Vote “For” Maryland’s Future

With so many critical issues at stake at the local and the national levels, I feel obligated to devote another column to explain my view of several high-profile referendums you will be presented with if you are a registered voter in Maryland. I urge you to read your sample ballots carefully when they arrive in your mailbox.

A referendum is a citizens’ vote on an issue that is allowed in some states, counties and local municipalities. There is no federal referendum. The referendum can be used to simply answer “yes” or “no” on a question that legislators have left up to citizens to decide. Other times, when a bill has been passed by a legislature and signed into law by the governor, opponents of the bill may force a referendum by gathering signatures and submitting petitions.

These following referendum questions on Maryland ballots are controversial and deserve your attention and understanding. I have offered my personal opinion on two of the questions below.

Question 4—The Maryland Dream Act.

This law would give all Maryland public college students, including those brought to this country illegally at young ages by their parents, the equal benefit of in-state tuition as long as they have attended a Maryland high school for three years and have graduated, and their families have been paying state income taxes for at least three years. “You pay state taxes, you enjoy in-state tuition” is the simple argument.

Remember, this is about state residency, not national citizenship.

Eligible students would compete only with out-of-state students for college admissions, so it will not take away slots from other Maryland students, and they must spend their first two years at a local community college, paying much lower tuition. The Act would give college-bound students a better shot at obtaining a higher education and becoming more productive, tax-paying members of the society.

Read www.Educatingmarylandkids.org, which links to a Washington Post op-ed piece by Dr. Wallace Loh, President of the University of Maryland College Park.

Question 6—The Marriage Equality Act.

My column last month, titled, “Same Sex Marriage as Economic Imperative,” argues that it is in Maryland’s best economic interest to welcome talented people of all backgrounds and lifestyles. I hope I can convince you to vote “For” the ACT with my article, which got many comments. It is posted on my blog at www.qulturematters.com.

Question 7—Expansion of Commercial Gaming in Prince George’s County.

Passage of this question into law would allow a major new casino at National Harbor in Prince George’s County, and would allow table gambling across the state. Supporters estimate that increased gambling opportunities will not only create thousands of jobs for local residents, but will also generate hundreds of millions of dollars for Maryland schools. And they say it will provide convenience for Maryland residents who have been flocking to West Virginia’s casinos, while keeping their gambling dollars in-state..

Attractive arguments all. But…

We all know that National Harbor is already an appealing destination in the National Capital Region, a natural spot for a casino. However, with casinos already close-by in the state and in West Virginia, opponents of the question worry that a new major casino in the area would over-saturate the market. Opponents also challenge the numbers of permanent jobs, claiming the estimates are much too high.

Some opponents simply do not want to replenish government coffers with gambling, and others don’t want it in Prince George’s County, saying it will add to the county’s image problem. And we have all seen the ads questioning how much revenue the state and county governments will receive from gambling and how much of that will actually go toward enhancing education.

It’s a tough call. You be the judge on this one, and let the chips fall where they may.

Question B (for Montgomery County residents)—Elimination of “Effects Bargaining.”

Few people know what “effects bargaining” is or why they should vote one way or the other on it. Basically, it is the procedure that permits the police union, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 in this case, to negotiate with Montgomery County officials on matters beyond the major issues such as wages and benefits specified in their contract, allowing them to work out smaller, day-to-day issues which were not spelled out in the agreement.

Oft-cited examples from the County of those day-to-day contract “effects” include whether police officers can be required to read emails or beef up patrols when there is an increase in crimes.

But the police officers contend that they need the long-established right to negotiate issues they say are critical to their families, such as schedules, promotions, and transfers. And they claim this bargaining has had no negative effect on police response to 911 and other emergencies.

Read the YES argument on this issue at the Montgomery County government Web site at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/questionB.

For the NO argument, visit the Fraternal Order of Police website at www.foplodge35.com

And if you haven’t registered to vote, you can register online until October 16 by visiting www.elections.state.md.us/voter_registration. Or go to a local library, post office, or Department of Motor Vehicle office.

Can’t make it to the polls on Election Day? Request an absentee ballot and mail in your votes by October 30. Or you may participate in early voting, which starts on Saturday, October 27 and runs through Thursday, October 1. No excuses.

You may not think these issues affect you personally, but remember this—as minorities and immigrants, we must learn to fight for the rights of others, whether they are gays, other immigrants, or the less privileged because so much of what we enjoy today was fought and won by others before us.

As I was writing this article today, I got a call from a local businessman who said he would like to get involved in political activities and want to know how he can help with a presidential campaign. That really made my day, though I know the presidential candidate he supports is not the one I would vote for.