Today, several of us F2Bers travelled from all around the state (and some from other states!) to Annapolis to testify against Delegate Ben Kramer's anti-Boycott Bill in the House of Delegates. Here's a shot of us standing in the rotunda of that building after the bill hearing. That's the seal of Maryland on the floor. It's a Ploughman and a Fisherman. Cool, huh?
F2B Testifiers. From left: Saqib Ali, Maria Baroody, Paul Verduin, Courtney Peterson, Melinda Thompson, Unknown, Susan Kerin, Unknown, Betsey Cunningham, Shelley Cohen Fudge, Sami Alqasem, Kareem El-Hosseiny, Zachary Flaugher, Chip Gibbons, Taher Hazerallah
We felt the hearing went well for our side. It took nearly 3 hours total. Watch some of the highlights (and lowlights!) below:
- House Bill 949: Tuesday February 28th 1pm or later. (Room 241, Taylor House Office Building, 6 Bladen St, Annapolis, MD 21401)
- Senate Bill 739: Wednesday March 1st 2:30 pm or later. (Room 3 West, Miller Senate Office Building, 11 Bladen St, Annapolis, MD 21401)
- You should arrive in Annapolis at least 30 minutes before the hearing.
- You must bring your drivers' license with you to pass through the security checkpoint. Without your driver's license you won't be allowed to enter the building.
- The hearings start at 1pm and often stretch for hours. They are unbounded. They frequently go till 6pm. We don't know when our bills will be called. So you will probably have to wait a very LONG time. Be prepared for that. Bring a book or a tablet/laptop. They have free, public Wi-Fi.
- After all that waiting, you will be given only 2 minutes to testify. Make it worth it. :) It's best to have some prepared bullet points to guide your testimony. We should coordinate with each other so that we get all our points across.
- Park your car at this nearby hourly parking garage: 25 Northwest St, Annapolis, MD 21401
As the Maryland General Assembly debates the Zirkin/Kramer Anti-Boycott Bill (SB739/HB949), I wanted to provide you legal analysis of the constitutionality of these bills.
In the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Jewish Council's Howard Libit and the Jewish Community Relations Center of Greater Washington's Ron Halber assert that: “government determines how taxpayer dollars are spent, and BDS supporters are free to engage in any personal actions they wish.” But is this really true? Does the government have the right to spend our tax dollars as it sees fit even if it infringes the rights of ordinary citizens like us? Of course it does not.
Here is why:
The Supreme Court has ruled it is unconstitutional to discriminate against political dissenters in the disbursement of public benefits and in contracts.
This morning on the Marc Steiner Radio Show, two Maryland State Delegates, Ben Kramer (D-Silver Spring) and Jimmy Tarlau (D-Mount Ranier) faced off against each other about the Anti-BDS bill. Ben Kramer is a sponsor of the bill. Jimmy Tarlau is an opponent of the bill.
You can listen to 22-minute-long debate here.
Delegate Tarlau did a fabulous job pointing out all the flaws in the bill -- most importantly that it is an assault on free speech.
Below you can read the entire transcript of the debate.Read more
The Baltimore Sun has written a great article explaining the contours of debate around the anti-Boycott Bill. Unfortunately for the bill supporters, it exposes the main problem with the bill. It's blatantly unconstitutional:
[Delegate Benjamin] Kramer denies the legislation would infringe on the rights of boycotters. He pointed to the strong economic relationship forged through Maryland's Declaration of Cooperation with Israel.
"There is nothing unconstitutional about saying we do not want to use taxpayer funds that would undermine state policy," he said.
[Donald F. Norris, director of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County] questioned whether that logic will hold up in court.
"Now that the Supreme Court has told us money is speech, it will have First Amendment implications, which would make it unconstitutional," he said.
There is no way to square this circle. SB739/HB949 is fatally flawed. It cannot be fixed. It must be defeated. If you want to help defeat the bill, send a message to your legislator opposing it.