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Friday, March 31, 2006

20060331 Gazette gets MD electric dereg debacle correctly

20060331 Gazette gets Maryland deregulation debacle correctly

In today's March 31st, 2006 edition of the Gazette, columnists Barry Rascovar and Blair Lee accurately portray the deregulation debacle currently occurring in the Maryland General Assembly

Let’s get some facts straight

Friday, March 31, 2006


Are state legislators playing April Fools’ jokes on us? Are they serious about crucifying one of Maryland’s biggest corporations and trashing a 96-year-old regulatory agency to ensure their re-election? Or is it a negotiating ploy?

It’s getting bizarre. Lawmakers are operating on pure emotion. Self-preservation is driving them to pass wildly punitive bills that could have long-lasting and severe consequences.

The House and Senate may well be violating both the federal and state constitutions in seeking to hold hostage Constellation Energy’s $11 billion merger with FPL Group. Firing the Public Service Commission and replacing commissioners with Democratic allies of legislative leaders makes even less sense if the objective is fair and impartial regulation of utilities. Then there’s the brazen attempt to seize half-billion dollars from Constellation because a law passed in 1999 by the General Assembly turned out to be highly profitable for Constellation but not for the state.

Welcome to the Banana Republic of Maryland, where legislative dictators are blowing up long-established government traditions and using the legislature as a partisan vehicle to strip power from a governor who belongs to the wrong political party.

Don’t like the Republican governor’s appointments to the PSC — even though Democratic legislators approved their nominations? Fire them and give the Democratic House speaker and Democratic Senate president power to appoint a majority to the panel. Politicizing the PSC will put an end to that panel as an independent regulatory arbiter and turn it into a pawn of the Democratic General Assembly.

It’s not the only mess being foisted on the public. Look at the irrational effort to junk $90 million of touch-screen voting machines and spend $50 million on less-reliable optical-scanners.

The House of Delegates passed a bill not only discarding the current high-tech machines — because of allegations the software can be tampered with — but mandating less-accurate voting machines be rented. It did so after receiving promises from a single vendor it could deliver all these machines in time for the September primary.

Now it turns out this vendor has failed to meet delivery deadlines in other states. How come no legislator raised questions about who’s behind this slick deal that seemingly violates every procurement safeguard?

Meanwhile, a Senate panel is mulling a plan to turn Maryland’s elections into 100 percent mail-in votes — an experiment never before tried here and attempted on a statewide level only in Oregon.

Advocates insist on a ‘‘paper trail” for ballots, though the systems under discussion are far more prone to error. They insist on abandoning a system that produced the most accurate vote count in the nation two years ago.

State and local election officials have insisted for months there isn’t time to bring in a brand-new voting system. But that hasn’t fazed lawmakers.

Sensible, practical ideas don’t stand a chance in this legislature. As a result, Maryland’s fall elections could be in serious jeopardy.

Meanwhile, the hottest words are reserved for the electric rate increase crisis. Lawmakers keep trying to ignore reality.

Fact: The Democratic legislature and the Democratic governor approved electric deregulation and a freeze in consumers’ power rates in 1999.

Fact: Agreements implementing that law were approved by the Democratic-appointed members of the PSC and the Democratic-appointed People’s Counsel in 2001 and 2002.

Fact: These are legally binding actions.

One of the few sane voices has been People’s Counsel Patricia Smith, a liberal Democrat whose strong legal credentials led to her appointment by Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich. She’s been saying things legislators don’t want to hear.

Energy prices will continue to rise, she says. It’s crazy to focus on things the legislature cannot alter. Pepco and Delmarva Power & Light customers were hit with large electric rate hikes starting two years ago when their rate freezes ended. Where was the outrage from lawmakers?

Now those power companies are raising rates 38 and 35 percent, respectively, to reflect the higher cost of power. Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. customers get socked with an unwelcome 72 percent increase this summer because BGE negotiated a longer rate freeze.

All of this flowed from the legislature’s 1999 vote. Lawmakers ‘‘can’t wave a wand,” Smith says. ‘‘There was no parachute built into that law.”

Firing members of the PSC misses the point. Their hands are tied by the 1999 law, too. Appointing new commissioners friendly to legislative Democrats and hostile to electric companies shatters the underpinnings of Maryland’s utility regulatory system.

Smith wants lawmakers to focus on ways to protect customers in the future. She thinks stronger regulation by the PSC is necessary as well as new methods for purchasing power, the re-acquisition of power plants by local utilities and authority for the state to buy its own power plants.

These are intriguing ideas. But Smith, who was hired to be an independent consumer advocate, has been ignored by politicians. Instead, we get political tripe posing as substance.

Fortunately, there’s still time for a moment of clarity. If legislative leaders use their preposterous PSC⁄electric rate proposals as bargaining chips, a workable compromise is possible. If legislators finally heed veteran election officials, a sensible balloting plan could surface. We have not yet reached the point, as Dante might phrase it, where the words over each legislative chamber read, ‘‘Abandon hope ye who enter here.”

Barry Rascovar is a communications consultant in the Baltimore area. His Wednesday morning commentaries can be heard on WYPR, 88.1 FM. His e-mail address is brascovar@ hotmail.com.

http://www.gazette.net/stories/033106/poliiss172607_31940.shtml

Playing political ‘chicken’

Friday, March 31, 2006


In politics, as in life, self-preservation is the strongest instinct. And in politics self-preservation means re-election.

