Waiting For Election Day In Maryland


What can we expect to learn by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning?

We might find out if Maryland is truly a one-party state. 

Or we might at least discover if Maryland is as Blue as both Democrats and Republicans pretend. Maybe the state is actually more like Purple.

We could confirm that voters are totally disconnected from politics this year.  Continue reading

Minimum Wage Increase Passes In Maryland, O’Malley Will Sign It

Tuesday morning, Gov. Martin O’Malley sent out an email recap of the 2014 General Assembly, highlighting bills that he will enthusiastically sign into law. He didn’t mention the bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, but I believe he will most likely sign that one too.  — John

middle class

Below is the text of O’Malley’s email message. I’ve put some of the key words in bold text:

Yesterday afternoon, the State House voted to raise Maryland’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

This effort — which has now passed both chambers — is the culmination of a lot of hard hard work to forge consensus and bring people together to give hundreds of thousands of our friends, neighbors, and family members a well-deserved raise.

I will sign it enthusiastically — because no one who works full time should have to raise their family in poverty.

Yesterday also marked the conclusion of Maryland’s 2014 legislative session. Strengthening and growing our middle class was the North Star of our work — both in this session and for the past seven and a half years — and I’m pleased to report that we took meaningful action this year to move our State forward:

– We passed a bill to expand Pre-Kindergarten for 1,600 children in low-income families because investments in early childhood education make a huge difference throughout a person’s life.

– I’ll sign a comprehensive package to strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence, furthering our work to keep families safe. Since 2007, we’ve driven down the rate of female and juvenile homicide in Maryland, and this year’s effort builds on that work.

– Maryland’s Wildlands are critical to preserving and protecting the last untouched landscapes and waterways of our great State. As Marylanders, we have a duty to ensure that these open spaces can be enjoyed by future generations and that is why we passed this measure to expand our State’s Wildlands by 50%.

– We passed a responsible budget that invests in job creation and innovation, expands opportunity, strengthens our State’s middle class and puts us on a path to eliminate our inherited structural deficit by 2017. And we did it without raising any taxes or fees.

These accomplishments did not happen by chance — they happened by choice.

Hope drives belief. Belief drives action. And action achieves results. We achieved together this legislative session, and I thank you for your help moving Maryland forward.

All the best,

Martin O’Malley
Governor, Maryland

A quick graphic look at the Maryland budget dollar.

A quick graphic look at the Maryland budget dollar.

Marijuana Decriminalization Passes In Maryland, Awaits O’Malley’s Decision

Maryland State flag

John Hayden photo

I’m surprised but pleased that even in an election year, the Maryland General Assembly was able to take action on significant issues in the session that ends Monday.

An important but controversial marijuana decriminalization bill finally passed the House of Delegates on Saturday, 78-55. Now, gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur and others are pressing Gov. Martin O’Malley to sign the bill into law. O’Malley has not yet committed himself one way or the other.

“Today’s passage of marijuana decriminalization in the House is a huge first step towards slowing down and ultimately ending our state’s failed war on drugs,” Mizeur said Saturday.

“We snatched victory from the jaws of defeat because we understood the urgency behind the need to act this year. Our marijuana prohibition laws have been a failure and are ruining people’s lives. I urge Governor O’Malley to follow the will of the people and sign this legislation into law,” she said.

The other two Democratic candidates for governor, Lt. Gov. Andrew Brown and Attorney Gen. Doug Gansler, have also indicated support for decriminalization. But Del. Mizeur has been one of the leading proponents for marijuana reform in the House of Delegates. Over the past several days Mizeur’s campaign sent out requests by social media and email, urging supporters to call their delegates to urge passage of marijuana decriminalization.

Decriminalization is a sort of half-way step, following up on acceptance of medical marijuana by removing the criminal stigma for possession of small amounts of pot. A civil fine would be imposed, rather than a criminal conviction. Differences in the amounts of fines remain to be ironed out between the House and State Senate.

Maryland delegates and senators clearly are not yet ready to take the big step of legalizing recreational use of marijuana, as Colorado and Washington State have. However, the Maryland bill would result in a more uniform regional approach, since the D.C. government has already decriminalized possession of up to one ounce of pot.

