Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) is continuing to urge Maryland business leaders not only to be heard by their legislators in Annapolis, but to be feared.

The latest exhortation came last week during an appearance before the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce as Ehrlich shared one of his favorite catchphrases with several hundred people attending the luncheon.

"You need to be dangerous," Ehrlich said. "Business in Annapolis has not been a feared agent. . . . I want fear as a function of your presence."

Business leaders, Ehrlich argued, have been content to write campaign checks to legislators even when lawmakers vote against their interests. That needs to change, he said.

"Believe me, the teachers union exacts consequences," the governor said. Trial lawyers and labor unions also retaliate against those who cross them, he asserted.

"Business can be the dominant force in Annapolis, if it ever gets its collective act together," Ehrlich said. "I'm asking you, respectfully, to help us help you."

Ehrlich in recent weeks has also been urging another profession to be "dangerous" in Annapolis: doctors. Physicians, Ehrlich has said, need to help him fight for reforms that will curb escalating rates for medical malpractice insurance.

A Laughing Matter

Before Ehrlich's speech last week, press secretary Gregory Massoni was erroneously introduced to the crowd by a chamber official as the governor's "deputy press secretary."

Ehrlich had a little fun with the slip-up when he took the podium.

"It's a hell of a way to find out, Greg," Ehrlich joked. "We were trying to save some money, you know."

Trial Lawyers' Target?

Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R-Harford) is using the simmering medical malpractice debate to try to raise some money.

"Because I am an open, honest advocate for tort reform, and I serve on the key committee that hears the issue, I am a primary target of . . . trial lawyers," Jacobs wrote in a recent fundraising solicitation. "I am counting on your help in the upcoming election cycle, and am asking you to make a contribution to my campaign. A gift of $500, $200, $100 or even $50 will help me fend off the trial lawyer-backed challengers."

Rising malpractice rates have pitted doctors in a bitter debate with trial lawyers and insurance carriers. A tort reform bill pushed by Ehrlich during the last session died in the Senate.

In her three-page letter, Jacobs, a member of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, takes aim at its chairman, Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery), and state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert.)

"The chairman of my committee is a trial lawyer, as is the president of the Senate," the letter says. "They are mouthpieces for the lawyers who are reaping more and more rewards at the expense of quality health care in Maryland. The lawyers say we are being melodramatic and that their jury awards have no impact on the escalating costs of insurance. The trial lawyers and the leadership don't take this issue . . . seriously, but I say it's time they start."

'Bunk' Mentality

An awards ceremony Oct. 7 sponsored by the Governor's Commission on Hispanic Affairs promises to "showcase the Hispanic community's contributions to Maryland." The speaker: none other than Ehrlich, who sparked a controversy in May by calling multiculturalism "bunk."

In sum, he told a radio show host: "Once you get into this multicultural crap, this bunk, you run into a problem. With respect to this culture, English is the language."

Ehrlich was speaking in defense of Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, who had griped about his inability to communicate with a Spanish-speaking McDonald's employee. But the governor's remarks reverberated for weeks as Hispanic leaders and Democrats accused him of cultural insensitivity. Nomination forms for the inaugural Maryland Hispanic Heritage Awards, due next Thursday, are available on the Internet, in both English and Spanish.