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"Itís time to make changes in Annapolis"

Justin Kiska

(4/2017) There are two topics that I was trying to decide about which to write this month Ė both having to do with our distinguished state legislature. More precisely, certain members of its leadership. Instead of picking just one, because of their importance, I thought I would touch on both.

The first is the push to allow cameras into the House and Senate chambers so that proceedings can be broadcast and people can see their legislators in action. Itís certainly not a new idea. Municipal governments broadcast their meetings. Congress is on C-SPAN. Streaming of legislative sessions is all done in the name of transparency.

So why do the Democratic leaders in Annapolis, specifically House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Mike Miller, have such a problem with the idea? Iím not even going to begin to think there is some nefarious reason behind the two leadersí opposition. I donít think thereís any conspiracy here, but I just donít understand why they donít seem to even want to discuss the issue, blaming everything on funding issues. Senator Miller was vehement in one interview on the topic.

In the current legislative session, two House members on polar opposite sides of the political spectrum, Del. Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore County) and Del. David Moon (D-Montgomery County), even came together to sponsor a bill requiring the General Assembly to live stream the legislatureís proceedings on the internet.

The argument can be made that is senators and delegates know they are being watched theyíll go on and on and play to the camera to try and win points with the public. But I hate to say it, grandstanding will happen regardless of whether there is a camera there or not.

If transparency is the demand Ė the call that so many seem to be fighting for these days Ė why are Miller and Busch standing in the way?

These two gentlemen are also doing their best to prevent Governor Hoganís plan to enact redistricting reform in the state.

Anyone who looks at Marylandís legislative and Congressional districts knows how terribly gerrymandered they were under the previous governor. The last time the lines were redrawn, they didnít even try to hide the fact of what they were doing. Which is why there is a current court case on the matter pending.

Gerrymandering isnít new. Whoeverís in power always wants to stay in power. But is that whatís best?

Governor Hogan has proposed the creation of an independent, non-partisan redistricting commission to draw the district lines in the future. The vast majority of Marylanders, regardless of party, support the idea. A poll earlier this year by Goucher College put that number at 75%. Unfortunately, Senator Miller and Speaker Busch are not in that group.

Miller is on record as saying instead of looking at reform on the state level, he would rather discuss national or multi-state options. Seriously? If his concern, as some have said, is losing Democratic members of Congress, then he needs to get over it and do whatís right, not political.

Those elected by the residents of Maryland to represent and serve the residents of Maryland should do whatís best for the residents of Maryland, regardless of what other states are or are not doing.

How can anyone say an independent commission drawing district lines is not the fairest solution? They canít. But thatís also not what they want.

Mike Miller and Michael Busch have been in Annapolis for a very long time. In addition to starting to broadcast legislative sessions and allowing a non-partisan commission to draw district lines, I can think of a couple more changes that should be made.

Read other articles by Justin Kiska