By Andy Rosen
The House of Delegates begins the legislative session today with 89 bills and resolutions ready to be considered. One delegate in the 144-member chamber can take responsibility for nearly 15 percent of them.
Del. Michael Smigiel, an Upper Shore Republican, is known for some quixotic causes, especially in terms of state spending. He led a Republican lawsuit challenging the tax increases passed in the 2007 special session. This year, Smigiel leads the lower chamber in bills introduced prior to the session as a lead sponsor, not counting bills introduced on behalf of the O’Malley administration.
His bills vary in their level of controversial content, but Smigiel will likely face an uphill battle for some of them. He has proposed a resolution that would challenge the federal government’s assumption of powers that Smigiel believes it is not entitled to under the U.S. Constitution. He is one of many bipartisan co-sponsors on a bill that would double an income tax deduction for military retirees. Del. Mary Ann Love, D-Anne Arundel, is the lead sponsor on that bill.
He said he believes the resolution on the Constitution would send a strong message.
“I truly believe the federal government is constantly sending unfunded mandates, ‘You either pass this bill or you don’t get any funds. You do this or else,'” Smigiel said.
Smigiel says there’s no particular strategy to “prefiling” so many bills. Delegates can introduce legislation with no problem through Feb. 12, and even after that, newly-introduced legislation can make it to the floor if it passes the Rules Committee. He said it helps to have a little more time. Some of Smigiel’s bills have already been scheduled for committee hearings.
“Most of the bills, you’ll find I’ve filed in the past,” he said. “It’s an election year, and most of these things are for open government or to save money.”
House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said last week that every bill has a chance to pass when it’s introduced, but he had not looked specifically at Smigiel’s
“They’ll all have an appropriate hearing,” he said. “The House has never been concerned about sponsorship. We try not judge legislation by sponsorship.”
Smigiel has introduced a bill that would make it easier for alleged victims of crimes to take action against an offender who they believe has violated terms of release. He is also calling for a bill that would create a sales tax exemption for the purchase of textbooks.
In addition, he has a bill in that would allow gun owners permitted to carry weapons in neighboring states to have permission to travel through Maryland with a weapon. Another perennial bill would weaken the state’s ability to take property using eminent domain for economic development purposes.
“I just think it’s unconstitutional,” he said. “It’s not what the fathers of our constitution had in mind, and we should prohibit it.”