- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 11, 2005

A taxpayers advocacy group is accusing an American Medical Association official of deceiving the D.C. Council’s Judiciary Committee during his recent testimony on medical-malpractice insurance reform.

The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights is accusing lawyer Robert R. McMillan, a member of the AMA’s board of trustees, of intentionally deceiving council members.

The foundation says Mr. McMillan testified that rate rollbacks in California’s insurance-reform law, Proposition 103, were declared invalid and policy-holder refunds were not paid.

But Harvey Rosenfield, the public-interest lawyer who wrote Proposition 103, says the California Supreme Court upheld the law as constitutional and insurance companies paid $1.2 billion in refunds to doctors and other consumers.

“In its radical attack on the American legal system and the rights of injured patients, the AMA cannot be trusted to tell the truth and has forfeited its credibility with lawmakers,” Mr. Rosenfield says.

A spokeswoman for AMA said the doctors group stands by Mr. McMillan’s testimony.

Mr. McMillan is the first non-physician elected to the AMA’s board of trustees, says the association’s Web site (www.ama-assn.org).

Club bill

Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson wants to crack down on illegal nightclubs.

“This legislation is paramount to public safety in Prince George’s County,” Mr. Johnson said of a bill he introduced last week to step up enforcement against clubs.

“It will allow us to immediately close down a facility that is operating outside the range of its use and occupancy permit and one that poses an imminent danger to the safety of the citizens and residents of Prince George’s County.”

His bill would allow the county to close an establishment that is operating without a required use-and-occupancy permit, stop activities that are not in compliance with such permits and cease any activity that poses imminent danger to the health, safety and welfare of the public.

Mr. Johnson, a Democrat, submitted the bill to the County Council on Tuesday before the lawmakers adjourned for winter break.

The council will consider the bill when it reconvenes next month.

Taking on the limit

Virginia Gov.-elect Timothy M. Kaine says the state’s one-term limit for its governors causes problems for carrying out public projects.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, told WTOP Radio last week that he will renew the effort to change the law to allow future governors to serve two consecutive terms.

The General Assembly has proposed that the governor’s broad powers be reduced if the office is extended beyond a single term.

Mr. Kaine said he is willing to discuss that proposal with the legislature. He said the first step will be to know which powers lawmakers want the governor to cede.

Mr. Kaine said the term limit holds back the state because four years isn’t enough to solve complex, long-term problems, such as modernizing the state’s transportation network.

New management

Two longtime Montgomery County residents will lead the County Council next year.

George Leventhal, 43, has called Montgomery County home since 1964. His colleagues elected him last week to be council president.

Mr. Leventhal, at-large Democrat, said he wants to expand property-tax relief and add protection for renters displaced when apartments are converted to condominiums. He also called on the state to get the Purple Line rail project built.

Mr. Leventhal, who served as vice president this year, succeeds Tom Perez, Takoma Park Democrat.

Lawmakers also elected 15-year council member Marilyn J. Praisner to be vice president. Mrs. Praisner, Burtonsville Democrat, is a 36-year resident of the county.

Peace pact

Virginia Gov.-elect Timothy M. Kaine and Lt. Gov.-elect William T. Bolling have pledged at least peaceful coexistence and even occasional cooperation the next four years. The two talked to reporters last week.

The last time Virginia split the top two offices between parties was in the term of Gov. George Allen, which ended in 1998. Democrat Donald S. Beyer Jr. was lieutenant governor then.

Mr. Kaine is currently the lieutenant governor under Gov. Mark Warner, a fellow Democrat.

Mr. Bolling, a Republican state senator from Hanover, said the challenge is to find areas of agreement, not disagreement. Mr. Kaine said the two have a better working relationship than most people suspect.

Mr. Kaine had a seat in Mr. Warner’s Cabinet meetings, but he said he does not anticipate that Mr. Bolling will be privy to his Cabinet sessions. However, the Democrat said he will keep Mr. Bolling briefed on issues such as preparations for emergencies.

Running reverend

The Rev. Rick Bowers, an opponent of same-sex “marriage” in Maryland, will run for the state legislature, he said last week in Columbia.

Mr. Bowers, 47, is pastor at the Living Stone House of Worship in Pasadena. He also is chairman of Defend Maryland Marriage, which seeks to change the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Mr. Bowers is running as a Republican and hopes to challenge the three Democratic incumbent delegates from Howard County.

Mr. Bowers said last year that proponents of same-sex “marriage” wanted to try “redefining our culture.”

He said, however, that he will campaign on a broader family-values platform.

“I’m not a single-issue candidate,” Mr. Bowers said. He also would work to lower taxes, stiffen penalties for crimes against children and toughen sentencing guidelines.

“I’ve taken notice that over the past years, a lot of legislation, a lot of directions we’re taking in this state, don’t help families,” he said.

A native of Howard County, Mr. Bowers intends to remain pastor to the church if he wins.

Two other clergymen are in the state legislature.

Fraud charges

Carl B. Hutcherson Jr., mayor of Lynchburg, Va., has been indicted on charges of fraud, making false statements to federal officials and bank representatives and obstruction of justice, U.S. Attorney John Brownlee said last week.

Mr. Hutcherson is charged in the seven-count indictment with defrauding two recipients of Social Security disability benefits as well as a charity connected to Trinity United Methodist Church, where he is pastor.

He has sent a letter to Bishop Charlene Kammerer requesting an immediate voluntary leave, the Methodists’ Virginia Conference said. A substitute pastor was to be in the pulpit yesterday.

If convicted on all counts, Mr. Hutcherson could be sentenced to 105 years in prison and fined $2.5 million.

“This boils down to one man who became mired in great financial difficulty,” Mr. Brownlee said.

Mr. Hutcherson, 61, and the funeral home he runs were unable to meet their financial obligations, the indictment said, and owed more than $100,000 in back taxes.

Mr. Hutcherson is to be arraigned today in Roanoke.

Mr. Brownlee said he will not ask that he be jailed because he does not consider him a flight risk.

College money

U.S. Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes, both Maryland Democrats, are working to increase opportunities for people to go to college. They said Republicans are slashing financial aid and making it tougher for students to get ahead.

The two senators joined Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, at a town-hall meeting last week in Baltimore. They discussed their reform agenda with three nursing students at Johns Hopkins University.

The students said they are being squeezed by rising tuition and threats of cutbacks in student-aid programs.

TV personality

Andy Barth, a longtime Baltimore television news reporter, has announced that he will enter the crowded field in Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District. Mr. Barth, 59, a Democrat, retired this month after 35 years with WMAR-TV (Channel 2) in Baltimore.

“I’ve spent a lot of time covering the issues, getting to know the people, learning their concerns and strengths and reporting on problems. Now, I’d like to help solve some problems,” he said.

Mr. Barth said his main goal “is to try to bring some simple decency and common sense to bear on the way we approach problems.”

“I think we all suffer when there is excessive partisan gridlock and name-calling and everything being done on a political basis,” he said.

The 3rd District seat is open this year because the incumbent, Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin, is running for a U.S. Senate seat.

The empty seat has attracted a large number of Democratic candidates in a district that runs from south of Annapolis up through Anne Arundel and Howard counties and then into Baltimore and western Baltimore County.

Mr. Barth said he thinks he will benefit from the fact that he is not a politician.

“Television is pretty transparent. People say they’ve grown up watching me,” he said.

Mr. Barth said two of his major campaign issues will be to promote efforts to shore up private pension systems to protect workers and to push for “a well-planned, orderly and reasonable withdrawal” from Iraq.

Robert Redding Jr. and S.A. Miller contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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