From Del. Wayne Norman
April 2, 2013
Thank you for having contacted me in Annapolis on an issue of importance to you. As I prepare this end of Session letter for 2013, I ask that you keep in mind that there is still one week to go until the last day of the Session (“sine die”), which comes at midnight, Monday, April 8th. A lot can happen in the next week, and some of the points I’ve mentioned may change at the last minute. That happens a lot in Annapolis.
Without a doubt, the most controversial issue in the Legislature this year is the Governor’s Gun Bill, Senate Bill 281. Thousands have come to the Capitol to express their displeasure with this measure, which they view as an affront to our Second Amendment rights. I was able to speak with many Harford Countians who came down to the Capitol to let their feelings be known. In my time in Annapolis, I have never talked to as many people, or received as many e-mails or letters on one particular issue, as I have on the gun bill. I have worked and argued against the bill as an infringement on one of our basic Constitutional rights. I have heard the other side argue that our forefathers intended the Second Amendment to protect my ownership of a “musket” but never an AR-15, which they could never have contemplated. Using their logic, the right to freedom of speech would not extend to computer e-mails or cell phones as these were never considered by Jefferson, Adams or the other great patriots who established this country. The Committee debate on the bill went long into the night on Good Friday, and it will continue in the House this last week.
The death penalty in Maryland has come and gone. It was repealed by a House vote of 82 to 56. It has been replaced with “Life Without Parole” as the harshest penalty available for a convicted murder, even with indisputable DNA evidence for the most heinous crimes. Like the gun bill, I voted against the repeal of the death penalty. While the ultimate penalty has not been used in Maryland for years, I believe it should remain an option for the “worst of the worst.” This bill is a disservice to law enforcement and correctional officers across the State, and a terrible injustice to the victims and their survivors.
In a very close vote (76-63), the House approved a measure to raise the tax on gasoline and also increased registration fees for vehicles. Under this bill, we could be paying an extra 20 cents by mid 2016 on just one gallon of gasoline! My family’s vehicle holds 20 gallons and that is an extra $4 on each and every tankful! This extra tax is expected to yield as much as $4.4 BILLION DOLLARS in just 6 years. Large chunks of this money are being directed to urban mass transit projects such as the Purple Line trolley system and for an overly-expensive transit project in Montgomery County. I like and support good roads as much as anyone, but I had to vote against this bill. There is no guarantee that this gas tax money will be used for roads. In fact, this fund has been a major victim of previous money grabs in the recent past. The economy remains weak in Maryland and people are being taxed out of the State. This is not the time to burden Marylanders with an extra tax, especially on gasoline. Gas prices have tripled in the last 12 years, and now they will increase much further.
On a high note (pun intended), the Senate voted 30 to 16 to decriminalize possession of 10 grams or less of pot. The Senate would make it a $100 ticket for simple possession. That measure is now in the House. On a similar note, the House approved “medical marijuana” by a vote of 108-28 just last week. If signed in to law, medical marijuana dispensaries could be doing business in Maryland by 2016. I expect that both of these measures will be signed into law by the Governor and we will join 18 other states where medical marijuana is now legal. In my opinion, possession of marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and we risk losing federal funding by enacting this legislation before the federal statutes are changed.
I serve on the Environmental Matters Committee and one of my sub-committees is Transportation. This Sub-Committee was charged with reviewing the speed camera disaster across the State, particularly in Baltimore City. I opposed these systems back when they were first discussed. Recently, cars in Baltimore have actually been ticketed for speeding while they were standing still. This session we have had numerous hearings on these automated systems and the millions-upon-millions of dollars that they generate, and the final version of a corrective bill is still being debated. I continue to oppose the use of these devices and am thankful that we do not implement such systems in Harford County.
There have been dozens of other bills that have been passed and just as many that have been killed. There are far too many to comment on in a single letter. Please call my office or e-mail me on any issue that is important to you. It is my job to be your interface with the government. I cannot guarantee that I will have an answer that you like, but I do guarantee that what you hear from me will be the truth.
Thank you for allowing me to represent you and to be of service.