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Sen. Bob Cassilly: Greater political divide makes for more challenging legislative environment | COMMENTARY

One of a series of weekly commentaries from Harford County state legislators regarding the 2021 Maryland General Assembly session.

It’s a challenging time to serve in the Maryland General Assembly, both physically and intellectually. I find the physical challenges in the Senate of dealing with COVID-19 (working isolated from the public and fellow legislators and numerous other precautions) not nearly as difficult as the intellectual challenges of legislating in these divided times. While I know that in our Nation’s history we have seen much greater division, it is far too often apparent that we have become a very divided people.

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Those with jobs that allow them to stay home struggle to understand the views of those whose jobs force them to deal with hundreds of strangers each day. Young and healthy folks are challenged to appreciate the health concerns of the elderly and infirm. Some see police as local heroes while others, citing statistical evidence that police interact more with one demographic than another, demand new laws to restrict police discretion, outlaw use of force and subject police to heightened scrutiny. Some, especially those owning small businesses, see increased taxes as a threat to their existence while others see taxes as contributions to the public good, the payment of which is a patriotic act. Some decry the immense harm done to society by out-of-wedlock births and fatherlessness while others reject such notions as antiquated. Some argue that disturbances in our urban centers are a result of racial and other biases that must be addressed by increased government action while others argue that problems in our urban centers are caused largely by expanded government intrusions that have undermined the family structure, weakened schools and destroyed blue-collar job opportunities.

These issues and many more are being debated at a difficult time. Since the 2018 election, the Senate president, vice president, and three of the four Senate committee chairmen were all replaced by those of the same party but with considerably more progressive views than their predecessors. Bills that had previously never made it beyond initial introduction are now debated before the entire Senate.

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These dynamics make for an exceptionally challenging legislative environment. As a member of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, I usually hear more than 40 hours of testimony and discussion on such issues weekly throughout the session. I have a reputation for candor in debate and thorough questioning of witnesses and bill sponsors. While such thorough analysis can sometimes unleash the anger of political opponents, my intent is not to antagonize but, rather, to fully and honestly understand each of the challenges we face. In the end, I try to do the right thing based upon all of the information available.

Moving forward in the 2021 session, we will, as our constitution demands, continue to listen to the public, engage in spirited debate, and vote on the new laws that will govern the people of our great state. We do so despite our many differences because we know, as legislators representing the many diverse interests across Maryland, that the 47 state senators were elected by the citizens to serve the entire state according to the constitution and laws thereof, not according to our individual preferences and demands.

Some ask if we are on the right track. I have a unique perspective on that question. From 2006 to 2013, I was involved with the U.S. mission in Iraq, as both a soldier and diplomat, to improve governance in that troubled land. My experiences over that time allowed me the opportunity to develop a deep appreciation for the beauty and wisdom of our own national, state and local governments. I have witnessed the awful pain of failed government, the paralyzing impacts when compromise is forsaken, the evils inflicted by self-seeking leaders, and the amazing success that can follow when people work diligently, patiently and selflessly, within a constitutional framework, to achieve “liberty and justice for all.”

Our loyalty to the Constitution is the right track. It’s not always the easy track to follow, but it is the right track.

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I appreciate your well-intentioned thoughts and questions on all matters. I can be reached at Bob.Cassilly@senate.state.md.us. Thank you.

Robert “Bob” Cassilly is a Republican representing District 34 in the Maryland Senate.

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