I believe the General Assembly’s measured deliberation over the past few sessions demonstrates an appropriately serious approach to a major and controversial change in marijuana law. Maryland is not rushing headlong to be at the front of the line of states legalizing recreational use of marijuana, but neither are we stubbornly refusing to make step-by-step reforms in the law. Decriminalization in Maryland, if signed by O’Malley, would protect many young people from an unnecessary criminal record, which often limits opportunities for jobs, housing, even marriage. What exactly is the advantage to society of labeling people as criminals for minor offenses?

Some political sidelights on passage of the marijuana decriminalization bill:  Mizeur is a rising star in the Maryland Democratic Party, along with Del. Keiffer Mitchell, also a leading sponsor of the bill.

“We’re sending the message that we’re not going to allow small amounts of marijuana possession to ruin the lives of our young people,” said Mitchell, according to The Washington Post.

It’s a message that will likely resonate in Mitchell’s Baltimore district, where he faces opposition in the Democratic primary. Mitchell already has the advantage of a historic and respected last name in Baltimore politics, as well as experience on the City Council. A strong win in the 2014 election could propel him to a State Senate seat or even a congressional seat at some point in the future. Mayor, governor or U.S. senator? The Baltimore region has other ambitious and promising leaders, but I suspect Mitchell is a prospect who could run well statewide.

On the other hand, I think passage of the bill indicates Del. Joseph Vallario’s star is setting. Vallario has over-stayed his welcome as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (my opinion only). He opposed the marijuana bill and tried to block it. But a critical mass of delegates pried the measure lose, forcing Vallario to get out of the way.

— John Hayden

Montgomery County, MD, Candidates Needed As Filing Deadline Looms

(My apologies to District 39 for leaving them out of my original report. Thanks to Cheryl Kagan for calling that to my attention. It’s particularly embarrassing to me because I made the same error on my other blog several years ago, leaving out a MoCo legislative district. Sen. Madaleno caught it that time. I have to keep reminding myself that we had a district added due to population growth somewhere along the line. Was it after the 1990 Census or the 2000 Census? Also, it wasn’t so long ago (in dog years) that District 14 was mostly in Howard County. When I was a precinct chairman in prehistoric times, MoCo had six legislative districts, and The City was still the legislative powerhouse.)


MARYLAND STATE AND COUNTY ELECTIONS are approaching fast, with some offices still lacking for candidates. Let’s take a snapshot of democracy in one Maryland county a scant five months ahead of the June 2014 primary.

As I write this, we have 11 working days left for candidates to file for office, and lots of offices to choose from. The deadline is Wednesday, February 25, at 9 p.m.

Where are the candidates?

In Montgomery County, we’re governed by a nine-member County Council. At the close of business Friday, we had exactly six candidates filed to run for nine Council seats. We’ll take a closer at the County Council situation in a minute. Continue reading

Maryland General Assembly Lame-Duck Session, 2014

Maryland State flag

John Hayden photo

The Maryland General Assembly is back in session is open for business as usual in Annapolis. I’m having a hard time making myself care.

All eyes are on the Democratic primary in June. The politicians are full of energy — all of it directed at collecting campaign contributions.

But they have to stop fundraising, now that the session has started, and I doubt they have the heart to do anything of substance over the next 90 days.

It’s truly difficult to imagine this lame-duck Assembly, with a lame-duck governor gazing at the White House, doing anything other than image repair.

Am I getting cynical in my old age, or what?

Continue reading

Maryland’s Political Divide Part 2, Gun Control

MD flag 2

If you haven’t read Part 1 of this series, you can find it here.

The House of Delegates gun control vote yesterday, 78-61, looks strangely familiar. It’s nearly a carbon copy of the recent gas tax vote, 76-63. What’s up with that?

If you think Maryland is a deep-blue state with an invincible Democratic majority, those two votes seem hard to explain. Democrats hold a majority, 98-43, in the House of Delegates.

But looking closer, it’s clear that Maryland isn’t immune from the blue-red divide afflicting the rest of America. Far from it.  Continue reading

Maryland’s Political Divide Part 1, Gas Tax

MD flag 2


The vote on the gasoline tax in the Maryland House of Delegates gives us an interesting snapshot of the political balance in Maryland, a state considered to be among the bluest of the blue. The picture might not exactly match the popular perception.  Continue reading