That’s why, when faced with common extinction, statehouse lawmakers circle the wagons to collectively save themselves. Temporarily they drop their partisan, racial and regional differences and all become incumbents. Then, once the storm passes, they go back to infighting.

That’s what happened with the 1986 savings and loan crisis and the 1978 property tax rebellion. The incumbents knew that, instead of blaming each other, they’d better work together or they’d all be unseated.

So why are today’s statehouse lawmakers blaming each other instead of banding together to solve the energy rate hike crisis? Do they really believe that incensed voters, clutching their nearly doubled energy bills, will care who voted for deregulation seven years ago or why competition failed to materialize?

Believe me, the statehouse norm that ‘‘you kill my dog, I kill your cat” applies to the voters as well. ‘‘You double my electric bill, I vote you out of office.” Unless the incumbents do something quickly, almost 2 million ratepayers will receive new, astronomical energy bills right before the elections.

But instead of working together the incumbents are playing a risky game of political ‘‘chicken” with one eye on the clock and the other on the precipice.

The Democrats won’t accept any solution that lets Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich look good. They’ll risk anything, even their own re-elections, to deny Ehrlich a major political victory this close to Election Day. Conversely, Ehrlich knows that any solution he negotiates with the power companies now — no matter how beneficial to the ratepayers — will be labeled ‘‘inadequate” by the Democrats and the partisan media.

So Ehrlich is biding his time while the Democrats rush a host of emergency measures through the legislature. One makes Constellation Energy cough up $528 million in past charges. Another holds hostage Constellation’s $11 billion merger with a Florida utility company until Constellation solves the rate hike, and another switches control of the Public Service Commission from the governor to the legislature.

It bothers the Democrats little that these bills are unwise, illegal, ineffective and threaten to drive the utilities into bankruptcy (remember these are the same people who gave us the Wal-Mart Bill). Their plan is to make Ehrlich veto the bills, then override his vetoes and hope the terrified utilities cave in to the legislature’s wholesale recklessness. Then the Democrats can declare ‘‘victory” and label Ehrlich a utility lapdog. In Annapolis this passes for statesmanship.

Meanwhile, just in case their strategy backfires, the Democrats (and the Baltimore Sun) are busy rewriting history. If the voters ever find out who caused the rate hike crisis, the Democrats will be in deep trouble. After all, the 1999 bill that deregulated Maryland’s energy industry was enacted by a Democratic legislature and governor. The principal architect was Senate President Mike Miller whose political PAC subsequently received $119,000 from the energy companies.

Mayor Martin O’Malley’s running mate, Anthony Brown, voted for the bill and O’Malley’s brother-in-law, Max Curran, sat on the Public Service Commission that blessed it. No wonder the Democrats don’t want to discuss how we got into this mess.

Instead, they’ve generated one of the greatest smoke screens in Maryland political history — they’re blaming the current Public Service Commission, appointed by Ehrlich, for the crisis.

The state Democratic Party is running radio ads blaming the rate hikes on ‘‘Bob Ehrlich’s Public Service Commission.” Leading Democrats are calling for the chairman’s ouster and Sen. Paula Hollinger (a Democrat who voted for deregulation) told the media, ‘‘If we had a Public Service Commission that wasn’t industry-driven, that was fair, that could look at the facts, we wouldn’t have the 72 percent (rate hikes).”

The Democrats’ disinformation is echoed daily by the Baltimore Sun whose anti-Ehrlich hatred has eclipsed any shred of journalistic professionalism. Everyone knows the Sun plays politics but this is disgusting. Heck, even the Sun’s ombudsman expresses concern.

Blaming the rate hike on the Public Service Commission is like blaming the Lincoln assassination on Mrs. Lincoln. She was there, why didn’t she do something? And we all know she had family members who were Confederate sympathizers!

Look, the 1999 deregulation law stripped the Public Service Commission of its rate-setting authority. Its only role was to determine the future ‘‘market rates” when the rate caps ended and that determination was made in 2003 by a Public Service Commission made up entirely of Parris Glendening’s appointees. Furthermore, the current commission met with lawmakers 22 times over the past two years updating them on the coming rate hikes. Blaming the commission is pure political scapegoating.

In olden days a red herring was used to distract hunting dogs from the trail. Blaming the Public Service Commission for deregulation is not only a red herring, it’s a public lie, which, if it doesn’t bother the Democrats and the Sun, ought to bother the voters regardless of who wins at ‘‘chicken” in Annapolis.

Blair Lee is CEO of the Lee Development Group in Silver Spring and a regular commentator for WBAL radio. His column appears Fridays in The Gazette. His e-mail address is blair@leedg.com.

20060329 Media Matters is leaking

20060329 Media Matters is leaking

Hat Tip Wonkette

Looks like employees for Media Matters have attended the same classes as elected official(s) from the Maryland Town of Mount Airy. In Mount Airy, there is curious phenomena occurring - or so it would appear. Perhaps it is just the vivid imagination of some folks. But anytime there is a confidential/internal memo circulated among staff and elected officials in Mount Airy – it is automatically forwarded to the Carroll County Board of Commissioners, local newspapers and anyone else who may have a passing interest in only one small portion of any particular issue.

In a March 7th, 2006 Frederick News Post article by Katie E. Leslie, Mount Airy Councilman Peter Helt was quoted as publicly stating was has become common knowledge in the public: “Confidential documents sent to council members and the mayor have recently been leaked to the public, Mr. Helt said. Yet neither the mayor or any council member have acknowledged distributing those documents, he said.”

