20, 2007, 11:30 PM
To: Amanda Cooper
Subject: Zogby Poll: Half Say They Would Never Vote for Hillary Clinton for President

Zogby Poll: Half Say They Would Never

Vote for Hillary Clinton for President

Other top tier candidates in both parties win more acceptance; Richardson & Huckabee favored most

While she is winning wide support in nationwide samples among Democrats in the race for their party's presidential nomination, half of likely voters nationwide said they would never vote for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, a new Zogby Interactive poll shows.

The online survey of 9,718 likely voters nationwide showed that 50% said Clinton would never get their presidential vote. This is up from 46% who said they could never vote for Clinton in a Zogby International telephone survey conducted in early March. Older voters are most resistant to Clinton -- 59% of those age 65 and older said they would never vote for the New York senator, but she is much more acceptable to younger voters: 42% of those age 18-29 said they would never vote for Clinton for President.

Whom would you NEVER vote for for President of the U.S.? %
Clinton (D)50%
Kucinich (D)49%
Gravel (D)47%
Paul (D)47%
Brownback (R)47%
Tancredo (R)46%
McCain (R)45%
Hunter (R)44%
Giuliani (R)43%
Romney (R)42%
Edwards (D)42%
Thompson (R)41%
Dodd (D)41%
Biden (D)40%
Obama (D)37%
Huckabee (R)35%
Richardson (D)34%
Not sure4%

At the other end of the scale, Republican Mike Huckabee and Democrats Bill Richardson and Barack Obama faired best, as they were least objectionable to likely voters. Richardson was forever objectionable as President to 34%, while 35% said they could never vote for Huckabee and 37% said they would never cast a presidential ballot for Obama, the survey showed.

The Zogby Interactive poll, conducted Oct. 11-15, 2007, included 9,718 likely voters nationwide and carries a margin of error of /- 1.0 percentage point.

Md. Budget Update: The High Cost of Delay

October 23, 2007

Dear George,

Today, we - and the representatives we've all sent to Annapolis - face choices about Maryland's future.

Over the past few months, we have put forward a fair, long-term solution for the $1.7 billion budget deficit we've inherited that protects middle class families - as well as education, healthcare and public safety, which make up 84% of Maryland's budget. Our plan starts with $280 million in cuts, and reduces spending growth by $1 billion over the next two years. And it depends on acting now - in a special session.

At the same time, some people in both political parties have spent a lot of time offering criticisms without solutions - making clear that they would prefer to do nothing.

I believe we have a responsibility to be honest with Maryland families about the choices we face. So today, we made public the price of doing nothing - with our Cost of Delay Budget, balancing the budget entirely through cuts. This is no academic exercise or scare tactic. It is the basis of the budget we will be forced to introduce in January if the General Assembly cannot reach consensus during the upcoming special session.

Lt. Governor Brown and I didn't run to preside over decline. But we are constitutionally required to submit a balanced budget. And the alternative to a consensus budget solution is straightforward - and it will begin this year to prevent reductions from being even sharper next year:

  • $866 million in cuts to local governments, cutting things like schools, teacher pension funding, libraries, police aid, drug treatment, public health, open space, community colleges and grants to local arts organizations.
  • More than $160 million less invested in higher education - and the last time we did that tuition went up by 40%.
  • More than $200 million in cuts to Medicaid - rather than making healthcare more affordable and available.
  • And millions more by closing State Police barracks, and making cuts to priorities like agriculture, biotechnology, stem cell research, nursing homes, foster care, tourism and historic redevelopment.

That is the truth of our circumstance. And it gives you an idea why it's easier for some to say what they're against, instead of making choices and telling you what they're for. The reductions are listed below:

These are cuts we are working hard to prevent. I remain confident that we will succeed in coming together to find fair, long-term solution - avoiding the Cost of Delay Budget. When the people of Maryland are presented with the choice of growing stronger or weaker... of moving forward or sliding backwards... we always choose to make progress.

