Tag Archives: EJ Pipkin

Letter to the Editor: New Congressional District Map – Record-setting Gerrymandering

Every ten years, the law requires that congressional and state legislative districts be redrawn to accommodate population shifts reflected in the U.S. Census. The redrawing of districts has become a tool in the hands of governors to make congressional and legislative seats safe for favored incumbents and long odds for the re-election of those incumbents who are not favored. Ten years ago, the redrawing of state legislative districts was so offensively gerrymandered that the Court of Appeals rejected it. The Court redrew the map, which pleased very few of the powerful Glendenning Administration.

This year, the new congressional district map will appear on the November ballot, as Question 5, for the approval of Maryland voters. The new map is a monstrous thing that combines the worst in gerrymandered contortions. Having voted against this in the Senate chamber, I intend to vote against it at the voting booth, by voting AGAINST Question 5. I urge you to do the same.

One of the obvious goals of the O’Malley Administration was to draw a district that would enable a Montgomery County Democrat to defeat Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett of Western Maryland. The administration’s hope was to pack Republicans into one Congressional district, leaving the remainder of Maryland’s Congressional delegation to Democratic control.

The new congressional District 3 lumps together the far-flung communities of Annapolis in Anne Arundel County, Towson in Baltimore County, and Silver Spring in Montgomery County, as well as Baltimore City. Excluded from District 3 are the communities that tie these areas together. In fixing the map to achieve their goals, District 4 and District 8, previously suburban Washington districts, lost large numbers of constituents in Montgomery and Prince George’s County. Instead, the map’s drawers included large numbers of constituents from other areas of the state. Now, Marylanders from Anne Arundel, Frederick and Carroll Counties are in the new Districts 4 and 8. The voting power of the Eastern Shore’s 1st Congressional District has been much more diluted by the inclusion of a larger number of constituents from Baltimore, Harford, and Carroll Counties. However, I suppose we should be grateful that the O’Malley map architects left one majority republican district in the state, instead of the two republican districts it contained for decades.

Indeed, the map is a convoluted mess. Communities distant from each other with little in common have been stitched together, while other homogenous communities have been ripped apart. The shamefully political map has drawn the opposition of both Democrat and Republican elected congressional office holders, the state Comptroller, as well as bipartisan representatives in the Maryland General Assembly. Also opposing the new congressional map are the League of Women Voters, Common Cause of Maryland, civil rights groups, the majority of the Montgomery County Council and editorial boards of statewide newspapers. The principle of congressional districts peopled by constituents who share common needs, goals, problems and viewpoints has been violated beyond belief. I am hopeful that on November 6, Maryland voters will vote AGAINST Question 5 and restore much-needed sanity and fairness to the state’s newly drawn congressional districts.

Sincerely,

Senator EJ Pipkin
District 36
410-841-3639

Pipkin’s Bay Bridge III Idea Moves Ahead

The state Senate Finance Committee moved forward a proposal to study the feasibility of a third bridge span crossing the Chesapeake Bay. The associated bill is sponsored by Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin, R-36-Upper Shore, who was pleased with the news his proposal received a favorable report by the Finance Committee, of which he is a member. The bill still requires full General Assembly approval and the governor’s signature. The bill does not mean a third span will be built for the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial (Bay) Bridge, or that another bridge will be built across the Bay. It only requires the state to prepare an environmental impact statement as required by the National Environmental Policy Act for a new bridge.

Car Charging Causes Controversy

By MALI KRANTZ
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS – Prohibiting cars that run solely on gas from parking at electric vehicle charging stations is elitist, according to Maryland Sen. E.J. Pipkin, R-Cecil.

Regardless, the Senate is poised to vote in favor of a bill that would do just that.

“I think the idea we’re going to create a preferential class for expensive vehicles is wrong,” he said.

Pipkin is opposing SB 340, a bill that would impose fines on people who park a non-plug-in vehicle at an electric charging station.

“We’re using the power of the state to further one particular private business. I think that is not appropriate,” Pipkin said.

The LEAF, Nissan’s electric car model, gets about 100 miles per charge – not far compared to internal combustion engine standards. Access to electric charging stations is necessary for LEAF owners to get from place to place efficiently.

