By Barry Rascovar
January 9, 2014–QUICK THOUGHTS as the 2014 Maryland General Assembly session gets going and pols speak out, both in Annapolis and in Washington.
Dwyer’s Legislative Purgatory
Anne Arundel Del. Don Dwyer, a weekend jailbird, deserves no mercy.
He’s got a serious alcohol addiction that nearly resulted in multiple deaths on the road and on the water. He has forfeited the right to represent citizens in the state legislature.
House Speaker Mike Busch removed Dwyer from all committee assignments today. He still can vote on bills and participate in floor debates, but he’ll have no role shaping these bills in committee.
That’s strong disciplinary action, and Busch deserves credit for cracking down on a disreputable legislator. But more may be required.
Why does the disgraced Dwyer, who is doing jail time on weekends, remain in office, collecting his state salary? (Hint: He needs the money to pay his lawyer.)
The man’s a mess and needs to get out of the public spotlight.
He” remain embarrassment to the House of Delegates every time he casts a vote or speaks on the floor. Expulsion might be in order if Dwyer persists in sticking around.
O’Malley and Mary Jane
No one has put it better than Gov. Martin O’Malley in explaining why legalizing marijuana in Maryland is a very bad idea.
Use of this drug can be “a gateway to even worse behavior,” O’Malley says. Getting stoned on “Mary Jane” is no different from getting drunk. Adding another legal intoxicant is a great way to increase lethal driving and dangerous psychological and physical behavior.
After all, marijuana use can lead to memory loss, impact your motor skills, alter your ability to think clearly, increase your pulse rate, lower your blood pressure and harm your liver, lungs and heart.
With O’Malley and Speaker Busch skeptical of recreational marijuana use, you can forget about this issue this session — though gubernatorial candidate Del. Heather Mizeur already is trying to win the youth vote by touting the alleged benefits of legalization.
Weekend Work for Judges?
How nice of Chief District Judge Ben Clyburn to recommend more judges be added to handle an onslaught of bail review hearings in place of court commissioners. Let’s name it the “Judicial Full Employment Act of 2014.”
But Judge Clyburn didn’t call for his fellow District Court judges to extend themselves too much. Under his task force’s plan, no judge would have to work weekends to handle bail reviews. Commissioners would still assume that job.
So people arrested on weekdays would go before a judge for bail review, accompanied by a lawyer, but on Saturdays and Sundays a lower-level hire, a court commissioner, would decide the temporary fate of inmates.
It’s an absurd idea.
If judges are going to take over bail review, it’s got to be an all-or-nothing plan.
When I started as a reporter at The Baltimore Sun, I worked weekends covering police and fire stories, including Saturday and Sunday morning District Court hearings presided over by a judge, not a commissioner.
It’s time for the judges to take the appropriate step and reinstitute weekend court not only for bail review cases but for other matters, too.
No other solution works — even if it inconveniences those who applied in the first place to become members of the judiciary.
Want to look like a million? Work as a Maryland lobbyist.
Last year, lobbying in Annapolis resulted in payments to “legislative representatives” of $32 million. Indeed, the Top Ten lobbyists averaged over $1.1 million apiece.
Not bad, considering that in my reporting years in Annapolis the “King of the Lobbyists,” the white-maned, expensively suited Jimmy Doyle, gained headlines when he cracked the $100,000 barrier.
Doyle was a classy professional. He had integrity. His presentations before committees were marvels of legal and practical logic, couched in terms the densest legislator could grasp. He was one of the best at wining and dining lawmakers, too.
Are today’s lobbyists ten or 20 times better than James J. Doyle Jr.? Or is it a matter of inflation lifting all lobbyists’ boats?
I opt for the latter explanation.
Bob Gates’ Gaff
Turning to the Nation’s Capital, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates stirred a hornet’s nest with his tell-all book about working with White House occupants.
Gates didn’t hold back in excoriating President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for distrusting the military and thinking too often like politicians instead of statesmen.
Yet when Gates felt the two had gone too far in their comments, he stifled his anger.
In the process, he committed the greatest sin of all.
Think how history might have been altered if Gates had the courage to “speak truth to power.”
What if he had privately counseled Obama to show greater confidence in his country’s military leaders?
What if Gates had taken Biden aside and given him a well-deserved dressing-down?
Instead, Gates held his tongue.
By doing so, he forfeited his chance to make a difference. Sometimes the correct course is to tell the emperor he has no clothes.
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