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General Assembly should be hogtied over lame session

May 15, 2007|by TIM ROWLAND

Commentary

I've been remiss for not writing about what was obviously another fine session of our Maryland General Assembly.

Each year, I normally do a "roundup" or "analysis" of the legislature's actions of the previous three months, offering up "constructive criticism" of our delegation and the lawmakers as a whole.

Curiously, this free legislative inventory has not always been appreciated. I don't know why. Any other consultant would get paid by the hour.

This year, however, the lawmakers found a way to get back at me: They didn't do anything.

Talk about an effective stratagem. It is hard to do a roundup when there is nothing to round up. I was as impotent as an art critic standing outside of a gallery that has just been consumed by fire.

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As you can imagine, I needed a way to strike back. Lawmakers are like mischievous puppies. If you don't correct them early on, the bad behavior is likely to intensify.

I had to find something lawmakers had done. And in the interests of positive reinforcement, it had to be a beneficial action that I could praise.

So, with the help of Herald-Mail Annapolis correspondent Andy Schotz, I was able to find something. Something great. So great, in fact, that I'm surprised it wasn't front-page news across the state.

Although, to be honest, the news is a lot better if you happen to be a hog. A hog in Garrett County.

For, thanks to sharp action on the part of the Maryland General Assembly, it is no longer illegal to allow your pig to roam free.

In repealing this - and several other antiquated Garrett County laws - the Department of Legislative Services advised that the new law would void the old law, which said:

"A person cannot allow a hog to run at large. An individual may impound a roaming hog, and he/she must notify the owner of the hog if known. (It doesn't say which has to be known, the owner or the hog.) The hog's owner may claim and remove the animal by paying $1 for each impounded hog, as well as the cost of feeding it. The law does not apply to hogs turned out and herded, as long as they do not come within 20 rods of an enclosure."

Frankly, the old law kind of makes sense to me. How else are you going to punish a roaming hog, take away his weekend minutes? And you know how hogs are. They drop in, saying they can only wallow for a day or two, and the next thing you know, a couple of weeks go by and they're still sitting there on the couch watching the afternoon soaps.

The least you should be entitled to is a buck a head and the cost of feeding, which can really add up. Seriously, have you priced a bucket of swill lately?

But since this law has passed and the old one repealed, there's really not much recourse we, as citizens, have next time a pig comes calling. "Honey, the hogs have stopped by again, better put some coffee on."

And speaking of unappetizing slop, this leads in to the next now-repealed Garrett County law, which concerns the institution of marriage.

According to the old law, it was illegal for a minister to pay a hotel owner or railroad porter cash, with the understanding that these agents would recommend said minister to young couples contemplating matrimony.

Apparently this law predated the advertising industry. These days we have actual preachers appearing in television advertisements peddling their churches. I'm surprised they don't hand out coupons good for 20 percent off baptisms.

And really, what's the difference between a railroad porter and the yellow pages? Unless the minister in question were performing back-alley weddings without providing the groom with proper anesthesia, I really don't see the problem.

So I congratulate our General Assembly for repealing this law. Considering that it provides an ecumenical marketing tool and stands to put a little cash into the pockets of Amtrak employees at the same time, it might be the most productive thing the legislature did all winter.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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