Maryland's legislators, seeking to lend their wisdom to the great issues of the day, have for years adopted joint, nonbinding resolutions expressing their will on such topics as the Equal Rights Amendment, violence in Northern Ireland and the need for a postage stamp commemorating the Chesapeake Bay skipjack fleet.
Unfortunately, a committee staff member recently discovered, one problem has prevented the dissemination of these missives to the world -- few, if any, have been mailed in recent years.
"Everybody assumed somebody else was mailing them," said F. Carvel Payne, director of the state's Department of Legislative Reference. "So nobody did it."
"As it turned out, we were talking to ourselves -- just what I suspected," said state Sen. Howard A. Denis (R-Montgomery).
The mailing goof was discovered by a staff member assigned to the Joint Committee on Federal Relations, whose tasks include following up on requests made by Maryland legislators to congressional representatives and other federal officials. The analyst, Orin Durey, thought to ask about the fate of several resolutions sent to Congress in 1982, and he discovered that none had been received.
Although the resolutions were again delivered in 1983, neither the clerk of the House of Delegates nor the secretary of the Senate undertook the task this year. So none of the 31 resolutions adopted by the last General Assembly -- including one advising Congress that Maryland proclaimed 1984 "The Year of the Forest" -- reached their intended destinations.
Recently, Durey contacted Payne about the problem, and Payne decided to take charge. Because his Department of Reference already keeps most of the General Assembly's records, "Why not slap them in some envelopes?" he said. The cost should be minimal, he added, because congratulatory resolutions hailing constituent achievements, by far the most popular with the assembly, are already mailed by legislators themselves.
Despite Payne's assurances that 1985 resolutions will be mailed, legislators contacted about the error reacted with alarm as they learned that carefully crafted resolutions condemning apartheid in South Africa and persecution of Bahais in Iran, and encouraging easy-to-understand language in condominium conversion documents, will probably never reach their intended destinations.
"I'm shocked," said Del. Ida Ruben (D-Montgomery), head of the county delegation and a cosponsor of resolutions urging congressional passage of the Equal Rights Amendment through the years. "We had eight hours of hearings on the ERA. I think that warrants mailing, don't you?"
Del. Gerard Devlin (D-Prince George's), a coauthor of a resolution urging an end to the violence in Northern Ireland, said he is considering drafting a resolution urging prompt mailing of all resolutions.
The goof, he quipped, might have been the reason for congressional inaction on major issues over the years. "They can't do anything until they hear from us," he said.