While large sections of Montgomery County were without power this past week, the Atlantic’s Gregg Easterbrook delivered a scathing critique of Governor O’Malley’s oversight of PEPCO, entitled “Outage Outrage: The Politics of Electricity.”
“As for O’Malley, utility regulation is one of the classic challenges of government, requiring persistence and attention to detail. O’Malley might have proved himself with White House-level competence by dealing with Pepco. Instead he has done nothing, while gallivanting around the nation promoting himself. Sunday, with a power crisis at home, the governor was more interested in engaging in self-promotion on Face the Nation. O’Malley’s abysmal performance in his own state makes his claim to national leadership seem a practical joke.”
In short, Easterbrook questions if Gov. Martin O’Malley should run for President in 2016, when “he can’t even deal with a dismal power utility in his home state.”
While the Governor’s apologists question whether he should be blamed for a company’s failings, O’Malley cannot claim that he did not see this one coming. In 2006 Candidate O’Malley made utilities and standing up to the “the lobbyist and powerful corporate interests” a cornerstone of his campaign:
He attacked the Public Service Commission, ignoring that his own brother-in-law Max Curran had been a Commissioner since 1999.
But there is more about Curran. Last month, the website Center Maryland released their list of “50 very influential people in Maryland politics.” They said: “When energy companies look at business deals involving Maryland, analysts refer to “Maryland risk” – the uncertainty over how the state’s Public Service Commission might treat the deal.”
So who does Center Maryland say is the top lobbyist for utilities navigating these regulatory problems? Governor O’Malley’s brother-in law, Max Curran.
“The Saul Ewing attorney (and former PSC Commissioner) has become the go-to lawyer to shepherd major energy deals through the regulatory process, including the FirstEnergy-Allegheny Power and Exelon-Constellation Energy deals.”
A listing of Curran’s caseload on his law firm’s website reads as a list of major PSC agenda items:
Representation of Constellation Energy Group and Exelon Corp. in their recent successful merger, securing the approval of the Maryland PSC for the approximately $8 billion merger.
Representation of FirstEnergy Corp. and Allegheny Energy Inc. in their merger resulting in their ability to exercise substantial control over the policies and actions of a western Maryland electric
Representation of a large national energy company in connection with its billion dollar plus acquisition of Mid-Atlantic electrical generating facilities. The matter encompassed six sites in Maryland and Delaware.
Representation of a joint venture of major utilities in the licensing and development of the Maryland piece of a 267-mile 765 kV high voltage transmission line.
Representation of a nuclear development company, in the siting, licensing and development of a new generation nuclear plant, including representing the company in the complex and extensive regulatory reviews in the state of Maryland.
Over a year ago, a Blue Ribbon Montgomery County Commission appointed by the County Executive, the “Pepco Work Group” reviewed PEPCO’s performance. The group was chaired by former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine. That, Augustine, who is the former CEO of the largest private corporation in Maryland, as well as former Chairman of the National Academy of Engineering and former Chairman & Principal Officer of the American Red Cross agreed to chair this group shows just how seriously Pepco’s ongoing reliability problems are taken in Montgomery County.
Pepco’s performance under both Non-Major Event conditions and during Major Events can be judged inferior by any reasonable standard and clearly so by a collective set of standards. This condition has persisted since 2005.
Pepco’s reliability during Non-Major Events has suffered primarily from inattention to long-term planning and underinvestment in the utility’s electricity distribution infrastructure.
Pepco’s infrastructure significantly underperforms due to the lack of a proactive preventive maintenance program including the identification of critical maintenance practices, effective record keeping, and continual improvement. This approach allows similar failures to occur, and reoccur, over multi-year periods.
Much of Pepco’s system that is served by Underground Residential Distribution (URD) cables is nearing the end of its reliable service life and there is no long term plan for assaying the condition of the system, nor a plan for its replacement.
Pepco’s ability to assess system operating status is technologically out-of-date and depends heavily on customer reporting.
Despite, this and other ample evidence of the Pepco reliability failures, what does O’Malley’s Public Service Commission Chair Doug Nazarian have to say?
On Tuesday, Nazarian told the Washington Post: “We, as a commission, can fairly be criticized. We didn’t pick up early enough on the need for comprehensive reliability regulations.”
The criticism should not stop with the PSC, Governor O’Malley take responsibility as well to make sure the PSC is responding to more than the Governor’s brother-in-law’s clients.
House Republican leaders today reacted to the Supreme Court’s ruling that upheld the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).
