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Help Joe find Can't-Miss Bill

April 01, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

The newspapers just couldn't help themselves. They had to note, for the record, that for Del. Joe Bartlett of Frederick this marks his sixth year in office and the sixth year he has failed to get even one lousy bill through the General Assembly.

Yes, even his thoughtful bill making it illegal to have snow on your car was killed by an unfeeling House committee.

Many people look at his record of futility as a bad thing, but not me. Why in the world do so many people believe that more laws are a good thing? To my mind, a true conservative would go to Annapolis, introduce no bills, pass no bills and be proud of it.

I wish all lawmakers could go six years without adding to our ponderous legal framework.

But alas, the public does not view it this way, and for a person with political ambitions, it is crucial to have your name affixed to some snippet of paper to be filed away forever in the state's annotated code.

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So Joe needs our help.

We have nine months to work on it. That should be enough time to come up with a Can't-Miss Bill for Joe, and I think it's incumbent, so to speak, on all of us to put our heads together to dream up a statute that is guaranteed of passage.

I already have one Annapolis insider on the job, who suggested Joe file something that has to do with "procurement." He said procurement bills always pass because they are "so boring and technical" that none of the other lawmakers know or care what they are voting for.

A good, highly complicated 429-page procurement bill would be a lock, he said.

Perhaps, but that sounds like an awful amount of work.

And frankly, I think we ought to go the other direction, with something simple and straightforward that is easily understood (even by lawmakers) and decidedly nonthreatening.

Like the time a couple of years back when a group of Western Maryland schoolkids led the fight to legally establish a Maryland State Cat: Calico.

I disremember whether that bill ever passed, but I know a bill to establish a Maryland State Dinosaur did. It took a few tries, but that's OK. I fully acknowledge that a Can't-Miss Bill for Joe may be a multi-year project, and I am here for the long haul.

It's like the stock market; you can't expect immediate returns overnight. I propose a "file and hold" strategy that will wear down the opposition, even if it takes years and costs thousands of lives.

But we already have a State Everything. Dinosaurs, cats, crustaceans, sports. Everyone's into fad diets these days, so perhaps it would be appropriate to have an official Maryland State Body Type. I recommend "Pear Shaped."

If that fails, joint resolutions are generally a good bet. The Maryland House and Senate are all the time passing resolutions proclaiming something. Like "Be it resolved that the Ringgold girls' backgammon team is hereby declared the greatest girls' backgammon team between South Mountain and Md. 64."

With this, though, there is always the risk that there is another girls' backgammon team between South Mountain and Md. 64 that would take offense and the issue could get bogged down in committee.

Joe might try something a little more broadly based, like "Be it resolved that children are Maryland's future." But in the end, I think the resolution route is sort of cheating. We want a bill that will actually do something. Or prevent people from doing something.

Maybe like increasing the penalties for passing out drugs within 500 feet of a nursing home. Oh wait, that won't work. But the drugs theme is solid, I think. Why not a law prohibiting drug kingpins from advertising the sale of heroin on roadside billboards?

Of course, with this, you run the risk of some obstructionist asking the awkward question: "Is drug-kingpin advertising really a problem?" The answer, of course, is "No, it is not, but since when has this ever stopped the Maryland General Assembly?" We have had bills allowing people to ride elephants at the circus, allowing firetrucks to back up with their lights on and to stem the statewide epidemic of flag burning. Relevance is not an issue and never as been.

OK, admittedly none of these ideas is perfect, but, hopefully, I have gotten your creative juices flowing and you, the reading public, will be able to come up with a Can't-Miss Bill for Joe.

You know how much I value your input, so simply send all your ideas to:

A Can't-Miss Bill for Joe
c/o Tim Rowland
North Pole

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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