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Partisan wrangling shows new state leaders needed

April 13, 2006

The 2006 session of the Maryland General Assembly is done and the fondest hope of the Democratic leadership has to be that the voters have short memories.

Why? Because House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller did everything during this session but run into Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich's office and shout, "You stink!"

If Ehrlich is re-elected, the leadership has ensured that he will need to have his cabinet appointments reconfirmed.

Ehrlich may have some trouble with his re-election, however, because the Democrats have voted to put extra polling places in areas such as Baltimore, where the Democrats dominate.

And speaking of Baltimore, State School Superintedent Nancy Grasmick, appointed by one Democratic governor and retained by another, was accused of dabbling in partisan politics for deciding to take over some failing and troubled schools in Charm City.

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We have taken issue with Grasmick in the past on her timing; if second chances were $20 bills, Baltimore's school system would be awash in money.

Grasmick is acting now because poor performance in the city schools is jeopardizing federal money for every school system in the state.

To be sure, Ehrlich has not been perfect. Considering that the governor has the power to write things into the state budget - and the legislature doesn't - Ehrlich hasn't used that muscle to force action, even on issues that are vital to the public's safety.

We're speaking, of course, of the medical malpractice issue. If left in its present state, it will push specialists in rural areas to relocate to areas where they can make enough to cover their insurance premiums, depriving the people of convenient medical care.

Forget their waffling on slot machines at the state's horse tracks. The Democratic leadership has not even agreed to any serious study of the malpractice issue.

Then there's electric utility regulation. Democrats, with some Republican help, passed a 1999 bill that was supposed to cut power bills, but which is now having the effect of sending them into the stratosphere.

It's bad enough that they miscalculated on the bill, but the fact that they failed to see problems coming until the rate increases were announced is inexcusable. A business owner who did such a poor job of forecasting trends wouldn't be in business long.

There will be an effort to blame this on Ehrlich's appointees to the Public Serrvice Commission, but don't believe it. If you write the rules, it's hard to place the blame on someone else when the game doesn't turn out as you planned.

It is also difficult to muster any support for people whose candidate lost the election, then decided to make the winner pay for it. May 2007 bring new leaders with a new concern for the serious problems facing Maryland.

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