“Obviously, the Supreme Court’s ruling is disappointing”, said House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell. “But, it is important to remember the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate as a tax – something that President Obama has repeatedly denied. Today is the day when work to repeal this tax begins in earnest.”
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the ACA’s individual mandate that Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional based on Congress’ authority to tax. The court also ruled that the federal government cannot compel states to expand their Medicaid programs by withholding funds.
“The cost of ACA is staggering”, said House Minority Whip Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio. “It is not just limited to the federal government either; state budgets could take a massive hit. The one bright spot in this ruling is that states cannot be forced to expand their Medicaid programs. Of course, with Governor O’Malley’s rush to be one of the first states to enact Obamacare, Maryland’s budget may not benefit from this ruling.”
Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the ACA will increase the federal debt by over $500 billion in ten years. When the federal government starts to reduce their share of the subsidies in 2019, Maryland’s already-strained budget will explode.
“In the worst economy in 80 years, with thousands of people out of work, the costs of this bill will mean higher taxes for everyone”, said O’Donnell. “With the burden this will put on our state and federal budgets, you will pay higher taxes even if you buy health insurance. Our citizens’ only hope now is for a change in the White House this fall so this tax can be repealed.“
The Supreme Court found no constitutional objections to most of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or, as some prefer, “Obamacare”).
The constitutional question may be settled, but the policy debate remains, at least on the state level. State policymakers are still tasked with implementing this law. In light of the court decision, what should they do?
The U.S. health care system has a few different but interrelated problems. One issue, access to care, affects a proportion of the population. The other issues – such as rapidly increasing health care costs and the strain that these costs place on taxpayers – affect us all.
ACA dealt with the first issue. Its Medicaid expansion and its mandate that every person buy insurance or pay a tax penalty were the primary ways of trying to decrease the number of uninsured. No doubt the legislation will succeed at this goal.
The other two issues, relating to health care costs and their effects on taxpayers, will only be worsened by ACA. Any honest analysis of the ACA’s long-term impact shows that it expands both state and federal government spending and does nothing to address decreasing the health care cost curve.
These problems will have to be addressed at the federal level, which is unlikely to happen any time soon, so state policymakers need to consider the problems that ACA has exacerbated.
Health care exchanges
Even though the federal government is now regulating far more of our health care sector than previously, there are still tools state governments can use to help improve care and control costs.
For instance, the state is establishing a health insurance exchange to comply with ACA. This exchange will be an online clearinghouse where individuals and small businesses can purchase health insurance.
The federal subsidies for insurance purchases established by ACA will only be able to be used in this exchange. Buying health insurance in Maryland is expensive, consumers cannot find policies that meet their needs and there is little choice in the companies that sell policies.
All of these issues are directly related to heavy state regulation on insurance sales and the numerous mandated benefits that the state government imposes on insurance.
These mandates and regulations prevent insurance companies from tailoring policies to meet consumer need and force insurance buyers to purchase coverage for a variety of procedures they don’t want or need. Not only does this stifle consumer choice, but it also increases consumer cost.
Eliminate Certificate of Need
While the ACA places strict parameters on the type of insurance that can be sold in an exchange, the state has some leeway in which policies can be offered. The state could impose minimal restrictions on the insurance sold through the exchange, giving consumers more options than they possess in today’s insurance market.
State laws that interfere with health care professionals looking to serve their patients better could also be loosened or eliminated.
Eliminating the state’s Certificate of Need law, for instance, would end the requirement that owners of health care facilities seek state permission before building or expanding. These laws have been proven to raise costs and decrease health care access, and many states have repealed them. Maryland should do the same.
Expanding the scope of practice for health care professionals would also give Marylanders more options at lower prices. Bipartisan movement at the state level in recent years has attempted to allow dental hygienists, nurse practitioners and others greater freedom to provide health care services. These initiatives should be continued and expanded.
The state can help reform the health care marketplace in many other ways to better serve patients and health care providers. It is vital Maryland does so.
The ACA did not fix our health care system, and arguably it worsened existing problems. State policymakers have a vital role to play in dealing with the problems that still exist. They must choose good policies that maximize consumer choice and support market mechanisms to lower costs.
On June 14, 2012, the Montgomery County Board of Elections approved a draft petition form to allow the collection of signatures to put Montgomery County Bill 17-12, the Ambulance Fee bill, on the November 2012 ballot.
The draft petition form was submitted by the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service Volunteers Association which represents fire and rescue service volunteers, not the Career Firefighters Union – AFL-CIO. Between now and August 20, 2012, a total of 31,092 approved signatures must be collected and turned into the Board of Elections.
