Bills Worth Watching
I am writing again to inform your readers of some pending legislation in Maryland which may be of concern. Over 1,200 bills have been filed in Maryland this year, most of which are at best questionable.
I wrote previously about HB119/SB199 – “Primary and Secondary Education – Health Education Framework – Established” which would require all counties in Maryland to create an “age-appropriate” curriculum that is consistent with the Comprehensive Health Education Framework. Our county commissioners and school board, thankfully, are in unanimous opposition to this legislation, but Delegates and Senators in other parts of the state need to hear from their constituents also. Perhaps your readers might reach out to friends and family in central and southern Maryland to make sure they are aware of the legislation and ask them to let their legislators know how they feel about requiring 7th grade students to “identify solo, vaginal, anal, and oral sex along with possible outcomes of each”. In addition, the Framework requires that students in Kindergarten through 2nd grade “recognize” and “identify a range of ways people identify and express their gender”.
Another bill of concern is SB0460/-HB0283 “Maryland Medical Assistance Program – Gender Affirming Treatment (Trans Health Equity Act)”. This legislation would require that all recipients of the program be provided gender-affirming treatment if medically necessary, including transgender, non-binary, intersex, two-spirit and other gender diverse individuals. The bill does not exclude children or teens under 21 years of age from puberty blockers, cross sex hormones or surgery to remove breasts of reproductive organs for Sexual Dysphoria or Sexual Identity. I have to ask on what planet would people consider a 16 or 17-year-old qualified to make a life-altering, permanent decision to amputate breasts or organs or take puberty blockers, which would permanently alter their bodies? I can’t believe that a majority of Maryland voters would agree with this, but, of course, they have to know about it. So, again, perhaps your readers can make sure family and friends in other parts of the state are aware of this legislation.
Legislation to support (in light of recent laws and proposed bills as above restricting parents’ knowledge, guidance or consent for minor children to make decisions for their mental or physical care of their identity) would be SB0566/HB0666- “Family Law – Fundamental Parental Rights.” This legislation would establish that a parent has the fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education, care and welfare of the parent’s child, and prohibit the State or a political subdivision from infringing on these fundamental parental rights unless the State or political subdivision can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that this infringement is necessary to achieve a compelling government interest and is narrowly tailored. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that we had a nationwide problem with young people eating laundry detergent pods, i.e. the “Tide Pod Challenge”?
Finally, there is SB0803 “Labor and Employment – Payment of Minimum Wage – Tipped Employees” which would completely change the restaurant industry and which has been shown, in states where similar legislation has been enacted, the drastically reduce the income of tipped employees.
The full text and status of these bills can be read at mgaleg.maryland.gov. You can also get the contact information for the sponsoring delegates and senators.
Council Right To Reject Cox
It has become quite fashionable over the last few years to blame government for all of society’s woes. We are more partisan today than any other time in my life. The days of agreeing to disagree have been replaced with you are either with me 100% or you are some sort of trouble making instigator with underhanded motives. But even in the toxic environment of today, occasionally an event will happen that will make everybody take a step back and rethink the merits of our system. The folks in Wicomico County were on the front lines of one of these events. The ultimate outcome should restore faith to those who have written “good government” off as nonexistent and deemed all politicians as self-serving and tone deaf.
Wicomico County Executive Julie Giordano attempted one of the ultimate political power plays in our area in decades. While seeking little to no input from her peers, she decided that it would be a good idea to oust current Special Legal Counsel Kevin Karpinski and replace him with failed candidate for Maryland Governor Dan Cox. Karpinski billed the County at a rate of $250 per hour. Many would agree this is quite a handsome sum. County Executive Giordano wanted to bring Dan Cox to town and pay him $350 per hour. This was an insulting move to anyone who cares about spending the taxpayer’s money wisely. Upon announcing her intent to replace Karpinski with Cox, she noted that the Council was comprised of five Republicans and only two Democrats so she arrogantly proclaimed that her move would easily be approved.
Thankfully the citizens of the County had other ideas. Through the support and guidance of many community leaders and groups such as the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus, folks took the opportunity to speak out against the hiring of Dan Cox. One speaker after another approached the podium and expressed outrage and dismay over the proposed hiring which everybody agreed was politics at its worst. After listening to the speakers, and using common sense and decency, the council members voted 5-1 against hiring Mr. Cox.
