Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – April 14, 2023

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – April 14, 2023

Republicans in the Maryland General Assembly have always faced a tough road, but the predicament in Annapolis has reached new heights without Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. There are currently 52 Republicans in the House and Senate compared to 135 Democrats, representing 30% of the total leadership, the lowest level in 10 years.

In Annapolis, tempers reached a boil Monday night shortly before midnight when House of Delegates Democratic Speaker Adrienne A. Jones and Anne Arundel County Republican Delegate Nicholaus Kipke got into a screaming match. Before Sine Die, which was coming at midnight, Jones wanted to rush a piece of legislation to passage that prohibits cops from searching people based on smelling marijuana. As usual, the votes were there to pass it easily no matter how the Republicans vote. In a desperate stall tactic, Kipke erupted when he was not permitted to explain his no vote. A screaming match ensued that made each of them look foolish. It was clear the Republicans were frustrated and angry over being pushed around the last three months.

These sorts of shows of agitations among the badly outnumbered Republicans are nothing new, but what was unique about this legislative session was the lack of local courtesy. Though she and the local delegate were able to secure a few wins in capital funding for AGH, Diakonia and the Ocean Pines Fire Station, Senator Mary Beth Carozza said it was “disappointing and frustrating” the room tax bill was denied when it was thought to be on an easy course. Similar bills have cruised in the past. The enabling legislation would have simply allowed Worcester County to consider increasing the room tax rate from 5% to 6%. The change would have still needed to be unanimous among the Worcester County Commissioners for it to take place. There is no guarantee the room tax rate increase would have been approved by the commissioners.

Addressing the topic this week in a review of the session, Carozza’s comments hit the mark, saying, “I believe it was hypocritical for some Democrats to oppose this local hotel tax increase bill when all it did is enable or give the option to a county to increase the rate from 5 to 6 percent when half of Maryland counties have a rate of 6 percent and above. Furthermore, 65% of the increase would be paid by out-of-state visitors, not Marylanders.  Unfortunately, this local bill was caught up in politics at the end of session.  Moving forward and working with Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, we have a commitment from the Senate President to pass this local bill next session.”

There has been some speculation in recent weeks over the political future of Ocean City Councilman Tony DeLuca. In a statement this week, DeLuca, who has served on the council since 2014, made it clear he intends to fill out his current term, which expires next fall. DeLuca recently sold his residence in the Gateway Grand, fueling speculation he might be relocating. He said this week he is currently renting a place in north Ocean City.

“At this immediate time, my intention is to remain a council member and fulfill all of my duties and commitments,” said DeLuca, a retired executive who moved from Annapolis to Ocean City in 2008. “If in some point in time that changes, I will advise the Mayor and City Council.  I have been a long-time member of this community and it will take some time to decide my/my family’s best next steps.”

If DeLuca were to opt to not serve the remainder of his term – an unlikely hypothetical at this point according to him – the Ocean City charter calls for a special election to be held to fill the vacancy. Some municipalities actually allow for the sitting council to appoint a replacement without an election, but the city charter reads, “All vacancies of Mayor and Councilmember offices shall be filled by a holding of a special election within ninety (90) days of the occurrence of such a vacancy, provided that no such special election shall be necessary if the regular election date will occur within one hundred fifty (150) days of the occurrence of such vacancy.”

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore recently announced he wants only electric vehicles sold in the state by 2035. President Joe Biden said this week he wants only electric light-vehicle cars sold in the country by 2032. This means electric vehicle sales must surge immediately because in 2022 they only accounted for 6% of all automobiles. While well intentioned to reduce emissions, these goals are incredibly ambitious and borderline absurd. It seems to me years are just being tossed around as political fodder.

A viewpoint expressed in a news article I read yesterday about these new dreams from Moore and Biden hits home. “It’s a difficult dance,” said Stephanie Brinley, an automotive analyst for the auto intelligence service at S&P Global Mobility. “In order to have a more fuel efficient vehicle, it will be more expensive. It will be more expensive to produce; it will be more expensive to buy. It just goes with the territory. And that’s at the core of the conundrum.”

The average electric vehicle costs about $60,000. To ensure these lofty goals are met, mandates are coming from states to mandate governments and private businesses, especially high-volume places like shopping centers and malls, offer electric vehicle stations. These are expensive to maintain, and a formula is reportedly underway to require a certain percentage of charging stations for each parking lot depending on spaces.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.