Maryland, Are You Being Served By Your Elected State Officials?
Are you being served by your elected officials in Annapolis? Could those elected officials be more interested in a political agenda than serving their constituents? Since we are talking about Maryland it is more likely that the elected official is a Democrat because Democrats far outnumber Republicans 2 to 1. You will have to judge if this is acceptable for yourself.
Take redistricting. Redistricting is the process by which new congressional and legislative district boundaries are drawn. District lines are redrawn every 10 years following completion of the United States Census. The federal government stipulates that districts must have nearly equal populations and must not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity.
Following the 2010 United States Census, Maryland was apportioned eight congressional districts and 47 legislative districts. In Maryland, the primary authority to draw both congressional and state legislative district lines rests with the state legislature. With a majority of Democrats in the General Assembly (at the time 98 were Democrats out of 141 in the House and 35 were Democrats out of 47 in the Senate), the redrawn political map continued the practice of gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is the process of legislators drawing odd-shaped district boundaries to favor the political party in power. On October 20, 2011 Maryland’s 2012 congressional districts took effect and on February 24, 2012, the legislative districts took effect. Maryland's congressional districts have been widely criticized as favoring Democrats, who hold seven of eight seats in the House of Representatives and both seats in the U.S. Senate.
Maryland's congressional and legislative district lines are all over the place. Too often a citizen's representatives change, not due to a move or a new election, but to redistricting. People of the same county are typically separated. This dilutes the voice of the citizens. When redistricting, there needs to be direct correlation between county, state legislative and congressional districts.
Take a look at Congressional District 3, which The Washington Post called it the nation's second-most gerrymandered district. District 3 has portions of Montgomery, Howard, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties and parts of Baltimore City. Now what do they have in common? Pockets of Democrat voters; yes, pockets of Democrat voters. So the politicians in power are picking the voters and not the other way around. Where does that leave the residents in District 3? Essentially they have no representation. They have a congressman that most likely does not live in their area and only wants their votes every 2 years.
Republican Governor Larry Hogan and good government advocates argue a nonpartisan commission should be created to draw districts that more fairly represent the political leanings of a geographic area. So the Governor put forward a bill that would allow a nonpartisan group of citizens to redraw Maryland’s 47 legislative districts and 8 congressional districts with more equitable boundaries to countermand the highly gerrymandered districts that currently exist. The Democrats in the General Assembly killed Hogan's plan to take away lawmakers' power to draw congressional and legislative districts. Instead, the Maryland General Assembly proposed changes to Maryland’s redistricting process. The bill—which passed the House 87-51 and the Senate 30-16, largely along democrat party lines—sought to establish an independent redistricting panel that would be responsible for drawing the boundary lines for congressional and state legislative districts in Maryland. However, enactment of the bill would require passage of the same legislation in five other states, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina.
On May 8, 2017, Governor Larry Hogan vetoed this legislation. "We decided we're not going to wait for other states to act," the Republican governor said. "Instead of choosing fairness and real nonpartisan reform, they pushed through a phony bill masquerading as redistricting reform," Hogan said. "It was nothing more than a political ploy designed with one purpose in mind: To ensure that real redistricting reform would never actually happen in Maryland."
Assembly leadership—Senate President Thomas Mike Miller (D) and House Speaker Michael Busch(D)—released a joint statement in reaction to Hogan’s veto, saying, “Today's veto reveals that, instead of supporting a true, nonpartisan solution that could restore accountability and cooperation to Washington, Governor Hogan prefers his plan to simply elect more Republicans to Congress.” Really? State Senator Jim Brochin, a Democrat who represents a conservative part of Baltimore County, crossed party lines to vote against the Democrats' bill. Brochin, who appeared alongside Hogan at the news conference where he announced the veto, said he knows Maryland's districts are gerrymandered simply by looking at his own. "It's a great district. I love it. But is it fair?" he said. "No, it's not fair at all."
A lawsuit filed in 2013 challenged Maryland’s contorted congressional district map on First Amendment grounds. The plaintiffs alleged that state officials redrew Maryland’s congressional districts based on party registration and voting histories. In his disposition, former Maryland Democrat Governor, Martin O'Malley, who was in office when the lines were last drawn in 2010, stated "It was also my intent to create … a district where the people would be more likely to elect a Democrat than a Republican." Senate President Thomas Miller, in his deposition, repeatedly denied that politics influenced how the lines were drawn. Asked if he personally wanted to maximize the Democratic advantage in the districts, Miller flatly stated “no.” I wonder who is right. The plaintiffs are asking a three-judge panel to prevent the state from enforcing its current congressional map. Attorneys expect a bench trial this summer.
The next redistricting process will take place after the 2020 census.
So the Democrats seek enactment of the bill if five other states, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina concur. Now hold that thought.
In 2015 the General Assembly passed the Environment - Hydraulic Fracturing - Regulations (SB 409 and HB449). I quote “Requiring the Department of the Environment to adopt regulations to provide for the hydraulic fracturing of a well for the exploration or production of natural gas in the State on or before October 1, 2016; while prohibiting specified regulations, and issuing permits for fracking until a year later.” Essentially the bill banned fracking for two and a half years, and required the state to write standards to regulate the practice for when the ban lifts. Governor Larry Hogan allowed the bill to become law without signing or vetoing it. So on June 1, 2015, legislation went forward to put a moratorium on fracking in Maryland until October 1, 2017.
In this year’s legislation this bill was completely overridden when the General Assembly passed another bill that bans fracking in the state altogether. The Oil and Natural Gas - Hydraulic Fracturing – Prohibition bill was approved in the Senate on a 35-10 vote and the House of Delegates on a 97-40 vote mostly along Democrat party lines.
The drilling industry, which had hoped to tap the state’s portion of the Marcellus Shale basin, said the fracking ban will hurt the Maryland's economy. “This politically-motivated decision moves Maryland further away from the state’s economic and environmental goals,” Drew Cobbs, executive director of the Maryland Petroleum Council, said in a statement. “Denying Maryland consumers, businesses and job-seekers the benefits that come with in-state energy production through hydraulic fracturing shuts the door on an important share in the American energy renaissance and Western Maryland’s future economic growth.”
Maryland became one of three states in the country to formally block fracking. But next to New York which instituted a similar ban in 2015, other states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina don’t ban fracking. By extension, taking the solution from the redistricting bill that the democratic-controlled General Assembly passed, one could argue that Maryland should follow suit and allow fracking. Does the word hypocrite come to mind?
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So are you being served by your elected officials in Annapolis? Are those elected officials more interested in a political agenda than serving their constituents? Sure they are by just examining the above examples. When the Democrats have a monopoly in the state they can and do get away with it.
Governor Hogan's redistricting bill was voted down again this year on a party-line vote. Hopefully, Governor Hogan will get a chance to lead redistricting in 2021 after the 2020 census is complete and all 50 states undertake this decennial charge. The current process deprives Marylanders of real choices and a fair political debate. Voters should choose their representatives instead of politicians choosing their voters.