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Analysis: The data behind 90 days in Annapolis

The most efficient lawmaker by the numbers this session was Sen. Melony Griffith, D-Prince George’s, who passed 14 of 14 bills she introduced as a primary sponsor. Photo by Glynis Kazanjian for MarylandReporter.com.

By Daniel Oyefusi and Jake Gluck

Capital News Service

Only 40 out of the 188 legislators in the Maryland General Assembly passed at least 50% of bills they introduced, and the average success rate for passing bills was 30.6%.

Ten lawmakers passed every bill for which they were the primary sponsor.

While some legislators were able to pass multiple bills, others struck out in their attempts and a few didn’t introduce any legislation.

Capital News Service gathered data from the 2019 legislative session and conducted an analysis to report on some of the most striking takeaways from the General Assembly.

In the Senate and House of Delegates, 188 legislators introduced 2,497 bills, which includes 16 joint resolutions. Both chambers passed 866 bills, two of which were joint resolutions.

Gov. Larry Hogan, R, must sign bills into law or let them become law without his signature, or veto bills he disapproves of. He has already completed four bill signings and his fifth is scheduled for Thursday.

Hogan vetoed some legislation during the session, including a bill to increase the minimum wage in Maryland to $15 per hour, but the Democrat-controlled General Assembly voted to override the veto.

Although the General Assembly has come to a close, Hogan could still veto some bills passed later in the session that he doesn’t agree with. The deadline for Hogan to veto bills is May 28.

Who were the most successful legislators? Least successful?

The most efficient lawmaker by the numbers this session was Sen. Melony Griffith, D-Prince George’s, who passed 14 of 14 bills she introduced as a primary sponsor.

The freshman senator, previously a 16-year member of the House of Delegates, took on legislation — 11 at the request of the Joint Committee on Pensions, on which Griffith serves as the Senate chair — that primarily focused on adjusting the state’s pension and retirement system.

All but one of Griffith’s bills passed unanimously through the General Assembly. Griffith told Capital News Service she was surprised, but said the process of getting a bill passed is complicated.

Griffith mentioned “unintended consequences” of introducing legislation, which at times “creates more problems than it seeks to address.” A bill may attempt to correct one problem or update one situation, but could indirectly affect another, causing a domino effect of issues that must be resolved.

“People don’t know how long the days are,” Griffith said.

One sure way to get your legislation passed is to hold a leadership position.

Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s, Charles and Calvert, passed the most bills with 17, and the late House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, tied for second with 16.

Sen. Brian Feldman, D-Montgomery, vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee, also passed 16 bills. Fifteen lawmakers passed 10 or more bills they introduced.

Miller and Busch also introduced the most legislation of any lawmakers, with Miller at 52 and Busch at 50. The Senate President and House Speaker often introduce legislation at the request of the governor’s administration, or a state agency. This is typically done as a courtesy.

In the Senate and House of Delegates, 188 legislators introduced 2,497 bills, which includes 16 joint resolutions. Both chambers passed 866 bills, two of which were joint resolutions. Photo by Glynis Kazanjian for MarylandReporter.com.

A handful of legislators weren’t successful in passing any legislation, and Republicans — who are in the minority — fared the worst this legislative session. The four least successful lawmakers this past session were Republicans, led by Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington, who failed to pass any of the 16 bills he introduced as a primary sponsor.

The nine-year lawmaker sought to enact legislation that included recognizing exposure to pornography as a public health crisis, changing the size of safety zones for archery hunting in Washington County and tightening election rules. Each of Parrott’s bills either received an unfavorable report or did not receive a vote in its committee. Parrott’s office did not return a request for comment.

Of the 20 lawmakers who passed the most pieces of legislation, only one Republican, Sen. Adelaide Eckardt, Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot and Wicomico, passed more than 10 bills as a primary sponsor.

