SINGLE-MEMBER DISTRICTS

THE BALTIMORE SUN

From: John Leopold

Former member

Maryland General Assembly

Fifteen years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a tragically misguided decision that has given protection to the polluting effect of money in election campaigns. The court ruled that federal statutory ceilings on campaigns violated the First Amendment's guarantee of free expression. It was a victory for concentrated wealth and the drowning of the voices of individual citizens in election campaigns.

The Supreme Court ruling made it clear that a state legislature cannot place statutory limits on campaign spending unless those limits are tied to public financing of state election campaigns. As a practical matter, public financing of state election campaigns is not a realistic solution, given its high price tag and lack of legislative support.

There is a solution, however, that involves no increase in state spending, significantly reduces the influence of money in political campaigns and offers political opportunity for the less affluent in our communities. That solution is single-member districts in the Maryland House of Delegates.

Five years ago, I introduced legislation in the Maryland General Assembly to require single-member legislative districts for the House of Delegates in the 1994 election and thereafter. The bill died in committee.

All of Maryland's 47 state senators today represent single-member districts, and of the 141 members of the House of Delegates, 14 represent single member districts and 8 represent two-member districts. These 47 senators and 14 single-member district delegates are, in my opinion, some of the happiest people in Annapolis. One of the reasons they're happy is that they don't have to worry about intra-district rivalryand competition. While rarely discussed, this rivalry is sometimes an impediment to constructive legislative action.

An additional benefit of single-member districts is their capacity to forestall the dilution of the voting strength of minorities. The Black Political Forum underscored this point recently in its public hearing testimony before the County Charter Revision Commission and the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee.

Another advantage for single-member district legislators is their ability to focus their attention and energy on a smaller number of constituents. Obviously, when this happens, the constituents are the winners. Many citizens living in multimemberdistricts have a hard time keeping track of what one of their three delegates are doing, let alone all three. In a single-member district, that problem does not exist. A legislator cannot hide from direct responsibility in a single-member district. There is direct and strictaccountability between a citizen and his or her elected representative.

TOP MARKS FOR MCMILLEN

From: Marc Jartman

Annapolis

Mr. (Robert) Duckworth's letter published on June 9th criticizes Representative Tom McMillen for supporting his party's leadership in the annual defense budget debate. (One would hardly expect him to support Mr.Duckworth's.) As we have seen in the past, the final defense budget will again likely be the result of many compromises worked out by theHouse, Senate and the administration.

What Tom McMillen's actionsdo indicate is that he knows how the system works. It has been my observation that he has developed an effective network in Congress which he readily uses to support the interests of his constituents involved in providing support to the nation's defense.

Representative McMillen has not only worked hard to save Maryland-based programs that have been in jeopardy but he has also hosted meetings in the Districtto give local defense contractors an opportunity to discuss opportunities and problems related to defense programs.

At one of these meetings which I attended, Representative Les Aspin, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, was the guest speaker. It was clear from the ensuing discussions that Mr. McMillen had developed an excellent relationship with Chairman Aspin which could be used to benefit hisconstituents in the 4th District.

We should also note that Tom McMillen has the courage to differ from the majority of his party when he feels it is appropriate, as he did when he supported the president's use of force in the Persian Gulf last January.

Let's give Tom McMillen the high marks he is due for supporting his constituents.

NEWSLETTER OBSCURES

From: Robert L. Miller

Millersville

Once again, households in the 4th Congressional District received another addition of Congressman Tom McMillen's so-called "Washington Report." Mailed at taxpayer expense, this shameful piece of self-advertising purports to let constituents know what great feats McMillen has accomplished in Washington over the last few months.

But instead of containing any useful information, the "Washington Report" has no fewer than five photographs of McMillen crowding out any hard news. Most of the rest of his "newsletter" contains such "important" articles as McMillen planting trees and interfering with bridge openings on Route 95.

Where was information detailing his recent votes in Congress? Where was his vote on the Brady Bill, or his proposed votes on a streamof legislation dealing with abortion? Could McMillen be ashamed to tell his constituents about his votes on substantive issues that trulyaffect them?

Moreover, McMillen has the nerve to boast about his sponsorship of a law to repeal the 10 percent tax on boats. What he chooses not to say is that he voted for the boat tax initially as partof last year's tax increase. Now, a year later, McMillen hypocritically weeps about lost jobs in the boating industry, when in fact, he shares direct responsibility for those lost jobs!

McMillen's "Washington Report" insults his entire constituency by hiding many facts and misrepresenting others. His so-called "newsletter" is nothing more than cheap campaign literature produced at our expense. And like mostcampaign literature, McMillen's obscures more than it enlightens.

ABORTION LINE IN THE SAND

From: David P. Gilmore

Millersville

The June 17 Anne Arundel County Sun contained an article about an anti-abortion protest (" 'Life chain' links activists in protest againstabortion"). Comments of pro-abortion counter-demonstrators were enlightening and can be likened to a line drawn in the sand.

The pro-abortion protesters accused anti-abortion protesters of a terrible thing -- mixing politics and religion. Scandalous! Outrageous! It is a vile thing in their sight to let personal religious convictions, your personalized and internalized moral code, influence our society.

The First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of religious expression,must be a damnable thing indeed to evoke such hostility! One shudders to think the evil visited upon this nation by those who dared live according to their religious beliefs, brazenly mixing religion and politics. Obviously, we would be better off now if people such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. had stayed at home in a pathetic and paralyzed piety.

Make your choice.

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