On Tuesday April 25, Maryland state Senator Ed Reilly and County Councilman Mike Peroutka came and spoke to the Young Republicans and Young Democrats clubs of Severna Park High School. Reilly is a Republican who represents the 33rd district of Maryland, and has been serving since 2009, totaling 16 years in office this upcoming June. He has served on committees related to finance, education, environmental policy and the management of public funds. Peroutka is a councilman who represents District five, is also a Republican, and has been serving in office for three years.
Senator Reilly spoke first, and addressed all the students in the room by asking each one about a topic they would like to know more about. Controversial issues such as freedom of speech on college campus, education and teacher salaries, immigration, healthcare and retirement. Reilly then split the issues into three categories; local, state and national. Before speaking about an issue individually he prefaced the meeting by saying, “These show the depth and breadth of issues facing our society. We could take any of these issues and spend an hour [or more] talking about it.” Reilly and Peroutka only had about an hour and fifteen minutes to speak to the congregated students, and each decided to focus on one of the topics.
Reilly centered his time speaking out about immigration. He began by discussing the Community Trust Act, a bill brought forth to the Maryland General Assembly dealing with policeman going door to door in order to find and deport illegal immigrants. “Local police may not stop anyone on the street and ask for anything having to do with the federal level process of immigration,” said Reilly. The resolution to the bill was debated on by the county council, and brought forth to the General Assembly. As the bill was presented for a final vote, it was decided that the bill was not worth a vote because it would not make any significant changes to the law. It is set to return next year. However, if the subject has committed a federal violation that is an arrestable issue, immigration questions may be asked. But the issue must be a felony level offence, and the subject must be screened. Traffic violations such as speeding tickets, being drunk in public, or jaywalking, are all offenses in which individuals can be ticketed, but since they are not arrestable offenses, immigration questions cannot be asked. “The proposed community trust act has nothing to do police officers stopping people on the street and checking their papers, it never did and it never will,” said Reilly. “If Trump goes through communities and pulls people out of their houses, and away from their jobs, and off the street, that bill will pass preventing our locals interacting with the federals. That’s not our community.That’s not our country.”
Reilly furthermore continued discussing immigration and the core values of the American people, raising the topic to a national level. “I think it is against our core values as citizens to take people out of their houses if they are living in the shadows but not doing anything wrong. I think, nationally, we need to make this immigration system work. But if they’ve committed a felony, all bets are off,” said Reilly.
Councilman Peroutka centered his speaking time around the structure of government and the County Council and Maryland local government’s responsibility to their constituents. He related his lecture to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. “The very first question we should ask is-do we have the authority to do this? A lot of times we don’t ask that question. If it’s a problem, we just ask how we can fix it,” said Peroutka. The Constitution states that Congress has all of the legislative (lawmaking) power in the United States, which leaves the courts and the executive branch with absolutely no power at all to introduce a bill. “If in fact you said that the courts make the law, or the executive makes the law, then you have violated the first sentence of the constitution,” said Peroutka.
Furthermore, according to the Constitution, the President cannot assume any power that he does not already have, leading to the legality of executive orders. “The executive does have certain authority, but he can’t do anything properly under the Constitution that is outside his current authority. So the real question with an executive order is; does the president have the authority to do that? He can’t make new authority for himself,” said Peroutka. The same idea that can be applied to the court’s authority to make laws can be applied to the legality of executive orders. The threshold question that must be asked is: do the courts, or the executive, have the power to do this?
Both the Councilman and the Senator touched on the topic of the federal government and its power over the state government. Even in the 1860’s the debate over whether or not the federal government should hold complete power was going strong, as it still continues today. “If the states created this, then who’s the boss. Can the creature tell the creators what the rules are? Who’s really the boss,” said Peroutka. “The federal government is literally the tail that wags the states, when it should be the other way around,” said Reilly.
The Senator and Councilman concluded the meeting by compelling to the students of acting constitutionally instead of acting on feelings without having prior knowledge, and stressing that every law brought forth is a value judgement with a basis. The two clubs plan to host the Senator and Councilman again sometime in the near future.
**This is an opinion piece. No Democratic party members were present that day.