Three lawmakers didn’t introduce any legislation as a primary sponsor: Delegates Jen Terrasa, D-Howard, and Debra Davis, D-Charles, both freshmen lawmakers, as well as Del. Jay Jalisi, D-Baltimore County, who was reprimanded by his peers after a report alleged abusive behavior by Jalisi toward his staff.

‘Freshman of the Year’

Griffith could claim the title of “Freshman of the Year” for this legislative session, but the first-term senator also previously served for 16 years in the House of Delegates.

The actual “freshman” first-time lawmaker who achieved the most success was Sen. Sarah Elfreth, D-Anne Arundel, who saw eight out of 10 bills she introduced as a primary sponsor pass.

Sen. Sarah Elfreth. Photo by Glynis Kazanjian for MarylandReporter.com.

Her notable successes include bringing changes to the University System of Maryland Board of Regents and establishing Freedom of the Press Day.

Elfreth’s success was an anomaly for this session’s 61 freshman lawmakers, many of whom either didn’t see any legislation pass or introduce a single bill.

Which party was more successful?

Democratic lawmakers saw more success in passing legislation, compared to their Republican counterparts.

The median number of bills passed by a typical Democrat lawmaker was three, compared to one bill by a typical Republican. The success rate for Democrats was also buoyed by the fact that the party holds a supermajority in the General Assembly.

The median number of bills introduced by a Democrat was 10, compared to 9 from Republicans.

In total, individual Democratic lawmakers passed 500 bills, to 123 from individual Republican lawmakers.

Which legislators worked together the most?

A co-sponsor is an additional lawmaker or lawmakers, aside from the one or two primary sponsors, who sign on to voice their support for a piece of legislation. Capital News Service analyzed every co-sponsorship this session to find out which lawmakers supported each other the most.

The following legislators all had at least 15 co-sponsorships between and among them, the strongest relationships in the Senate. These relationships are often a result of the legislators’ common committees or districts. (See the accompanying graphics to learn how many bills each set of lawmakers shared.) 

Senators Will Smith, Jeff Waldstreicher and Susan Lee are all Montgomery County Democrats, while Senators Jill Carter and Mary Washington, serve on the Judicial Proceedings Committee where Smith is vice chair. Sen. Antonio Hayes, like Carter and Washington, is a Baltimore City Democrat.

Sen. Ronald Young, D-Frederick, Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, and Sen. Clarence Lam, Baltimore and Howard, all serve on the Executive Nominations Committee, which Young chairs. Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, D-Baltimore County, is vice chair of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee where Young also serves. Sen. Delores Kelley, D-Baltimore County and Nathan-Pulliam both represent parts of Baltimore County. Kelley and Feldman are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the Senate Finance Committee.

Miller controls the agenda for the Senate and Republicans, facing a supermajority, must work with the chamber president to get legislation passed.

Delegates Stephanie Smith and Nick Mosby are Baltimore City Democrats who serve on the Ways and Means Committee.

Del. David Moon, D-Montgomery, and Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, D-Howard, both serve on the Judiciary Committee. Moon, Del. Lorig Charkoudian, D-Montgomery, Del. Erek Barron, D-Prince George’s and Del. Vaughn Stewart, D-Montgomery are all members of the Maryland Legislative Latino Caucus.

Busch — and now newly elected Speaker Adrienne Jones — controlled the agenda for the House. Republicans, facing a supermajority, must work with the House speaker to get legislation passed.

Del. Robbyn Lewis, D-Baltimore City, supported the most pieces of other lawmakers’ legislation by a wide margin. The two-year lawmaker co-sponsored 208 bills; the next closest legislator was Del. Joseline A. Pena-Melnyk, D-Prince George’s and Anne Arundel, who co-sponsored 143. Neither lawmaker introduced more than 10 bills as a primary sponsor.

Todd Eberly, professor of political and public policy at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said the district pairings make sense because a lot of bills introduced are “county-specific.”

Eberly added that sponsoring bills within one’s committee increases the likelihood that it will eventually make it to a floor vote.

In total Maryland lawmakers gave 15,618 co-sponsorships this session. Of those 2,870 — or 18% — were cross-party.

