A flurry of hearings in the Assembly this week tries to beat a deadline for bills to cross from one chamber to another in order to pass. Several factors, including Del. Lisanti's vow to remain in the House despite her censure for using a racial slur among colleagues, could slow those bills down.
/By Woody Woodruff<>PM BlogSpace Report/ A deadline for legislation that has hopes for passage is approaching – “crossover day.” As the Maryland Legislative Coalition explains, “the cross-over date is March 18th. By that date, bills need to have a vote to cross over to the other house, so there are way less hearings that week and a lot more voting.” This week is full of critical hearings; with bill outcomes muddied by committee behavior and the strange ways of the legislative process.
As the Senate Finance Committee prepares to vote tomorrow on the Senate version of the $15 Minimum Wage bill that was savaged in a House committee, some bogus questions in a Gonzalez poll are muddying the waters. As the excellent reporter Len Lazarick in Maryland Reporter winkled out, the state Restaurant Association got several questions inserted in the most recent Gonzalez Poll that showed declining support for the $15 minimum wage if there were higher consumer prices and job losses as a result. The “hypotheticals,” understandably, caused support for the bill to drop. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that jobs were not lost in cities where minimum wages were raised. “What if I told you…” is not a level-playing-field strategy for conducting a poll on public issues, as all pollsters know. The result was a “push poll” of the sort that questions your support for a candidate you favor “if you knew she/he was mean to their pets.” The House apparently was spooked by such alarmist business claims and stripped out crucial sectors of employees, including tipped workers. It is up to the Senate to act responsibly toward those most vulnerable workers.
THE LISANTI MUDDLE
Progressive Maryland and other progressive organizations and activists have joined to urge the resignation of Del. Mary Anne Lisanti, who has acknowledged using a racial slur in the company of Assembly colleagues.
Lisanti’s co-sponsorship on several bills important to progressives is a side effect of her travails. Lisanti said Tuesday she will remain in the Assembly despite having been stripped of committee assignments and leadership status. One bill of which she is the lead co-sponsor is the Clean Energy Jobs Act (HB 1158), top priority for the environmental community in this session. Despite their concerns about Lisanti’s role in her diminished capacity, Maryland Matters writer Josh Kurtz opines that “the fact that embattled Del. Mary Ann Lisanti (D-Harford), who was censured by her colleagues last week for uttering a racial epithet, is the lead House sponsor of the legislation does not appear to be an issue.”
Kurtz does, however, find plenty of other reasons that legislative processes could alter or hinder the CEJA bill this year.
Lisanti’s co-sponsorship of another bill, argues David Lublin in the Seventh State blog, is more problematic because it would have outflanked – in a progressive direction – a version more favored by Derek Davis, the powerful chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee. It’s about placement of mini-cell phone signal boosters in neighborhoods, an issue that has galvanized progressives around the state, and particularly in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City. Davis’s preferred bill, as Lublin points out here, is much more pro-business and threatens local control.
By David Lublin
Del. Mary Ann Lisanti’s (D-Harford) pariah status within the House of Delegates may have the important side effect of aiding cell-phone company efforts to get a favored bill passed.
Expansion of 5G networks requires small cell phone towers going into neighborhoods. Del. Dereck Davis (D-Prince George’s), the Chair of the Economic Matter Committee, has sponsored the bill favored by business. Lisanti, who also served on Economic Matters until losing her committee assignments, sponsored the more progressive and neighborhood-oriented bill.
One key difference between the bills is that Davis’s would preempt all local laws, while Lisanti’s would grandfather in all existing local laws on the installation of small wireless facilities. Another important difference is that Davis’s bill bans the collection of any fees from wireless providers, but the competing legislation would allow collection of a surcharge of up to 1% of revenues in order to provide wireless to underserved areas around the State.
Prior to Lisanti’s censorship by the House for use of a hateful racial epithet, her bill was gaining more traction than Davis’s. While Davis’s bill has no cosponsors, Lisanti’s has 17 with seven sitting on the Economic Matters Committee. While Lisanti’s bill did not have a public majority of the committee yet, her bill presented an unusually strong challenge to the one favored by the Chair.
Unless another delegate is willing to take up the lead in fighting for the bill, including facing off against a powerful committee chair, Dereck’s more conservative legislation may prevail thanks to Lisanti’s exclusion. Davis and the cell-phone industry look to notch up a victory as the neighborhood-oriented legislation is collateral damage to Lisanti’s fall.
Lublin’s Seventh State post appeared Wednesday, March 6.