- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

To shovel … or not
Laws requiring residents and businesses to clear their sidewalks 24 hours after a snowfall looked pretty silly after all the snow last month.
Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan waived the law for the Presidents Day weekend storm, then stated that the law would be enforced for any snowstorms last week.
That meant that those who never shoveled their sidewalks after the Presidents Day storm could not be assessed the $50 fine for not removing snow last week, but those who did dutifully shovel out from under 2 feet could.
Montgomery County spokeswoman Jean Arthur acknowledged that things didn't quite add up.
"I'm not sure how they're going to deal with that," she said Thursday. "If you already have a foot of snow and then another inch on top of it, you can't just take the inch off."
Mr. Duncan told WTOP Radio that the law isn't meant to be enforced, but rather "we are looking to encourage people" to shovel their walks.
In the District, a reporter for The Washington Times spotted an older gentleman climbing through a 2-foot snowdrift on Military Road NW to get to his home.
It turned out the man worked for D.C. public schools in the 1980s and helped make the decisions on whether to close schools then, so he did not want to be identified in the paper.
He did have an opinion on sidewalk snow-removal laws, however.
"Those laws don't work unless you're retired and have the time to do it, and then you're too old to shovel 2 feet of snow," he said.
Miss Fortune?
Who's the governor of Maryland? It's a valid question for some in Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s administration.
The March 10 issue of Fortune magazine features a full-page ad urging businesses to choose Maryland.
But at the bottom of the ad, it names Parris N. Glendening as governor and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend as lieutenant governor.
Greg Massoni, Mr. Ehrlich's press secretary, said it's time for people to "Wake up and say 'Times have changed.'"
The ad was placed by the state Office of Business and Economic Development. Meanwhile, in Mr. Ehrlich's budget proposal released in January, the governor said he plans to cut funding for the OBED.
Challenging times
Senate floor leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. will face at least two challengers in the Republican Party primary in June.
Paul Jost, a Williamsburg real estate investor and member of the College of William & Mary Board of Visitors, said last week he will join pro-life activist Linda Wall in trying to unseat Mr. Norment.
"I know how to balance a budget, meet a payroll and control spending," Mr. Jost said.
In 2000, Mr. Jost spent more than $1 million in the Republican congressional primary but lost to Jo Ann Davis, who won the 1st District seat that November.
Mr. Jost said he will target Mr. Norment's record, particularly his opposition to accelerating the car tax cut and his support of a sales-tax increase for transportation that failed in a November referendum.
Miss Wall, who worked on Mrs. Davis' campaign, announced her candidacy earlier last month.
"I was Jo Ann Davis' right arm in her campaign for Congress, so this isn't new and running against Paul Jost isn't new," she said.
Mr. Norment, a James City County lawyer and a senator since 1992, said he will run on his legislative record.
In this past session, Mr. Norment helped lead the successful drive to oust Newport News Circuit Judge Verbena Askew and sponsored the repeal of the estate tax paid by the heirs of millionaires. The General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the repeal.
The 3rd Senate District covers Williamsburg and James City, New Kent and Gloucester counties and portions of York County and Newport News.
Open for business
Two-feet-plus of snow could not keep Maryland's lawmakers out of business for more than one day, especially when they need to dig themselves out of a bigger hole a $1.8 billion budget deficit.
The General Assembly closed Feb. 17, the second day of the worst winter storm this area has seen in seven years, possibly the first time in 40 years that they failed to meet on a scheduled day.
Like the rest of the area, Annapolis wore white all of the past two weeks, accompanied by slushy parking lots and freezing temperatures.
But lawmakers made their way back in time for the Feb. 18 session and committee hearings that opened two hours later than usual.
While many school systems in the state stayed closed, the on-again, off-again snow did not cause any closures or delays in the legislature last week.
Lawmakers said not much was lost on the one day they closed, because bill hearings are not usually held on Mondays, and most committees don't meet.
The snow did cause some disruptions. Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, Prince George's County Democrat, had a scary moment when his car hit some ice and skidded out of control on Route 50 on Thursday.