What’s on the agenda for next session?

Many bills were left untouched in the helter-skelter of Sine Die, the final day of the legislative session. One of the issues Eberly expects to be revisited in January 2020 is background checks on long gun sales. The House and Senate weren’t able to come to agreement on a revised bill ahead of the final day.

Eberly also expects a bill to allow patients to consider drug-aided death to make a return. The Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Smith, didn’t pass after a tied vote this year, but has gained momentum over the last few sessions.

Soledad O’Brien Wants Journalists to Stop Playing Games and Call a Racist a Racist


There’s a lot of people out here, namely, journalists who refuse to call out Donald Trump as a racist. One seasoned newsperson, Soledad O’Brien, ain’t having it!

O’Brien has built her career as a storyteller and also as a truth-teller. “I often on Twitter talk to journalists because I feel like they dropped the ball at times. I think a lot of journalists are doing great work a lot and I think some are doing poor work.” So she uses her social media account to call a spade a spade, or rather, call a racist a racist.

//www.theroot.com/embed/video/iframe?id=mcp-3553019&post_id=1828263404&blog_id=1635821517&platform=embed&autoplay=false&mute=false

Even before she was doing it on Twitter, O’Brien was calling out her former colleagues at CNN. During our interview, when The Root crew got a chance to meet O’Brien in her office for an hourlong chat (where we talked about her amazing foundation, PowHERful), we also had to ask her about Trump and all the written acrobatics journalists do to keep from calling him a racist.

O’Brien said, “When he [Donald Trump] uses words that are literally verbatim phrases that white supremacists use, I want people to understand like it’s OK to call things out. It’s OK to say something that is a lie, is a lie.”

During our chat, O’Brien thought back on her CNN days and told us a story about the shocking way some of her colleagues wouldn’t be intentional with their words.

“A year ago, when I was working at CNN, we had to stop someone from using video of people climbing over a wall when they were talking about immigrants,” she said. “I’m like, ‘You don’t even know who these people are. You know you can’t just wallpaper that! Like what are you doing?’

She continued: “That was a news organization! It’s a constant re-educating of people, fighting for people and highlighting for people why this is wrong. I think often journalists don’t even realize it, that there is a reason that people want to portray somebody as a scary black man and you know that the reason is political. It’s got roots in manipulating people. These things aren’t accidental.

“And I think for some people, they just don’t see. They don’t realize that they don’t see it and they don’t know it,” she says. “And then when you highlight it, they’re like, ‘Oh! I suddenly get it.’ I think there’s a value in illuminating that for people.

Check out a very no-nonsense Soledad O’Brien in the video above calling any and everyone out who refuses to call your lil’ president what he is: a racist.There’s a lot of people out here, namely, journalists who refuse to call out Donald Trump as a racist. One seasoned newsperson, Soledad O’Brien, ain’t having it!

O’Brien has built her career as a storyteller and also as a truth-teller. “I often on Twitter talk to journalists because I feel like they dropped the ball at times. I think a lot of journalists are doing great work a lot and I think some are doing poor work.” So she uses her social media account to call a spade a spade, or rather, call a racist a racist.

Even before she was doing it on Twitter, O’Brien was calling out her former colleagues at CNN. During our interview, when The Root crew got a chance to meet O’Brien in her office for an hourlong chat (where we talked about her amazing foundation, PowHERful), we also had to ask her about Trump and all the written acrobatics journalists do to keep from calling him a racist.

O’Brien said, “When he [Donald Trump] uses words that are literally verbatim phrases that white supremacists use, I want people to understand like it’s OK to call things out. It’s OK to say something that is a lie, is a lie.”

During our chat, O’Brien thought back on her CNN days and told us a story about the shocking way some of her colleagues wouldn’t be intentional with their words.

“A year ago, when I was working at CNN, we had to stop someone from using video of people climbing over a wall when they were talking about immigrants,” she said. “I’m like, ‘You don’t even know who these people are. You know you can’t just wallpaper that! Like what are you doing?’

