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Neanderthal talk on domestic violence


After the state dinosaur, can the state cave man be far behind?

Some promising auditions were conducted last week when the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard testimony on Gov. William Donald Schaefer's domestic violence bill.

The bill, aimed at protecting battered women, would extend from 30 days to one year the period during which a judge could order an abusive spouse out of the home.

Aspects of the bill troubled chairman Walter M. Baker, a Cecil County Democrat, and Sen. Frederick C. Malkus, a Dorchester County Democrat.

"Let's say someone goes down to the corner bar, picks up some girl, keeps her for two or three days, then beats her up. Can she have him thrown out of his own house?" Mr. Baker asked. (No, under the proposed legislation.)

Mr. Malkus told Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., who testified for the bill, that the state has more important things to worry about.

"My question is why can't we do something about a serious problem, like crime in the streets. Where are our priorities? . . . We're talking about little things."

Beach banter:

Governor Annoyed was at it again last week. His target at the Board of Public Works meeting was Stephen P. Leatherman, a professor at the University of Maryland and a specialist on beach erosion.

Governor Schaefer took the unusual step of summoning Mr. Leatherman to explain his published remarks questioning the long-term costs of Ocean City beach replenishment, one of Mr. Schaefer's pet projects.

Mr. Schaefer was clearly irritated that a university employee would actually speak out in public against something so important.

"You may think you're totally independent [at the university], but you're not," the governor warned.

'Potty parity':

If they can just set aside frivolous bills about dinosaurs and elephants and duckpin bowling, perhaps members of the General Assembly can get down to some serious business -- such as "potty parity."

The potty-parity bill would require the number of toilets in women's restrooms to equal the number of toilets and urinals in men's restrooms in newly built places of public entertainment.

While the bill is a serious one for female legislators, it got the usual treatment last week from the men on the House Economic Matters Committee.

Del. Robert Kittleman, a Republican of Montgomery County, suggested that even with potty parity there would be lines outside the ladies' rooms, although he didn't say why, or how he knew.

Del. Leon Albin, a Baltimore County Democrat, offered an amendment to require newfangled "she-inals" in the women's restroom.

Del. Hattie Harrison, a Baltimore Democrat, retorted, "Maybe the women in your family want to use those things," but not those in hers.

Finally, Del. Martin Madden, a Howard County Republican, asked whether a builder could elude the law if he installed one long urinal in the men's room.

To which Chairman Casper R. Taylor Jr., an Allegany County Democrat, replied, "Now why would anyone be that deceptive?"

The committee decided to wait a week to find out. Strike one in the fight for P.C. in the W.C.

Missing in action:

Legislators wanted to know why Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden failed to show up last week for a hearing on tax legislation to deal with state and local budget problems.

The executives of Anne Arundel, Howard, Harford, Prince George's and Montgomery counties were there to testify. So was Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

"Is anyone representing Baltimore County here to testify?" Sen. Laurence Levitan, a Montgomery County Democrat, asked pointedly. Mr. Hayden, it turns out, was across the street, meeting with the county's senators.

Legislative leaders want to get county executives behind a package of tax increases to deal with the state deficit and local budget problems. While the county leaders aren't all convinced about the need for taxes, they're at least willing to talk about the issue -- except Mr. Hayden, who has conspicuously absented himself from any public forum at which the word "tax" is mentioned.

That has started talk about retaliation against a county that wants to get the benefit of tax increases without the political heat for proposing them.

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