The 51st State, Western Maryland: How to succeed without seceding

MarylandReporter.com
Barry Rascovar
09/22/2013
The mountain natives are restless in Maryland. They want to have it their way, though they represent just 10 percent of the state’s population. Here are a few things that annoy them: * A stream of tax increases (including one on rain!) from Annapolis. * State restrictions that devalue their land. * Tougher gun-control laws. *A bleeding-heart law that does away with the death penalty. * A state law legalizing gay marriages. * Political map-makers who deprive them of their conservative congressman. It’s enough to make you want to secede, which is the plan put forth by a Carroll County blogger, Scott Strzelczyk of New Windsor, for the five counties often lumped together as Western Maryland. The verb “to secede” is a curious term not to be confused with the similar-sounding verb “to succeed.” Indeed, were the five western counties to secede from Maryland, there would be no chance for that movement to succeed. It won’t happen Here’s why. * The 51st state: Western Maryland would be the third smallest by population (less than 660,000). Only Wyoming and Vermont would have fewer residents. * It would be a state divided between “haves” and “have nots.” Under-populated and impoverished Garrett and Allegany counties would be heavily outvoted by the far more crowded, well-off jurisdictions to the east. As the French say, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” * It would be one of the most homogeneous states, close to 90% white with few African Americans or Latinos. Nearly everyone would be Christian, too. * It would be filled with non-productive residents. Folks of retirement age and children 18 years or younger would constitute over 40% of the population. * Two wealthy counties – Carroll and Frederick – would be forced to support the other three jurisdictions that have high unemployment (Washington County’s jobless rate, for instance, stands at 8.4%). * The five counties would lose $622 million in direct Maryland school aid and a lot more Maryland aid earmarked for other social programs. Yet these jurisdictions only produce $326 million in income tax revenue.

General Assembly environmental scores slip in 2013

MarylandReporter.com
Meg Tully
07/16/2013
Ratings on environmental policy for Maryland legislators slipped last year, despite passage of a major offshore wind energy bill championed by Gov. Martin O’Malley. The Maryland League of Conservation Voters released its 2013 scorecard Monday, giving lawmakers an average score of 64% in the House of Delegates and 55% in the Senate. Those scores are down slightly from last year’s 69% in the House and 63% in the Senate. In the Senate, Republicans scored an average of 12% compared to Democrats’ 70%, and Republicans scored 26% in the House compared to Democrats’ 81%. But environmental leaders in the General Assembly said the overall lower ratings weren’t due to a bad year for environmentalists — it just wasn’t as great as recent years.

‘Rain tax’ falls all over the place: Stormwater fees uneven, from a penny to thousands

MarylandReporter.com
Christopher Goins
06/05/2013
The state’s 10 most populated counties are required by law to implement a stormwater utility fee by July 1. The revenue will be used to fund their respective watershed protection and restoration programs, designed to prevent pollutants from entering the Chesapeake Bay. Seven jurisdictions have set a fee, but three others are still in the process of setting fees or getting local approval. The bill requiring the tax, HB 987, passed in 2012, left it up to counties to set the fees themselves.