She continued: “That was a news organization! It’s a constant re-educating of people, fighting for people and highlighting for people why this is wrong. I think often journalists don’t even realize it, that there is a reason that people want to portray somebody as a scary black man and you know that the reason is political. It’s got roots in manipulating people. These things aren’t accidental.

“And I think for some people, they just don’t see. They don’t realize that they don’t see it and they don’t know it,” she says. “And then when you highlight it, they’re like, ‘Oh! I suddenly get it.’ I think there’s a value in illuminating that for people.”

Check out a very no-nonsense Soledad O’Brien in the video above calling any and everyone out who refuses to call your lil’ president what he is: a racist.There’s a lot of people out here, namely, journalists who refuse to call out Donald Trump as a racist. One seasoned newsperson, Soledad O’Brien, ain’t having it!

O’Brien has built her career as a storyteller and also as a truth-teller. “I often on Twitter talk to journalists because I feel like they dropped the ball at times. I think a lot of journalists are doing great work a lot and I think some are doing poor work.” So she uses her social media account to call a spade a spade, or rather, call a racist a racist.

Even before she was doing it on Twitter, O’Brien was calling out her former colleagues at CNN. During our interview, when The Root crew got a chance to meet O’Brien in her office for an hourlong chat (where we talked about her amazing foundation, PowHERful), we also had to ask her about Trump and all the written acrobatics journalists do to keep from calling him a racist.

O’Brien said, “When he [Donald Trump] uses words that are literally verbatim phrases that white supremacists use, I want people to understand like it’s OK to call things out. It’s OK to say something that is a lie, is a lie.”

During our chat, O’Brien thought back on her CNN days and told us a story about the shocking way some of her colleagues wouldn’t be intentional with their words.

“A year ago, when I was working at CNN, we had to stop someone from using video of people climbing over a wall when they were talking about immigrants,” she said. “I’m like, ‘You don’t even know who these people are. You know you can’t just wallpaper that! Like what are you doing?’

She continued: “That was a news organization! It’s a constant re-educating of people, fighting for people and highlighting for people why this is wrong. I think often journalists don’t even realize it, that there is a reason that people want to portray somebody as a scary black man and you know that the reason is political. It’s got roots in manipulating people. These things aren’t accidental.

“And I think for some people, they just don’t see. They don’t realize that they don’t see it and they don’t know it,” she says. “And then when you highlight it, they’re like, ‘Oh! I suddenly get it.’ I think there’s a value in illuminating that for people.”

Check out a very no-nonsense Soledad O’Brien in the video above calling any and everyone out who refuses to call your lil’ president what he is: a racist.There’s a lot of people out here, namely, journalists who refuse to call out Donald Trump as a racist. One seasoned newsperson, Soledad O’Brien, ain’t having it!

O’Brien has built her career as a storyteller and also as a truth-teller. “I often on Twitter talk to journalists because I feel like they dropped the ball at times. I think a lot of journalists are doing great work a lot and I think some are doing poor work.” So she uses her social media account to call a spade a spade, or rather, call a racist a racist.

Even before she was doing it on Twitter, O’Brien was calling out her former colleagues at CNN. During our interview, when The Root crew got a chance to meet O’Brien in her office for an hourlong chat (where we talked about her amazing foundation, PowHERful), we also had to ask her about Trump and all the written acrobatics journalists do to keep from calling him a racist.

O’Brien said, “When he [Donald Trump] uses words that are literally verbatim phrases that white supremacists use, I want people to understand like it’s OK to call things out. It’s OK to say something that is a lie, is a lie.”

During our chat, O’Brien thought back on her CNN days and told us a story about the shocking way some of her colleagues wouldn’t be intentional with their words.

“A year ago, when I was working at CNN, we had to stop someone from using video of people climbing over a wall when they were talking about immigrants,” she said. “I’m like, ‘You don’t even know who these people are. You know you can’t just wallpaper that! Like what are you doing?’

