'Functioning' and 'legislature' used in same sentence

January 12, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

In The (Baltimore) Sun last weekend, David Nitkin wrote that "For the next three months, the three politicians who hope to lead Maryland after this fall's voting - Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan - will face off in the same small space, the claustrophobic confines of the nation's oldest functioning State House."

Nitkin has made his share of waves over the past year, so I hate to add to the commotion. But come on, David. "Functioning?"

Do you take us for fools? The State House may have functioned at one time, but certainly not lately. Although it has successfully functioned as a source of amusement - maybe that's what he means.

And the session that kicks off today promises to be no different. Already, the common citizens are standing up across the state and asking the difficult question that everyone wants to know the answer to: "Has Maryland legalized slot machine gambling yet? No really, we forget."


The issue has been around for so long, it's gotten as hazy as South Mountain in July. I asked three people this week if the legislature had legalized slots. They all got this funny look on their faces and said basically the same thing: "Yeah. I think so. Didn't they? No, I haven't seen any casinos going up around here, so maybe they didn't."

That's gotta make lawmakers feel proud. How would you like it if no one could figure out whether you had done your job or not for the last three months? Or whether it mattered whether you had or not.

Of course, the last three sessions will appear to be affairs of blinding efficiency compared to this one, because this is an election year. Election years always guarantee you two major issues.

1.) A tax reduction bill.

Here, Democrats are crying (when you see one not crying it will be news) foul because they say Gov. Bob Ehrlich is simply proposing to lower the property taxes that he himself raised when he first came into office.

I don't know. Sounds like a pretty cunning stratagem to me. Raise taxes your first year so you have something to cut, amid much public fanfare, in your fourth. A sleight of hand perhaps, but if nothing else it demonstrates the most planning we've seen in Annapolis since lawmakers were plotting how to get out of their committee meetings for the grand opening of Camden Yards.

2.) Some big, emotional bill that everyone agrees on, but that affects practically no one.

This year it will be an all-out war on sex offenders. Great. Who isn't against sex offenders? Well, aside from the actual sex offenders, of course. So there will be a lot of chest pounding as one politician after another declares that he is more anti-sex offender than the next guy. And we'll get some pointless law that does nothing except become a prominent notation on a bunch of campaign brochures.

If the General Assembly were smart, and it isn't, it would pass Ehrlich's sex offender bill on the opening day of the session and then say, "OK guv, there's your sex-offender bill. Now what?" You take "tough on sex-offenders" off the political table and I guarantee the governor won't know what to do next.

But I do. Hagerstown needs a couple of good, new laws this year, the first being that only one Hagerstown Trust branch can be robbed per day. I don't care how you do it - if it comes down to taking numbers like they do at the deli counter, then fine. We just can't have a repeat of Friday, when two were hit in the space of eight hours.

I wouldn't be pushing for this so hard except one of you chaps robbed MY TELLER in Halfway, so that makes it personal. I am very protective of customer service reps at banks and post offices, since that's about the last place you can get any efficient, human-contact service that doesn't involve fries.

Of course, the two bank robberies were bound to spawn some copycat crime, and sure enough, another bank was robbed a couple of days later by a man who - based on the surveillance-camera photo released to the press - appeared to be Uncle Charley from "My Three Sons."

Kind of your nontraditional heistmeister, in the sense police said he was in his 60s. And no ski mask for him, just a ball cap and a plaid shirt, walk up to the counter and demand money.

Which makes me think it all might have been an innocent mistake. Maybe he thought it was a Social Security office.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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