Thank you for your work to move Maryland forward. And if - after thinking about the choices presented between our solution and the alternative - you would like to contact your legislators to express your opinion, you can reach them through this website:


Martin O'Malley

Saturday, October 20, 2007

After the Failed SCHIP Override

As I suspected the override vote failed and the question becomes what will congressional leadership do now that the vote to override the veto of the SCHIP bill by President George W. Bush has failed.

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calf.) has vowed to stand firm in the eligibility criteria for those children to be served by this legislation. While some Republicans have been quoted as saying that the failed bill contained provisions which would have allowed children in families with incomes as high as $80,000 to qualify for this program and they could not support the bill with those provisions.

The other standard Republican refrain is something to the effect that this was another move by the Democrats to bring about socialized medicine and therefore they were not going to vote for the bill.

Some Democrats have countered by saying that the Republicans who did not vote for the bill were opposed to providing health care to children.

Meanwhile the program's enabling legislation has expired and the current public relation strategy by the Democrats and the Republicans is not helping congress pass and fund a continuation of a much needed program.

Children deserve a fair start in life and passing a bill to help ensure a child's access to health care should be a bi-partisan goal of our elected representatives.

Let's hope that reason will prevail, a compromise is reached and a veto proof bill is passed soon by congress.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Health Insurance for Children

The State Children Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is a federal program started ten years ago to fund insurance for children whose family income was too great for Medicaid eligibility at the state level and too low to be able to purchase private health care. At that time it was estimated one million children without insurance would be served through this program.

The ten years is up now - it was initially funded for 40 billion for the ten years. In the normal procrastinating style of government they waited until now to address the funding and/or continuation of the Bill.

President George W. Bush offered a bill that provided continuance and a 5 billion increase over the next five years. The Democratic controlled House wanted a 50 Billion increase over the next five years but settled and voted for the Senate version of 35 Billion increase over the next five years. This is what was vetoed by the President who sent signals immediately following the veto that he would be willing to discuss a compromise.

The Democratic leadership, realizing this would be a sensitive issue to the public, jumped on the President's veto and is coordinating a huge public relations effort to get the votes needed for an override of the veto. The Senate passed the original Bill with a veto-proof margin but the House vote was somewhere between 12-19 votes short of overriding a veto.

In the 6th congressional district in Maryland, concentrated efforts are being made to encourage their Republican congressman Roscoe Bartlett to reverse his vote when the vote to override occurs. Some Democrats also pointed out the difference in the health care program he receives as an elected official versus the lack of health care that would exist for children in need if adequate funding is not received for SCHIP. Regardless of how unfair this may appear, Mr. Bartlett’s response has been that he is not going to reverse his vote.

Democrats have planned rallies, coordinated telephone calls and emails directed to the congressmen who they believe may be persuaded to change their vote. Many of these Republican congressmen, including Roscoe Bartlett, are up for reelection next year and their vote on this Bill will be used by their opponents in the election.

Last weekend on the political talk shows, the House and Senate Democratic leadership-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) indicated that if the veto is not overridden (and I don't believe it will be) they will introduce another Bill at lower funding levels and make sure the bipartisan support is there to continue the program. They understand this program must be continued. The resulting Bill will most likely contain a funding increase somewhere between the 5 Billion proposed by the president and the 35 Billion original passed by the House and Senate-probably closer to 20 Billion.

Could a compromise been achieved earlier had the Democratic leadership decided not to make this a wedge issue and stick to the funding levels they had passed?

Perhaps, but with the national and congressional elections occurring next year some believe showing Republicans were not in favor of funding health care to children and the Democrats were in favor was a prudent action to take. Some also believe that if the battle was not engaged, the resulting compromise in funding levels would have been even less.

This is an example of our political system in action. It will be interesting to follow the override vote outcome – scheduled for October 18th and to see the reaction of the public to the vote. Providing health care for children is essential and it is equally important to provide health care for all.

