Once appropriated, funding for prosecutor can't be...


July 16, 1999

Once appropriated, funding for prosecutor can't be withheld

I understand the frustration of Del. Peter Franchot, who chairs the Public Safety and Administration Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, about the need to renew public confidence in the Baltimore City criminal justice system. However, Delegate Franchot cannot withhold $500,000 already appropriated to the Office of the State's Attorney.

He can influence funding decisions before the General Assembly passes the budget -- but not after the budget has passed, without any conditions on the $500,000 grant to the state's attorney.

The General Assembly, under the leadership of the Appropriations Committee, has made it clear that we are concerned about what appears to be a breakdown in the administration of justice and the protection of city residents.

However, in a recent column Mr. Franchot and I acknowledged the progress made in improving Baltimore's criminal justice system ("Memo to courts, prosecutors: reform must happen soon," Opinion Commentary, June 9).

I am encouraged by the creation of the Baltimore City Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, the aggressive leadership of Chief Judge Robert M. Bell both during and after this year's legislative session, the hard work of Judge David B. Mitchell and others and the recent appointment of John Lewin as project director of the Coordinating Council.

The General Assembly withheld $17.8 million in increased funds to the judiciary, the public defender, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and the Baltimore City Police Department. These funds will be released after the General Assembly reviews the comprehensive criminal justice reform plan Chief Judge Bell will submit on October 1.

Withholding the increases will not prevent the agencies from making reforms and fulfilling their other responsibilities, as the increased funds will not be needed until almost the end of the fiscal year.

The General Assembly did not withhold any funds in the supplemental budget for specific projects to improve Baltimore's criminal justice system, including the $500,000 grant for the state's attorney's office computerization project. A delay in this grant would delay many of the reforms the General Assembly is advocating.

The General Assembly, under the leadership of the budget committees, has already spoken on withholding funds. The General Assembly will take further action on the criminal justice system when it reviews the comprehensive criminal justice reform plan in October 1.

I expect the plan Judge Bell submits to describe reform efforts that will help restore public confidence in the administration of justice in the city, including the recent discussions of discovery and evidentiary reform needed in the Office of the State's Attorney.

Howard P. Rawlings, Baltimore

The writer is chairman of the Maryland House of Delegates' Committee on Appropriations.

Why the governor vetoed state's Y2K liability bill

The Sun's editorial "Fair protection from Y2K lawsuits," (July 10) misrepresents Gov. Parris Glendening's position on Maryland's Year 2000 (Y2K) computer bug legislation.

The editorial praises President Bill Clinton for signing legislation that limits liability for Y2K problems and criticizes the governor for being inflexible in rejecting a similar bill that was backed by Maryland business interests.

But the legislation President Clinton signed excludes actions relating to personal injury and wrongful death. The bill Mr. Glendening vetoed contained no such exclusion.

Maryland's business community refused to compromise on this issue, forcing the governor to veto the bill to protect the health and safety of Maryland's citizens.

Mr. Glendening in fact signed a Y2K bill that protects state and local governments. This bill excluded personal injury and wrongful death actions.

These details are critical to understanding the difference between President Clinton's actions and the governor's response to a very different bill, but seem to be of no import to The Sun.

Vicki Dexter

Daniel M. Clements, Baltimore

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

We all must do more for our kids, our future

As a school teacher, I was shocked by Ron Praydis' short-sighted letter, "Provide tax incentives for those who don't breed" (July 1). Mr. Praydis wrote, "Why should those who do not have children pay to educate the kids of those who do?"

Mr. Praydis apparently fails to realize not only that free education is guaranteed to all children by federal law, but that the measure of a society is how it treats its most precious resource: its children.

Unfortunately, this country has in many ways proved itself shamefully inadequate to the task of protecting and nurturing its future.

One need only look at the plight of schools and the rampant abuse and neglect of our children -- the children who will become our doctors, engineers and leaders. We should all be doing more for our children, not less.

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