Does this sound familiar? Well it should. Eighteen months ago, the voters of Montgomery County via petition and referendum overwhelmingly killed a similar law passed by the 9 member County Council (All Democrats) and County Executive Ike Leggett, also a Democrat. Leggett and his cronies want to squeeze $18 million out of insurance companies to pay for ambulance fees. The voters already said NO, but Leggett wants to try again as things have “changed” in the county. The volunteers are opposed again because of:
Concern over a fee may inhibit those in need of emergency service from calling 911
The County should not charge for this core government service which is already supported by taxes
The County should not be charging for service provided for free by fire/rescue volunteers
It’s just another blatant money grab by the Democrats which if allowed to stand will inevitably make our wallets $18 million lighter.
Will you join us and the vast majority of Montgomery County voters in supporting the Ambulance fee petition drive??
The Internal Revenue Service maintains tax file data between tax years on both the state and county levels. With this data, it is possible to determine which counties are increasing, decreasing or are remaining stagnant when it comes to their tax base.
“A growing tax base is the ultimate win/win situation in public policy,” said Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan. “It eases the pressure to raise revenues, and conversely, a shrinking tax base often leads to a troublesome tax-and-spend downward spiral as actual revenues fail to meet estimates.”
Some of Maryland’s most successful counties in terms of increasing its tax base are those with smaller populations. Eastern shore counties Worcester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot are increasing their tax base in percentage terms relatively higher than other jurisdictions throughout the state. Garrett and St. Mary’s are also performing well. On the other hand, the state’s largest jurisdictions –
Baltimore City and County, Prince George’s and Montgomery range from sharply negative growth to stagnant.
“I’m very encouraged by how well we’re doing in the rural and outlying counties,” said Hogan. “These small economic engines are powering the state forward by attracting new residents. Clearly where we need to see improvement is in our largest jurisdictions. Baltimore City is losing its tax base at unacceptable levels and Montgomery County’s stagnant tax base will further tarnish its business reputation as elected officials seek more revenue to make up for budget shortfalls.”
Change Maryland noted this Spring that the state overall has lost its tax base more than any other state in the region – and seventh highest nationally.
Independence Day message from Congressional District 3 Candidate Eric Knowles
Today, 200+ years ago, our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and forever altered the course of history. Tyranny and oppression have existed since the dawn of time, ever since one person sought to take advantage of another. This is the way the world worked for nearly all of recorded history.
These great men realized that they were free, that they were endowed by their creator with unalienable rights that transcend any form of government created in the minds of man, and threw off the mental shackles that held their fellow citizens… their equals, in bondage.
For a long time, in our short history, we embodied their vision. We were the land of the free because we were brave enough to venture into the unknown… the ‘animated contest of freedom’. But sadly we, as a nation, have been sold by our elected officials and have begun to buy into the rotten fruit of tyranny in the guise of ‘freebies’ from our government. But nothing is ever free. Everything given comes with a price tag, whether you pay it directly in taxes, indirectly through inflation, through the servitude of yourself or worse… your children and their future.
While you are grilling burgers and dogs today, watching parades and are bewildered by the rockets’ red glare, think.
Think about the gift of Freedom you were given through so much sacrifice, so much blood and so much fortune lost. Think about what it costs that generation, so many years ago, to be able to cast off the chains that sought to control them in body and mind.
Think about what you will do to relieve yourself of these chains today, because even if these chains have no weight… they are there.
Think about how you will keep these chains from the necks of your children.
VAN HOLLEN DOESN’T GET THE OIL MARKET: TRIES CHEAP SHOT ON IRAN
By Ken Timmerman, District 8 Candidate
Oil prices are dropping, even as the U.S.-led sanctions on Iranian oil begin to take hold in Europe. Despite this good news, Rep. Chris Van Hollen has sent an ill-informed letter to President Obama, urging him to draw down our Strategic Petroleum Reserve to counter Iranian efforts (I would call them, Iranian-Russian dreams) to drive up oil prices.
Here is what my opponent wrote: ‘As you know, yesterday Iran test-fired several ballistic missiles, including some that could strike Israel or U.S. bases in the region. These actions, coupled with Iranian threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, have already contributed to a spike in crude oil prices.’ article
That was true – a year ago. Oil prices have fallen sharply since then, despite the U.S. announcement in January 2012 that it would give six months to the Europeans and others to cut their imports of Iranian oil.
