Held in CommitteeThe Aug. 17 Wall Street Journal described...


August 27, 1993

Held in Committee

The Aug. 17 Wall Street Journal described one of the unique rules governing how bills move from a congressional committee through debate to the House floor where they are voted upon by the representatives.

When a bill is introduced, it first goes to various relevant committees for inspection, modification and report to the House.

If a committee chairman so wishes, the bill can be retained in committee forever. Many bills are currently being held in this manner: term limits, a line-item veto and a balanced budget amendment are just a few.

The only way these bills can be broken loose from this bottleneck is by a majority of Congress signing a "discharge petition." This petition bypasses the powerful Congress members and special interests and allows the bill to pass onto the house floor for debate and vote.

The unique aspect of this is that the list of signers is kept secret. Members are not held accountable by their constituencies for their action or inaction on bills which may be of interest to them.

Representatives James Inhofe, Martin Meehan and James Hayes introduced a bill which would strip the House of this camouflage and move the process into public view. Of course this bill is

being held in committee.

To bypass House leadership, at risk to his own congressional career, Representative Inhofe gave the Journal a list of the members who had not signed the petition as of the Aug. 6 recess. Amazingly his two co-sponsors had not signed on, either, which highlights the duplicity available to our elected officials.

Representatives Cardin, Hoyer, Mfume and Wynn need to signal their intention to support the end to this deceptive practice. If they don't support this bill, then they should explain their position and allow the voters in their districts to make up their own minds in November 1994.

Frank Pellicone

North East

Society Harmed

Apparently using facts erroneously reported by The Sun, Richard Vatz and Lee Weinberg in their Aug. 18 Opinion * Commentary piece stated that a court appointed psychiatrist had found that Ronald Price "suffers from a compulsive sexual disorder."

In the very same issue of The Sun, Kris Antonelli and Carol Bowers reported that in fact no diagnosis had been made but the evaluating psychologist (not psychiatrist) had noted in her report to the court that several psychiatric disorders needed to be ruled out during Mr. Price's full hospital evaluation for insanity.

Thus no mental health professional for either the state or defense has yet given an opinion that Mr. Price either suffers from a mental disorder or meets Maryland's test for insanity.

Professors Vatz and Weinberg then went on to make a series of statements totally unsupported by the available facts. They stated that psychiatric participation in insanity cases "reflects an unholy marriage of psychiatric pretensions and the interests of defense lawyers."

This is simply not the case.

In fact in the vast majority of insanity cases in Maryland both the defense and the state agree regarding the defendant's insanity or lack of insanity.

It is only in the rare, usually highly contested case (like Price's) that state and defense disagree and the issue of insanity is contested before a judge or jury.

Professors Vatz and Weinberg correctly point out that insanity is only rarely pleaded, and that defendants are adjudicated insane even less frequently.

They then state that the rarity of the plea masks the disproportionate harm the insanity plea does to the criminal justice system.

We think the real harm being done to society occurs when The Sun publishes op-ed pieces which use incorrect information to mislead the public about the true nature of the insanity defense

Jeffrey S. Janofsky, M.D.

Jonas R. Rappeport, M.D.


The writers are psychiatry professors at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Woods Gave 200 Percent

The body isn't even cold yet and David Simon and The Sun (Aug. 5) are leading the funeral procession of Police Commissioner Edward Woods' tenure, followed closely by Councilman Lawrence Bell, who can easily be recognized by his broad smile.

Commissioner Woods does not need me to defend him; he did what he thought was right to move the department and city forward in professional policing.

No one can ask more of anyone, and Commissioner Woods gave 200 percent under trying circumstances, given dwindling resources -- both physical and fiscal. In the past four years the department has consistently been required to do more with less, for the sole purpose of saving money so that it could be used to bail out other city agencies that historically have been unable or unwilling to work within their budgeted funds.

It is one thing to provide responsible reporting when a public official leaves office; it is another to launch a personal attack, as authored by David Simon.

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