What to do about the Special Sessions?

by Marc Kilmer

APRIL 27, 2012 Bookmark and Share

So it seems Maryland is going to see two special sessions of the General Assembly to deal with supposedly unfinished legislative business. It’s unclear to me why we need one special session, never mind two of them, but have them we will. Considering the fact that these sessions are such bad ideas, and considering that they have little to no say on what goes on during any legislative session, perhaps the Republican members of the General Assembly should just skip this session. Let the Democratic majority own the mess they are going to make.

While Gov. O’Malley and legislative leaders are claiming we’ll have doomsday without a special session or two, many disagree with that assessment. It’s not just conservatives, either. The Washington Post, for instance, editorialized that there’s no need for a special session to avert a “doomsday budget.” The Post sums up what will happen if the current budget goes into effect:

The truth is that if lawmakers in the General Assembly were to stay home and skip the special sessions, the effect would be to cancel plans for a tax increase; spare the state a senseless expansion of casino gambling; eliminate some dubious spending programs; and ensure that Maryland’s $35 billion budget still manages to grow by a respectable $700 million, about 2 percent.

As the Post’s editor say, “None of that sounds exactly like doomsday.”

If the Democratic majority in the state want to reconvene to accomplish all these worthy (sarcasm) goals, then let them do it. Republicans, who claim to stand for fiscal conservatism, should simply stay home.

The boycott would have little or no effect on the substance of what the special sessions produce. The Republican members of the General Assembly don’t have much power to affect change there. But it would highlight the fact that this is a one-party state and that this one-party rule results in some very bad policy.

I’ve written previously about how the state would be improved if there were more political competition. Perhaps the voters of Maryland don’t want this competition, but the Republican General Assembly members should provide them with a stark alternative so the voters can choose.

Perhaps the GOP members can even hold their own mock special session and “pass” a budget that doesn’t raise taxes, doesn’t burden counties with new fiscal problems, isn’t filled with pork and corporate welfare, and doesn’t continue to heedlessly expand spending. It would provide a good contrast to the real General Assembly in action, at the very least.

So, to the GOP General Assembly members, I say “boycott.” At the very minimum, it will give you more time to spend with your family. That’s probably more worthwhile than anything the Democrats will let you accomplish in Annapolis, anyway.

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