The issue becomes how we "United States" provide health care for our citizens. The current system is not working and Bills such as SCHIP are valid attempts to help fix one aspect in the issuance of health care but it is not a Bill that deals with the overall need to revamp our health care delivery system.

Employers are becoming increasingly burdened with the cost of health care for their employees and many middle class employees can not afford to even opt into an employer provided health care package.

The United States remains the only developed country to not have a nationalized health care system. It is time we elect a president and representatives who will work in a bi-partisan manner with the current private sector health care delivery system to develop and implement an affordable and effective national health care program.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Maryland Governor O'Malley calls Special Session

October 15, 2007

Dear George,

This afternoon, we announced that we will be calling the Maryland General Assembly in for a special session on October 29th to solve the $1.7 billion budget deficit we've inherited. [listen to audio mp3]

We need to act now. If we wait until the next regular legislative session - as some have suggested - the problem will grow by nearly $600 million, requiring additional tax increase or deep cuts in areas like education, which accounts for nearly half of our budget.

This is a day that has been 10 years in the making. Over the last decade, our state government reduced revenue by $1 billion with an income tax cut, and then increased spending by $1.5 billion with the Thornton education plan - opening up a $1.7 billion hole.During those years, the General Assembly had dozens of hearings on the tax reforms and other measures we're proposing.

Elected leaders could not reach consensus on issues like slots. And the state avoided the day of reckoning with deficit spending funded by raiding open space and transportation funds. Last year, the people of our state voted for change. And it's time to take responsibility by passing a consensus budget plan and solving the problem. We cannot afford to make the problem $600 million worse.

For the past month, we have talked with the people of our state and their representatives about our 10-pt plan - to increase tax fairness, restore fiscal responsibility and invest in our shared future.

Again, here's what we've proposed:

1. Reform the income tax to make it more progressive and fair.
2. Reduce property taxes.
3. Close corporate loopholes.
4. Invest in Maryland by raising the corporate income tax 1%, and splitting it between higher education and transportation.
5. Protect education by making the Thornton law sustainable.
6. Make healthcare more affordable and reduce smoking by increasing the tobacco tax $1 to invest in reform.
7. Help seniors by doubling the senior income tax exemption - and create a new sales tax rebate.
8. Modernize the sales tax - so it's still in line with surrounding states.
9. Recapture slots revenue, once and for all.
10. And do it now, in a special session, or we'll add $600 million to our $1.7 billion problem, endangering our investment in education.

The time for delay has passed. It's time to step up and deliver on a fair, long-term budget solution that protects middle-class families, education and public safety. Our plan starts with $280 million spending cuts, eliminates 147 government positions - and reduces spending growth by $1 billion over the next 2 years. And most families will pay less in taxes, as we keep Maryland competitive.

Thank you for working to move Maryland forward.


Martin O'Malley

Monday, October 8, 2007

Letter sent to Frederick County Commissioners

Frederick County Board of County Commissioners
President Jan Gardner
Winchester Hall
12 East Church Street
Frederick, Maryland 21701

October 5, 2007

Madam President:

It has been brought to my attention that the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners is considering adding to the legislative package “wish list” to be delivered to our state delegation a provision offered up by Commissioner Charles Jenkins.

I watched the public testimony on Tuesday, October 2, 2007 in regard to this proposal and wish to inform you I oppose the immigration legislation proposed by Frederick County Commissioner Charles Jenkins. This one sentence legislation appears designed to generate headlines and is divisive for our community.

The complex issue of undocumented workers within the United States requires a comprehensive bi-partisan federal approach that includes a thorough examination of current U.S. policies in this area.

The results of this federal action should lead to reasonable, fair, and effective solutions which aid in uniting our diverse population.

I ask that the Board remove this item from the package that is delivered to our state delegation for consideration by the state assembly.


George D. Wenschhof