Annapolis needs statesmen Assembly opens: Avoiding parochialism and 'petty partisanship.'

January 11, 1996

HOUSE SPEAKER Casper R. Taylor said it in his opening day speech to the House of Delegates; Senate president Thomas V. Mike Miller touched on the same theme in his remarks before the upper chamber, and Gov. Parris N. Glendening echoed those sentiments at an editorial board meeting yesterday: The greatest danger to a successful 90-day General Assembly session is narrow-minded, selfish politics.

Indeed, the politics of greed -- Mr. Miller called it "petty partisanship or small-minded regionalism" -- could turn the General Assembly session into an angry, tit-for-tat brawl, pitting region against region, rich counties against poor subdivisions, Republicans against Democrats with no room for compromise.

Montgomery County legislators and House Republicans have already issued threats to adopt such tactics on the two NFL football stadium issues being pushed by legislative leaders and the governor. But cooler heads may yet prevail. Threats, if carried out, can prove counter-productive. They can also lead to open warfare between regions and county delegations. That kind of situation must be avoided.

Mr. Taylor warned delegates to "avoid the divisiveness, the gridlock, partisanship and the rancorous debate that has led to a crisis at the federal level. We must not let party, geography, region or any other demographics or special interest divide us, or to paralyze us." He urged lawmakers to think in statewide terms when considering proposals: "A gain for one local jurisdiction does not mean a loss for another. Too often, we forget that when Maryland wins, we all win."

Indeed, statesmanship requires legislators to set aside narrow-minded concerns and look at the broader picture. The dictionary defines a statesman as "someone who shows skill, wisdom and vision in conducting state affairs and dealing with public issues." That cannot happen if legislators get bogged down in petty disputes over local matters or naked power grabs for more school construction funds for their county at the expense of other jurisdictions. Senators and delegates ought to heed the advice of their presiding officers and avoid taking the low road during the next three months.

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