Yesterday, Eric Blitz testified on behalf of the Libertarian Party of Maryland in favor of HB 626, a bill that would ease ballot access for the party. Identical to last year’s bill in the Senate, this year’s effort changes one of the methods the party can qualify to remain a recognized political party (and thus retain ballot access). HB 626, sponsored by Delegate David Moon (D-Montgomery), with co-sponsors Delegates Brooke Lierman (D-Baltimore City) and William Smith, Jr. (D-Montgomery), replaces the 1% of registered voters standard with a flat 10,000 registered voters affiliated with the party. Currently, the Libertarian Party of Maryland has 15,310 registered voters, so we would automatically qualify for so long as we maintained 10,000 registered voters. Say goodbye to ballot petitioning if this bill passes!
Also testifying in support of HB 626 was Delegate Moon, Brian Bittner and Daniel Robertson of the Green Party, and Jonathan Sherbert, a lawyer who has been involved in petitioning challenges. The House Ways and Means Committee appeared open to giving this bill serious consideration and we are cautiously optimistic. There is not yet a companion bill filed in the Senate.
On February 24th, Eric Blitz testified on behalf of the party as part of the panel of witnesses called to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, seeking a favorable recommendation on the marijuana legalization bill (HB911). The witness panels speaking in favor of the bill also included Delegate Curt Anderson and David Fraser-Hidalgo (bill sponsors), Darrell Carrington (Maryland Cannabis Industry Association), Tim Lynch (Cato Institute), Rachelle Yeung (Marijuana Policy Project), Major Neil Franklin (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), and Sara Love (ACLU of MD), among others. After the panels, approximately 20 individuals and organizations testified in support of the bill, including Libertarian Scott Soffen, who was testifying on behalf of the Center for Urban Families, of which he is a Director (Scott ran for Congress in 2014 in the 7th Congressional District). This was a contentious hearing with a known opponent of marijuana legalization, Delegate Joseph Vallario, as the Chair. The legalization bill will also be subject to a hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee (SB531) on March 4th, at 1:00 p.m. Most of the organizations on the panels, including the Libertarian Party, will testify again before the Senate committee.
Also on February 24th, Eric Blitz of the Libertarian Party testified in support of HB374, HB124 and HB615, all before the House Judiciary Committee. The first bill creates a right to expunge criminal convictions for those previously convicted of possession of the now decriminalized amount of less than 10 grams of marijuana, the second is broader, allowing expungement of all crimes which are no longer crimes, and the third bill makes it so that the now decriminalized possession amount cannot be used by the parole and probation officials to issue warrants or notices of violation if that is the only basis for the violation.