The LEAF’s main electric competition, the Chevrolet Volt, gets an average of 35 miles per charge. When the charge runs out, the Volt’s gas engine works with the car’s electric components to give it a total range of about 375 miles.

Doug Kornreich, a Nissan LEAF owner from Elkridge has had trouble with others parking their gasoline cars in front of the charging station at his local Walgreens.

“It should be thought of as refueling rights because I can’t park anywhere else and charge,” he said, in response to Pipkin’s argument against the bill. “When I go down to College Park, if I can’t park in one of those spots, it’s going to be a challenge for me to get home.”

Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, the bill’s sponsor, feels it is important to show that Maryland is friendly to the burgeoning electric car industry, which could bring business to the state down the road.

“This is a fledgling industry that we’re getting behind,” Raskin said. “And we’re hoping, as the president of the United States has said, that this becomes big business in America … this is a very small gesture of accommodation.”

Raskin also feels electric car owners have a right to charge their vehicles at a charging station the same way other car owners have the right to fuel up at a gas station.

“They need to charge up their vehicles by plugging them in and the problem is they’re pulling into the relative handful of places that exist in the state where you can plug your car in and people are parked there.”

O’Malley Introduces Updated Offshore Wind Bill

By ELLEN STODOLA
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS – After failing in last year’s legislative session, Gov. Martin O’Malley is trying again with a new bill that would make offshore wind farming a viable energy source in Maryland.

The bill, which supporters say would create jobs, caps increases in energy bills for Maryland residents at $2 a month.

The Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2012 would also establish an offshore wind renewable energy credit allowing companies to earn certificates for demonstrating that they are using offshore wind as a certain percentage of their total energy generation.

The new energy credit fits with Maryland’s existing Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires that renewable energy be used for a certain portion of a company’s sales.

O’Malley’s wind farm initiative met with failure last year mainly because legislators were unwilling to commit to the increased costs that it would mean for Marylanders.

In addition, utility companies would have had to make nearly 20-year commitments to buying offshore wind energy.

O’Malley hopes the revised bill will be met with more support this session in the Maryland General Assembly.

Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, was a vocal advocate for offshore wind farming last session and continues to support the governor’s plan.

“No one in the United States has actually started constructing them offshore in the ocean,” said Pinsky, referring to a proposed location for turbines about 10 to 12 miles off the coast of Ocean City.

Pinsky said this year’s legislation has a better chance because there is less liability for ratepayers

However, some legislators are still not convinced that offshore wind would be a good investment.

“They have a weak case that the jobs are going to come to Maryland,” said Sen. E.J. Pipkin, R-Caroline.

Pipkin said the billions of dollars the state is hoping to invest in offshore wind farming is too steep of a price to pay, especially when there are alternative sources of fuel, such as coal.

However, like Pinsky, Delegate Tom Hucker, D-Montgomery, believes offshore wind farming is definitely an industry that Maryland should explore.

Hucker has been working closely with the governor’s staff and meeting with stakeholders to address last year’s concerns.

This year’s legislation will be modeled on current successful Maryland energy policy, like that connected with solar power, said Hucker. In this sense, the legislation will feel familiar, and there will be stronger protection for consumers and ratepayers than previously proposed.

“The price of wind will be totally steady and predictable,” said Hucker, comparing it favorably to prices for nuclear, coal or electrical power.

Hucker said there has been a lot more positive reaction this year and a lot more grassroots activity.

With other countries already making big strides in wind farming, he believes that it’s time for Maryland to try to “create an entire industry.”

Smiegel, Pipkin Grill Planning Chief Over PlanMaryland

The state’s top land use planner appeared before the General Assembly delegation from Maryland’s Eastern Shore to answer tough questions about a controversial initiative some fear strips local authority over development. Maryland Department of Planning Secretary Richard Hall was hit with a barrage of allegations from Shore delegation members about PlanMaryland, an umbrella policy approved by the governor for the state’s land use programs. State Senator E.J. Pipkin, R-36-Upper Shore, and Delegate Michael Smigiel, R-36-Cecil, continue to be two of the more outspoken critics of PlanMaryland, having staged a protest against it late last year, and most of the Shore delegation members have expressed their opposition to the executive order.