She continued: “That was a news organization! It’s a constant re-educating of people, fighting for people and highlighting for people why this is wrong. I think often journalists don’t even realize it, that there is a reason that people want to portray somebody as a scary black man and you know that the reason is political. It’s got roots in manipulating people. These things aren’t accidental.

“And I think for some people, they just don’t see. They don’t realize that they don’t see it and they don’t know it,” she says. “And then when you highlight it, they’re like, ‘Oh! I suddenly get it.’ I think there’s a value in illuminating that for people.”

Check out a very no-nonsense Soledad O’Brien in the video above calling any and everyone out who refuses to call your lil’ president what he is: a racist.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Danielle Young

Pretty. Witty. Girly. Worldly. One who likes to party, but comes home early. I got stories to tell. Prince (yes, that Prince) called me excellence. Achievement unlocked.

More Cities Want to Embrace ‘Democracy Vouchers’

Following Seattle’s example, other cities want to give voters cash vouchers to donate to local candidates.

Tanvi MisraAug 8, 2018

The author of Seattle's "democracy voucher" initiative holding up a $25 voucher.
The author of Seattle’s “democracy voucher” initiative holding up a $25 voucher. Ted S. Warren/AP

In 2017, Seattle rolled out “democracy vouchers”—a program through which it would give eligible residents vouchers totaling $100 to donate to the local candidate of their choice. Candidates who opted in to the program had to agree to strict guidelines on how to spend the money they received. The idea behind the pilot was that giving the equivalent of money to constituents who don’t usually have the resources to support their candidates—pensioners and the homeless, for example—would spur greater political participation. And, ideally, it would also help mitigate the vast influence wealthy campaign donors have on local elections.

Alan Durning
The author of Seattle’s “democracy voucher” initiative holding up a $25 voucher. Ted S. Warren/AP

Now, the idea is picking up speed in other cities, with Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Austin, Texas, planning to put it to vote in ballot initiatives come November. Why? Well, for one, they see Seattle’s program, approved in 2015 and funded through a 10-year property tax, as a success. At least by some measures, it has been: A recent analysis of the outcomes by two liberal policy organizations concluded that the initiative boosted participation among younger and lower-income voters, and also created a more ethnically diverse group of voters in the local elections last year. Although a previous Seattle Times examination found that it was not successful in keeping big money out of the election. An analysisby Jennifer Heerwig and Brian J. McCabe found that while it was true that the voucher users were significantly more economically diverse, they also reflected the overall political participation in the city: voucher use was greater for older, white, and middle- and high-income voters. Yet low-income voters who did participate said they appreciated the opportunity: “It feels like I’m more a part of the system,” one voucher user told the Seattle Times in 2017. “People like me can contribute in ways that we never have before. We can participate in ways that Big Money always has.” Albuquerque presents a particularly interesting site to replicate Seattle’s experiment. In 2005, this city was the second after Tucson to approve a mechanism to publicly finance local candidates, with 70 percent of voters in favor. Through this program, eligible candidates get $1 per voter in their constituency, out of a fund carved out of the city budget every year. (To qualify, among other criteria, the candidates had to eschew private donations). They were also entitled to additional funds to compete with privately financed opponents, but that part of the program was struck down by the Supreme Court, in a lawsuit against a similar campaign finance law in Arizona in 2011.Over time, it became increasingly unfeasible for publicly financed candidates in Albuquerque to compete with those who accepted money from big spenders. In 2017’s election, private money played a huge role. Tim Keller—who is now mayor—was the only candidate who used the city’s public financingmechanism, although, he, too, got outside help from an independent political financing group (the city’s version of a PAC). That’s one of the main reasons the coalition of local activists have been pushing for Albuquerque’s version of “democracy vouchers,” or “’Burque Bucks”as they’re being called: It will enable a candidate to be competitive relying solely on public money next time around, said Eric Griego, New Mexico state director of the Working Families Party, who has been advocating for campaign finance reform. The other problem Griego sees in Albuquerque is that political participation does not reflect the demographics of the electorate. The city is 60 percent people of color and 40 percent white, but its city council is two-thirds white. And according to estimates by Common Cause, Working Families Party, and other members of the coalition advocating for reform, “fewer than 350 donors gave three quarters of all cash contributions, with the average from each individual amounting to about $3,000.”“Every voter, every Albuquerque resident, should have an equal voice and that 350 people shouldn’t be able to determine who the next mayor is,” says Griego, who was a city councilor in 2005. “It should be the larger electorate—whether or not they can write a thousand dollar check.”“Burque Bucks,” is a part of the fix, he adds. “We considered other proposals but this one seemed to be the right balance between making public finance candidates more viable and broadening the electorate,” he said.So far, Griego and other activists have collected the petition signatures required to qualify “Burque Bucks” as a ballot initiative. If they pass the rest of the procedural hurdles, it will be on the ballot come November. If it passes, the program will aim to give voters a $25 voucher to donate to their publicly financed candidate—a quarter of what Seattle voters get.

