"Drain the swamp" might've been a campaign slogan of President Donald Trump, but Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is seeking to push legislation that would do exactly that in Annapolis.
On Thursday, the Republican announced his Public Integrity Act that seeks to stop members of the General Assembly from voting on bills that would benefit them or their employers financially, would have legislators fall under the state's ethics commission rather than their own Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, and would prohibit former legislators, staff and executive appointees from working as lobbyists for a year.
Hogan also proposed reform on liquor board appointments, ordering the state Senate and House of Delegates to broadcast sessions online and establish a nonpartisan commission to redraw the legislative and congressional districts after the next census is completed in 2020.
Hogan's proposals come on the heels of several scandals, including an aid to Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh being indicted on campaign finance violations and two Prince George's County liquor board officials being indicted on federal bribery charges.
"We are now also painfully aware that current and former members of our own legislature, along with local government officials and others, have been abusing the public trust and using their offices for self-enrichment and criminal activity," Hogan said. "This type of conduct is disgraceful and must no longer be tolerated in our great state."
Holding government officials more accountable? Rooting out corruption? Having government business conducted in the open? Less politicized voting districts?
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Yes, yes, yes and yes, please.
In recent months, it seems, the governor has been accused of playing political games. Some of those accusations, like those levied about the so-called Road Kill Bill, have merit. That isn't the case here. These proposals are far from partisan, rather they are simply good government and deserve the support of the entire legislature.
And, it seems, they do have the support. Leaders of the Democratic party in Annapolis seemed to lend support to the idea of being more transparent.
"I don't think any of us would not support more transparency," Senate Majority Leader Douglas J.J. Peters, who represents PG County, told The Baltimore Sun.
Yet some of these proposals are nothing new. Hogan proposed online streaming of House and Senate voting sessions a year ago, and despite bipartisan sponsorship of that bill, it didn't go anywhere. Critics cited the costs of outfitting the chambers with cameras and operating the system, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Calvert County Democrat, argued that preventing permanent records of discussions during voting sessions helps encourage more free-flowing debate.
The governor has also been pushing the idea of a nonpartisan redistricting committee since he's taken office, but it's repeatedly fallen on the deaf ears of the Democratic majority, seemingly hopeful of ousting Hogan in the 2018 elections before the Republican is in charge of redrawing the districts.
Lots of lip service was paid to transparent and accountable government on Thursday. The votes on these legislative proposals, however, will tell the real story, and is something voters should keep an eye on when they consider draining the swamp in Annapolis come 2018.