And OMG – there was one really special moment in the Media Matters internal memo: “One rule from the communications shop: TREAT BLOGGERS AS PRESS…”

Perhaps the Associated Press should read this memo.

Please see: 'Only a blogger' in Pajamas Media and also see: MSM Plagiarism Strikes Again – AP Welcome to the Party, by Larisa Alexandrovna.

I have also received a T-shirt for having the Associated Press use my work and not giving me credit for it.

One of many fascinating paragraphs is: “We do not credit blogs!

Meanwhile, thank you Wonkette for keeping us to date with the bathroom etiquette of the male employees at Media Matters.

_________________

Most Meanspirited Post of the Day

Hat tip to Wonkette

http://www.wonkette.com/

March 29, 2006

(Well, so far, anyway.)

Hey, another Media Matters email!

Subject: I can't believe I have to do this again...
From: [Redacted]
Date: Tue, March 28, 2006 10:49 am
To: "'Mmfa staff'"
Priority: Normal

but once again, someone forwarded an internal email to the Wonkette, embarrassing both Media Matters as an organization and all of the colleagues you work with on a daily basis. It's ridiculous enough that email needed to be sent in the first place, and appalling that someone's had the lack of judgment to send it to a widely-read logger. One rule from the communications shop:
TREAT BLOGGERS AS PRESS, and communicate with them through the communications shop. If you have a question about that, ask one of us. I hoped, apparently in vain, that this wouldn't happen again. It did. So I'm hoping again. Don't let this happen again.

Oh, Media Matters, come on. Treat us as press? But the press ignores you! We hang on your every internal memo!

Media Matters


Earlier: Report: Male Employees At Media Matters Are Total F**king Slobs


Update: Men at Media Matters Still Total F**king Slobs

20060104 Male Slobs at Media Matters

Report: Male Employees at Media Matters are Total F***ing Slobs

Hat Tip: Wonkette

January 4th, 2006

We received a copy of this email from confidential sources at Media Matters:

Subject: Men’s bathroom complaint From: “S———” Date: Tue, January 3, 2006 10:37 am Priority: High

Good morning!

On my way out of the office on December 23rd, I was stopped by someone from the management office. He lectured me about a problem in the men’s bathroom. Despite my protestation that I clearly do not use the men’s bathroom, and thus complete unaware of any problems, he continued on. He received complaints from the cleaning crew that newspapers have been “strewn” (his word, not mine) all over the bathroom. If you bring a newspaper or other reading material, please bring it back out. Thanks!

S————


Media Matters for America

While we’re not surprised that the rending and strewing of journalism is a popular activity at Media Matters, we’d like to remind their staff that the medium is the message and that the message you send to your janitorial staff matters. Also, guys, you can’t let yourself be so blinded by the right that you start forgetting how to distinguish between two types of genitalia.

_________________

Update: Men at Media Matters Still Total F***ing Slobs

Hat Tip: Wonkette

March 27th, 2006

The good people are Media Matter for America: hard at work fighting conservative bias, still pissing off the janitorial staff:

Subject: Men’s bathroom….again
From: [Redacted]
Date: Mon, March 27, 2006 12:51 pm
To: [Everyone with a penis]
Priority: High

I’m sorry to have to send another e-mail about the men’s bathroom, but Jenny was on the receiving end of an unfortunate tirade from the building engineer (wait….assistant building engineer) a few minutes ago about a clogged toilet from this morning. I know that none of you would intentionally “stuff” a toilet, but he seems to think that someone from this office is doing just that. I’m not sure how to suggest to you guys to be conscious of what’s going down there (and I know it sounds ridiculous), but please try. They already hate us, so let’s try to play nice.

Thanks!
S——-
Media Matters for America

Guys — you may not think this is a big deal, but we happen to know that Media Research Council keeps their place neat as a fucking whistle — ‘cause you never know when Exxon’s gonna stop by to see how their money’s being spent. You think Soros wants to keep you guys afloat if you can’t pick up after yourselves?

_________________

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster Maryland USA.

E-mail him at: kdayhoff@carr.org

####

Thursday, March 30, 2006

20060327 Dial N for Naked

20060327 Dial N for Naked

Dial N for naked

Hat Tip: My Nephew Smurf. Thank you Mr. Smurf!

Mon Mar 27, 2006 3:40 PM ET167

I’m not really sure if Reuters uses permalinks and this is short and way too precious to be lost for future prosperity. Please enjoy the entire article below.

For the record, not only do I NOT make phone calls in the buff, but I also do not blog in my pajamas.

_________________

“LONDON (Reuters) - Up to a third of telephone users in Britain make calls in the nude, with men more prone to do it without clothes than women, a survey revealed on Thursday.

“Research commissioned by Britain's Post Office, which offers a fledgling home phone service, revealed that 40 percent of men admitted to nattering naked compared with 27 percent of women. The results were based on a survey of 1,500 telephone users.

“The research also showed that people were so busy that one in 10 people admitted to wandering off and leaving the caller talking to themselves.”

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

_________________

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster Maryland USA.

E-mail him at: kdayhoff@carr.org

####

20060329 Always Dress better than expected

20060329 Always Dress better than expected

HAT TIP Wonkette

OMG - It would appear that there is a war of the wardrobe occurring in the pressroom these days. Since journalists have always been know to be such slaves to fashion, this blogger is simply aghast that such memos are even necessary. Thank goodness, according to the mainstream media, all it would appear that I need to wear while slaving away at the keyboard is my pajamas.

Many thanks to Wonkette for keeping us up to date on such pressing matters.

