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Shank: I'll compromise, not sell out

May 05, 2000

In light of the ongoing discussion in The Herald-Mail regarding the Washington County Delegation's willingness to compromise in Annapolis, I would like to comment about my voting record from this past legislative session.

During my campaign for the Maryland House of Delegates, I made a promise to the citizens of my district. It may seem simple, maybe even old-fashioned, but I promised them that I would always listen to their opinions and then vote according to their wishes. This is what a representative democracy is all about. As I knocked on their doors, the citizens of this county told me they wanted a delegate who would present their views in Annapolis. Not once did anyone tell me that they wanted a politician who was willing to sell their vote to deliver more pork-barrel projects back home.

In order to keep this promise, before I vote on any bill, my first question is "How do my constituents want me to vote?" Secondly, I ask "Will this bill help Washington County or hurt my constituents?" Based on phone calls, e-mail, and letters from my constituents, I answer these two questions and cast my vote according to their views.

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Mayor Bob Bruchey of Hagerstown has recently criticized Senator Munson and me for not compromising enough with Governor Glendening. He reasons that since the governor has nearly absolute control over the state budget, we should be more willing to vote for parts of the governor's agenda that our constituents object to. Perhaps if Bruchey had done his homework before casting such irresponsible attacks, he would have discovered that the members of the Delegation were indeed willing to support several of the governor's initiatives that benefited Washington County.

My constituents deserve good quality schools for their children, therefore I voted for several bills sponsored by the governor that will improve our education system by attracting and retaining dedicated teachers. In order to bring more high-paying jobs to Washington County, I supported several of Glendening's bills that will help us compete more effectively for Internet technology jobs. Finally, to ensure that every child in my district can see a doctor when they are sick, I supported the governor's legislation to provide health insurance to children who live in poverty.

I review each bill based on its merits and how it affects my constituents. Despite our political and ideological differences, I am willing to work with the governor and vote for bills that will help Washington County. However, the Maryland General Assembly is an equal branch of government and I have no intention to vote against my constituents just to please the executive branch. This session, I actively fought against several bills that would have had a detrimental effect on our county. One such bill would have mandated expensive new environmental controls on septic systems. If the bill had passed (thankfully it did not), it could have cost homeowners in my district anywhere between $7,000 and $14,000 to retro-fit their septic systems.

pport legislation that would be so financially devastating to my constituents. Another bill that I actively opposed was the governor's legislation mandating the "Prevailing Wage" for school construction. This bill will significantly increase the cost of building and renovating schools in Washington County. It will result in either fewer new schools for our children or forcing the Commissioners to increase taxes. I was not prepared to accept either alternative, so I voted against the bill.

Finally, Bruchey has suggested that our votes against the governor's gun control bill affected his decision to deny funding for the proposed Civil War Museum and other local projects. That is a disingenuous and fallacious charge, because the governor announced his decision on the budget before we even began to debate his gun control bill.

I do not regret for one second my decision on any one of these votes, and I would vote the same way again tomorrow. From the response I have received from my constituents, they tell me they agree. They want elected officials who they can trust. They want delegates and senators who will represent their constituents, not politicians who can be bought by the highest bidder.

Mayor Bruchey's undeserved attacks on Senator Munson and the Delegation are truly unfortunate, divisive and destructive. Don Munson has accomplished more in this 26 years of public service than Bruchey could ever imagine. I am not willing to break my promise to my constituents in Washington County to advance the mayor's political agenda. The mayor needs to realize that the people of this county have rejected this unprincipled and cynical strategy of selling votes for pork. Compromise and cooperation are certainly imperative to the political process, but selling out your constituents is simply unacceptable.

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