Tuesday, April 28, 2009

On Freedoms in Maryland

We the people of Maryland live in what is called the "Free State." Yet, if we were to adjust our nickname based on the findings of the quantitative study performed by George Mason University Professors William P. Ruger and Jason Sorens, Maryland should be called the "Restricted State." If you turn to the 33rd page of the linked PDF, you can read the executive summary of the lack of economic and personal freedoms in the state of Maryland. To directly quote the Professors, "Maryland’s impositions on personal freedom include the second-strictest gun laws in the country, and marijuana laws are fairly harsh (except that the first offense of high-level possession is a misdemeanor, and there is a weak medical marijuana law), motorists’ freedoms are highly restricted, gambling laws are tight, home schooling laws are burdensome (curricula must be approved by the government), centralized land-use planning is very advanced, eminent domain abuse is totally unreformed, victimless crimes arrest rates are high, and civil unions are not recognized." Our state restricts many of the individual freedoms endowed by our Creator and codified in our Constitution. How should we address these issues? I will focus on a two of these freedoms today - eminent domain and motorist freedoms. Same-sex marriage will be a topic for another day.

Following the decision of Kelo v. New London, the entire nation attempted to repair the assumed freedom from eminent domain laws that had been torn asunder by this ruling. In Maryland, the Property Protection Act of 2006 was proposed. This would have amended the State Constitution to abolish the act of taking private property for private economic development. State seizure of property would be limited only to public use of the property such as schools, parks, or roads. Under the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR), the person would also be compensated for said seizure. The amendment never came to pass and was never brought before the voters. This is an important issue. Property rights need to be protected or they will become so diluted that the government can seize your house by a vote of a County Council in order to make way for a new shopping plaza. Since the federal Constitution allows it, according to the Supreme Court, we must act at home to make certain that our State Constitution is clear. I would support a reintroduction of this amendment to protect our property rights.

Motorist rights are not an issue frequently brought up in the defense of the motorist. Motorist freedoms basically boil down to the right to do what you please in the confines of your own vehicle. So long as your actions do not cause harm to others, this seems fair to me. The legislature has been proposing restrictions on smoking and texting while driving. There is a part of me that would like to see the road decongested with those who drive unsafely removed from the road, but in the end legislation can only go so far. You can not legislate intelligence. Some people are able to drive their vehicle and make a phone call, with no interruptions and no problems in their driving skills. Some are unable to hold a conversation with the person in the vehicle without it impairing their driving to some degree. Some people have their driving impaired when they adjust the radio, while others are fine. Distractions exist and can pose problems during driving - this is why we have driver's education for those learning to drive and reward those who take defensive driving courses. Dealing with distractions, which include everything from the radio to other drivers, is something a driver must learn and not something you can regulate.

Also, on the smoking ban - this is a follow up to the indoor clean air act passed in many states throughout these United States. The Indoor Clean Air act prohibits smoking in bars and restaurants. The proposed smoking ban listed previously would ban smoking in your own vehicle if a child is present. Frankly, if a smoker has a child - that child is going to be exposed to smoke at home or somewhere within the vicinity of their parent. If you are going to ban the act in ones automobile, then you need to ban it in their homes as well. Since, we never will go that far - I propose we do neither. There are far more pressing issues facing our State than whether or not when a smoker gives birth they continue their habit in their own car. And to followup on smoking bans in restaurants and bars. I freely admit that I am not a smoker and thoroughly enjoy dining in a smoke-free environment. That said, I would seek out smoke-free restaurants if smoking was allowed in some. Just as I know there are those who would enjoy being able to smoke in a restaurant while enjoying their dinner. That's fine and those on staff know the risks of working in an environment that's filled with smoke. They can choose to leave and work a different job. This is why I opposed the indoor clean air act in New York and why I still oppose it here in Maryland.

Opinions are always welcome. I am looking forward to continue this discussion with the people of Maryland and the 6th legislative district.

1 comment:

Gapunzel said...

On driving safety - agreed. There must already be a policy for reckless driving. If a car is pulled over because the driving is erratic, there will likely be something more clearly defined to ticket (or assist) than whether or not there is a cell phone in reach. Banning specific activities is micromanagement.

On smoking in public - I would agree if there had been a balance of smoking and non-smoking establishments prior to the ban. But every single restaurant had a smoking section tucked away somewhere for fear of losing business. Every bar and night club reeked of smoke. Most of these did not have air circulation systems adequate to siphon the smoke away, with immediate effects for asthmatic and allergic patrons, and outdoor seating is not available year-round. Smoking is only a personal choice until it affects the health and lifestyle of others. I see asking smokers to step outside for a few minutes as a reasonable compromise until smoke capture devices become practical and affordable.