DC Examiner Dress Code: Only Due Attention To Ones Self, Please

This just in from Wonkette:

http://www.wonkette.com/

March 29, 2006

What, you think working for a free paper is all loosey-goosey anything goes hippie bullshit? It's a business, dammit, you'll treat it as such! Here, for your perusal, are samples from the dress code at the DC Examiner (instututed, no doubt, after Vivienne Sosnowski showed up in torn denim mini-skit and studded collar) -- we note that it doesn't appear to have been written (or read) by a copy-editor.

From the "Appropriate" column:

Dresses (length cannot be more than three inches above the knee). ["more than"?]

Pants in business suitable fabrics. [Satin, leather, vinyl, etc.]

And the more fun "Inappropriate" column:

Any type of denim (including jean dresses, denim shirts, denim pants, denim skirts, etc.).

Any material resembling denim.

Khaki or Docker- style pants. [Harsh, but fair -- we have a similar rule against tucking your t-shirt into your jeans]

Stirrup pants and leggings. [That, along with their anti-sweatband and big sunglasses provision, explains their disappointing lack of hipster coverage]

Camouflage clothing [Despite this, they still manage to poach Wash Times staffers]

Clothing is not to be overly tight nor draw undue attention to ones self.

Full memo after the jump.

It is important for all employees to project a professional image of Washington Newspaper Publishing Company, LLC. To create this image to our clients and /or visitors, WNP has implemented a dress-code policy. The following list is a guideline of what attire is appropriate and inappropriate. This list is not all inclusive but is a guide.

APPROPRIATE:

Dresses (length cannot be more than three inches above the knee).

Suits/pantsuits/ties.

Skirts (length cannot be more than three inches above the knee).

Blouses/shirts.

Blazers.

Vests.

Walking shorts/skorts in business suitable fabrics (length cannot be more than three inches above the knee).

Pants in business suitable fabrics.

Any type of business shoe (heels, flats, etc.).

INAPPROPRIATE:

Any type of denim (including jean dresses, denim shirts, denim pants, denim skirts, etc.).

Any material resembling denim.

Casual/sport T-shirts (including logo merchandise).

Casual shorts.

Khaki or Docker- style pants.

Stirrup pants and leggings.

Casual sandals, athletic or canvas shoes, casual boots, flip flops,

Flannel shirts.

Camouflage clothing

Bras, sport bras, tank tops, etc. (must be fully covered by clothing), short/crop tops. Mid drifts are not to be visible.

Employees dealing with and interacting with the public and clients are not to wear facial piercings.

Clothing is not to be overly tight nor draw undue attention to ones self.

Employees violating the code may be sent home, without pay, to change and may be subject to disciplinary actions up to and including termination.

Employees are also reminded that it is your responsibility to keep your work area clean. Papers are not to be stockpiled, work information is to be put away daily, excessive trash must be removed. If you see papers on the floor in your area or common areas, take the minute necessary to pick it up and throw it away or straighten it up. Employees are not to eat meals at desks or in work areas. All locations have break rooms! Do not keep food at your desk or store food in your work area.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster Maryland USA.

E-mail him at: kdayhoff@carr.org

####

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

20060123 No proof seen Donner clan were cannibals

20060123 No proof seen Donner clan were cannibals

By Kevin Dayhoff Monday, January 23, 2006 11 PM

For the history buffs: (Hat Tip – Baltimore Sun, January 13, 2006) In a January 13, 2006 Los Angeles Times article by Eric Bailey: “No proof seen Donner clan were cannibals - Pioneers split into 2 camps; it appears only 1 group resorted to eating flesh.”

“SACRAMENTO -- Nudging the history books, archaeologists studying one of two campsites used by the ill-fated Donner Party during a snowbound Sierra winter 160 years ago announced Thursday that a study had unearthed no physical evidence of cannibalism.

The stranded emigrants settled into two camps during the harsh winter of 1846 and '47, and previous scientific studies confirmed cannibalism at the principal encampment, on the east shore of what is now Donner Lake.”

Hmmm, reminds me that in 1967, President Lyndon Johnson was quoted: "Do you know the difference between liberals and cannibals? Cannibals eat only their enemies."

That’s all for now folks. I need some ice cream and a nap.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster Maryland USA.

E-mail him at: kdayhoff@carr.org

####

20060121 Ehrlich Submits Budget; MD Assembly Overrides Vetoes

Ehrlich Submits Budget; Senate Overrides Minimum Wage Veto; House Overrides Election Vetoes.

By Kevin Dayhoff Saturday, January 21, 2006 11 PM

Last Tuesday, January 17, 2006 was the day that Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich sent to the legislature his $30 billion state budget. More information is available at: Governor Ehrlich Submits $23.8 Billion Budget.

The Washington Post blog: Maryland Moment, had it’s own spin in, “Spending a Surplus.”

“With a news conference practically every day rolling out another spending initiative, there was little suspense when Gov. Bob Ehrlich delivered his $29 billion budget this morning.”

Gee, conveniently overlooked in the liberal commentary regarding the growth in spending in the Governor’s recently announced budget is that a majority of the spending growth is not discretionary.

The majority of spending growth is the result of mandated funding increases in education (Thornton), health care (Medicaid) and higher education (Cade and Sellinger formulas).

Each of these mandates were passed by the liberal legislature and governor PRIOR to the Ehrlich Administration. If the lawmakers have a problem with spending growth this year they should take a long, hard look in the mirror because they created it. They mandated the funding increases that are causing most of the growth.

