Senators Wouldn't Lie

April 15, 1995

Oh yes they would.

For proof, consider the survey conducted last year by Common Cause. The reform advocacy group asked candidates for state offices nine questions about ethics, including this: "Will you support legislation that abolishes the legislative scholarship program, removing elected officials from all aspects of awarding scholarships and transferring the funds to other state scholarship programs (with no reduction in scholarship money)?"

Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed said they would back such legislation. Among the yea-sayers were 23 of the 47 men and women who now hold Senate seats. Reform seemed imminent.

Yet during the just-concluded General Assembly session, when Sen. Paul G. Pinsky of Prince George's County introduced a proposal similar to Common Cause's question, 13 of those 23 yea-sayers said nay. They switched their stance, voting against the Pinsky proposal to kill the taxpayer-funded scholarship scam that Maryland legislators have made a patronage perk extraordinaire.

Only seven of the 23 senators -- Mr. Pinsky; David R. Craig of Harford County; Brian E. Frosh, Jean W. Roesser and Christopher Van Hollen Jr. of Montgomery County, and Martin G. Madden and Christopher J. McCabe of Howard County -- were as good as the word they gave while campaigning.

As for the 16 who said one thing to Common Cause and then another when the Pinsky measure reached the Senate floor, they are John C. Astle and C. Edward Middlebrooks of Anne Arundel County; Paula C. Hollinger and F. Vernon Boozer of Baltimore County; Richard F. Colburn of Dorchester County; Roy Dyson of St. Mary's County; Timothy R. Ferguson of Carroll County; Jennie M. Forehand and Patrick J. Hogan of Montgomery; John J. Hafer of Allegany County; Barbara A. Hoffman and John A. Pica Jr. of Baltimore City, and Thomas M. Middleton of Charles County.

(Of the other supposedly pro-reform senators, Leo E. Green of Prince George's County and Ida G. Ruben of Montgomery County, did not vote. Leonard H. Teitelbaum of Montgomery was excused.)

Senate leaders such as President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and Clarence W. Blount of Baltimore City have rightly taken a lot of heat for preventing scholarship reform. But they have not been the only culprits. They've had plenty of help, as was the case this year when reform efforts hit the usual Senate roadblock.

It's time these helpers likewise started taking some heat, especially the Switchable 16 who blocked a good chance for the reform they had claimed to support. Or were they just lying on that election-year questionnaire?

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