Governor acting on citizens' ideas

THE POLITICAL GAME

January 20, 1993|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer

At the end of his State of the State address last week, Gov. William Donald Schaefer gave a few moments to ordinary Marylanders.

No, he didn't read passages from his latest cranky letters.

That far into his 59-minute talk, the peroration seemed like a series of throwaway lines. In fact, though, these ideas and questions and problems sent in from the streets could become law:

* Observing that gun theft sometimes begins with the thief crashing a car into a storefront, architect Gerson Polun of Reisterstown volunteered to work on design specifications for gun shops.

The governor's thought is to prevent the type of incursion that took place twice last year at the Valley Gun Shop in Parkville. Owner Bob Abrams had put steel barriers in front of the doors after thieves in February drove a stolen car through the front door. In November, thieves drove through a window.

* Since teen-agers who are arrested for drunken driving have committed at least two crimes if they are guilty -- buying alcoholic beverages and driving under the influence -- maybe they should automatically lose their licenses. The current law says they may lose their licenses. A citizens group in Wicomico County suggested that may should be replaced by shall.

* A man convicted of drunken driving wondered if other drivers in Maryland are as ignorant as he had been of alcohol's impact on reflexes and reaction. Maybe the state should give a 10-minute course on the subject to everyone applying for a driver's license. Why wait until after alcohol leads to license suspension or something worse, he asked.

* Others asked that something be done to ease the impact of high insurance premiums on small companies. Why should catastrophic illness lead to dismissal of an employee or closing of the firm? Can't something be done about pooling this risk? Isn't that what insurance is supposed to do anyway?

These are but a few of the suggestions received in the governor's office from citizens. Mr. Schaefer already has proposed legislation or is engaging his staff in studies that could lead to bills.

"He's been looking even more actively for good suggestions from people since he asked for help with problems of the budget," says his aide, Pam Kelly. She says he implores his staff not to automatically reject ideas because they are coming from the real world.

"They could come from the chief executive officer of a company or from a bag lady. He doesn't care," Ms. Kelly said.

The intensity of the search is higher now, though. In his speech, Mr. Schaefer said he will resist behaving like a lame duck until the very end -- speaking for himself and his staff.

"He feels we may have a tendency to get stale and coast. So he's forcing the issue with us. There are problems out there. There are suggestions out there. They can't wait."

Hand me down my soup 'n' fish

Mary Jo Neville, a lobbyist for the Maryland State Teachers Association, spent the milk money on just the right earrings for this week's inaugural parties.

They feature an American flag, a Democratic donkey, the letters USA and three strands of crystals. The former Democratic National Committeewoman from Maryland describes her new baubles as "incredibly festive" expressions of partisan joy.

Baltimore Councilman Martin E. "Mike" Curran was one of those Marylanders who attended Sunday's Maryland party wearing a Clinton-esque blue baseball cap complete with an official-looking seal from the new man in the White House.

Sharon Baker, vice chairwoman of the Carroll County Democratic Central Committee, arrived in an elegant formal coat with tails and satin lapels, thought to have been worn to the 1953 and 1957 inaugurations of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

It was made for and worn by Eisenhower speech writer, Emmet John Hughes.

Ms. Baker says the coat was given to an organization at Princeton University for a fund-raising yard sale. A friend bought it for her.

In a reference to this week's Republican-to-Democratic changing the guard in Washington, Ms. Baker's friend, John Willis, said of this much-traveled jacket:

"It's finally being put to good use."

A turncoat, you might say.

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