Year 2000 bills don't protect the publicThe Sun's April 9...


April 12, 1999

Year 2000 bills don't protect the public

The Sun's April 9 editorial chastising Gov. Parris N. Glendening for his threatened veto of legislation ("Relief from computer glitches") concerning the year 2000 computer problem (Y2K) was woefully inaccurate.

The legislation, proposed and written by the the Chamber of Commerce and the banks, totally ignored issues of public safety and consumer rights. Although the versions of the bill currently under consideration are better than the initial proposals, they still do not protect those citizens who may suffer Y2K-related personal injury or wrongful death.

Over hundreds of years, our civil justice system has developed standards that protect both sides in legal disputes. Now, the business community, which includes The Sun, wants to stand those procedures on their head to deal with the Y2K problem, an issue that businesses have been aware of for more than a decade and are just now addressing. Why should the public's health and safety be put at risk from companies that have ignored this problem for years?

All the banks, BGE, hospitals and the local governments testified in Annapolis that they had taken all necessary action to cure the Y2K problem. Either they were lying to the state legislature or they do not need this legislation and its extensive protections.

The governor asked the legislature to look after more than just big business and has now watched the majority of legislators thumb their noses at his modest, but essential, suggestions.

If the governor vetoes this bill the world will not end. The civil justice system can use existing legal standards to make judgments about liability.

Perhaps the governor recognizes that if Y2K problems cause serious injuries, and these bills have deprived Maryland's citizens of legal recourse for those damages, the voters will take recourse of their own in the next election.

If the governor vetoes these bills, it will be because he is balancing the interests of public safety against the interests of big business, something The Sun's editorial failed to do.

Vicki Dexter, Daniel Clements, Baltimore

The authors are past presidents of the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association.

One-sided reporting undermines Irish peace

The article "Leaders work to save N. Ireland peace" (April 2) was an example of biased reporting about Ireland. Although it named the Irish Republican Army repeatedly, the article neglected to name the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), which was also ordered to disband under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The RUC has been condemned by international human rights organizations for its acts of violence against civilians.

The article did not mention that in recent months several Catholic churches have been firebombed in the north of Ireland. It did not mention that the RUC is still harassing farmers in South Armagh or that U.S. tax dollars are subsidizing FBI training of the RUC in Quantico, Va. It did not mention that lawyer Rosemary Nelson recently won a wrongful death suit against the RUC.

The people who have worked for peace and justice in the north of Ireland are both Protestant and Catholic. I am opposed to violence against civilians from either side.

But when the press omits information about the aggression of one group, demonizes the other through omission.

It is precisely this manipulation of the language, this taking sides, which thwarts the Irish peace process.

Maureen Martindale, Baltimore

Asbestos bill would burden Maryland residents

The Sun's article on the asbestos bill backed by Peter Angelos ("Bill allowing some asbestos victims higher damages approved by House," March 30) contained a true statement, but in a very misleading context.

The article said, "all 35 House Republicans opposed it. Mr. Angelos is unpopular among many Republicans because he is one of the nation's largest contributors to Democratic political causes." But the fact that Mr. Angelos uses his huge political contributions as leverage to push through any bill he wants was not the reason Republicans opposed this legislation.

Like practically every business and chamber of commerce in Maryland, we opposed the bill because it opens the door for many more expensive lawsuits -- lawsuits for which all citizens will ultimately pay.

Republicans voted on the merits of the bill, not in retaliation for Mr. Angelos' massive contributions to the Democrat Party.

Robert H. Kittleman, Annapolis

The writer is a Maryland delegate representing the Legislative District 14B, which includes parts of Howard and Montgomery counties.

Getting a line on state officials' votes

A recent letter ("Give voting records of state legislators," April 6) criticized The Sun for not publishing state legislators' voting records.

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