Anti-poverty coalition gives poor grades to Assembly performance Baltimore delegates singled out by groups

April 15, 1997|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

A coalition of anti-poverty groups released its annual report card of state legislators yesterday, giving failing grades to the House of Delegates and singling out members Samuel I. "Sandy" Rosenberg and Howard P. Rawlings.

About 50 representatives of Action for the Homeless, the Maryland Food Committee and the Maryland Coalition to End Hunger gathered in the front yard of Rosenberg's Northwest Baltimore home to release the report card for the 1997 legislative session that ended last week.

The coalition criticized legislators for "focusing on the greediest and neglecting the neediest."

The report card evaluated legislators' efforts on tax policy, health care, welfare reform and bills affecting the hungry, the homeless and the working poor. Gov. Parris N. Glendening received a grade of C and the Senate didn't fare much better than the House, getting a D- for its efforts.

Democratic Dels. Joan N. Parker of Baltimore County, Sue Hecht of Frederick County, Brenda B. Hughes of Prince George's County, Maggie L. McIntosh of Baltimore and Sharon M. Grosfeld of Montgomery County were named to the coalition's honor roll for sponsoring legislation it deemed supportive of the poor.

Coalition members focused on Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat, because of legislation he sponsored that will require all welfare clients to be screened for drugs. Those who test positive for drugs and fail to attend treatment would lose their benefits and see their children's benefits doled out by a third party such as a church or charity.

"We believe the legislation he sponsored and worked on during the session was unfairly punitive toward poor people," said Ann Ciekot, deputy director of Action for the Homeless. "It perpetuates the misperception in the public about people in poverty being lazy, being drug abusers, instead of doing as much as possible to move poor people out of poverty."

Rosenberg, who was not home during the news conference, defended the measure that passed the Assembly.

"What we're trying to do here is give people the opportunity to address their addiction," he said. "But we're also saying if given the opportunity, you don't act in a responsible way -- that is, you do not comply with the treatment protocol -- it's in the best interest of your children that your benefits be provided to a third party, who we think will be more likely to act in the best interest of the children."

Rawlings, also a Baltimore Democrat, disputed the coalition's assertions that he "reacts spitefully at the expense of poor people when held accountable for his actions."

"I think my record is second to none as an advocate for the poor," he said.

Pub Date: 4/15/97

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