In a January 17th, 2006 press release from the governor’s office: “Governor Ehrlich Introduces Fiscal Year 2007 Budget,” it was noted:

ANNAPOLIS – Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., today submitted a balanced, sustainable FY 2007 operating budget. For the fourth consecutive fiscal year, Governor Ehrlich balances the State budget without raising sales or income taxes, while making record investments in education and health care.

“Since taking office, we have turned $4 billion in inherited deficits into a $1.2 billion surplus through prudent fiscal management,” said Governor Ehrlich. “We have made government leaner and more responsive to the citizens of Maryland. This budget makes new investments in programs that make Maryland a cleaner, safer, and a more prosperous place to live while returning a portion of the surplus to the citizens of Maryland.”

Fiscal Responsibility: Governor Ehrlich saves for the future by allocating $644 million for the State’s “Rainy Day Fund” and establishing a $670 million reserve for Fiscal Year 2008 expenditures. The Governor proposes tax relief for military retirees, homeowners, caregivers, and small businesses, among others. The Governor also invests $100 million in future retiree health care. Maryland is one of only six states to retain its coveted “AAA” bond rating.

Education: To improve public schools, Governor Ehrlich proposes a record $462 million funding increase for K-12 education and $281 million for school construction, the largest allocation in 35 years. In addition to record investments in higher education, Governor Ehrlich proposes a $19.5 million (28 percent) increase in need-based college scholarships. Governor Ehrlich has doubled funding for need-based scholarships since taking office, helping more than 12,000 students go to college. Governor Ehrlich also launched a $1.5 billion capital campaign for the University System of Maryland.

Meeting Maryland’s Needs: The Governor proposes a $370 million increase in Medicaid and related programs to care for 770,000 vulnerable Marylanders and $43 million to fund wage increases for community health care workers. His budget also proposes full funding for Program Open Space to better preserve environmentally sensitive land. To attract and retain high-quality law enforcement officers, the Governor also proposes salary adjustments for police and correctional officers.

Fostering Economic Growth: The Governor proposes $20 million for stem cell research and $13.5 million for a new Center for Regenerative Research to attract world-class researchers. His budget also makes new investments in the biotechnology tax credit and nano-biotech to solidify Maryland’s reputation as a national leader in the technology economy. Governor Ehrlich also increases investments by $3 million (60 percent) for the Community Legacy Program to revitalize urban, suburban, and rural communities throughout Maryland. The budget also invests $10 million in state support for Maryland’s horse racing industry.

The Governor’s budget can be found online at: http://www.governor.maryland.gov.

An additional review of Governor Ehrlich’s budget reveals:

Environment:

Governor Ehrlich will fully-fund Program Open Space to preserve environmentally sensitive land. The Ehrlich Administration has preserved nearly 60,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land since 2003. The Governor also makes new investments in targeted watershed projects and to rebuild wastewater treatment plants.

Higher Education:

The Governor announced a $172 million funding increase for higher education and launched an unprecedented capital campaign for the 13-campus University System of Maryland. Governor Ehrlich has boosted higher education funding by $219 million since taking office, bringing it to its highest point in history.

K-12 Education:

Building on his unprecedented investments since 2003, Governor Ehrlich proposed a record $462 million funding increase for public schools. Since taking office, Governor Ehrlich has fully-funded public schools with a $1.4 billion increase. The Governor also increased school construction funds to $281 million, a 35-year high.

Disabilities Investments:

The Governor proposed nearly $90 million in funds to lower unemployment levels for individuals with disabilities and to support them in their communities. The Governor’s proposal fully implements a Medicaid Buy-In for workers with disabilities and enables more than 1,500 people to return to work without losing health coverage under Medicaid.

Sex Offender Initiative:

Governor Ehrlich will dramatically toughen Maryland’s sex offender laws by requiring lifetime imprisonment, lifetime supervision upon release for sexually violent predators and child sex offenders, toughens registration requirements, and closes a loophole that allows registered sex offenders to enter school grounds or childcare facilities.

Tax Relief:

Governor Ehrlich proposes tax relief for homeowners, military retirees, caregivers, small businesses and many more. Governor Ehrlich’s ability to turn $4 billion in projected deficits into a $1.2 billion surplus means taxpayers deserve tax relief.

Homeowners:

In addition to a 15 percent state property tax cut, Governor Ehrlich proposed overhauling the Homeowners Tax Credit Program to help 50,000 low and moderate income Marylanders. The Governor’s plan would save the average qualified homeowner $167 more on their property tax bill.

Science & Technology:

Governor Ehrlich will invest an unprecedented $13.5 million to build a new Center for Regenerative Research at the University of Maryland, Baltimore and $20 million to fund stem cell research, solidifying Maryland’s reputation as a national leader in science and technology. The Governor also makes new investments in Johns Hopkins University, East Baltimore Biotech Park, University of Maryland, and the Teacher Education and Technology Center at Salisbury University.

State Employees:

For the third consecutive year, Governor Ehrlich gives state employees Cost of Living Increases and steps, and accelerates salary schedules for law enforcement and correctional officers.

****

News also traveled quickly last Tuesday: according to WBAL’s website: Ehrlich Submits Budget; Senate Overrides Minimum Wage Veto; House Overrides Election Vetoes. You may want to take a minute of your time to review the reporting of WBAL's Robert Lang and The Associated Press on the deliberations and votes taken in the legislature today.

Minimum wage. WBAL says:

“… today, Maryland became the 18th state to require a higher minimum wage than the federal baseline Tuesday when lawmakers voted to raise the wage a dollar, to $6.15.

