- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 23, 2001

The sponsor of a bill that would have given the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs the legal authority to boycott a Montgomery County Little League group said she will consider reintroducing the measure in the next legislative session.
State Sen. Joan Carter Conway presented a bill in February that would have enabled the Indian-advocacy agency to make decisions independently of the Department of Housing and Community Development, which oversees the governor-appointed commission.
The bill would have prohibited the department "from disapproving or revising regulations established by the commission, unless the regulations have fiscal impact."
Currently, the Indian commission has the authority only to make recommendations.
"I'm going to take a good look at it," Mrs. Conway, a Democrat who represents Baltimore, said yesterday. "We're going to talk to some folks and look at some things."
The bill passed the Senate 41-4 in March, but was shelved by the House Appropriations Committee.
"Conceptually, it is good legislation," Mrs. Conway said.
The Washington Times first reported last week that the housing department ruled the Indian commission exceeded its authority when it adopted a resolution Aug. 6 calling for a boycott of 64 sponsors of the Germantown Athletic Club. Seven teams in the league's five divisions used the name "Braves" or "Indians."
Opponents of Mrs. Conway's bill say the measure would have been enough to legalize the boycott — which is exactly what they feared when they voted against it in March.
"There's a power structure for a reason and that bill would have bypassed the power structure," said Sen. Andrew Harris of Baltimore County. Mr. Harris was one of just four senators — all Republicans — to vote against the bill. "If you think about who gets appointed to commissions, it's usually activists. That's why you need checks and balances," Mr. Harris said.
Another lawmaker who voted against the bill, Sen. Nancy Jacobs from Harford County, said she got the impression it was prompted by an "internal squabble" between the Indian commission and the housing department.
"It seemed kind of strange that this group was coming and asking for this," she said. The autonomy the bill would have given the Indian commission was "unprecedented," she said. Mrs. Jacobs said the boycott was "a perfect example of the abuse that could take place if the bill had been passed and signed into law."
But Mrs. Conway defended the Indian commission.
"It's hard to take off one hat and put on another," she said. "As a commission, they might not have been within their rights," she said, but a boycott by seven individuals appointed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening would have "sent the same message."
The Indian commission was created in 1974 to advance Indian issues in state government and promote Indian culture.
Of the bill's seven co-sponsors — all Democrats — only Sens. Leonard Teitelbaum and Nathaniel Exum would discuss the issue.
Mr. Exum, who represents Prince George's County, was still strongly behind the commission. "I would support it again," he said.
Mr. Teitelbaum, who represents Montgomery County, was less certain.
"If [Sen. Conway] were to reintroduce the bill, I would take a second look at the whole issue and talk to members of the commission before making a decision," he said.
Mr. Teitelbaum said he was "concerned" when he heard about the boycott and had no intention of enabling the Indian commission to take such action when he lent his support to the bill.


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