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Can Maryland officials overcome partisanship?

May 09, 2006

Each year following the close of the Maryland General Assembly session, the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce holds a post-session breakfast to allow the county's delegation to report on what took place.

This year that event will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, May 10, beginning at 7:30 a.m. at Hagerstown's Clarion Hotel and Conference Center.

No doubt many questions will be asked, but the most important one is: Assuming that matters stay as they are now - a Republican governor and a legislature dominated by Democrats - how can the two work together?

There are important problems that need solutions - solutions that haven't emerged because of partisan infighting.

Take medical malpractice. The legislature did eliminate a tax exemption to create a fund to offset doctors' malpractice insurance premiums, but even that is a temporary fix, expiring in 2009.

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But doctors say there are other issues that need resolution, including the question of who should be allowed to testify as a qualified witness and how courts should sanction those who file frivolous suits.

And how about the issue of slot machines? Gov. Robert Ehrlich was elected on a pledge to legalize slots, but his plan has been rejected repeatedly.

In Pennsylvania, the governor wants to use slots revenue to reduce property taxes. Ehrlich wants to use it to improve education funding.

The proposal would also help horse racing - which preserves open space - by increasing purse sizes and track attendance, as it did in West Virginia.

Finally, there is the state's structural deficit. Over the long term, the cost of government is projected to outstrip revenues.

These are issues that will affect citizens regardless of party. Our question again: After the election, how do we get elected officials to put citizens ahead of their party affiliations?

For those who want to attend Wednesday's breakfast, admission for those not already preregistered is $27.

For more information, call 301-739-2015 or visit the chamber's Web site at www.hagerstown.org.

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