The higher wage, which takes effect in 30 days, became law when the state Senate voted by the required three-fifths margin to override Gov. Robert Ehrlich's veto from last session. The House voted to override the veto last week.

As to the vote to override Governor Ehrlich’s vetoes of the two election bills. WBAL says:

“Lawmakers also overturned Ehrlich's vetoes on two election bills.

One would allow people to vote up to five days before an election -- including on a Saturday. The other would make it easier to cast provisional ballots for voters who show up at the wrong precincts. The House overrode those vetoes today, after the Senate overturned them last week.”

House Minority Leader Anthony O'Donnell (R): “… says the bills open the door to voter fraud since county election officials would not be ready to enforce the law.”

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster Maryland USA.

E-mail him at: kdayhoff@carr.org

####

20060117 Sen. Kennedy Severs Ties to Harvard Club

20060117 Sen. Kennedy Severs Ties to Harvard Club

By Kevin Dayhoff Tuesday, January 17, 2006 11 PM

Sen. Kennedy Severs Ties to Harvard Club

(Hat Tip – Baltimore Sun, January 17, 2006)

First, on the national news front; today it was revealed by the Associated Press: Sen. Kennedy Severs Ties to Harvard Club. In a story By ANDREW MIGA, Associated Press Writer, January 17, 2006, 3:14 PM EST:

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Edward Kennedy, who criticized Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito's past membership in a controversial Princeton University alumni club, severed his ties Tuesday with a former Harvard college social club that bans women members.”

I guess I don’t feel an overwhelming urge to hurtle myself off a bridge in commentary on this turn of events. Instead take a look for yourself: Kennedy Wants Executive Session To Subpoena Alito Records (AUDIO); Political Teen; Cat fight in the big house...; or - Full transcript here. CT at Severe Writer’s Block has this cogent comment:

“Remember The Boy Who Cried Wolf? Someone needs to remind the Democrats the moral of that story. Making every SCOTUS nominee look like an extremist is not going to help them in the long run.” 1/11/2006 07:35:00 PM

“Michelle Malkin also has video.”

You can draw your own conclusions about Captain Oldsmobile.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster Maryland USA.

E-mail him at: kdayhoff@carr.org

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20060117 J Fund WSJ columnist visits MD Gen'l Assembly

20060117 John Fund WSJ columnist visits MD General Assembly

By Kevin Dayhoff Tuesday, January 17, 2006 11 PM

John Fund On the Trail

Word in the hallways of the Maryland Statehouse today was that John Fund, noted Wall Street Journal – OpinionJournal columnist, John Fund attended a session of the Maryland General Assembly (MGA) today. Mr. Fund writes a column called “John Fund On the Trail.”

No definitive word as to why Mr. Fund was in town. It is reported that he listened in on the debate as to whether or not to override House Bill 391 – minimum wage.

My guess is that Mr. Fund may have been more interested in House Bill 622 - absentee voting on demand…

For a number of years, Mr. Fund has lectured on issues of “voter fraud.”

In his bio published for a lecture on “Elections 2000 and Voter Fraud,” at the Ashbrook Center for Public affairs at Ashland University on Thursday, October 19, 2000, it reports that:

“John Fund is a member of the Editorial Board of The Wall Street Journal, where he previously served as deputy features editor. He is also an on-line columnist for MSNBC’s Internet news service and a regular on-air contributor to the Fox News Channel and CNBC.

His work has appeared in such magazines as Esquire, Reader’s Digest, Reason, New Republic, and National Review. He has written extensively on Congressional reform, Constitutional issues and the influence of money in politics.”

Around September 2004, Mr. Fund released a book on “America’s election problems.” This according to a

The book is titled: Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy, from Encounter Books.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster Maryland USA. E-mail him at: kdayhoff@carr.org

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20060116 Photo Faux Pas at the New York Times

20060116 Photo Faux Pas at the New York Times

By Kevin Dayhoff January 16, 2006 11PM

It would seem that the New York Times has goofed on a picture it ran on the January 16, 2005 front page of its website. You can see the picture here. Hat Tip: Michelle Malkin · January 16, 2006 10:13 AM What's wrong with this picture?

Ms. Malkin elaborates: “The only thing that would have made this staged news better: A canoe.”

Please check out her reference to: “A canoe. It is more fun than you can stand.

Meanwhile, back to the New York Times photo in question

Thomas Lifson, the editor and publisher of the American Thinker, has much to say… Photo fakery at the New York Times (Hat tip: Lucianne )

“Is a fake staged photo fit to print? What if it staged in a way that makes the US forces fighting the War on Terror look cruel and ineffective? The evidence argues that yes, it can run, and in a prominent position - at least in the case of the New York Times website.

It appears that the Times, once-upon-a-time regarded as the last word in reliability when it comes to checking before publishing (which makes them so much better than blogs, of course), has run a fake photo on the home page of its website. The photo has since been removed from the home page, but still can be seen here.

The picture shows a sad little boy, with a turbaned man next to him, a little bit further from the camera, amid the ruins of a house. Other men and boys peer in from the background….”

Remember, we not responsible for the content of any website linked in this blogspot. You can talk with them about it. Right now, I’m going to have a big bowl of ice cream and take a nap.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster Maryland USA.

E-mail him at: kdayhoff@carr.org

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20060113 Attempting to Park in Annapolis

20060113 Attempting to Park in Annapolis

By Kevin Dayhoff January 13, 2006 6 PM

Parking is a huge issue in Annapolis. One would think that with all the difficult challenges in front of the Maryland General Assembly (MGA)… What is the question I get asked most frequently at the beginning of every session of the MGA – Where do ya park down there?

