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A Victim of Medical Malpractice Reform?

By Matthew Mosk and John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 18, 2004; Page PG04

Maryland Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore County) says his views on medical malpractice reform have cost him his seat on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Brochin, an insurance broker, said that Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) recently informed him that he was being replaced on the panel by Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr. (D-Baltimore County), a trial lawyer who works in the firm of Peter G. Angelos.

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Judicial Proceedings is the committee that would handle any changes in medical malpractice laws, which are being pushed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. but resisted by the trial lawyers lobby.

According to Miller, Brochin's reassignment to the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee is the result of shifts following the death of Sen. Robert H. Kittleman (R-Howard) in September and has nothing to do with medical malpractice.

But Brochin said he believes the move was triggered by a conversation with Miller in which he said legal reforms should be part of a package passed to address physicians' escalating insurance premiums.

"I think there's a direct correlation," Brochin said. "It wasn't much after that that I started hearing rumors. . . . I'm very disappointed. I was looking forward to being part of the solution."

Making His Voice Heard

Is Peter Franchot trying to be the new voice of the Maryland Democratic Party?

One might have gotten that impression when the Montgomery County delegate gathered party leaders in his Takoma Park living room to help organize a progressive summit this summer that was well attended.

Or when Gov. Ehrlich took special time during a recent interview on WTOP radio to take a shot at Franchot, who he believes is redefining the state's Democratic Party as a place less welcoming of its conservative and rural members.

Franchot has hardly shied away from the spotlight, hurling his well-hewn sound bites at Ehrlich at every opportunity.

So, what gives? Franchot will confirm only this: "I am taking a look at running statewide, but no decision has been made."

The former 8th District congressional candidate's most likely target: Comptroller William Donald Schaefer. Schaefer, Franchot said, has had some glorious days as the state's governor and as Baltimore mayor, but has been making enemies within the party with recent outbursts about multiculturalism and AIDS.

But Franchot is uncharacteristically guarded when asked for more details. All he'll say is that this is a time when Democrats should be speaking out for the party's core issues, such as the environment and higher education, rather than trying to embrace the governor (as Schaefer has been doing).

"If we try to bob and weave and try to smooth over our differences with Ehrlich, we're going to lose in 2006," Franchot said. "If the public is given a choice between a Republican and a Republican wannabe, they'll pick the Republican every time."

Sweet Gesture

Correspondence made public last week about an aborted land deal in St. Mary's County revealed much about plans to develop a portion of the land, despite promises to preserve it. But it also shed a little light on the hospitality of Maryland General Services Secretary Boyd K. Rutherford.

Following a July 2003 meeting, Willard Hackerman, a Baltimore construction company owner angling to buy an 836-acre wooded tract from the state, thanked Rutherford in a letter.

"I feel encouraged by the fact that we may well be negotiating for parcels of land in Maryland," Hackerman wrote. "I hope to hear from you or your people soon. . . . P.S. Thank you for the cherry pie."

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