Maryland legislators reacted positively but cautiously to Gov. Harry Hughes' recent proposal to create a research center on racial and ethnic violence at the University of Maryland's Baltimore campus.
While praising the governor's efforts during the past two years to combat acts of violence and extremism, legislators contacted this week said that before passing judgment on the proposal they would need specific details on how the $600,000 that Hughes is requesting will be spent.
"Conceptually I think it will be well-received," said House of Delegates Speaker Benjamin Cardin (D-Baltimore County). Cardin said he expected the legislature to approve the necessary appropriations if provided with sufficient justification for the expenditure.
Del. John W. Douglass (D-Baltimore City), cochairman of the joint Committee on Budget and Audit, said that because of the "substantial sum of money" being requested he would have to wait until he sees an analysis of the kinds of complaints state citizens are making about racial and ethnic violence. "This is the kind of program our committee would certainly want to pass judgment on," he said.
The center was recommended by the Governor's Task Force on Violence and Extremism, which was appointed by Hughes in 1981. Under the current proposal the state would provide $200,000 a year for three years to get the center started.
According to task force Chairwoman Constance Beim, the center will not be a government agency but a private, nonprofit organization to conduct research on the causes of racial violence and provide training for local officials throughout the country on how to defuse potentially violent situations.
Beim said task force members already have begun lining up private donors who will be expected to provide at least 50 percent of the center's funding during its first three years, and all funding thereafter.
"Sometimes a lot of state governments don't want to talk about racial and ethnic violence but I think sensitivity to extreme activity is an important role for states to play," Cardin said.
Del. Nancy Kopp (D-Montgomery) said she, too, would like more details of the Hughes proposal, but added, "I was one of the people who urged the governor to start this effort and he's been very sympathetic. It wasn't the easiest thing in the world to get started and I think we're ahead of where we were in the beginning."