Senate Approves Same-Sex Marriage Bill

By MAGGIE CLARK
Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS – Maryland took a step closer to approving same-sex marriages Thursday with narrow approval in the Senate.

Opponents failed to mount a filibuster threatened earlier in the week and senators passed the bill 25-21. The bill now moves to the House, where it is expected to have an easier road to passage, and Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he would sign it.

The vote was met with cheers from the gallery, and the session ended with supporters hugging, laughing, and crying ith excitement in the State House lobby.

For Sama Bellomo, 28, of Howard County, the vote was a relief for her and her wife.

“This is absolutely epic. It’s historic. I got married to my wife in D.C. as soon as it was legal because we were sure we were going to lose the right, like in California … even if something should change, to know that we’ve made this effort and had this kind of impact is really great. I can’t wait to see what we do next as a state,” said Bellomo.

The bill in question is the Civil Marriage Protection Act, which changes the definition of marriage from “between a man and a woman” to “between two individuals.” It permits churches to refuse to perform same-sex unions if the practice violates their beliefs.

Debate was impassioned on both sides and senators recounted their individual experiences with the issue.

“In 13 years, this is one of the easiest votes I’m going to take,” said Sen. Bobby Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, who voted in support of the bill.

“It is very rare that you get an opportunity here to make such a meaningful impact to so many of our citizens. We’re not impacting anyone’s life in a negative way, but we are impacting, very profoundly, thousands of our friends and family,” Zirkin said.

Sen. Allan Kittleman, R-Howard, who stepped down as the upper chamber’s minority leader because of his support of marriage equality, said voting for this bill was the right thing to do.

“I look at this bill as providing equal rights to our friends, to our families, to our colleagues. It took me a while to get where I am, but I’m here because I believe in equal rights. I believe that those who work with us and who live in our communities deserve to have the same rights as everybody else,” Kittleman said.

Opponents gave many reasons for their votes, including protecting children and fear that the legislation goes too far too quickly.

“Humankind has innately recognized that it’s best for children when they’re raised by their married, biological parents,” said Minority Leader Nancy Jacobs, R-Harford.

“Throughout the ages, marriage has primarily been about children … marriage was not created to give two adults access to benefits. Obviously, because the institution predates the benefits,” Jacobs said.

Sen. E.J. Pipkin, R-Queen Anne’s, warned that the bill is too extreme and argued for a more incremental approach, first trying out civil unions, then moving to full marriage rights. “This bill gives it all now … this bill is complicated and has major ramifications and some of them, we just don’t know…For me it’s too far, too fast, and I don’t fully understand the ramifications of the bill,” he said.

Opponents have vowed to take the issue to the voters in a referendum. Several senators mentioned that the bill would be defeated in a Maryland referendum, just as it has been in California and Maine.

“I guarantee to the people of the state of Maryland that feel strongly about this issue that you will see it again. And you will see it at the ballot box,” said Jacobs.

Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, supporter and floor leader for the debate, said that if the issue goes to referendum, the bill will win approval.

“We’ll run it like a campaign and be the first state in America where same-sex marriage wins on the ballot,” said Raskin.

Even with such a contentious issue, the debate remained genial, and leaders complimented each other on their civility.

“I want to say thank you to my colleagues on both sides of this issue. I thought the debate showed the Senate at its best on a difficult issue,” said Majority Leader Rob Garagiola, D-Montgomery.

With this vote, Maryland comes one step closer to joining five other states and the District of Columbia in allowing same-sex marriage.

The decision comes on the heels of the Obama administration announcement that it will no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage at the federal level as between a man and a woman and prohibits federal benefits for same-sex couples. Attorney General Eric Holder has said he and President Obama determined that key portions of the law are unconstitutional.

Pipkin Calls for Bay Bridge Users’ Bill of Rights

Maryland Senator EJ Pipkin is again pushing for changes aimed at making crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge easier for drivers. Pipkin is again pushing the Maryland Department of Transportation to stop collecting tolls in the eastbound lanes when backups to get on the bridge extend more than 30 minutes. Pipkin pushed that and other bridge-focused initiatives last year as part of his “Bay Bridge Users’ Bill of Rights.” The eastern shore lawmaker has also been working to get a third span built across the Bay.