May mark the beginning, the very beginning

I received this blast email from the Howard Park Community Association:

Subject: House Bill 1136: Regulating opening and closing times of Liquor Stores in the Liberty Heights Corridor

Our bill passed at 11:48 p.m. Monday night, one of the last bills to be enacted by the 2017 General Assembly. When it takes effect on July 1, no liquor outlet in the Liberty Heights corridor can open earlier than 9 a.m. or close later than 9 p.m. On behalf of my 41st District colleagues and myself, we are excited about this success and look forward to working with you to make more improvements to the Howard Park community. —Delegate, Sandy Rosenberg

Howard Park Civic Association: This is a huge victory for our community, and may mark the beginning, the very beginning, of the change we need in our business district.    

Then I read this op-ed about Robert Kennedy’s visit to the abject poverty of the Mississippi Delta:

Mr. Kennedy was convinced, especially after his time in Mississippi, that poverty programs are most successful when they are informed by the voices of poor people themselves. He trusted the families he met there, and later in Appalachia, blighted city neighborhoods in the Northeast and the fields of California, to know what would help them the most.

I’d like to think I’m walking down the same path as Senator Kennedy and listening to people, whatever their race or income.

Protecting the people of Maryland in an extraordinary time

My work on your behalf in Annapolis these last 90 days is summarized in my 2017 Session Summary: protecting us against harmful actions by the Trump administration, preserving a woman’s right to choose where to seek her health care, and keeping the Preakness at Pimlico.  I welcome your thoughts on what we accomplished, as well as what we still need to do.

A speech not given, looking for middle ground

I didn’t give the speech I expected to make today.

Governor Hogan did not veto my bill mandating a $1 million appropriation for the lawyers that Attorney General Frosh will need to take legal action against the Trump Administration.

The governor let House Bill 913 become law without his signature.

If he had vetoed the bill, I would have said that our state government must respond to decisions made in Washington that are not in the best interests of Marylanders.

One way is through the courts. Another is the legislative process.

That’s why we enacted the bill allowing a woman to choose where she wants to receive her reproductive health care and be reimbursed by the State, if she would be eligible for that assistance had the Congress and President not defunded Planned Parenthood.

The Governor also let that bill become law without his signature.

Gov. Hogan vetoed one bill. It dealt with the actions the State can take to improve failing schools.

I’d like to think there’s a middle ground between our current system and an emphasis on charter and private schools that forgets about the need for systemic improvements in our public schools, where the vast majority of our children receive their education.

I will look for that middle ground this summer.

A worker in a laboratory of democracy

During today’s floor debate on the paid sick leave bill, I sent this email to one of the people who had asked me to make a charitable donation to Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital.

We’re in the midst of debating the paid sick leave bill. It reminded me of the meeting I had with a Levindale employee who participated in the job advancement program that I supported. Her ability to get to work hinged upon a car that wouldn’t start or day care she needed to have for her child. She and countless people like her need paid sick leave.

Justice Brandeis famously said, “The states are the laboratories of democracy.” I am proud today to do right for my fellow man and woman as a worker in that laboratory.

Déjà vu – doing this again

It was not déjà vu all over again.

Yesterday, I was the floor leader when we debated eight amendments to the bill regulating medical marijuana.

Our goals were twofold, I told my colleagues.

1. Make possible the treatment needed by the many people who would benefit from it, as evidenced by the testimony of people with chronic disease or their parents.

2. Undertake a study to determine if discrimination in similar industries merits incentives for minority ownership in the businesses licensed to make the treatment available with a doctor’s prescription.

Today, the bill was on third reader, the vote that would send the bill to the Senate.

The only person who spoke was Delegate Glenn, the chair of the Legislative Black Caucus.

She thanked me for my work on the bill.

I leaned over to her and said, “Let’s talk about doing this again on another issue next year.”

For now, it’s time to develop strategy for the conference committee, which will seek consensus on the House and Senate versions of this legislation.

Opening Day opening prayer

My rabbi grew up in Chicago – the North side.

His people – his fellow Cubs fans, wandered in the desert – the baseball desert, for 108 years.

The afternoon of the seventh game of the World Series last fall, Daniel Burg and his wife, Miriam, who’s also a rabbi, were in line to vote at the Early Voting Center in Northwest Baltimore.

“Do you want to join us tonight to watch the game?” he asked.

I’ve gone to Orioles games with Rabbi Burg. “He understands baseball,” I said to myself. “I’ll be there,” I responded.

I stayed until the end – through the rain delay, until the last out.

That’s when the Rabbi’s mother called. Her timing was perfect.

They talked about her husband and his father. And what this World Series would have meant to him.

108 years of waiting and losing was over. Dayenu!

On Opening Day, every baseball fan can say, “Next October in the World Series.” Amen

Getting to the main room

The floor of the House of the House of Delegates is the main room, as they used to say in the Borscht Belt.

It’s where debates are held, votes are cast, and bills pass or die.

However, few votes are changed on the House floor. The whips have already taken their count, and party lines have already been drawn.

In my time here, I can think of one exception, repeal of the death penalty. Some of my colleagues voted yes who were not on our list if supporters.

I chaired the medical marijuana work group. Our work product will be debated on the House floor Friday.

I’ve had several opportunities this week to mold my argument for the bill.

With a small group of committee members, at the last meeting of the work group, before the committee leadership, and before the full committee.

I thought of it as a moot court, preparing for the real argument on the House floor.

My chairwoman thought otherwise.

“For Sandy,” she said, “this is batting practice.”

Not this time

I usually hang up on telephone solicitors.

But not this time.

This call was from Planned Parenthood.

I did, however, interrupt the caller’s spiel to tell him what we are on the verge of doing in Maryland.

Tonight, the Senate will debate the House bill that would require the State to fund reproductive health services for the women who choose to go to Planned Parenthood.

The legislation would take effect if the Congress deprives the organization of existing federal funding.

Such a provision was in the GOP health care bill that was withdrawn on Friday.

But it will be back.

Another legislative vehicle will surely be found to push this bad idea forward.

My caller yesterday, a college student, had no idea about what we are doing in Maryland.

If we succeed here, that reinforced my idea of advocating that other blue states do the same.

Unequal justice and white smoke

I’ve spent more time in my committee’s conference room this week than I have in our public hearing room.

One meeting was about a bill that would have created a new right to sue in family law.

The question arose whether people could afford the cost of bringing such a lawsuit.

I said that we already have too many instances where people can’t secure their rights because they can’t afford a lawyer.

I could not support creating another example of unequal justice.

The bill’s sponsor responded that we shouldn’t deny this right to those who could afford it.

Under the compromise we reached, the merits of this new legal right will be considered by the judiciary this summer.

Consequently, the debate over a right to counsel was postponed as well.

The other issue discussed in the conference room was medical marijuana.

No details I can share yet, as there has yet to be any white smoke, the sign of consensus when a Pope is chosen.

The secret word

A pre-meeting meeting is an Annapolis staple.

Before the public meeting where votes are cast, the committee leadership meets in the back room (usually the Chairman’s office) to decide the fate of every bill on the voting list.

On some committees, a voting list is then distributed with up or down arrows next to each bill.

This morning, I attended a post-meeting meeting.

After a negotiating session, some of us regrouped for a post-mortem in a much smaller office.

Someone knocked on the door before opening it.

I welcomed my colleague, “Want to join us in Groucho’s state room?”

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