From the office of Del. Mary-Dulany James:
I want to report on two major developments, one here in Annapolis and the other from Washington, D.C. Both affect us back home. The first is that along with several other legislators, we were able to step in and stop a bill by the Governor that would have effectively banned septic systems in Maryland and more importantly would have caused more serious economic harm and loss of jobs in the private sector. The second is that the Supreme Court finally rendered a decision in Snyder v. Phelps, and while the Court did not rule in favor of Corporal Snyder’s parents to recover damages for the Westboro Baptist Church’s hateful speech, both the majority of the Court and the dissent did not overrule Maryland’s funeral protection law that I passed in 2006.
Creating Private Sector Jobs
After the military and medicine, construction and building trades are our area’s largest employers and the hardest hit in this recession and jobless recovery. So, it was stunning for me to hear for the first time in the Governor’s State of the State Address that he intended to further harm this business area by banning septic tanks completely. Therefore, in response, I, along with Delegates John Bohanan, Galen Clagett, Norman Conway, Steven DeBoy, Sally Jameson, and David Rudolph, expressed our serious concern with HB 1107/SB 846 that would prohibit new developments that use a septic system rather than a publicly owned sewage system. The harm to new development projects during this time of economic hardship would be far too detrimental to economic recovery in the area. The bill is now going to be studied for at least a year, so that all the affected businesses, towns, and environmental groups can work on a better approach. I am pleased that this letter brought this about. This is a win for the non-urban counties of Maryland that stood to be substantially handicapped by the bill. Please see the letter to Chairwoman McIntosh below attached.
Protecting the Bereaved
In other news this week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of the Westboro Baptist Church whose members protested at the Maryland funeral of a Marine Corps Corporal who was killed in Iraq. The Court found that the church’s speech is protected despite its heinous and hurtful nature. As I detail in the below press release, the opinion did not overrule Maryland’s funeral protection law that I passed in 2006. I am pleased because I think the opinion leaves room for laws and regulations that protect against certain kinds of speech in specific situations like a funeral. Please see the press release of March 4, 2011 below attached.
I hope these updates help to keep you up to date with what I am doing here in Annapolis. I look forward to hearing from you on the issues that are most important to you. When you are in Annapolis please stop by!
Very truly yours,
Attachments to Weekly Update:
The Honorable Maggie McIntosh
Chair, Environmental Matters Committee
251 House Office Building
Annapolis, MD 21401
Dear Chairman McIntosh:
We write to express significant concern about The Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2011 (House Bill 1107/Senate Bill 846). Over the past few weeks, this legislation has received growing public attention and support from environmental advocates and Governor O’Malley. In talking with some of our colleagues, local officials and businesses across the State, we are concerned about the impact that this legislation could have as Maryland begins to recover from the global recession.
While we all agree that the long-term health and preservation of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed is of the utmost importance, we are very sensitive to impending investment and growth in our communities. As representatives of State government in suburban and rural communities in Maryland, we feel it is important to continue to support and encourage private sector investment in our areas of the State. This is even more critical given the current economic climate, where the construction industry has been one of the hardest hit employment sectors of the economy.
Every county in the State would be impacted by this legislation and, for several counties, the cost to build out public sewage systems into more remote parts of the county would cripple development and expansion into those areas.
We urge you to consider the impact that this legislation will have on communities in the state and whether, in light of the economic recession, the timing is appropriate. We all support leaving a clean environment to our children and encouraging responsible growth policies but we must balance this desire with the need to support private sector investment in our State.
We appreciate your consideration.
Delegate John L. Bohanan, Jr.
Delegate Galen R. Clagett
Delegate Norman H. Conway
Delegate Steven J. DeBoy, Sr.
Delegate Mary-Dulany James
Delegate Sally Y. Jameson
Delegate David D. Rudolph
Cc: Speaker Michael E. Busch
Delegate Stephen W. Lafferty
FUNERAL PROTEST BAN STILL LAW
Delegate Mary-Dulany James Stands Behind Law Banning Funeral Protests
In response to Friday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Snyder v. Phelps, Delegate Mary-Dulany James is standing firm that the law she proudly sponsored in 2006 to protect those at funerals and memorial services from protesters continues in effect. “The Supreme Court ruling does not affect the validity of Maryland funeral protestor law protections,” says James.
Delegate James went on to say:
I agree with Justice Samuel Alito that these kinds of attack-protests are not protected by the Constitution, that the First Amendment is, “not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case,” and that a freedom of political speech does not mean that one can, “intentionally inflict severe emotional injury on private persons at a time of intense emotional sensitivity by launching vicious verbal attacks that make no contribution to public debate.”
But while Delegate James was pleased that the Supreme Court did not overturn the Maryland funeral protection law, the Court also did not explicitly affirm that such reasonable restrictions are constitutional.
“Furthermore, the majority opinion did not question the legality of my funeral protection act. Because the Maryland law came into effect after Corporal Snyder’s funeral, the Supreme Court did not have occasion to consider how the law might apply to facts such as those in Corporal Snyder’s case, or whether the law or similar regulations are constitutional.”
With the Westboro church allegedly threatening to mount court challenges to the more than 40 state and federal laws that seek to protect funerals, and the church’s latest strategy of increasing protests, such as trying to protest at the funeral of a 9 year-old girl who was shot in Arizona, Delegate James is working with like minded delegates and citizens who firmly believe in the words of Justice Alito that, “… funerals are unique events at which special protections against emotional assaults are in order.”
In the end Delegate James said that a majority of this country believe the First Amendment does not grant permission for crazed individuals to exploit funerals, permanently staining the memories of the bereaved, “public debate should never be allowed to trump allowing family members to have a few hours of peace.”