There is nothing worse than arriving in Annapolis at the last minute and then spending a great deal of time hunting for parking. In the past, I have been there and got the T-shirt.

Apparently so has the daughter of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., (D - 27, Calvert & Prince George's Counties):

“The session marks Miller’s 20th as president. His election was witnessed by his wife, Patti, and two daughters, Melanie and Amanda. A third daughter, Michelle, missed the event, apparently trying to find a place to park. ‘‘She’s the one that votes ‘R,’ so she has to use the Naval Academy parking lot,” Miller joked.” (Gazette Opening Day 2006 by Thomas Dennison, Douglas Tallman and Alan Brody.)

I usually prefer to park at Gott’s Court Garage off Northwest Street because it is so convenient – only a short walk from the Statehouse. However, in the future I may try parking at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and use the shuttle. The cost of parking in Annapolis is quite reasonable. Today, for example, it cost $7.50 for the entire day. If I am not mistaken, Gott’s Court Garage has an $8.00 maximum charge. Nevertheless, it only costs $4.00 to park at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

One trick you might keep in mind is that when a sign is displayed at the entrance of the parking garage - that the parking lot is full – don’t always believe it. The first hour is free, so if go past the sign and take a look, there is nothing to lose. More often than not, there is turnover throughout the day and a space is available.

If you Google “Annapolis parking,” you will find several web sites. Perhaps the best is Downtown Garages and Parking Lots – this page has a great map and lots of misspelled words. It is a City of Annapolis web site and one would expect better.

Another good site has been developed by the “ Office of the Clerk is located at the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County” - Parking In Annapolis.

Good luck. Take a deep breath and a chill pill. After the challenge of parking comes getting through the security checkpoints and then one must navigate the byzantine labyrinth of offices and hearing rooms to find where you need to be – on time.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster Maryland USA.

E-mail him at: kdayhoff@carr.org

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20060111 Open Season I Love You You Love Me

20060111 Open Season I Love You You Love Me

By Kevin Dayhoff January 11, 2006 6 PM

Today was open season, err - opening day for the Maryland General Assembly (MGA).

I arrived early in Annapolis. Partially because I wanted to see if I could stop by and see a few elected officials and get some bearings on the day and upcoming session in general. And to be sure to get a parking spot in a nearby parking garage.

If you are considering visiting the Maryland General Assembly during the current session that lasts until April 10, 2006, please take a look at: Helpful Hints for 2006 Maryland General Assembly visitors and familiarize yourself with the security procedures.

Not everyone can easily make it down to Annapolis so you may want to check out: Listen to the Maryland General Assembly. At this web site, you can listen to the proceedings on your computer. I believe the sessions are available live. I usually go through the pull down list and listen to past sessions that are available to be heard.

I then proceeded to check off the next big item on my checklist – coffee. I am not a morning person and leaving Westminster at 7:30 AM was not pretty. At this point, I usually sleep walk over to “City Dock Coffee” within very easy walking distance of the Statehouse at 18 market Street.

After obtaining coffee, I found a place to sit in the Statehouse and decided to see if I could find any wireless access. I found a site – but needed a password to get in. I haven’t a clue as to whether that password will be available to members of the press. That will be a future exploration.

If I remember correctly, there is internet access down in the pressroom, on the basement floor of the Statehouse. I didn’t go near there today. The Statehouse was packed with media and I didn’t need wireless from Annapolis today.

A new House of Delegates Office building is being built and apparently, it is running behind schedule. On the House side, the chaos of construction was omnipresent. A visitor was not allowed street-access to the House office building because of construction. In order to get into the House office building, you had to enter the Legislative Services building off Lawyer’s Mall, which is directly in front of the Statehouse. Once inside you went down one floor on the elevator and walked through the tunnel over to the House office building.

I have always been fascinated with the interconnecting tunnels. I have not a clue as to when they were built or any knowledge of their history. I have it noted to research this in the future.

The Statehouse has a tunnel that goes over to the Legislative Services building. From there you can walk, by tunnel over to both the Senate office building and the House office building. This is great to know when the weather is bad, as it so often is for the next ninety days.

As far as catching up with some elected officials before the opening session began at 12 noon – forget it. Not an elected official was to be found. They were all in meetings.

Oh, I did run across Harford County Executive David Craig and his beautiful wife Melinda. I consider David to be a good friend. When I was the Mayor of Westminster, he was the Mayor of Havre de Grace. He has a long history of being an elected official and is very wise and knowledgeable. In the past, he has been a Havre De Grace Councilmember and mayor. He has also served in the Maryland Senate and recently he was appointed Harford county executive when former executive Jim Harkins was appointed to head up MES – Maryland Environmental Services, by Governor Ehrlich.

Finding no elected officials, I made my way back to the Statehouse.

I arrived early to the press area in the House chambers, thinking that I would get a good seat. What was I thinking?

First of all – the press tables had been replaced with a number of rows of chairs for dignitaries. What space remained for the press was – well, very little. Almost non-existent. We all managed. But it was an endurance contest. We all stood for the ninety minutes of the opening session.

The opening session began at exactly 12 noon. I mean, exactly.

After a very very short opening prayer, the first order of business was the election of the Speaker Pro Tem. Piece of cake. Adrienne Jones (D – Dist. 10 Baltimore County) was nominated from the floor; seconded and unanimously accepted by voice vote. Delegate Jones has been a member of House of Delegates since October 21, 1997. She was first elected to be the Speaker Pro Tem in the 2003 legislative session.

