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Posted at 7:15 PM ET, 01/ 8/2010

Real reform in Annapolis

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Luiz R.S. Simmons
Rockville

I respectfully take exception to the dreary, predictable claim by Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery) that real reform in Annapolis requires more “up to the minute access” to information about the legislative process [“Open-sourcing Maryland’s democracy,” Local Opinions, Jan. 4].

This confuses cause and effect. What is needed is more political courage. Without it, calls for more transparency are an empty slogan.

Here’s a good example. Mizeur claims that reforms should begin with providing the public with more access to committee votes and proceedings. As she points out, this information is already available on the Maryland General Assembly Web site and through other means. But who could object to a proposal to require more access? No one. But what the Annapolis leadership would ferociously oppose — indeed fight to the political death to preserve — is the undemocratic rule that permits committee chairman to place any bill “in the drawer,” thereby preventing a vote on the bill and stifling the elementary right of the public and their legislators to have their concerns heard and voted on. Many bills never receive a vote — year after year — or are deliberately voted on late in the session when it is too late for them to cross over and be enacted in both houses.

Reform in Annapolis will begin when each bill in committee receives a timely up or down vote. Mizeur’s proposal — without enacting this basic reform — would have the paradoxical effect of marginally increasing access to information about bills that die in the drawer or that are artfully delayed until the legislative clock runs down.

And here is the nub of it. Is Mizeur prepared to stand up on the floor of the House — offend the leadership — and force a recorded vote on a change in the rules? I will stand with her.
We do not need more calls for a high-sounding transparency. We need political courage.

The writer, a Democrat, is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | January 8, 2010; 7:15 PM ET
Categories:  Maryland, Montgomery County  
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