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In Annapolis, is party label the only thing that matters?

January 12, 2006

So much for bipartisanship.

That's our reaction after reading the comments Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller made on Tuesday.

Miller, speaking about the 2006 session that opens today, said that the first order of business will be to declare "Independence Day" and override the governor's vetoes of the so-called Wal-Mart bill and a bill to increase the state's minimum wage.

OK, then. On both those bills, there are arguments for the overrides that can be made by people of good faith. It's what Miller said next that suggests that good faith will be in short supply in Annapolis this year.

Miller said that Democrats in the legislature will continue to go after the Republican governor - and any other Republicans they can whip - until this fall's election.

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Now you could dismiss this as the kind of pep-rally talk leaders make to rally the rank-and-file members, but the record during Gov. Robert Ehrlich's term suggests it's more serious.

Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch were both in the legislature when it passed - with a Democratic governor's blessing - a pledge to fund the recommendations of the Thornton Commission on educational reform.

Unfortunately, the legislators didn't pass a funding mechanism for that purpose. And even Ehrlich was elected on a promise to legalize slots to get new revenue, they didn't go along.

Miller did nominally, but didn't really pressure Busch, who was the real roadblock, to approve the bill.

The Democrats also failed to pass significant malpractice reform, opting instead for a stopgap bill that subsidized physicians' insurance premiums with a new tax.

Here are our hopes for the 2006 session:

That proposals be considered on their merits, as opposed to the party affiliation of the lawmaker introducing them.

That both parties legislate with a view toward solving citizens' problems and making constituents' lives better, instead of just looking for political advantage.

Are our hopes in vain? To those who say yes, we offer a quote from the late Robert F. Kennedy, a well-known Democrat.

Kennedy said, "There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask 'Why?' ... I dream of things that never were, and ask 'Why not?'"

Even if there are no RFKs in Annapolis now, we would rather focus on the good that might happen than resign ourselves to the possibility that the attitudes of Miller and others like him will be the ones that prevail.

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