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Governing and Electing: Different Species of Political Animals

The General Assembly adjourns; Marylanders finally get to vote

The oceanic roar of political passions in the presidential primaries perhaps deafened you to the estuarine rumble of the Maryland General Assembly.
    But an energy reading of Annapolis would show a precipitous drop after April 12, as our 188 elected representatives and the lobbyists who throng them retreated after another Assembly’s end.
    For 90 days starting the second Wednesday in January, the capitol throbs with the business of making laws. This year, 2,817 bills were considered; 834 become laws. In a marathon on April 12, Gov. Larry Hogan signed 106 into law.
    Most affect an individual life in small ways, as will this year’s revision of Maryland divorce law allowing uncontested divorce without a witness to a couple’s separation of at least a year.
    What will be the biggest legislative deal of 2016?
    In the long shadow of Freddie Gray’s death, Baltimore gets millions to reduce urban blight.
    Noah’s Law makes a sentimental favorite, memorializing a young officer killed in the line of duty — and perhaps saving many more on the roads — by expanding the range of convicted drunk drivers bound to use ignition locks.
    Environmentally, we’ve agreed to further reduce greenhouse gasses by 2030. Oysters in the wild come a step closer to gaining protection as a regulated fishery. Still, there’s no spotlight environmental success this year, when once again disposable plastic bags survived a legislative ban. But from that sector comes a measure of how hard it is to make a bill into law.
    Maryland League of Conservation Voters reports organizing more than 6,750 emails and over 8,000 phone calls to legislators for the sake of environmental legislation. “Environmental voters also showed up in force on Lawyers’ Mall, in committee hearings and legislators’ offices in the hundreds to rally for our healthy environment and future,” said Executive Director Karla Raettig.
    That number includes a swarm of human bees in favor of more pesticide controls.
    From concept to the General Assembly — even to fail — takes a massive effort. For legislation moves by consensus, and ideas draw virulent opponents as readily as they do enthusiastic supporters.
    A bill with the name Maryland Healthy Working Families Act surely must have been loved by at least some of its 80-plus sponsors, including Anne Arundel Delegates Mark Chang and Ted Sophocleus.
    But to Calvert Del. Mark Fisher, it was one front of “Maryland’s War on Work.”
    Fierce as are the tempests that rage in the General Assembly, the storms roil few citizens — but the hyper-committed. In terms of fans, lawmaking is not prime-time material. Too much head-scratching and back-slapping, plus listening and thinking.
    Politicking is a lot more dramatic, particularly presidential, and particularly this year. With Maryland’s late primary, we have had to get our electoral thrills vicariously. Finally, it’s our turn.
    Early voting opens April 14 and continues through April 21. For the first time this year, you can register to vote at every early polling place, all open 10am to 8pm. To register, bring your MVA-issued license, ID card or change of address card, or your paycheck, bank statement, utility bill or other government document with your name and address. Find your closest at ­www.elections.state.md.us/voting/early_voting_sites/2016_EARLY_VOTING_SITES.pdf.
    As this is a primary election, you must vote by party — Democratic or Republican — for president, senator and congress-person and delegates to your party’s national convention. Candidates for judge in Anne Arundel and School Board in Calvert run independent of party, so all voters can weigh in on them in
    If you’d rather vote with your neighbors, Election Day is Tuesday, April 26. Polls are open 7am to 8pm.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com