Justice Scalia on the 2nd Amendment

In Heller v. District of Columbia, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the following in his majority opinion:

Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.

From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.

For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues.

Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment , nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

(citations omitted)

Bipartisanship

There is no bipartisanship when it comes to guns.

The reason: primaries.

My Republican colleagues fear a challenge from the right wing if they deviate from the party line.

Ditto for family planning or abortion.

A Republican member said to me, “I can’t touch family planning. That’s Planned Parenthood.”

Education is another matter.

Later today, the Kirwan Commission will announce its preliminary recommendations for funding our pre-K-12 public schools.

Yesterday, Governor Hogan announced that he was for a “lock box” constitutional amendment to ensure that slots money is used for additional spending, not to meet our existing statutory obligations.

You can read about it on the front page of today’s Sun.

Democratic members have already announced that they would be introducing such legislation.

Preparing to defend the bill

I chair the Government Operations and Estates and Trusts Subcommittee.

The bill giving Attorney General Brian Frosh the authority to sue the federal government without the Governor’s approval was referred to the subcommittee last year.

The seven bills dealing with estates and trusts that the full committee heard today will be referred to the subcommittee this year.

When I was asked if I was ready to defend the Frosh bill against Republican criticism last session, I responded, “I’ve been preparing to defend this bill for the last 66 years.”

Estates and Trusts, on the other hand, was a class I didn’t take.

Fortunately, the advocates for today’s bills and the judges who expressed some concerns about the legislation have already been meeting to resolve their differences.

I told them to continue their efforts to reach a compromise.

If they reach an agreement, it will be far easier for me to make the case for their end product.

Even though I didn’t take the class.

Crossing over to the other house

There are eight weeks left in the session.

But if you want to pass your bills, there are only five.

That’s because of the Crossover date, which is three weeks before the end of the session on April 9 at midnight.

If my legislation passes the House of Delegates before that deadline, it will be referred to a standing committee in the Senate.

That committee will then hold a public hearing on my bill. A vote on my bill is not guaranteed, however.

If my legislation misses the Crossover date, it goes to the Rules Committee.

It may or may not escape that purgatory.

Any time it spends in Rules increases the chance that the 90-day session will end before my bill clears all of the legislative hurdles.

In the legislative process, time is your enemy.

There’s a second reason for the Crossover deadline.

Under the Maryland Constitution, if a bill gets to the Governor’s desk with ten days left in the session and he decides to veto it, he must do so while we are in session.

And have an opportunity to override his veto.

High Tech Interns

Internships give people a big leg up in the profession they want to pursue as a career.

However, students with academic debt can’t afford unpaid internships.

Four years ago, UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski proposed that the State of Maryland pay half the cost of internships with high tech start-ups.

I introduced a bill, and it passed. But it was not funded.

Then Amazon made known its intent to open HQ2 – its second headquarters.

I suggested to the Hogan Administration that funding these internships would send a signal that Maryland was building a pipeline of highly qualified high tech employees.

Governor Hogan put $340,000 in this year’s budget.

House Bill 527 would extend the high tech intern program to state and local governments. It would also remove the provision in the existing law that limits the internships to start ups with less than 150 employees.

Amazon does not meet that definition.

One of the students who testified in support of the bill today said that he is a Walter Sondheim Scholar.

Walter was Baltimore’s foremost public citizen.

When I enacted legislation to fund internships in public service or the non-profit sector, I named it in Walter’s memory.

Every summer, at the start of their program, I speak to those interns about public service.

This fall, I hope to speak to the first group of high tech interns.

I’ll tell them that Sergey Brin, founder of Google, went to public school and college in Maryland – after his family emigrated here from the Soviet Union.

Friends, Enemies and Fredo

“Keep your friends close,” the Godfather said, “but keep your enemies closer.“

There is an Annapolis analogy.

When you’re strategizing how to pass your bill, you want to organize your friends and meet with your opponents.

They’re not enemies in Annapolis, because on another bill they may be your friends.

(But there are some opponents who are always your opponents.)

I met today with the lobbyists for a group who killed my legislation on a certain issue last year.

I pared down the bill this year, hoping that would give us room to negotiate.

After our meeting today, we’re closer to an agreement than I expected.

