Fresh face, refreshing questions

In yesterday's Political Game column, it was reported erroneously that Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md., will be seeking his third term if he runs next year. In fact, it would be his fourth term.

The Sun regrets the errors.


Over time, long-in-the-tooth lawmakers begin to look as if they've been over the same ground once too often.

But the system does produce new faces. Baltimore's newest member of the General Assembly, Del. Maggie McIntosh, brings perspective and a rare combination of skills to her work on House Appropriations.


A political organizer whose credits include a successful presidential primary in 1988, various City Council races and the 1992 race for U.S. Senate, she is also a seasoned social services bureaucrat. The Democratic Central Committee chose her to fill the seat vacated by Anne S. Perkins.

When state welfare officials gave a statistical briefing on one of their reform programs the other day, she had a few questions. More than 9,000 families were to be penalized because they failed to get shots for their children.

Some were getting their children to school as required by the state. Why would they fail on the shots?

"The answer could be that there's a problem of access to the shots," she thinks. "Clinic budgets have been cut so much that the hours are shorter." Changes of this sort impose real problems for people with marginal resources, she points out.

The state says its immunization requirements are to protect children and to avoid the high-cost medical expenses that basic care can prevent. And, they say, recipients can avoid sanctions by getting the shots or explaining why they can't. "We hope that the disincentive of losing the money will make people do what they should do," says Helen Szablya, a welfare department spokeswoman. The penalty: $25 per month -- per child.

Ms. McIntosh still wants to know why the immunizations were not obtained and she wonders about the severity of the penalties.

"People in Washington or in Annapolis can seem pretty numb to the impact of $25 on a welfare recipient's budget," she says.

Pork war continues


In its pursuit of financing from the state to pay for the expansion of Baltimore's convention center, city legislators will make all the high-minded arguments -- and play a few of the hardball games.

They will argue that convention trade generates tax revenue for the entire state as well as jobs and other economic activity for the city.

"If the city went under, the state would have to pick us up," says Sen. Nathan Irby of Baltimore. "I think we're four or five years away from receivership if we don't get more aid."

Whether this strategy will work depends upon many things: Will the arguments seem like cries of wolf? Will the city's rivals play rule or ruin -- that is, will they vote against Baltimore projects even at the expense of their own?

If the usual back scratching does not occur, says one member of the Appropriations panel, "It could be a very small capital budget." His meaning: The subdivisions could cut each other to ribbons, lopping off one pork-barrel bond bill after another in a frenzy of retaliation.

Montgomery County, which feels the city did not support its effort to hang on to substantial teacher aid, may want to get even. But it has to worry about where it will get the votes it needs. Gov. William Donald Schaefer has asked for money to do several projects in Montgomery. But they will need votes, too.


"A lot of people here hate Montgomery as much as they hate us," said one Baltimore representative.

Sarbanes is in

Paul Sarbanes is running for a third term in the U.S. Senate. The stealth candidate hasn't actually announced or filed, but he's in. You can be sure because:

* He had said he probably would seek a third Senate term if a Democrat were elected president.

* He presided over a town meeting recently in Germantown, the first of a series, according to his staff.

* The estimable pollster Harrison Hickman will be visiting with him soon.


These tea leaves are not so difficult to read, of course. And no one should wait to see a formal announcement of candidacy.

When he first ran for the Senate in 1976, then-Congressman Sarbanes had filed his candidacy in October of the year before the election. In 1982, he waited until mere days before the filing deadline to make his intentions official.