Brent Oil is down from $110 per barrel this time last year to just over $100 per barrel today. The same goes for West Texas Intermediate (WTI), today trading at under $87 per barrel, unchanged from this time last year and down from prices of over $100 per barrel in April.
Both benchmark crudes trended upward over the past six months, peaking in early May – well before the Iranian missile tests or the drop-dead date on a European cutoff of Iranian oil.
If there is any lesson to be learned from these facts it is this: Members of Congress should look first to the facts before trying to squeeze political advantage from a news story.
The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is a serious tool at the disposal of the President to use in the event of war, imminent hostilities, or a dramatic economic crisis.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen has shown by this silly season letter to President Obama that he is desperate to show he is “tough” on Iran, when in fact his votes show that he has sided with the pro-Tehran lobby throughout his ten years in Congress.
The United States faces none of these today. Rep. Van Hollen should just cool off and let wiser heads look to the real threat from Iran, about which he has shown himself to be absolutely clueless.
We need to change our policy toward Iran, not pursue the appeasement policies of my opponent that will take us directly to war.
Bartlett Comments on the Resolution Holding Eric Holder in Contempt of Congress
“President Obama’s claim of Executive Privilege to deny Congress copies of documents related to the Fast and Furious gun smuggling operation inevitably raises questions about what President Obama knew about what’s in those documents and when he learned about them. What remains unchanged is that cover ups only make matters worse and lessons can’t be learned if mistakes aren’t confronted.” said Congressman Roscoe G. Bartlett.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Res. 711 a resolution recommending that the House of Representatives find Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, in contempt of Congress for refusal to comply with a subpoena duly issued by the committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The bi-partisan vote was yeas 255, nays 67 and one voting present.
Central Committee Members for Districts 20 & At-Large
The Montgomery County GOP is accepting applications to fill two vacancies on the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee for Legislative District 20 and At-Large.
Central Committee members take on leadership responsibility for a variety of projects on behalf of the Republican Party. The Republican Central Committee has regularmeetings, with a number of other events interspersed throughout the year. These appointments will be valid through the next gubernatorial election year (2014). Candidates for this position must be a resident of the jurisdiction being sought and a registered Republican.
A Nominating Committee chaired by Katja Bullock will make recommendations to the full Central Committee. The vacancies will be formally filled by a meeting of the full Central Committee.
Applicants should submit an expression of interest, resume and a short biographical sketch of their political involvements by July 11, 2012 to Nominations Committee Chair: Katja Bullock
Each Montgomery County election precinct, the area covered by a single polling place, covers an average of 3,500 to 4,000 people. That includes about 1,600 homes and 2,000 voters. A Chairman leads each precinct.
Identifies and coordinates sign waving/metro stop/literature drops
Collects and coordinates Yard-sign placement in the Precinct
Organizes Poll-sign placement with the Poll Workers
Organizes “Get Out the Vote” activities in the Precinct
Organizes Parades, Fairs, and Fundraising Events in the Precinct
Organizes voter ID & outreach calls in the Precinct
The Precinct Chairs Identifies Poll Workers for both Primary and Election Day, the Neighborhood Captains Assists.
If you are interested in being a Precinct Chair or Neighborhood Captain, please contact: MCRP Headquarters at 301-417-9256 or e-mail us at
Each month the County Party hold a two hour training session on the in’s and out’s of being a MCGOP Precinct Chair.
REPUBLICANS NEED TO APPLY!
MONTGOMERY COUNTY BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS
Public participation contributes to the work of County government and provides an important service to the community when a variety of issues, concerns, and viewpoints are presented. Currently, there is a valuable opportunity to serve on the following:
Cable and Communications Advisory Committee
Fire and Emergency Services Commission
Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Traffic Safety Advisory Committee
Alcoholic Beverages Advisory Board
Dickerson Area Facilities Implementation Group
Commission on Juvenile Justice
Board of License Commissioners (Liquor Board)
Mid-County Citizens Advisory Board
Water Quality Advisory Group
Workforce Investment Board
Please share this notice with anyone who may be interested. You may access vacancy announcements for boards, committees, and commissions through the following link.
Applicants of diverse backgrounds, professions, gender, geography, disability and ethnicity are encouraged to apply. An application, consisting of a brief cover letter and resume, should be sent by mail to County Executive Isiah Leggett, 101 Monroe Street, 2nd Floor, Rockville, MD 20850, or by email
Please call Carol Bowis (301-229-1121) or email her (email@example.com) to learn more about the above jobs or the application process.
In Prior Montgomery County Republican Party Line Issues: