Caucus to quiz delegation


ANNAPOLIS -- Some members of the General Assembly's Women's Caucus agreed yesterday that Carroll County should have a women's commission, but they weren't sure they should break protocol to support it.

Members of the legislative committee of the Women's Caucus said they wanted to know more about why the Carroll delegation voted against introducing a bill to create a county women's commission.

Del. Nancy K. Kopp, a Montgomery County Democrat, said she could not remember a time when the Women's Caucus supported a bill that a local delegation had rejected.

"But, on the other hand, this is an issue of utmost importance," she said during a committee meeting in the Lowe House Office Building.

The 12-member committee reviews bills weekly that affect women and children. The Women's Caucus is made up of 36 delegates and 10 senators.

Del. Lawrence A. LaMotte, a Democrat representing Carroll and Baltimore counties, asked the Women's Caucus to support his House Bill 1423, which would establish a Carroll County Commission for Women.

He broke protocol in filing the bill because the Carroll delegation voted 5-1 not to introduce it.

Ms. Kopp called the delegation vote "pretty significant."

Because there is time before the bill is heard in committee, she said, the caucus committee should meet with Mr. LaMotte and other Carroll legislators before making a decision.

The Commerce and Government Matters Committee will have a hearing on the bill at 1:15 p.m. March 17.

The county commissioners could establish a county women's commission without legislative approval, but women's commissions established by state law have a better chance of survival, said Joanne M. Saltzberg, executive director of the Maryland Commission for Women.

"They can't be abolished as quickly," she told the Women's Caucus committee.

In October, Carroll commissioners voted 2-1 to support a women's commission. Commissioner Donald I. Dell voted against it.

In a phone interview yesterday, Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said he will not do any more to ensure that a women's commission is established.

"I've done my part. Let the chips fall where they may," he said. "I wish them luck. They are on their own now to get it through the legislature."

Mr. LaMotte's bill would allow the county commissioners to establish a 15-member Commission for Women, which would provide information to women about services available to them and bring women's issues to politicians' attention.

The state and 14 Maryland counties have women's commissions.

Opponents have said a women's commission would become a bureaucracy using taxpayers' money to advance a liberal agenda.

Carroll legislators objected to the bill because they said a women's commission should not receive any county money. They also said the bill should have given the commissioners more control over who was appointed to the panel.

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