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GOP Senators Protest Reagan's Name on Stem Cell Bill

By Matthew Mosk and John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, December 19, 2004; Page SM06

With the partisan divide in Annapolis these days, few things are sacred.

But six of the state's Republican senators wrote to a Democratic Senate committee chairwoman this month to complain that she had misappropriated the name of someone sacred to them: the late president Ronald Reagan.


The state plans to run tourism ads featuring Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) through next year. (Maryland Office Of Tourism Development)

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Md. Legislature

Their beef was with Sen. Paula C. Hollinger's (D-Baltimore) decision to draft the "Ronald Reagan and Christopher Reeve Stem Cell Research Act."

The bill will be considered during the 2005 legislative session, which starts in January. It sets up parameters for the use of embryonic stem cells by researchers, similar to what has been done in California, New Jersey and Wisconsin.

"We believe the enactment of this legislation would compromise the former president's values," wrote Sens. J. Robert Hooper (Harford), J. Lowell Stoltzfus (Somerset), Andrew Harris (Baltimore), Larry E. Haines (Carroll), Nancy Jacobs (Harford) and Alex X. Mooney (Frederick).

"Ronald Reagan was a man of true conviction and true morals," they wrote. "We find it hard to believe that President Reagan would support a measure that would be at the expense of so many innocent lives."

Specifically, the senators base their request on the opposition to the use of human embryos in stem cell research as expressed by Michael Reagan, one of the late president's sons. But this argument didn't wash with Hollinger.

"I guess they forgot to ask the rest of his family," she said, referring to the very public support for stem cell research voiced by Reagan's son Ron Reagan Jr. and former first lady Nancy Reagan.

Hollinger said she will not cave in to the request. "We think this is a very, very important bill," she said. "And there are plenty of members of the Reagan family who would agree."

Power of Television

If you're tired of the Maryland tourism commercials that put Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) in the role of friendly neighborhood handyman, gardener and golf instructor, you'll have to flip the channel.

State tourism officials said last week that they plan to extend the run of ads through next year. The reason: They are a huge success.

At least that's the position taken by state tourism guru Dennis Castleman. Data that Castleman's office has collected for the number of out-of-state visitors who came to Maryland during the first half of 2004 show an increase over the previous year. During the same period in 2003, the state had 7.4 million visitors. This year, there were 9.9 million.

Castleman said he believes the state is on pace to show at least a 20 percent gain in tourist traffic over last year. And that comes amid declines in neighboring states. Virginia, for instance, has seen a 6.3 percent drop between 2003 and 2004.

So why the big boost? "I have to believe part of our success, aside from the great product, is the advertising campaign," Castleman said.


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