Senate bill would allow more suits against stateUnder...


March 10, 1998

Senate bill would allow more suits against state

Under Maryland's Constitution, as treasurer and as a member of the state Board of Public Works, my primary duty is to preserve and protect the state's financial well-being.

Because Senate Bill 618, by adopting "comparative fault," would hurt the state's fiscal condition by generating more lawsuits against the state, I will join other government and business leaders to ask the General Assembly to reject this bill and to preserve the contributory negligence doctrine. SB 618 would repeal our current contributory negligence statute, which is based on the principle of personal responsibility.

Under current law, if both parties to a lawsuit have acted negligently, they should pay their own damages and be barred from recovering against each other. SB 618 would allow litigation to go forward even if the plaintiff's own negligence contributed to his harm.

How would this legislation harm Marylanders? Money that might otherwise be used for important public purposes would be diverted to pay the costs of litigation. Similarly, business costs would rise because of the embedded costs associated with higher insurance premiums and other services.

Like other "deep pocket" entities, the state is frequently sued for alleged negligence by state employees or agencies. For example, the state has been sued for automobile accidents for failure to design state roads properly, and bee stings in state parks. The state often invokes contributory negligence in defending claims against itself in these kinds of suits.

To establish a comparative negligence system would be fiscally irresponsible. It would cost the state and its taxpayers additional money by subjecting state employees and agencies to frivolous lawsuits.

Richard M. Dixon


The writer is treasurer for the state of Maryland.

GOP plan would harm Maryland children

There is a dark side to The Sun's glowing appraisal of the GOP plan to subsidize employer-based health insurance premiums for families with incomes at 200 percent of poverty. It would drastically limit the number of eligible children able to access health insurance.

A 1997 study by the Urban Institute reveals that when premium costs consume as little as 5 percent of a family's income, only 18 percent of eligible families participate in the subsidized insurance program.

Another study found that when premium costs consumed 7 percent of family income, the participation rate dropped to 10 percent of those eligible.

Let's apply this to our $32,000-a-year family of four. Assume this single mother has three healthy young children. Family coverage would reasonably carry a $5,400-per-year premium. Under the GOP plan, the family would pay 40 percent of the premium -- $2,160. When you add the co-pays and deductibles required by the plan, you're well over 7 percent of the family's income. Given the studies cited above, these three children would likely remain without insurance.

Maryland has more than 10,000 children living in families with incomes at 200 percent of the federal poverty level. The vast majority of these children (and more than 30,000 others affected by this bill) would remain uninsured under the House GOP's plan. Under the governor's bill, they would all have health insurance.

Perhaps The Sun and the House Republicans need to be reminded that the primary purpose of the new federal funds was to secure a healthy future for the state's children, not the state's private insurance market.

Robin Walter

Bel Air

Ecker should join Sauerbrey ticket

The March 1 article "Pep talk, party mark opening of Ecker office" is a prelude to the serious difficulties faced by GOP gubernatorial candidate Charles I. Ecker.

His lack of money and the fact that he badly trails Ellen R. Sauerbrey in the polls spell disaster for an otherwise highly qualified and respected politician. In these two candidates, we have an unbeatable team if only they would join forces.

Ms. Sauerbrey should look no further for her ideal running mate.

Walter Boyd


Facts ignored in copter editorial

Admittedly, Martin Grass -- the Rite Aid Corp. chairman who wants county approval to land his helicopter in Green Spring Valley -- has a larger advertising contract with The Sun than I do.

Why else print a one-sided editorial that ignores the facts ("As the blade turns," Feb. 25)?

The editor did not actually listen to the landing noise, which is the loudest noise in the area, far exceeding state decibel laws. You know what helicopters sound like.

No effort was made to list the available alternatives in allowable zoning. No research was done into the covenant that forbids landings in Mr. Grass' community.

This debate exists from Connecticut to California because helicopters make a lot of noise.

Of course, you could go to Rite Aid and buy earplugs; better get a lifetime supply.

Douglas Carroll


'Krippendorf's Tribe' is wildly funny

I'm sorry, but your hostile, no stars review Feb. 27 of the movie "Krippendorf's Tribe" deprives readers of a wonderfully silly picture (" 'Tribe' primitive indeed").

After a slow half-hour, it builds into the most wildly funny farce I have seen in years.

It sends up tribal folderol, anthropology and academia itself. Its heroine, the appealing Jenna Elfman, is a head taller than the hero, acts like a real person and has more energy than any three young women making movies today. Go see it, folks.

Michael Kernan


Education vs. catastrophe

I opened The Sun to a real day-brightener: "U.S. math, science scores fall below other nations" (Feb. 25).

This great nation's high school seniors top only those of Cyprus and South Africa.

Seems H. G. Wells was prescient: We are caught up, this very minute, in a race between education and catastrophe.

Rea Knisbacher


Pub Date: 3/10/98

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