Senator gets personal on welfare cap


March 30, 1994|By Robert Timberg | Robert Timberg,Sun Staff Writer

State Senate debate over the so-called family cap in the Schaefer administration's welfare reform bill left one senator shaking his head over what might have been.

The cap, a key provision in the bill, would deny additional payments to mothers who conceive and bear more children while on the welfare rolls.

Debate was crisp and sharp on both sides, but it remained for Sen. Larry Young, who rarely makes floor speeches, to put a human face to one side of the issue.

He opposes the cap, as do some other lawmakers, on grounds that it punishes poor women and their offspring, just as many others endorse the cap as a means to foster responsibility. But Senator Young had a more personal reason.

The Baltimore Democrat told Senate colleagues that for the first 12 years of his life, his mother, now 80, was on welfare. Then, unprodded by any governmental agency, she found employment as a domestic worker and went off the rolls, never to return.

Senator Young said he was the ninth of nine children. Had the cap been in place back then, he said, his mom might have well been tempted to stop having kids.

He later explained, "Had she had that pressure on her, it's conceivable a bunch of us wouldn't have been around," referring to a few of his brothers and sisters, not to mention himself.

He's still a Democrat

In 1992, a few days before the presidential election, Gov. William Donald Schaefer jumped the Democratic Party ship and endorsed the Republican incumbent, George Bush.

At the time, there was talk of drumming him out of the party, though that didn't happen.

Late last year, with the party in a financial tailspin, leaders were forced to turn to Mr. Schaefer, who agreed to help.

Last week he delivered. At the Bay Ridge Inn outside Annapolis, Mr. Schaefer spoke to a breakfast gathering of about 35 politically active business people, mostly men and women who have been close to him over the years. Several others bought the $500 tickets, but skipped the event.

His efforts raised an estimated $25,000 for the Democrats, according to Thomas T. Koch, the party treasurer.

Mr. Koch says things are now looking up financially, thanks to the governor and two of President Clinton's Cabinet members.

Several weeks ago, Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros was the main attraction at a $500-a-ticket reception in Baltimore for the party's new Business Council. That added more than $20,000 to party coffers.

Next month, Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich is to be the guest of honor at a $100-a-plate state party dinner at Martin's West.

"We've paid all the bills and we've got a couple of bucks in the bank," says Mr. Koch. "It's a great improvement over the latter part of last year."

Old acquaintances

In 1945, near the end of World War II, Dunbar high school graduate John D. Jefferies found himself on the Pacific island of Guam with the 7th Marine Ammunition Company. The desegregation of the armed forces was still a few years away, so Mr. Jefferies and other black Marines served under white officers and NCOs.

One of the white officers on the base was an up-from-the-ranks lieutenant from Southern Maryland whom Mr. Jefferies saw frequently and with whom he occasionally swapped war stories.

After the war, Mr. Jefferies was mustered out. A few years later, with the services desegregated, he re-enlisted with an eye to making the Marines his career.

Not long after, though, stipends for service families were slashed and then-Corporal Jefferies, who was married, decided he had to find something more financially rewarding to do.

He built a new life, attending the University of Baltimore, fathering four children and becoming a labor leader. Today, at 65, he is a member of the House of Delegates and chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus.

As his career blossomed, he also renewed his acquaintanceship with the mustang lieutenant from Guam, whose life had also gone well in the intervening years: Louis L. Goldstein, at 81 seeking his 10th four-year term as state comptroller.

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