So far – so good. Perhaps the spirit of Barney was present? It was a gritted-teeth love-in. All smiles and hugs. Can you sing: “I love you, you love me?”

As I wrote in my Tentacle column for this Thursday, January 12th, 2005: “The Kool-Aid Acid Test:”

“Maybe it is time that we ask for all the delegates and senators to go down several days early for group therapy in problem identification and conflict negotiation counseling? Or arrange for a guest appearance of Barney, the Purple Dinosaur, to lead the opening session in a rousing chorus of “I Love You – You Love Me.”

I asked a colleague who was mashed against me in the press area: “How long the love-in will last?” His prediction – 45 minutes.

He was wrong. It lasted about 12 minutes or until the time came to elect the Speaker of the House. This is when everyone started to squirm in his or her seats. The purpose of opening day is to be very friendly and ceremonial. It is universally accepted that there be no blood left on the floor the first day.

It is in that spirit, that the other day, the Republican Caucus had approached Speaker of the House Michael Erin Busch (D - Dist. 30 Anne Arundel County), to facilitate accepting a floor nomination for House Minority Leader, George C. Edwards (R - Dist. 1A, Garrett & Allegany Counties), to be Speaker of the House. Delegate Edwards has been a member of House of Delegates since January 12, 1983. He has been Minority Leader since the 2003 legislative session. Delegate Edwards didn’t have a snowball chance in heck in being elected, but the Republicans wanted to have the satisfaction of having an election instead of a plebiscite.

The Republican Caucus got three answers: no. No. NO!

I explained this in the “The Kool-Aid Acid Test:”

“For those of you following along in your books at home – there are 141 delegates in the Maryland General Assembly. Ninety-eight are Democrats – so I guess there is a good chance that the Democrats will elect ah, let’s think about this – a Democrat to be the Speaker of the House. Gee, brilliant deduction, eh?”

Michael Erin Busch (D - Dist. 30 Anne Arundel County) was nominated and seconded. When the voice vote was called, Speaker Pro Tem recognized House Minority Leader, George C. Edwards, who requested a roll call vote.

In other words, he asked that the votes for the speaker election be recorded on the huge tally board that overlooks the chamber. Surprise, Delegate Busch was elected by a vote of 95 to 34. Yes, for those math wizards reading along at home; that totals 129. There was an absence or two, but all the Republicans in the Anne Arundel contingent did not vote, perhaps appropriately, out of respect for their fellow county colleague.

Dignitaries were recognized and there was a moving series of tributes paid to the very popular Delegate Tony E. Fulton (D – District 40 Baltimore City,) who had passed way last May 20, 2005.

There were also some remarks by Speaker of the House Busch and Governor Ehrlich…

The “Calendar of Vetoed Duplicative Bills” on the “Consent Calendar #1” was put to a vote. These are the House bills that were approved in the last session of the legislature, but were for various reasons, duplicative. They are routinely vetoed by the governor and the House routinely votes to sustain the veto.

The “Calendar of Vetoed Policy Bills #2” was special ordered until Friday. In other words – they will vote on them on Friday instead of on opening day.

The ninety minutes went by quickly and at approximately 1:30 PM, it was all over.

The large lobby area between the House and Senate chambers was packed with opening day visitors. It is an interesting ritual. Media folks hunted down various elected officials for the obligatory “Opening Day in Annapolis” pieces.

One of the better primers for the opening of the 421st session of the Maryland General Assembly was written by my boss at the Westminster Eagle. Can you say: “suck-up?” Whatever. Please see his editorial: “A few key issues could set mood.” In part he wrote:

“While we hope for the best, there are a few keys issues facing the assembly that could give us an indication of whether partisan politics will rule in Annapolis.”

Another good piece on opening day and this year’s legislative session is today’s Frederick News Post article by Clifford G. Cumber: General Assembly gets ready to rumble. Writing for the Gazette, Doug Tallman and Thomas Dennison always do a good job covering the Maryland General Assembly. Their preview on opening day can be found at: As session dawns, veto overrides in play

For a good primer on the weekly “progress” of the Maryland General Assembly, please begin with reading General Assembly Journal 2006 - Part 1 and A 2006 Session Primer by Richard B. Weldon, Jr. (R – Dist. 3B, Frederick & Washington Counties.) Delegate Weldon had been writing a weekly commentary about his experiences in the Maryland General Assembly, ever since he first started representing Washington and Frederick counties in January 2003.

Other web sites that you may wish to visit are: Fired Up Maryland, Soccer Dad and The Hedgehog Report… to mention a few… Fired Up Maryland usually takes the Democratic Party point of view and Soccer Dad and The Hedgehog Report usually takes a conservative point of view. The Hedgehop Report also reports on many Howard County politics.

In the future, you may want to go and read the coverage of Bryan P. Sears in the Towson Times.

One of the best-kept secrets in political writing these days is the work of Justin Palk with the Carroll County Times. Mr. Palk has covered the Maryland General Assembly for four years… This will be his fourth year. Three years with the Carroll County Times and one year with the Capital News Service. For a short, quick and accurate view of the day-to-day reporting of the MGA, you will have a hard time finding better reporting.

I’d like to try and get down to Annapolis personally as often as possible, and bring you the latest on the Maryland General Assembly. Between personal trips, I’ll bring you as many updates as time will allow.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster Maryland USA.

E-mail him at: kdayhoff@carr.org

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