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Volume 16, Issue 3 - January 17 - January 23, 2008


When It’s Us vs. Them, We All Lose

Is this General Assembly going to spend its time pitting us against them?

You can get that impression skimming lists of early-filed bills, many of which seem designed to separate people rather than bring us together.

Many deal with immigration. There are separate bills to prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving in-state tuition and to require non-U.S. citizens to pay more for education than citizens.

Other legislation sets up a task force to study the cost of illegal immigration and requires proof of citizenship to register to vote.

In Washington and across the country, the issue of illegal immigration has become the province of demagoguery this political season, with candidates competing to offer the highest fences and the most restrictive rules rather than presenting real solutions.

In Maryland, we also noticed a bill tying welfare to successfully passing a drug test, legislation requiring women under 20 to sign something called a “Teenage Informational Form” before abortions and prescribing penalties for those who don’t — plus more legislation dealing with same-sex marriage.

Individually, some of these bills would appeal to people of good values. Who wants to finance the activities of crackheads with welfare?

But taken together, they make this Assembly appear eager to spend our money setting up barriers between us and them and denying rights that all of us should enjoy to a host of scary thems.

That’s not how we hope lawmakers plan to spend our money this session, when so many real problems threaten both us and them.

It’s bad enough having to stomach the tax increases from the special session at a time of soaring oil prices for heating and driving and diminished value of our homes.

We’re expecting the General Assembly to be dealing with the economy, with smart fixes to Chesapeake Bay, with helping small businesses survive lean times, with controlling sky-high electricity rates and with thinking ahead to the certainty of higher energy costs and the even bigger picture of global warming.

We’d like to know who our elected officials think they’re representing by sowing seeds of subtle and sinister classism.

Because it’s sure not us.

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