Bill needed for Maryland researchYour article on the...

Letters

March 17, 1996

Bill needed for Maryland research

Your article on the proposed State Public-Private Partnership Act ("Bills foster researchers' business ties," Feb. 26) misses the mark on several fundamental points.

The issue is not ''relaxation'' of state ethics laws governing the University of Maryland System. What the proposed legislation does address is the economic, technological and social costs of failing to tap the intellectual wealth generated by university research.

Ironically, unlike Maryland's private universities and colleges, which also receive state aid, Maryland's public universities are prevented from the cooperative arrangements that would allow those assets, in the form of scientific discovery and jobs, to be fully developed.

Current state ethics laws exert a chilling effect on the ability of Maryland's public university system to hire and retain outstanding faculty.

They undermine efforts to hire world-class scientists researching new technologies with potentially broad commercial applications, scientists who already have ties with the industrial sector that are forbidden by Maryland law.

California, Virginia and North Carolina have long recognized the value of partnerships while maintaining a process to monitor and manage conflict between the public university and the private sector. Maryland deserves no less a benefit.

The legislation is not aimed solely at researchers, but equally at administrators. Maryland companies seeking the expertise of public university leaders must now go out of state to tap such talent.

One large regional firm recently did just that, naming the president of a public university in a neighboring state to its board rather than continue waiting for an answer from a president of a public university in Maryland again, hamstrung by Maryland's archaic conflict-of-interest law.

The article failed to mention the existing mechanisms for managing conflicts of interest, particularly tough federal laws which include financial and criminal penalties.

Long-standing university policies also govern conflict of interest and ensure oversight. Detailed state disclosure procedures will stay in place. Records oversight will be required and annual reports made to the governor and General Assembly are subject to their audit.

What must be changed are statutes that unnecessarily exceed federal law, and associated regulatory overkill.

The governor and many members of the General Assembly have recognized Maryland's competitive disadvantage and support the bill.

This legislation is a positive step forward, does not require taxpayers' dollars and must be passed if we are to compete for talent.

Edwin S. Crawford Towson

The writer is a regent of the University of Maryland System.

Slap in the face to state workers

Far be it from me to begrudge Maryland's judges a raise. After all, as your March 2 editorial, "Fair compensation for judges," points out, they may be facing college tuition bills and child-rearing expenses.

Such financial considerations are, of course, unknown to the thousands of other state employees who are not only being denied a cost of living increase this year but also face layoffs now and in next year's budget.

Unless I missed the article, I don't remember reading anything in The Sun advocating fair compensation for the rest of the state's work force. However, the paper did see fit to include the statistic stating that state employees use an average of nine days of sick leave per year as opposed to the mere three days averaged by the judiciary.

This is an extremely mean-spirited slap in the face to Maryland's state workers, many of whom I know from experience rarely use sick days at all and if they do use them, many tend to be in the area of family leave to care for sick children.

Joyce Ray Gary Baltimore

Ways to save racing industry

Melvin A. Steinberg, the former lieutenant governor, states in a March 6 letter that slot machines will save the racing industry and the thousands of Marylanders who depend on it for their survival.

This is probably true, but I and thousands of others have heard before what was needed for the racing industry to survive:

Sunday racing, a large tax cut (which was granted), full-card simulcasting, opening of off-track betting parlors around the state.

Now slot machines and casino gambling are the answer for the survival of the racing industry. If they don't work, what's next?

Bruce W. Lay Glen Burnie

PLO Covenant still bars peace

If they wanted, Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians could demonstrate their commitment to the peace process with Israel and distance themselves from Hamas and other terrorist organizations.

They could convene the Palestinian National Council, declare their intentions publicly and formally amend their Covenant by eliminating the provision that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.

That step is only one of a laundry list of actions the Palestinians could take.

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