Meanwhile, the policy of the Hogan Administration is to remain neutral on most bills.

The Department “would like to share information about the proposed bill,” read one statement today. “We ask for careful consideration” of this legislation, stated another.

In both instances, however, the details of the letters made it clear that the Administration opposed the legislation.

Even Fredo, the Godfather’s less intelligent son, would have figured that out.

Misconduct in Office

You have no doubt heard of the public health crisis in Flint, Michigan.

After the city government changed its water source, 12 people lost their lives from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, and as many as 12,000 children have been exposed to dangerous levels of lead. The city’s fetal death rate rose by an astounding 58 percent.

Why is this important to Maryland?

My years of work to reduce lead poisoning among our children sparked my initial interest in this matter, but it was the prosecution of high ranking officials in the Michigan government that prompted me to introduce House Bill 276.

They are alleged to have instructed state employees to ignore reports showing a spike in blood lead levels among children and deleted emails about the data.

Would similar misconduct be a crime in Maryland?

I asked State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt that question. “It is a crime,” he told me, “but we need to clarify which state officials are covered by the law.”

For example, any state official who takes an oath of office is already covered. That includes a police officer and a legislator.

HB 276 would add to the list those state employees whose jobs are in the executive or management service level of state government. These are people whose job “requires the exercise of discretion and independent judgment” or who serve at the level of deputy or assistant secretary.

Our bill hearing was today.

No one testified against HB 276, but we still need to convince the Judiciary Committee that we need this bill to protect the people of Maryland from misconduct by state officials.

I’m working on an amendment and a chart that would explain which state employees would be affected.

Getting Roe Right

“Democrats support the right to choose throughout the 40 weeks of pregnancy. But babies are now viable outside the womb at 22 weeks.”

David Brooks wrote that in his New York Times op-ed column last week.

That’s the argument made by the pro-life movement.

It is misleading, if not incorrect.

Roe v Wade limits a woman’s right to choose in the third trimester of a pregnancy.

An abortion can be performed if necessary to protect the life or health of the woman or if the fetus is affected by genetic defect or serious deformity or abnormality.

Maryland law imposes the same limitations after a fetus is viable – in the attending doctor’s medical judgment, there is a reasonable likelihood of the fetus’ sustained survival outside the womb.

I don’t expect the pro-life movement to be accurate in its depiction of the pro-choice position.

It’s our obligation to make our position clear.

Sooner is better than more

More time for the committee to consider your bill is far more important than more co-sponsors on your bill.

I spoke this afternoon with an advocate who’s asking my colleagues to co-sponsor one of my bills.

As we talked, I realized that hundreds of bills will be introduced next Thursday because it’s the deadline to introduce legislation and be guaranteed a committee hearing.

If I introduce my bills before then, they could be heard sooner.

An earlier hearing makes it likely that the committee will begin working on your bill sooner – before the bills introduced next Thursday.

“What’s the practical deadline for a bill to be introduced and be included on the weekly schedule update that’s published every Wednesday afternoon?” I asked a committee counsel.

“It needs to be read across the desk on Tuesday,” was the response.

“We need to get our bills to the Clerk’s Office by Monday evening,” I told my staff.

One thing you can’t negotiate

If you’re going to negotiate, make sure the other side is in the room where it happens.

If you reach a compromise with a neutral third party without your opponents at the table, they are certain to demand that your bill be weakened further.

I gave that advice to a liberal group I‘m working with.

Then I walked 30 feet to a group of conservative friends I’m working with on another issue and gave them the same advice.

But you can’t negotiate about the facts.

In his State of the State speech today, Governor Hogan declared, “The day after I was sworn in, we submitted the first balanced budget in a decade, which eliminated nearly all of the $5.1 billion dollar structural deficit which we inherited.”

The State Constitution requires that the budget be balanced. So does Wall Street.

The budget must be balanced when it is introduced by the Governor, when it is amended by either house of the General Assembly, and when it is finally adopted.

In the 36 years that I have served in Annapolis, the budget has always been balanced.

  • My Key Issues:

  • Pimlico and The Preakness
  • Our Neighborhoods
  • Pre-Kindergarten
  • Lead Paint Poisoning