I’m just a tourist

I tell people to personalize their testimony.

Describe how the bill would affect you or the witness sitting next to you at the witness table.

I took my advice today.

House Bill 949 would prohibit the State of Maryland from doing business with or buying the stock of companies that support the BDS boycott of Israel.

I was supposed to talk about the constitutionality of the bill. But this how I began my testimony…

“I’ve been to Israel many times. I’ve gone to the usual tourist sites – the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the church on the Mount of the Beatitudes.

“I’ve also accompanied a friend to the grave of his father. Toured Hebron and walked through the shuttered Arab market. Went to a kibbutz within range of the missiles fired from Gaza City.

“I support a two-state solution. But I’m just a tourist, a schlepper, if you will.

“Dennis Ross, however, is a career diplomat. He has tried to negotiate a two-state solution on behalf of Democratic and Republican Presidents.

“He has submitted written testimony on House Bill 949.

“It says, ‘Only two states for two peoples can fulfill the needs of both national movements. But BDS is promoting Palestinian national rights to the exclusion of Jewish national rights.’”

February 18 – Don’t reenact the wheel

When it comes to bill drafting, I’m very conservative.

If another state has adopted a law on the same topic, use it.

If that statute proves inadequate, you’ll have evidence to improve what we enacted.

When you’re proposing changes to existing law, tinker with that language instead of replacing it.

You don’t need to reenact the wheel.

Last year, Ken Birnbaum, a former neighborhood president in my district and an insurance agent, told me about a client who put on his application that he would be traveling to Israel to visit his son.

He was told there would be an exclusion on his life insurance policy for travel to Gaza and the West Bank, including the Old City of Jerusalem.

I introduced House Bill 803, which is modeled on a Colorado law. At today’s hearing, Ken and I testified in support of the bill, as did the lobbyists for the life insurance industry.

It should be smooth sailing from here.

But I won’t take that for granted.

Past and future travel

I thought we had already solved this problem.

Ken Birnbaum, a constituent, wrote me that one of his life insurance clients had been issued a policy denying coverage for future travel to Gaza or the West Bank.

I checked with legislative staff.

Ten years ago, we prohibited using an insured’s “past lawful travel” to deny coverage.

Ken was at the witness table beside me today, as was Muhammad Jameel, representing the Islamic Society of Baltimore. His mother lives in Pakistan.

Written testimony from Catholic Relief Services also helped us make the point that House Bill 352 would affect a broad group of consumers.

The bill would allow an insurance company to deny or limit coverage with respect to future travel where “there is an ongoing armed conflict involving the military of a sovereign nation foreign to the country of conflict.”

The life insurance industry proposed an amendment that would add “an active civil insurgency.”

The devil will be in the details.

September 7 – A very powerful statement, not a talking point

An op-ed and a tweet prompted me to put fingers to keyboard this week.

Former Governor Ehrlich’s weekly column in the Sun was about how President Obama would do in the Jewish community this November.

Here’s my letter to the editor:

Relations between the United States and Israel remain “as strong as they ever have been.”

That’s not a Democratic talking point.

That’s the view of the Israeli Finance Minister, Yuval Steinitz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party.

He expressed it Sunday morning before the weekly Cabinet meeting.

His words echo those of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, President Shimon Peres, and  Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who have all stated that the security relationship between Israel and U.S. has never been closer.

Former Governor Ehrlich offered a far different and misleading view of that relationship in his op-ed this past Sunday.

He did not acknowledge that the Obama administration has blocked every U.N. Security Council resolution that criticizes Israel.  He did not recognize the unprecedented American support for Israel’s defense through funding of the Iron Dome anti-missile system and joint military exercises.  He did not mention that the President is committed to preventing Iran from producing nuclear weapons, rejecting containment after the fact.

On the domestic front, Governor Ehrlich is far more perceptive.  Jewish Americans, he wrote, have “a distrust of conservative Republicans on a wide variety of social issues, including abortion, school prayer, social welfare and gun control.”

The operating budget is a government’s principal policy document.  Leaders of many faiths have condemned the budget authored by Congressman Paul Ryan and  praised as “bold and exciting” and “marvelous” by Mr. Romney.

“Justice for the poor and economic fairness are core elements of our church’s social teaching,” declared Father Thomas Kelly, a Catholic priest and constituent of Rep. Paul Ryan.

“We should not balance the federal budget on the backs of the most vulnerable; instead, we should be offering them support to help them get back on their feet and get our economy back on track,” echoed Rabbi Steve Gutow, President of The Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Governor Romney is a flip-flopper, transforming himself from a candidate to the left of Sen. Edward Kennedy in 1994 to a candidate whose party platform would outlaw abortion in any circumstance.

The Romney/Ryan ticket can try to run from their records on the issues, but they cannot hide from the truth.

People of all faiths can agree on that.

My letter was published.



I didn’t make it home from the Orioles game in time to hear the President’s acceptance speech.  But I did hear former McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt say that the Charlotte convention was a home run for the Democrats.

This morning, I read a tweet from David Nitkin, a top aide to Howard County Executive Ken Ullman.  “Asking for your [support] was a classy, important touch, and felt necessary.  You gotta ask. Rule 1 in elections.”

I responded, “I’ve done it as well when knocking on doors.  ‘I’m here to ask for your vote.’  A very powerful statement about democracy.”

  • My Key Issues:

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