We Testified in Maryland's House of Delegates against the Anti-Boycott Bill

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?

testifiers

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:

 

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Hearing Dates Have Been Set. Can you Testify in Annapolis?

The hearing dates for the Anti-Boycott Bill have been set. They are as follows:
  • 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)
Do you want to come testify in Annapolis on these bills? We highly encourage it. 
If so, please indicate your RSVP by entering your name here.
Here are some things you should be aware of:
  • 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

A Lawyer Explains why the Anti-Boycott Bill is Unconstitutional

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.


Advocates of the bill claim that their bill does not prohibit free speech, it simply prohibits the government from doing business with those who boycott. But the constitution views actions by the government differently from the actions of ordinary citizens. The government is not permitted to wield its power in a manner that would deprive a recipient of public benefits of the freedom of speech. Think about it. Do you want a government that is allowed to dole out contracts to its cronies and punish its political opponents? This would certainly be a recipe for corruption and would harm free and open public debate.

 

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Radio Debate about Anti-BDS Bill: Delegate Kramer vs. Delegate Tarlau. Our Side (Tarlau) Wins!

 

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.

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Baltimore Sun Flags Anti-Boycott Bill as Violation of the First Amendment

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.



Freedom2Boycott defends the 1st Amendment right to boycott, including the boycott of Israel known as BDS. Click to help! Find an Event

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