Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

May 27, 2006

Let legislature solve state's energy mess

Edwin D. Hill, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, hit the mark when he said, "There's something wrong with this brave new deregulated system when utility executives reap astronomic benefits at the same time consumers face staggering rate increases" ("Maryland needs new PSC to protect public interest," Opinion Commentary, May 19).

I could not agree more.

Seven years ago, with the state and national economies setting records for growth, inflation nonexistent and gas prices less than $1.20 a gallon, the Maryland legislature took up an ambitious piece of legislation on a bipartisan basis.

Like lawmakers in 24 other states, we voted to deregulate how Marylanders are supplied with electricity. We were told that if we opened our state's closed utility market to competition, prices would go down.

To guarantee that customers would see lower prices, the Maryland Public Service Commission was entrusted with overseeing utility rates.

My vote to deregulate was predicated on the belief that there would be new entrants to the electricity market, investments in alternative energy, creation of a national power grid and a reaffirmation that consumers have strong watchdogs at the state and federal level.

Seven years later, the promises made back then mean nothing.

If I could have foreseen that our future president, George W. Bush, would turn our nation's energy policy over to corporations such as Enron, or that our future governor would stack the Public Service Commission with industry cronies rather than watchdogs, or that "competition" meant more mergers and fewer entrepreneurs, I would have voted differently.

The legislation was wrong, and needs to be corrected.

I agree with Mr. Hill that the legislature must meet in special session.

We are a co-equal branch of government, we are closest to those who will be hurt and we have a responsibility to our communities.

Many ideas are being assembled to combat the electricity rate increase.

I introduced legislation that would have replaced the members of the PSC with consumer advocates and unbiased experts.

Other proposals would offset rate increases with tax credits and refunds.

Whatever the remedy, it is clear to me that the arrangement between the governor and BGE is just one more example of the all-too-cozy relationship between corporate and political interests.

Despite the headlines, Maryland gained nothing in the negotiations between the governor and Constellation Energy. Rates will still shoot up, and the $528 million in subsidies Maryland taxpayers paid to BGE will remain lost.

Most of all, the PSC is still without a voice for consumers or new competitors.

Now the legislature, the elected voice of the citizens of Maryland, must be heard.

We rightly gave the governor and BGE the chance to negotiate a fair deal for the people of Maryland.

They have failed. We will not.

Paula C. Hollinger

Annapolis

The writer is chairwoman of the Maryland Senate's Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

Choice of Mfume merited more ink

I was surprised to see so little about the Maryland State Teachers Association's support for Kweisi Mfume for Senate in the article "Teachers' endorsement falls short" (May 21).

I don't usually buy theories that the press' coverage of political campaigns is biased, but this seems like an unusual omission. When the state's teachers overwhelmingly support an African-American Senate candidate running against an extremely well-financed Democratic opponent, I would think that would make news.

The MSTA represents teachers all over the state and is made up of teachers of all races, ages and backgrounds. It heard both Mr. Mfume's and Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin's messages. It knows both men's backgrounds.

And the MSTA's delegates voted overwhelmingly - by more than 80 percent - to recommend that Mr. Mfume be endorsed for the Senate.

The press is so quick to publish the negatives about Mr. Mfume's campaign. Baltimore readers deserve to hear the great news about the campaign as well.

Lisa Rawlings

Baltimore

The writer is a volunteer for Kweisi Mfume's Senate campaign.

Show us the data on all state hospitals

The Sun's article on Maryland hospitals getting temporary extensions of their emergency angioplasty privileges lacked information the public needs to know ("7 hospitals temporarily OK'd to do angioplasty," May 19).

The reason the article offered that approval to perform angioplasties was only extended conditionally and for one year was that the six hospitals in question failed to meet state standards requiring that 80 percent of patients with an acute heart attack get an angioplasty within two hours of arrival at the hospital.

Missing from the article was information about the timeliness of angioplasty treatment at hospitals that also have the ability to do heart surgery as a backup.

Such hospitals also need to deliver timely care as evidence of good medical practice.

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