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Cooperating lawmakers make me sick

April 11, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

A queasy feeling rose in my stomach late last week as a couple of startling events unfolded. First came a parade of U.S. senators walking before the cameras to announce that Democrats and Republicans had reached a bipartisan agreement on the immigration issue.

The next morning, the newspapers were reporting that the City of Hagerstown and Washington County Commissioners were cooperating to fund a design plan for the bothersome Dual Highway/Edgewood Drive highway intersection.

Plus, a contentious issue in Annapolis dissolved when Gov. Robert Ehrlich signed the Maryland Healthy Air Act into law, after fighting it alongside of energy companies for two years, and initially locking his office doors so he wouldn't have to accept the bill.

How concerned should we be? I don't know. I think it's too early to hit the panic button, although it is definitely a situation we need to keep our eyes on.

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I have faith in government to ultimately do the wrong thing, even if at times it seems as if they are working together for our common good.

And sure enough, the Senate compromise didn't last six hours before the "bipartisan cooperation" broke out into an all-out war. What had been called a "huge breakthrough" and a "historic decision" melted deliciously into "no progress" and "rising tensions."

Whew. Opponents began to assault the compromise with killer amendments, my favorite being a requirement for the Department of Homeland Security to certify that our borders were secure before the plan could move ahead.

That's rich. This would be the same Department of Homeland Security that allows an entire city to wash away, but throws up every roadblock it can to prevent a 15-year-old American girl from getting a passport? The same Department of Homeland Security that requires senior citizens on their way to Tampa to remove their shoes at the airport, but lets 90 percent of port cargo arrive on our shores uninspected? Good one.

True story: In a big win for the government, the Department of Homeland Security did prove the long-debated existence of mountain lions in upstate New York. Seems a motion-sensor camera was triggered by a big cat on the U.S.-Canadian border. We can't do much about al-Qaida, but if you are a panther, don't even think about bringing your totalitarian religious views into our nation.

At the state level, things weren't much better. The governor was awarded no credit for signing the clean air bill, a move Democrats say was motivated by politics. State senators said Ehrlich was "dragged kicking and screaming" to the environmental table.

But I'm not sure that's entirely fair, since everyone with a septic tank knows the governor has acted to clean up Chesapeake Bay. Probably the guv wasn't helped by the fact that his Department of the Environment helped kill a similar clean-air bill last year. And according to The (Baltimore) Sun, when it died, a friend of the administration's at Constellation Energy Group crowed, "Ain't the beer cold!" in an e-mail to the MDE.

Unfortunately, though, no similar chinks are to be found in the cooperative effort between the city and county to improve the Dual Highway intersection in a timely manner. Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook both signed a letter of commitment to the project, which will ease traffic congestion between the Robinwood community and the "War Zone" of downtown.

A local leader recently gave a section of Franklin Street that epithet, which instantly was picked up on by the Chamber of Commerce, which, after sharing a good-natured laugh, renamed this section of Hagerstown "Little Basra."

Actually, that didn't quite happen. But if I need to drive wedges, I will drive wedges. In my work, a little governmental harmony goes a long, long way.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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