We moved pounds of refuse out of our office recently in a kind of spring cleaning frenzy that usually hits near the end of the legislature.
Most of the trash was press releases -- hundreds of them -- written by or about our state legislators. They must have fallen off our desks before we could read them, and had landed amongst the empty Maalox bottles and other jetsam of the General Assembly.
The truth of the matter is that the legislators often didn't have much to say on paper, but they had a great deal to "assert" and to "emphasize," frequently in the same press release.
"In releasing the Durso letter, Del. Samuel I. (Sandy) Rosenberg asserted that the correspondence sheds significant new light upon the stadium discussion," read one such release.
Del. Wade Kach (R-Baltimore County) "asserted, 'It should be emphasized that the overwhelming majority of builders in the state are competent and trustworthy,' " read another.
Nobody, however, did as much asserting this year as Sen. Raymond Beck (R-Carroll), and nobody seemed so angry, at least in the headlines on his releases:
"Senator Beck says: 'No Student Financial Aid for Draft Dodgers' "
"Beck Calls Lack of Boating Safety Education 'Sheer Insanity' "
"Beck Calls Parole 'Three-Time Loser' . . . Wants it Abolished"
"Senator Beck Tells Committee Contributory Negligence is 'Outdated and Outrageous.' "
Misrepresentation also got his goat, he said: "Some can only afford to buy the cheap gun," Beck asserted in a February press release criticizing a court decision that said cheap handguns were used mostly for criminal purposes. "It should be noted that the gun in the Maryland case sold for $125, certainly not a small sum to many people."
The gun in question was, in fact, advertised at prices between $35 and $55.
Some legislators seem to think poetic license goes along with a seat in the General Assembly.
"Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam," Del. Barbara Kreamer (D-Harford) began one press release of March 6, "and the deer and the antelope play.
"Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
"And the skies are not cloudy all day."
"My home, Harford County is like that," Kreamer continued. "We have a buffalo farm in Churchville. Llamas are raised near Bel Air. Game chickens co-exist with their domestic cousins near Aberdeen. Hunting hounds live throughout the county and they make annual forays through My Lady's Manor in the western part of the county in search of elusive foxes."
Some press releases are more important than others. Most press releases are more important than this one:
"Speaker Benjamin Cardin has excused Del. Judith Toth (D-Montgomery) from [the] session the week of February 17th . . . . According to Del. Toth, she will miss only three actual work days in the General Assembly. None of her bills are scheduled for hearing at that time nor does she expect any important votes in committee or on the floor of the House."
Sometimes, however, a press release is desperately important, affecting thousands of people. That was the case with a Jan. 23 press release from Del. Ida Ruben (D-Montgomery). The trouble was, it came about a year too late.
"Ruben Tells Depositors, Be Careful with your Life Savings," it began. " . . . Ruben said she realized, while listening to a speech made Jan. 9 by Wilbur P. Preston Jr., special counsel to the state of Maryland on the savings and loan crisis, that many people may be misinformed about the protection available."
Not surprisingly, many press releases made mention of the savings and loan crisis. But we received only one press release offering a clear and simple solution:
"The cessation of abortion in Maryland means that the state's economy will rapidly grow and will be sufficiently large to permit an early payback of the savings and loan depositors without any significant burden to the taxpayers of Maryland or its credit rating."
This statement came from a gentleman who, in the first two months of the session, made the rounds of the state house every day passing out releases to the press. He was not a legislator but a lobbyist of sorts. We shall not name him, for he has suffered much in life, and has not emerged untouched.
Some of his press releases foresaw the future, and he predicted a number of elections, including his own as U.S. senator.
But the man's last press release of the session spoke ominously of the future of Gov. Harry Hughes. "I must say the Lord has given me directions as to what to do with Harry," it read. "I urge you to fervently pray for Harry and may God have mercy upon his soul."
The man was immediately questioned by State House police. He had, it seemed, written one press release too many. He was placed in an institution.