Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bring open government to the Maryland legislative


One more call-out as we near the Annapolis finish line. Another of the progressive community’s signature pieces of legislation, the Maryland Open Government Act, is stalled in committee.

As you know, Annapolis works by committee structure. The powerful committee chairs can easily kill legislation just by putting it in the drawer. This bill is supported by the Speaker and President, by all those who have trekked to Annapolis to have their voices heard, and by the professional lobbyists who will also benefit. It will more than pay for itself once the technological infrastructure is installed, and will allow us to follow from home the inner workings of our legislature.


A call or email from a constituent is a very powerful message, particularly when it is personalized. Please take the time to write to your legislator. I’ve appended the missive from my colleague on the Transparency Work Group which got this ball rolling, Luis Zapata, which includes the contact info.


Thank you,


Dana Beyer


To all concerned citizens,


As you may know, this year MD Delegate Heather Mizeur introduced a far reaching open government bill in the MD House of Delegates, and it appeared to have wide-ranging support, with over half of the Delegates signing on as cosponsors.  An identical bill was introduced in parallel by State Senator, Nancy King, and it appeared to have similar support.  They also appeared to be supported by the Speaker of the House, and the President of the Senate.  Both bills were sent to their respective chamber’s Rules Committee committees for hearings where both received overwhelming support and testimony from the public.  (In the House it is called the Rules and Executive Nominations Committee.) 


But, as you’ve probably guessed by now, there has been a glitch.  This pair of bills gives the public more access to the workings in Annapolis and makes the process more open.  In doing that, the all-powerful Committee Chairs in those chambers will have their power somewhat diminished because it will diminish their ability wield their power without the spotlight of public scrutiny. 


The Rules Committees in both of the chambers are made up in part by the Chairpersons of the Standing Committees in that chamber, and these Chairs seem to be dragging their feet about getting these Bills out of committee. 


According to Ms. Mizeur, all is not lost, either the House or Senate committee will have to move the bill out and send it to the other chamber or the bill will die.  That should have happened already, but it has not.  She is doing her part as a legislator, but citizens must get behind these bills and demand that their representatives take action.  As Committee Chairs those Delegates and Senators represent us, even if they are not elected from our districts. 


I urge each of you to individually write to EACH of the Standing Committee Chairs in each of the Chambers.  Ask your fiends all over Maryland to do the same.  Tell each elected official that you (and your organization if possible) support open government, and that you want them to pass House Bill HB 344 (if he/she is a Delegate) or Senate Bill SB 407 (if he/she is a Senator).  A list of Standing Committee Chairs and their Email addresses is below.  (If you want a draft letter, Email me and I can provide that, but it would be more influential if each letter were different.) 


Please do this for good government.  It is an important issue for all of us. 



            Luis Zapata

            Chair, MD TEAG (Transparency and Equal Access in Government) 


MD Senate Standing Committees


Budget and Taxation Committee

            Ulysses Currie (301) 858-3127



Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee

            Joan Carter Conway  (410) 841-3145



Finance Committee

            Thomas M. Middleton (410) 841-3616



Judicial Proceedings Committee

            Brian E. Frosh (410) 841-3124



Executive Nominations Committee

            Delores G. Kelley (410) 841-3606



Rules Committee

            Katherine Klausmeier (410) 841-3620




MD House of Delegates Standing Committees


Appropriations Committee

            Norman H. Conway (410) 841-3407



Economic Matters Committee

            Dereck E. Davis (410) 841-3519



Environmental Matters Committee

            Maggie McIntosh  (410) 841-3990



Health and Government Operations Committee

            Peter A. Hammen  (410) 841-3772



Judiciary Committee

            Joseph F. Vallario, Jr.  (410) 841-3488



Ways and Means Committee

            Sheila E. Hixson  (410) 841-3469



Rules and Executive Nominations Committee

            Hattie N. Harrison (410) 841-3486




Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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