Bill to set up women's commission dies

March 20, 1994|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Sun Staff Writer

Attempts by local women's advocates to establish a Carroll County women's commission ended Friday when a House of Delegates committee killed a bill to set up the group.

Del. Lawrence A. LaMotte, the only member of the county's legislative delegation to support the bill, said the defeat in the House Commerce and Governmental Matters Committee did not surprise him.

"The committee was put in an uncomfortable position because of the protocol issue, and that's the reason [for the bill's defeat]," said Mr. LaMotte, a Democrat who represents Carroll and Baltimore counties. "It has nothing to do with the merits of the bill. It's purely and totally because the delegation did not approve it."

The committee voted against the bill 11-6.

Mr. LaMotte said he chose to introduce the bill -- breaking protocol with the five other members of the Carroll delegation who voted not to introduce it -- because he believed the issue deserved a hearing.

"To me, it was totally irrational for the delegation to reject this. The whole thing has been like being in a time warp," he said. "It's unbelieveable that people are so paranoid and uptight about something like a women's commission."

Mr. LaMotte's bill would have allowed the county commissioners to establish a 15-member Commission for Women. The commission would have provided information about services available to Carroll women and brought women's issues to the attention of politicians in the county.

"I don't know who our delegates were listening to, but they weren't listening to the mainstream women in the community," said Rachelle Hurwitz, the Uniontown resident who formed the women's commission steering committee.

Ms. Hurwitz said the committee will continue to work on behalf of women, possibly as a nonprofit organization. She said her group plans to keep the women's commission issue alive during political campaigns this fall.

"The women in this community want a voice and need to have their representatives be sensitive to their issues," she said.

At this point, Ms. Hurwitz said, it's unclear whether the steering committee will make another attempt to establish a women's commission through official channels.

Joanne Saltzberg, executive director of the Maryland Commission for Women who testified in favor of Mr. LaMotte's bill, said she was disappointed by the outcome.

"The contributions of women's commissions have been of enormous good, not just for women, but for the entire community," Ms. Saltzberg said.

L The state and 13 Maryland counties have women's commissions.

The county commissioners, with Commissioner Donald I. Dell opposed, voted last fall to ask the county's delegation to introduce a bill in the General Assembly to create a women's commission.

Opponents of the commission said the group would become a bureaucracy using taxpayer money to support a liberal agenda.

"The right-wing ideologues were afraid that this commission might be in favor of programs and services for women that they HTC don't agree with," said Mr. LaMotte.

He said he was particularly disturbed by the religious overtones in the debate over the women's commission.

Last November, Carroll Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said she had heard comments from some residents that the commission could take on a religious aspect because Ms. Hurwitz is Jewish.

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