Court says reviews unneeded before cap on aid to retarded Appellate panel's ruling might save Maryland $20 million, lawyers say

August 28, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

State officials are not required to go through lengthy administrative reviews before they limit funds for the mentally retarded, the Court of Appeals ruled yesterday in a decision state lawyers say will save $20 million.

The court said the state Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) was not required to adhere to the Maryland Administrative Procedure Act (MAPA) when it placed a "growth cap" on funds for the retarded and other developmentally disabled persons in 1993.

The 6-1 ruling reversed a $1.8 million judgment last year by Baltimore County Circuit Judge Christian M. Kahl to Chimes Inc., a Baltimore-based agency that provides state-funded care to the developmentally disabled.

"It's a great decision and a great victory for the state," said Assistant Attorney General Andrew H. Baida, who represents the DDA.

Baida said if the court had affirmed Kahl's ruling, DDA would have been forced to pay $20 million to 92 other firms and agencies that provide care for 10,000 developmentally disabled people.

It also would have subjected the state to similar lawsuits from other agencies fighting state cutbacks, he said. "We'd never get anything done," Baida added.

Martin Lampner, director of administration for Chimes, declined to comment yesterday.

Chimes sued in 1994, alleging that DDA failed to adhere to notice and public comment requirements established in state law when it implemented the growth limit to trim a $28 million deficit in September 1993.

But the appeals court said the restriction -- a 4 percent ceiling for some health care providers and 7 percent for others -- was too limited in scope to trigger the state law.

"DDA did not formulate new rules of widespread application, change existing law, or apply new standards retroactively," Judge Robert C. Murphy wrote in a 13-page decision.

Judge Robert M. Bell said in dissent that the court's decision hinders the effect of the MAPA, enacted in 1957 as a check on the power of state agencies.

"If the majority is correct, the benefits of formal rule-making will be significantly undermined," Bell wrote.

Pub Date: 8/28/96

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