A "Sunset" bill that could have killed off more than 100 state agencies of they couldn't justify their existence was itself killed today, at least for this session of the General Assembly.
Considered one of the major bills to come before the Maryland General Assembly, the "Sunset" bill would have guaranteed a staggered review of 122 agencies to insure that they were worthwhile and made review of these agencies mandatory every six years.
The bill was killed for this year's session when members of the House Constitutional and Adminstrative Law Committee referred the Sunset concept to a summer study rather than kill it outright. The bill could be considered again next year.
"In a legislature that spends 11 minutes per bill it's a success to get a summer study," said Del. David L. Schull (D-Montgomery), sponsor of another bill whose fate appeared tied to today's Sunset bill.
Sixteen bureaucrats representing some of the agencies that would have been subject to the Sunset bill's review section paraded before the committee to testify. Without exception, they said that while the concept of review was excellent, thie agency didn't need to be reviewed.
"I have no objection to being reviewed," said John Eaton, executive director of the Maryland Veterans Commission. "I object to being categorized with those who should be candidates for hanging."
"The gist I get out of this bill is that the concept is good," said Simon Avara, head of the state Barber Board. "But I'm opposed to having barbers in this particular bill."
But the bill's sponsor Del. Timothy R. Hickman (D-Baltimore County) who spent two months last summer preparing the legislation defended his bill's sweeping inclusion of all state regulatory and advisory agencies.
"The point is not to abolish agencies but to find them and see if they are working," he said. "It's crazy but there is no one written list of the boards and agencies in this state. We don't even know who we have working for us."
Like the "sunshine" laws designed to open government meetings to be public. Sunset law were conceived by citizens groups which claimed that government had become as remote to the serutiny of the public as private industry.
"A lot of these agencies determine what people can buy who can enter professions, how business is run," said Lee D. Perlman, Maryland's Common Cause executive director one of the groups supporting the bill. "There should be an automatic review procedure to insure that these agencies are run well."
Hickman spent almost one hour explaining the bill to the committee before Del. Charles J. Krysiak (D-Baltimore City), the committee chairman turned to his fellow committee members and asked, "What would you think of a summer study? It's dead in this committee."
Hickman refused to consider the hearing as anything but to success, however despite the bill's refered to a summer study committee.
"Somebody had to produce a real $99[WORD ELLEGIBLE] live bill so that there could be a study" of the issue he said.
Del. Scull bill is still alive however. His bill would limit the review to only 55 state agencie until the Sunset concept had proved itself.
His bill was prepared last summer by members of a legislative task force that included of members of Common Cause Common Cause wrote the Sunset law now in force in Colorado.