On the heels of Governor Hogan’s request for background checks on legislative appointees, the governor today also rolled out four new bills dealing with ethics, lobbying and redistricting reform.
Gov. Larry Hogan Thursday announced a set of proposed measures he said would reform state government in the wake of a number of recent criminal and ethics investigations of state and local officials.
The four-bill package includes legislation to overhaul state ethics and lobbying laws and to place new restrictions on lobbying for lawmakers, former lawmakers and executive branch employees. Also included is a bill, previously introduced, that would create an independent redistricting commission as well as nearly $2 million that would allow the House and Senate to stream live video of floor proceedings.
“The initiatives we are introducing today are in an effort to restore the public’s trust in our state government and finally bring some transparency, accountability and fairness to Annapolis,” Hogan said of the four-bill package while standing at the base of the steps of the State House. “We cannot allow the unethical behavior of the few to tarnish the good will of the many in our state capital.”
The language of the bills, which were delivered to the House of Delegates and Senate for introduction, was not immediately available.
Hogan’s proposals include:
A proposal prohibiting legislators from working on legislation that directly benefits their employer or a business they own. It also prohibits executive branch and legislative staff from lobbying for one year after they leave state service and bars individuals employed by a lobbying firm from being appointed to a state board or commission. The State Ethics Commission would have oversight power over all elected officials, registered lobbyists and consultants.
Legislation requiring that all meetings of the General Assembly be live-streamed. Hogan has already earmarked $1.2 million to fund the new technology.
Reform for county liquor boards, including eliminating political party central committees from nominating board members. Legislators would be required to submit formal, public nominations. The state ethics commission would have oversight.
Creation of a nonpartisan redistricting commission that would redraw legislative and congressional districts in the state. The bill is said to be similar to a failed 2016 proposal made by Hogan. Democratic lawmakers this year have started to public express concerns about redistricting should Hogan win re-election in 2018.
Just like with the request for background checks, Hogan made sure everyone knew why he was forced, yea verily, to make these unfortunate and unseemly proposals.
“There’s no question that some of the recent indictments and stories to come to light about former and current and even potential legislators being indicted on state and federal charges and felonies, that we certainly want to try to close some of those particular loopholes and address some of the problems that were allowed to happen,” Hogan said.
In his remarks, Hogan referenced a number of legal and ethical issues that have made headlines in recent weeks, including an ongoing federal investigation that has resulted in the indictment of Prince George’s County liquor board officials and license holders, as well as former Del. Will Campos. That same investigation is believed to be behind the resignation of Del. Michael Vaughn, D-Prince George’s County.
Hogan also noted an ongoing legislative ethics inquiry into Del. Dan Morhaim related to his involvement with a company seeking medical marijuana license, and questions about former Del. John Bohanan’s activities in advocating on behalf of a now-canceled state contract with a company owned by his brother-in-law. Bohanan’s wife also owned a company that was a subcontractor on the deal that she said last year was worth $864,000 to her building supply company.
Here’s video of Hogan’s almost gleeful announcement of his new legislation, courtesy of Progressive Maryland ED Larry Stafford. Do you get the sense, as I do, that Hogan is enjoying the hell out of himself here?
All sleazy stuff, all Democrats. Are there sleazy Republicans? Of course there are – but at the state level, they’re frustrated, angry sleazy Republicans, because they have no power to actually get bills passed. That’s the problem with a one party system – only one side has to deal with its sleazeballs.
But once again, every single one of these proposals Hogan is making could have and should have been made by Democratic leadership, and should have been done 5, 10, hell, 20 years ago. Why weren’t they? Because our leadership has been in power for so long that it doesn’t have the ability to conceive of, well, not being in power. But right now we’ve got a GOP governor with a 75% approval rating who has $4.6 million in the bank, and who is, with all due respect, running circles around Democratic leadership in Annapolis, has been for three years now, and it’s getting worse, not better.
On our side, we don’t have a clear candidate, and nobody has any money, and everyone’s depressed about that event happening tomorrow that none of us want to contemplate fully and how all hell is gonna break loose over the next four years.
And at the end of the day, the circumstances that have handed Hogan the opportunity to seize the reform flag are a series of unforced errors motivated by greed and arrogance mixed with hubris and an unwillingness to clean up our own messes. Nobody should be shocked by what’s going on right now – it’s just that in the old days nobody noticed or cared. Today, the press and the Democratic base, in the process of a historic leftward shift, both notice and care. We continue down the road we’re currently on at our peril. Stubborn inertia will leave our legislative and congressional majorities at risk, and our abilities to win statewide races in non-presidential years damaged severely.
It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. Or even better, throw out the old pot full of moldy coffee grounds, get a new one, and brew up something better. It’s 2017, and it’s time for Maryland Democrats to turn the page as a party and join the 21st century. Because right now, we’re losing, and we’re losing badly.