The Devil in The Details
Sunday, as the sun was setting and the speed camera referendum was going down in flames, it was rumored that you could hear music coming from both Government House and the Senate President’s office in Annapolis. Those in attendance, it was said, were reveling in the fact that public referendums in Maryland are almost impossible.
The song said to be reverberating from Government House was the 1975 hit by Rock and Roll Hall of Famers: The O’Jays – “For Love of Money;” a fantastic song with that Philadelphia soul sound. It is apparently a perfect tune for Gov. Martin O’Malley to funk through the mansion in joyous celebration that the cash producing speed cameras would soon be to the revenue rescue.
Across the street Senate President Mike Miller’s office was rumored to be chilling to Pink Floyd’s “Dark side of the Moon” album constantly repeating the song “Money.” It was easy to picture Senator Miller, feet kicked back on the desk, smiling, enjoying the opening lyrics of cash registers ringing and loose change jingling.
Man, life must be sweet for a Democrat power broker in Maryland.
However, they both deserved the celebration. They crammed a bill though two chambers that would be a cash cow for the state. They wrapped it up in the disguise of public safety, arm twisted a few cronies and shazam! Now they have big brother cashing in on a new “tax” for motorists.
Why did the petition to referendum fall short? Over the course of four weeks almost everyone who was asked signed on the dotted line. What happened?
First and foremost, Maryland’s law concerning citizens petitioning to referendum is arduous and confusing at best. Argument can be made that Maryland is the hardest state for citizens to petition anything to referendum, thus meaning we are the state where citizen voices are heard the least.
This is due to the fact we live in a single party dominate state; again the same scenario where the fox is watching the hen house. Working the street for signatures, explaining petition-to-referendum to average citizens, was a lesson in government. Most thought they actually had a voice and a right to petition anything.
All were shocked to learn the specific rules of how they had to sign in a specific manner. (Thanks to Montgomery County.) They wanted to blame the current system on their legislators. However, come election time, most will continue to vote party lines. They will choose an incumbent and forget their lack of voice to petition. The public has the memory of a gnat and everyone in office knows this fact.
Another problem was that few legislators lead the charge to over-turn this piece of legislation. Sure, some did and they will later be rewarded. But most choose to lay low after 90 days of hassles in Annapolis and prior arguments on this bill in late session. Guess the passion doesn’t extend outside State Circle.
Those who did work the streets have found they have many new friends who are potential donors and will surely vote for them next time, regardless of party lines. Legislators on the street were thanked for the hard work and the extra effort in taking the issue to the public. This was a smart move for those gallant fighters who participated in the petition drive.
For legislative members who set on the sidelines…this is an issue which will replay over and over as citizens are fined from October 2009 right up to the time of re-election. For those greedy legislators who voted favorable on this bill, everyone will remember… and the speed camera itself will make sure of that.
Last, the timing was terrible for recruiting volunteers. The four weeks encompassed Mother’s Day, Memorial Day weekend, Preakness Week and several college graduations. There was never a good time that organizations could work at full force, with nose to the grind stone, to collect the 17,883 signatures needed for the first round.
For the faithful who worked the doors, stood on the streets and waded through the random weekend festivals, they should be commended. They fought a good fight against a terrible bill that will take another small piece of liberty away from Maryland’s citizens and charge them $40 each time it is taken.
One day the citizens of Maryland, both Democrat and Republican alike, will wake up and realize we have fewer freedoms than our neighboring states. One day some political phenomenon will occur and the voting booths in Maryland will scream for real change. Single party dominance will cease; term limits will occur; and petition-to-referendum will become a tool for the people.
Until then, celebratory music will waft from the historic buildings of Annapolis, and Democrat leaders will just lean back and smile.
By the way – The O’Jay’s first album was: “Back Stabbers.” Think about that!