But he regained control before the car hit the barrier.
Life in Annapolis has been much the same otherwise, he said. "You only have to go to work in boots and not in fancy shoes," he said.
J. Lowell Stoltzfus, Senate minority leader and Somerset County Republican, said he was amazed at the attendance in the Senate despite the snow. "It demonstrates the dedication of the members," he said.
He, like most other lawmakers in the state, lives in Annapolis during the week and drives to his home on the lower Eastern Shore during the weekend. "It's God's own country we had no problems there," he said.
'Abominable' support
Sen. Paul G. Pinsky derided the state schools superintendent for testifying at committee hearings in support of the governor's plan to legalize slot-machine gambling.
Mr. Pinsky, Prince George's County Democrat and a diehard slots opponent, said that Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick's pro-slots testimony was "abominable" and "totally inappropriate."
Mrs. Grasmick last week spoke at House and Senate committee hearings on behalf of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s plan to put a total of 10,500 slot machines at four horse tracks and earmark the state's proceeds as much as $600 million a year for education funding.
"I'm here because this is about 900,000 children in public schools in Maryland," she told the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.
Mr. Pinsky criticized the superintendent for saying the state could not afford to provide high-quality education without the money from slot-machine gambling.
"Dr. Grasmick's role is to direct state policy with regard to schools, not weigh in on select revenue enhancement proposed by the governor," Mr. Pinsky said. "Legalizing slots would hurt the very families we're trying to educate."
He also faulted Mrs. Grasmick for presenting slots as the only option for fully funding public schools, which has been the administration's line.
Mr. Pinsky complained that alternative revenue measure, such as eliminating tax preferences for corporations and raising the alcohol tax, have not been given fair examination.
Steele to march
Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele plans to walk in the 24th annual Annapolis March for Life in support of pro-life legislation, Maryland Right to Life announced last week.
Mr. Steele, a Catholic Republican from Prince George's County, has repeatedly voiced his pro-life stance, despite Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s more moderate stance on the issue and pledge to maintain the status quo on abortion law in Maryland.
The candlelight march will be held in Annapolis this evening.
Mr. Steele and the other marchers will be rallying in support of such pro-life legislation as the parental notification law, which would require doctors to get a court decision to waive parental notice for unmarried women younger than 18.
Existing law allows physicians to decide.
About 3,300 girls ages 15 to 17 have abortions each year in Maryland, according to Planned Parenthood.
The proposed legislation would mandate that a court decide whether to waive parental notification for those who are unmarried and younger than 18.
Pro-life lawmakers expected to join Mr. Steele in the marcher include Sen. Alex X. Mooney, Western Maryland Republican, Sen. Larry E. Haines, Carroll County Republican, Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., Baltimore County Republican, Delegate Carmen Amedori, Carroll County Republican, and Delegate George W. Owings III, Calvert County Democrat.
"Usually most of the pro-life senators and delegates are on stage at the rally. It is a whole bunch," said David Lam, spokesman for Maryland Right to Life, one of the groups organizing the march.
Bipartisan smoke-out
Testimony strongly supporting the legalization of medical marijuana use in Maryland came last week from Sens. David Brinkley and Paula C. Hollinger.
Mr. Brinkley, Western Maryland Republican, and Mrs. Hollinger, Baltimore County Democrat, stood hip to hip before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and touted the medical benefits of a reefer.
"Thousands of patients and their doctors have found marijuana to be beneficial in treating the symptoms of HIV/AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and other serious conditions," Mrs. Hollinger said.
The medical marijuana bill, known as the Darrell Putman Research Act, would remove the threat of imprisonment for medical marijuana patients.
The Senate bill has a total 20 sponsors, and an identical House bill has 56 sponsors.
Supporters argue that marijuana has therapeutic value for relieving nausea and increasing appetite, reducing muscle spasms and spasticity, relieving chronic pain and reducing intraocular pressure.
Staff writers Jon Ward, Vaishali Honawar, Jabeen Bhatti and S.A. Miller contributed to this column.

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