“We’re not anywhere near as wealthy as Seattle, we’re not as big, and we’re probably not as progressive,” Griego said. “We’ve modified [the program] to fit the economics and demographics of Albuquerque.” Campaign finance reform became a key issue during the 2016 presidential election. It was elevated in large part by Democratic primary candidate Bernie Sanders, who was himself propelled by small, individual donations from across the country. That same year, South Dakota and Washington state passed versions of “democracy vouchers,” as part of larger anti-corruption packages favored by voters. Both immediately received pushback, explains Vox’s Lee Drutman. In the case of South Dakota, a judge blocked the ethics overhaul of which the vouchers were a part, and then the Republican state legislature ended up repealing it altogether.Seattle’s measure also faced legal obstacles after a libertarian law firm sued on behalf of property owners. Citing Supreme Court precedent, it argued that the program was “grossly inefficient, wasted taxpayer money,”and violated the First Amendment because residents’ taxes were going to fund candidates they didn’t support. These arguments are along the lines of what Albuquerque activists are hearing from opponents, and what proponents of “democracy vouchers” have always come up against.In a 2011 op-ed in TheNew York Times, for example, Lawrence Lessig, a professor of law at Harvard, vouched for democracy voucher programs saying, “It’s also my money, or your money, used to support the speech that we believe: this is not a public financing system that forces some to subsidize the speech of others.” In response, a Cato Institute blog post called his argument “old wine in new bottles, barely masking the fact that it puts the government in the business of promoting political speech.” In the case of Seattle, lawyers and political experts predicted that the libertarian argument wasn’t likely to stand in court, and so far they’ve turned out to be right. In November 2017, a Superior Court judge upheld Seattle’s program, ruling that it was a “viewpoint neutral method” for achieving political participation. In other words, it did not violate free speech rights, but corrected for an existing imbalance.“I happen to not believe money is speech, but if you believe money is speech then he who has more money has more speech,” Griego said.Add to that the recent surge of progressive candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York—whose campaign has also relied largely on small, individual campaign donations of less than $200—and the stage is set for local efforts to reform campaign finance: People know it’s possible to beat the political machine.The attempts to get “democracy vouchers” on the books in Albuquerque and Austin follow efforts by local governments including those in Maryland, Oregon, and California to tweak campaign finance at the local level. Even Missouri, a state that typically votes conservative, hopped on the bandwagon. In New York, there are calls to use the city’s ongoing charter revision to strengthen public financing mechanisms further. Given that campaign finance laws at the national level are already leaky, and may be further weakened in the future, activists are hopeful that change fans out from the city-level.

“A lot of the real reform on a lot of issues—but certainly in campaign finance—is happening at the local level,” Griego said.

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post attributed an anaylsis to the Brennan Center for Justice. While it was published on that site, the authors are Jennifer Heerwig and Brian J. McCabe.

About the Author

Tanvi Misra
Tanvi Misra

Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.

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