This is a perfect example of how good government works. It would have been very easy for Ms. Giordano to get her way as she anticipated. However, the citizens showed up and spoke out. Groups like LSPC spoke loudly and clearly to all who would listen about what a dirty deal this patronage hiring was. The County Council voted and not only did Giordano and Cox lose, but Democracy won. Congratulations to those who participated in the fight against this proposed injustice and a huge pat on the back goes to those council members who stood up and did the right thing. This is not only a victory for the residents of Wicomico County, but one for our entire Country.
M. Scott Chismar
Whale Death Concerns
The Fenwick Island Environmental Committee is concerned about the unprecedented deaths of 15 whales and numerous other marine animals which coincided with seismic testing and construction activities by offshore wind companies along the Atlantic coastline.
Scientific studies have dete1mined that seismic testing and turbine construction have catastrophic effects on some marine animals which have a low tolerance for unde1water noise. In addition to causing long te1m physical problems, the noise from seismic testing and other construction activities directly disrupts the sonar waves of whales and marine animals that depend on acoustics to navigate resulting in confusion and disorientation that leads to “strandings” and even deadly boat collisions.
Despite the science, Mike Dunmyer (U.S. Wind spokesman) has dismissed the unprecedented number of whale deaths as unrelated to offshore wind activities. Agencies like NOAA, BOEM and the US Fisheries Depa1iment, charged with protecting marine life, continue to deny direct links between turbine construction and the dying marine animals but also offer no other cause. Furthermore, the Save Right Whale Coalition has documented that “many conservation organizations accept donations from the offshore wind industry,” thus leading to conflict-of-interest questions.
Staying silent is not the answer as that implies consent or acceptance. Therefore, public opposition is vital to prevent the destruction of our marine environment. While we endorse Green Energy, we cannot do so when other aspects of the environment are endangered.
We are asking for your support in opposing industrial wind turbines that threaten the marine environment. Please write to your legislators and speak to your neighbors about the need to protect the marine habitat. Contact www.fenwickisland.org for more information. The time to act is now, before another whale washes up on our shores.
Fenwick Island Environmental Committee members Mayor Natalie Magdeburger; Council Member Paul Breger; Co-chairs Susan Brennan and Colleen Wilson; Members Vicki Carmean, Pam Pridgeon and Joseph Rector
Addressing Whale Misinformation
Recent strandings of whales along the east coast of the United States have generated a lot of alarm and misinformation concerning the cause of mortality. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concluded that the recent deaths of humpback and minke whales were the result of ship strikes.
Even so, some “dark money” groups funded by oil companies have claimed that whale mortalities were associated with wind turbines without any supporting data. Republican congressman Andy Harris (MD), and the mayor of Ocean City MD have called for a moratorium on wind turbine construction despite the fact that no wind turbines have been built in the area.
To set the record straight, here are some actual verifiable facts:
Fact: Wind turbines have not killed any whales. Over 5000 offshore wind turbines have been built around the world, yet no whale mortalities have ever been observed in association with surveying, construction, or operation of these turbines.
Fact: Ship strikes are the leading cause of death for North Atlantic Right Whales. Although most of the recent local strandings were of humpback whales, they too were the result of ship strikes.
Fact: The major source of mortality for whales worldwide is entanglement with fishing gear, primarily lobster and crab trap lines. Such entanglement causes 82% of total whale mortalities. In fact, 85 percent of North Atlantic Right Whales have been entangled at least once, and 26 percent of them are entangled every year.
Fact: Whales and other marine mammals do avoid loud noises, including areas where wind turbines are under construction. But there is no evidence they avoid turbines after construction, and even some evidence of increased abundance.
Fact: Noise levels produced by operating turbines are lower than ambient ocean levels, and much lower than noise created by ship traffic, which is much more likely to disturb whales.
In fact, the preponderance of scientific evidence suggests that offshore wind turbines have a net positive impact on marine ecosystems. The coastal seafloor is mostly bare sand and mud with little habitat for fish. Wind turbines attract fouling organisms and small fish, which in turn feed larger fish. Fish such as black sea bass and tautog need vertical structure for shelter. And many pelagic fish like tuna are attracted to large ocean structures just because they are there. And by providing refuge from ship traffic and trap lines, turbine farms may actually help whale populations recover.
Ongoing efforts to mitigate whale mortalities include rerouting ship traffic and reducing speeds in whale migration corridors. Major research efforts are also underway to develop whale safe fishing gear such as ropeless traps that do not require buoy lines.
If Rep. Harris really wants to help, he should ask for increases in funds to develop whale-safe fishing gear. That would have the greatest impact on reducing human-caused whale deaths than any other solution.
Dr. Bradley Stevens, PhD
(The writer is Professor Emeritus of Marine Science at University of Maryland Eastern Shore.)