Governor's veto of counseling bill was short-sighted As...

LETTERS

May 28, 2000

Governor's veto of counseling bill was short-sighted

As a state legislator for 22 years, I've had a few bills vetoed. But Gov. Parris N. Glendening's May 17 veto of local legislation to give marriage license applicants in Anne Arundel County an $8 discount for pre-marriage counseling completed within a year of the application was the first I've had vetoed for policy reasons.

I often think of bills as sockeye salmon swimming upstream against the odds, braving various predators on a long, perilous journey. Knowing the political realities, however, does not make one immune to the jab of a veto pen.

Of course, vetoes can be a blessing, that thwarts unwise public policy. I do not believe, however, that Mr. Glendening's veto of this bill was in the public interest.

Considering the nearly 50 percent divorce rate in this country and the enormous public as well as personal cost of divorce, the governor's veto was short-sighted. If even a small proportion of divorces could be prevented, the savings would be substantial.

And there was strong, bipartisan support in the General Assembly to give Anne Arundel County the opportunity to establish a voluntary counseling program; the vote on the bill in the House was 129-5 and in the Senate, 46-0.

In his veto message, the governor said that the legislation lacked "sufficient details" about premarriage counseling and did not provide "clear guidance."

He compared the bill unfavorably to a Florida law that requires minimum four-hours for premarriage preparation courses and objected that the bill "leaves too much discretion to local officials."

Anne Arundel County officials testified that they would not micro-manage the counseling requirements but simply offer a non-exclusive list of qualified programs.

Considering the small incentive being offered, it is not realistic to expect that many individuals would abuse the intent of the legislation by using sham counselors.

Unlike the governor, the General Assembly believes Anne Arundel officials are competent to administer a marriage counseling discount program fairly.

Just as state officials strenuously object to micro-managing federal mandates, county governments object to unwarranted state micro-managing.

Mr. Glendening claimed in his veto message that "efforts small and large are necessary to help individuals better prepare to function in a family setting."

The governor has had six years to offer leadership on this subject, but hasn't done so.

If he believes "we need to do a better job preparing individuals" for "forming and maintaining a family," the governor should offer legislation similar to the Florida law before he leaves office.

John R. Leopold

Pasadena

The writer is deputy minority whip of the Maryland House of Delegates.

Despite ugly incident, high school isn't racist

As a parent of two students at Southern High School, I feel it is necessary to voice my point of view on the issues The Sun has addressed recently ("Bigotry at Southern High," editorial, May 19).

We moved to Anne Arundel County three years ago. I picked Southern High School among schools in Charles, Calvert and Anne Arundel counties, mainly because of the diversity and rapport of its students.

Southern High School is a good school where the majority of the children regardless of race get along together very well.

The incident that happened on mult-cultural day is unfortunate and whoever was supervising this event should be held accountable.

The behavior of the student was not acceptable, but it also was not ignored. Suspension and an apology were enforced.

Principal Cliff Prince is really getting a bad rap. He is a very fair principal who, regardless of the race or stature of the offender, follows the rules and guidelines set forth by the school system.

I speak from the experience of having a child, who is an athlete and honor roll student, but has been suspended and expelled for several cigarette violations.

I have been to Southern high frequently and have never experienced any discord among the students.

I would recommend that parents not hang a sign "racist" on the entire student body, when in fact it is only a handful of children of both races that are indeed racist.

Andrea Miles

Tracy's Landing

On Social Security, it's Gore who's regressive

A recent study by the Cato Institute found that 18- to 30- year-olds think it is more likely they will see a UFO (43 percent) than a Social Security check (28 percent) during their lifetime.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush has proposed that American workers be allowed to invest a portion of their payroll tax into IRA-type accounts. Of course, Al Gore criticizes this approach as risky.

Why is it that most Democrats regard letting Americans make their own decisions as risky?

Roughly two-thirds of those under 40 years old strongly support privatization and Mr. Bush is the real progressive when it comes to Social Security reform.

Under Mr. Bush's plan, current and near retirement-age seniors will not be affected.

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