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Supreme Court to wait on Maryland gerrymandering case

  • Published in State

COURTESY PHOTOCOURTESY PHOTO  The United States Supreme Court decided Monday to not rule on a case challenging the design of Maryland’s congressional districts – leaving the state's congressional map for the 2018 elections intact.

The unanimous holding by the Supreme Court means that Maryland, along with several other states, will have to wait for the Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue of partisan gerrymandering.

Partisan gerrymandering, the act taken by state legislators to redraw congressional districts to deliberately provide advantage to one political party over another, has become a hot topic in Maryland ever since legislators redrew the state’s congressional districts after the 2010 census.

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County throws support behind local union

  • Published in Local

countysealROCKVILLE — Local union leaders, members of the County Council and the County Executive gathered in solidarity last week before the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that could do significant harm to labor unions, and in the process, cut off a major source of funds to Democrats across the country. 

On Monday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The case will determine whether public sector unions can legally require employees who are not union members – but still reap the benefits of a collectively-bargained contract – to pay the union so-called “fair share” fees. 22 states allow public-sector unions require employees who are not members to pay such fees – which are generally 20-30 percent less than full union dues – if the union negotiates their employment contract.

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Facts, opinions and Snowden

IMG 1901 1Economics teaches us the more of a commodity we have, then usually the less valuable that commodity is to us – or as the economics professor used to say, “The demand curve slopes down.”
With that being said, if you couple that thought with the well-known maxim regarding opinions and their proliferation, then one must come to the logical and factual conclusion that opinions are worthless.
Edward Snowden didn’t get in trouble for releasing “opinions.” He got in trouble for being a whistleblower regarding hard data – real information – you know “facts.”

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Handcuffed but not arrested

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One area of criminal law that has been the subject of many appellate opinions is the notion of “stop and frisk,” as originally adopted in the Supreme Court’s opinion in 1968 in Terry v. Ohio. Although the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures protects persons from a warrantless arrest without probable cause, where the police have a reasonable suspicion that a person may be armed and dangerous that is enough to stop them and frisk or search their person for a weapon. Whether this allows the police to actually handcuff such a person was explored by a recent case from Maryland’s highest court called Ira Chase v. State.

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Marine's advocate defeats Iran on terrorism

  • Published in News

Dan GaskillDan Gaskill, who lost to John McCarthy for prosecutor in the last election, celebrates a larger victory over Iran this week. PHOTO BY MARK POETKER

For 16 years, Dan Gaskill has kept photos of his fallen Marine Corps comrades in his office.

Though he didn’t serve with them, since 2000 he has represented many Marines whose lives were forever altered by an act of terrorism.

They are the victims of the 1983 Beirut Bombing and Gaskill has been part of the quest to punish Iran for its involvement in the planning of the attack.

On April 20 Gaskill finally completed his mission as the United States Supreme Court ruled 6-2 in Bank Markazi v. Peterson.

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Montgomery County's model for reform

 

cashA "laboratory for democracy"! That is the phrase used by Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes to describe New York City's public election funding program during his address to the "American Elections at the Crossroads" forum at the Brennan Center for Justice in New York City on July 22nd.   Since Montgomery County established a very similar small-donor matching fund program for candidates with the passage of Bill 16-14 on September 30, 2014, it is hoped that that same description can someday be applied to Montgomery County.

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Encouraging Supreme Court news

scales of justiceCourt rulings, for the most part, have as their legal basis court precedent. Where no precedent exists, new precedent is established. It is the role of the court, including the Supreme Court, to interpret those previous rulings and apply them to the particular set of circumstances in today's society and, in the Supreme Court's case especially, ensure that the court's decision is consistent with Constitutional intent. The Supreme Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts, has been rather infamous for not allowing itself to be burdened with the precedent established in previous Supreme Court rulings. In the Heller case in 2006, it ignored substantial precedent regarding gun ownership by individuals. An even more egregious ignoring of precedent came in the Citizens United case in 2010 in which the court ignored much precedent designed to limit spending in political campaigns. The gutting of the Voting Rights Act is another example.

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Actions speak louder than symbols

Confederate soldier pic from Sentinel around 1915The recent controversy regarding the displaying of the Confederate battle flag gave me cause to consider the difference between actions and mere symbols. The argument most given against removal of the battle flag is that it expresses pride in one's heritage and one's strong belief in state's rights and, further, is covered by the first amendment to the Constitution under freedom of speech. Displaying a flag would be considered by the Supreme Court as an expression of speech based on court precedent. However, the court has also used the now famous example of "yelling fire in a crowded movie theater" where there is no fire to indicate that there are exceptions even to the first amendment and freedom of speech. In the case of the displaying of the Confederate battle flag, although it may, indeed, represent one's heritage and a strong belief in state's rights, the state's right that it represents is the right to own another human being and the right to secede from the union if that right is to be taken away. As such, it serves all too often to represent hatred and the associated violence, as in the case of the Charleston shooting, and should be no more protected under the first amendment than the right to yell fire in that crowded movie theater when there is no fire.

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Leggett asks for savings plan as revenues fall

  • Published in Local

ROCKVILLE -- County Executive Ike Leggett has asked all departments to cut their current operating budgets by 2 percent to prepare for current and anticipated shortfalls.

 

The county is facing a $21.4 million shortfall based just on the county’s most recent round of income tax distributions from the state, according to a memo from Chief Administrative Officer Tim Firestine. This is coupled with the fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision in Comptroller v. Wynne, which will require the county to pay back taxes and reduce future revenue to the tune of almost $100 million over the next two fiscal years, according to Firestine.

“It is clear from our past experience with savings plans, that the earlier these plans are implemented, the less painful they may be. I am asking all County Government departments to identify realistic and practicable reductions of 2% to their FY2016 approved budget,” Firestine wrote. “Additionally, the Executive has directed that the vast majority of new programs and positions approved in the FY2016 Operating Budget be included in the proposed savings plan.”

Firestine also said they are asking outside agencies, including Montgomery County Public Schools – about half of the county operating budget – to find savings. Firestine said he also plans to reduce some expenditures from the capital budget.

Leggett will present his recommendations to the council by July 7, according to Council Administrator Steve Farber. Council committees are scheduled to consider the recommendations starting July 13.

“The deadline is pretty tight for both sides of the street if we’re going to be able to act by July 28,” Farber said.

Council President George Leventhal (D-At large) said he was concerned the executive wanted to target new initiatives for the savings and that he did not want to automatically eliminate everything the council just worked on to add to the fiscal 2016 budget.

Office of Management and Budget Director Jennifer Hughes also said many of the tools the county usually can use to save money are not available because they were used in past years. She said the office is also looking at ways to use current revenues to bolster the budget, something they have not done as much in the past.

“(Leggett) had gone to every well, many of which are not available to us anymore, and that makes meeting the gap that is shown for FY17 that much more difficult,” Hughes said.

She also said the shortfall will not just be in the short term.

“This is not a problem we expect to be going away in (fiscal years) 16, 17 or frankly 18,” Hughes said.

Leggett has also said repeatedly he plans to raise property taxes in fiscal 2017, although he was able to keep them steady in fiscal 2016.

Farber said the most recent savings plan was in December 2010, when the council approved a $32 million reduction.

 

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