The 2005 General Assembly: Ducking tough issues, again

April 15, 2005

As we recap the 2005 session of the Maryland General Assembly, we find that while some good things were accomplished, what should concern citizens is what didn't get done.

Do you oppose the legalization of slot machines? If so, you were probably pleased that for the third year in a row, Gov. Robert Ehrlich's proposal failed to pass.

But before you celebrate, consider that the state still faces what is called a structural deficit, which means that expenses will exceed revenues for the foreseeable future.

To avoid this fight in the next session, lawmakers have put together a $400 million fund that will spare them any extended discussion of why the state will be in a money crunch for years to come.


Would slot machines have bridged the funding gap? Gov. Ehrlich said they would have, but House Speaker Michael Busch wouldn't compromise on the legislation.

If Busch had yielded and the revenue wasn't adequate, he would have had a better argument that higher taxes were needed. His obstruction only made the point that the Democratic leadership still hasn't accepted the fact that voters chose a Republican to lead their state government.

That was demonstrated when Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller supported legislation to force the governor to have all his nominees for the state elections board first be approved by the two parties' state central committees.

The voters understand that when they elected the governor, they provided him with the power to make appointments. To try to wrest the power away from him because he's not a Democrat is partisanship at its worst.

The other important task that didn't get done was to follow through on medical malpractice reform.

Although there was a bill passed to help alleviate some of the financial burden of higher malpractice insurance rates, other measures that would have dealt with the cause of those high rates went nowhere.

Ehrlich bears some blame for this lack of progress, but the real problem is legislative leaders who seem to care more about who gets credit than about what really gets accomplished for the benefit of the state's citizens.

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