Bad behavior in Annapolis no plus for the Democrats

April 19, 2006

Odds and ends from a columnist's noteboook:

During the 1998 campaign for the 6th District congressional seat now held by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, one of his opponents, Democrat Tim McCown, was a substance-abuse counselor.

After I had interviewed McCown on the issues of the race, I asked him a question about drug abuse that has always puzzled me.

Very often in police reports, I said, the arresting officers report that after observing a motorist weaving around on the road, the car is stopped. There on the seat, in plain view, is a bag of illegal drugs.


Knowing that being caught with illegal drugs would lead to trouble, I asked McCown why users didn't take the trouble to conceal it.

"Because they don't think they're going to get caught," he said.

I thought about that after the end of the 2006 Maryland General Assembly session, which could be titled "Men Behaving Badly," except for the fact that there were a few Democratic women lawmakers involved in this fiasco.

When Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich first began complaining about partisanship, it sounded whiny. After all, his first try at a slots bill was a mess. And it seemed as if the guy who said he knew how the General Assembly worked because he'd served there wasn't as knowledgeable as he'd thought.

Then came the 2006 session. The Democratic leadership not only voted to put extra polling places for early voting in Democratic strongholds, they passed a bill forcing the governor to resubmit his cabinet secretaries for reconfirmation after the election.

While engaging in all this partisan excess, they ran out of time on two important matters - additional sentences for child sexual predators and a bill to forestall residential electric power increases in some areas of up to 75 percent.

This last is one they should be especially ashamed of, because the original deregulation bill was passed in 1999 by many of the same people now trying to blame it on Ehrlich's appointees to the Public Service Commission.

The governor is now trying to work out a deal to stave off those large power increases, but if he succeeds I don't doubt that Democratic leaders will find fault with his solution to a problem that they couldn't fix.

So let's go back to my original story and its central question: Why do people do things that they know are wrong?

In the case of the drug users - and I'm not implying anything like that about legislators - they didn't think they were going to get caught.

In the case of the Democratic leaders, they don't care whether they get caught because they don't believe, in a legislature dominated by members of their party, that anything bad will happen to them.

On April 13, The Wall Street Journal accused Republican House leaders of reneging on the party's tradition of holding down government spending.

The editorial concluded by saying, "At this pace, A Democratic majority in Congress would be preferable, if only for reasons of truth in advertising."

If your friends tell you you're wrong, you'd better listen. I wonder if Maryland's Democratic leaders have any pals who aren't afraid to tell them what they're doing is wrong - and likely to lead to disaster.

Some local lawmakers were among the majority who voted for electricity deregulation in 1999. It will be interesting to hear what they propose to do to prevent local power rates from soaring.

I know they come from different pots of money, but did anyone else see the irony in the Washington County government's purchase of a $200,000 armored vehicle at the same time Commissioner John Munson was arguing that the $85,000 a year subsidy of Hagerstown's Martin Luther King Center was unaffordable?

Yes, the Lenco Bearcat is covered by a federal grant and the MLK Center subsidy comes from the county's general fund, but consider the following:

Commissioners President Greg Snook said that buying the armored vehicle was like purchasing an insurance policy, adding that "we hope we never have to use it."

But isn't the MLK Center, which houses a number of beneficial programs - Head Start, Brothers United and C Safe - also an insurance policy?

If these programs do their jobs, it should ensure that there are more productive, educated citizens who pay taxes. Like Snook, I'm not sure the Bearcat will ever be used, but I am sure that the MLK Center is a better investment for this community.

Bob Maginnis is opinion editor of The Herald-Mail.

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