Maryland General Assembly Opens 2016 Session

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Today, the Maryland General Assembly opens its 2016 session. The Libertarian Party of Maryland will be engaged in advocacy for and against legislation offered by the legacy parties. While we continue to win on many issues, we could do so much more if we had elected Libertarians who could sponsor bills and participate directly in the legislative process. Consider running for office as a Libertarian. For everyone else–vote Libertarian!

We will return for a third try with a ballot-access bill that would all but guaranty our continued party status and remove almost all risk of us having to petition. The bill replaces one of the standards for continuing to be recognized as a political party, changing the 1% of registered voters with a flat 10,000 registered voters (affiliated with the party). We have 16,843 registered Libertarians as of the end of 2015 and continue to be the fastest growing party in Maryland. We are qualified through 2016 because Shawn Quinn received over 1% of the vote in the 2014 Governor’s race. One method of re-qualifying after 2016 is if our presidential nominee receives over 1% in November. However, the alternative standard is reaching 1% of the total registered voters (approximately 38,000). If we failed to qualify via vote totals, we’d need 10,000 registered voters (regardless of party) to sign a petition, which because of validity rates, really means getting about 16,000 to 17,000 signatures The legislation proposes 10,000 registered voters to replace the 1% of registered-voters standard, because it matches the 10,000 petition signature requirement. If the purpose of petitioning is to measure a minimum level of support for the party in Maryland, affiliated voters is a much better measurement of that support than 10,000 petition signatures.

With the opening of the session, the legislature will consider any veto overrides. The Libertarian Party of Maryland urges the legislature to override the Governor’s veto of the marijuana decriminalization fix bill SB571, which decriminalized marijuana paraphernalia. We also urge the legislature to override the veto of the civil asset forfeiture bill SB578. Although SB578 provided only some relief to fix Maryland’s unjust system of civil asset forfeiture, it was at least progress.

We will continue our support for marijuana legalization, as well as support the Death with Dignity Act. We will be advocating for SWAT team reform and better transparency on the purchase of military grade equipment by police officers under the federal surplus equipment program. We will continue our advocacy of transparency and accountability with the Marylanders for Open Government Coalition. We will focus on the police body camera legislation, due to its important balance between protecting privacy interests and providing the greatly needed increase in public accountability of police activities.

Of the pre-filed bills, SB13 creates a reporting requirement for some military grade equipment purchases by police departments. Automatic universal voter registration is being considered in two bills. We must try to defeat the attack on Uber and other ride-sharing services included in SB54 (cross-filed as HB3).

As more bills are filed, we’ll provide a more comprehensive update on the pending legislation and committee schedules and give action alerts on what you can do to help. We hope any and all who care about libertarian issues will help us advocate for and against the legislation in the 2016 session. Let the games begin!