First Click -- Maryland
Your daily download of Maryland's top political news and analysis
Wednesday, March 10, 2010:
Attempt to impeach Gansler a jest without a court
As Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) arrived in Annapolis on Tuesday, Del. Don H. Dwyer Jr. (R-Anne Arundel) was holding a news conference to say he's prepared to be physically removed from the House of Delegates should Democrats try to squash his attempt to impeach Gansler for directing Maryland state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
Dwyer's vow brought a whole new meaning to Gansler's quip last month that "Dwyer is welcome to have his Homer Stokes moment at any time." (Picture the "cast-the-first-stone" politician carried out near the end of '"O Brother Where Art Thou?" for ridiculing the Soggy Bottom Boys).
But I digress. With Gansler having not yet drawn a serious challenger to his re-election bid, Dwyer has made himself the point man on all things anti-Gansler and anti-gay marriage. He's criticized the attorney general for attempting an "end-run of the legislature" and charged that Gansler was incapable of writing an objective opinion on the matter after he became Maryland's first statewide officeholder to speak in favor of same-sex unions in 2008.
Aside from handfuls of supportive constituents, Dwyer has so far stood alone at news conferences such as Tuesday's with no cast of fellow Republicans or any of the state's many socially conservative lawmakers by his side. That has raised questions about whether or not his would be the only vote for impeachment if it comes to that. Yet through either the sheer shock value of the possibility of impeachment or the lack of other vocal opponents, Dwyer's events have drawn widespread media attention.
His efforts promise to continue to make waves and a spectacle on March 31 -- the day he's primed television reporters to have their cameras rolling when he "won't go down without a fight" when he stands to read articles of impeachment.
Problems for Dwyer's plan, however, emerged on Tuesday. He has repeatedly cited Article III of the state's Constitution, saying the House has "sole power of impeachment in all cases." And last week he ridiculed an assistant attorney general's hastily written letter when House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) sought ammunition to rule Dwyer out of order, should he begin impeachment protocol.
A fuller legal review released Tuesday by another assistant attorney general shows the House of Delegates likely has little power to remove a sitting attorney general without a "conviction in a Court of Law" for neglect of duty or other crimes. Separation of powers provisions designed to insulate the attorney general from the whims of state lawmakers trumps the blanket House impeachment authority that Dwyer has used as the basis for his argument, the review states.
So, without a court conviction and little if any legal leg for Dwyer to stand on, Busch will likely rule the impeachment attempt frivolous, and the effort could fizzle within minutes on March 31.
One question that could remain long after, however, is whether the headlines from Dwyer's antics effectively plant a seed with conservative voters that there was something inherently wrong with Gansler's ruling that should be corrected in November.
News You Should Know
Nation's governors to propose learning standards
"The nation's governors and state school chiefs will propose standards Wednesday for what students should learn in English and math, from kindergarten through high school, a crucial step in President Obama's campaign to raise academic standards across the country," reports The Post's Nick Anderson. "The blueprint aims to replace a hodgepodge of state benchmarks with common standards. The president has aggressively encouraged the states' action as a key to improving troubled schools and keeping the nation competitive. ... Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) predicted his state would adopt the common standards. He said that he was struck by the level of Republican support for the idea."
Bill overhauling child-support guidelines heads to House
"The Maryland Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the first overhaul of child support guidelines in the state since 1989," reports The Post's John Wagner. "Under the legislation, which passed 43 to 2, the schedule used by courts to determine child support obligations would be updated to reflect more current economic realities. In some cases, noncustodial parents would pay significantly more each month than those with similar incomes do now. Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery), the bill's chief sponsor, said the change would result in 'more money going to children' in most cases. 'These guidelines have stayed fixed for 22 years,' Frosh said. 'They're too low.'"
Expansion of O'Malley tax credit meets resistance
"The governor's bid to expand a popular tax credit for rehabilitating old buildings faces resistance from key House leaders, who worry that a broader program would be too costly during tough fiscal times," writes The Baltimore Sun's Annie Linskey. "Gov. Martin O'Malley wants to loosen restrictions on the current heritage tax credit -- which may now be applied only to historic buildings -- so it may be used to fund renovations of newer structures located in densely developed areas."
$145,000 salary of Veterans' chief of staff draws scrutiny
UPDATE: MarylandReporter.com has run a significant CORRECTION to this story.
"The Senate budget committee chairman said he expects the panel to approve the continued payment of the $145,000 salary of the chief of staff for the secretary of Veterans Affairs, despite a staff recommendation to cut the new post that pays 80 percent more than the salary of the secretary himself," reports Erich Wagner at MarylandReporter.com. "But a delegate vowed to challenge the payment as the budget moves through House Appropriations Committee. Jerry Boden, former chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, became chief of staff for Secretary Edward Chow last year. When he moved, he kept his salary of $145,000, almost twice Chow's $80,160 salary. It is the only new position added to the 77-person department in the last two years."
Lawmakers push pension requirement to help bioscience sector
"Lawmakers are trying to require that $50 million of Maryland's pension money be invested in up-and-coming bioscience and green technology companies, which the pension fund's managers say are risky, low-return investments," reports Hayley Peterson in The Examiner. "The legislation sponsored by Del. Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery), a long-time advocate of expanding Maryland's biotech industry, would require the state pension fund to invest in venture capital funds that focus on information technology, green technology, bioscience and medical devices. It also would require the venture capital funds to invest in state companies."
Compromise reached on storm runoff bill
"Maryland officials have agreed to make developer-friendly changes in a law that requires new building projects to reduce the pollution that rain washes off their roofs and parking lots," writes The Post's David Fahrenthold. "The changes -- which provide a loophole for some incomplete projects -- are the result of a compromise between environmental groups, developers and local government officials. The deal, brokered by state legislators, appeared to head off attempts in Annapolis to weaken the rules even further."
"Thank you for coming. It's always a pleasure. See, I know there's some controversy coming when I see you."
-- Sen. Bryan W. Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel) beginning his questioning of Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D), who was testifying on Tuesday in support of a bill to end political elections of Circuit Court Judges.
Judicial elections "are the only campaigns where you will see someone put their opponent's picture on the literature. 'So here's the African American who's your judge. I'm the guy who's not African American. I'd like to be your judge,' and of course, they're successful."
-- Gansler explaining how race has become a factor undermining the tenures of Circuit Court Judges who face competitive elections
You're invited on Thursday to meet the reporters and editors behind The Washington Post's Maryland Politics Facebook page -- as well as some of our 5,000 or so fans. Cash bar and food available. We can promise plenty of lively conversation and interesting people.
Where: Harry Brownes, 66 State Circle, Annapolis, Md.
When: Thursday, March 11th, 5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Trust First Click for critical news and analysis you need to navigate Maryland politics. Each weekday, First Click brings you The Agenda, a concise, forward-looking analysis of the day's top development in politics or policy. "News You Should Know" breaks down top stories from across the state. And Look Ahead, Unspun, News Makers, and Week in Review keep you up to speed with power brokers in Annapolis and beyond. Want First Click on the go? Sign up for our free e-mail edition, and get the news delivered to your inbox or mobile device.
Aaron C. Davis
March 10, 2010; 6:45 AM ET
Categories: Aaron C. Davis , First Click , John Wagner
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