Back to the gravel walk? A new environmental program pressures populous Maryland counties to levy assessments on property owners based on their square footage of impervious surfaces such as roofs, patios or driveways that prevent rainwater from sinking into the soil [Blair Lee, Gazette; Maryland Reporter; Frederick News-Post; Anne Arundel County]
P.S. While some of the Maryland commentary has treated the idea as new and experimental, thanks to commenters for pointing out that it’s already a familiar part of the scene elsewhere.
Given the bossiness of the legislature in Annapolis these days, I had to check the calendar on this one. [Anita Park, Greater Greater Washington, April 1]
P.S. And from The Onion, where every day is April 1: “Mississippi Bans Soft Drinks Smaller Than 20 Ounces.”
Yet more: Didn’t Ilya Shapiro predict this? “Supreme Court upholds same-sex marriage as a tax” [Tax Foundation]
In the aftermath of a controversial decision by the state’s highest court (earlier here, here, here, here), etc.) the Maryland legislature is proceeding in its task of devising new rules to govern lawsuits over dog bite injuries:
But the House and Senate versions differ markedly on legal liability for a pet owner when his or her dog bites someone. The House bill would allow an owner to show a “preponderance of the evidence” that a pet did not have a tendency to bite. The Senate version requires a stricter legal standard of “clear and convincing” proof that the dog is not aggressive — making it easier for victims of bites to sue and win.
It does not require a law degree to figure out that without clear rules on what makes a dog safe, lawyers will see bite victims as cash cows. [Sen. Bobby] Zirkin, a Democrat from Baltimore County, [who sits on the Judicial Proceedings Committee that crafted the bill,] apparently already does. A visit to his website, http://www.bobbyzirkinlaw.com/, makes it clear. One of the first images is a white dog that looks like a pit bull, teeth bared, lunging against its leash.
After noting that victims of dog bites should seek medical attention, he suggests they “Call the Law Office of Bobby Zirkin at 410-356-4455 immediately and come in for your free consultation on this important matter.”
The committee’s chair, Sen. Brian Frosh of Montgomery County, also practices with an injury firm, though his own practice tends toward commercial disputes. [Marta Mossburg, Frederick News-Post] Incidentally, the weekly adopt-an-animal feature of the same newspaper is now filled with pictures of ownerless dogs with pit bull lineage.
What could be more perfect than the tale of the Maryland 7 year old suspended from school for nibbling his breakfast pastry into the form of a gun? This: the school is now offering counseling to any students traumatized by the incident. [Lowering the Bar]
Maryland bicycling advocates can tell the difference, and are opposing a proposal by Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore) to mandate helmet use. There’s a lesson somewhere in there, or so I surmise in my new Cato post. Update: more details from an opponent.
After a thorough scolding by the judge — to say nothing of some of us on the commentary side — the celebrity-friendly environmentalist group is cutting its losses. [DelmarvaNow] An official with the University of Maryland’s environmental law clinic defends the school’s stand here.
I’m in the Baltimore Sun with an op-ed about the University of Maryland’s ill-chosen decision to represent the Waterkeeper Alliance in what was intended to be a landmark environmental case against an Eastern Shore farm family. Earlier here, etc. (& welcome Glenn Reynolds/Instapundit readers)
P.S. Welcome listeners from Baltimore’s WBAL, which had me as a guest Friday afternoon to discuss the suit. Research assistance thanks to Ryan Mulvey, Cato intern.
On Maryland’s Eastern Shore yesterday, federal judge William Nickerson ruled against a lawsuit alleging that Alan and Kristin Hudson’s family farm and Perdue Inc. violated the federal Clean Water Act. The plaintiffs, the Waterkeeper Alliance led by celebrity environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., had hoped to establish that big food processors, in this case Perdue, could be held liable for the purported pollution sins of “contract growers” like the Hudson family. Aside from its considerable factual weaknesses, for which the judge criticized the plaintiffs, the case had touched off a furor in Maryland because the University of Maryland law school’s environmental clinic had entered the lists on behalf of Waterkeeper and its long-shot theory; Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley had sent a critical letter to the university saying it had contributed to an “injustice” against the Hudsons. The university law clinic says it’s reviewing the judge’s order in search of grounds for appeal. [Beth Moszkowicz/Daily Record, Charlene Sharpe/DelmarvaNow, MeatPoultry.com; earlier coverage, CBS Baltimore, Mark Newgent/Red Maryland; Maryland Coast Dispatch; pro-defense SaveFarmFamilies.org; legislative reaction, NLJ and more]
P.S. Don’t miss this from John Steele at Legal Ethics Forum, quoting the judge’s concluding paragraph:
The Court has no disagreement with Plaintiff that the Chesapeake Bay is an important and vital resource, that it is seriously impaired, and that the runoff from factory farms, including poultry operations, may play a significant role in that impairment. Nor does the Court disagree that citizen suits under the Clean Water Act can play a significant role in filling the void where state regulatory agencies are unable or unwilling to take appropriate legal action against offenders. When citizen groups take up that mantle, however, they must do so responsibly and effectively. The Court finds that in this action, for whatever reason, Waterkeeper did not meet that obligation.
My new article at The Blaze, based (among other things) on a precinct analysis of the election results last month in Prince George’s County, Maryland: “the black precincts in P.G. with the strongest inclination toward social conservatism… gave Republican candidates a vote percentage more often associated with Libertarian candidates and rounding errors.” Although some Republicans have been keeping the runways clear and waving at every dot on the horizon for 20 years or more, the planes still aren’t landing (& welcome David Frum/Daily Beast readers).
I spoke this morning at University of Maryland Hillel on the paradoxes of the federal school lunch program, on a panel with Julie Gunlock of the Independent Women’s Forum. You can read more about the school lunch program here.
One important reason same-sex marriage won on three state ballots last month is that many Republican voters, especially in affluent suburbs, crossed over to vote in favor of it. I’ve continued to document this phenomenon in a piece in this weekend’s Washington Post “Outlook” section (incorporating precinct-level detail on Minnesota and Maine) as well as in a second Huffington Post piece (with precinct-level detail on Maryland; my earlier HuffPo piece is linked here). Also, this Cato podcast:
One correction on the podcast: I mistakenly said Question 6 carried the two biggest Romney counties in Maryland, but I should have said two of the biggest three.
P.S. Mine was the second-most-popular article on WashingtonPost.com as of early morning Dec. 2.