The Maryland legislature's refusal to require truckers to cover loose loads has been the subject of a continuing flow of letters to this column.
Jane Feist of Chillum asked, "How do we go about getting the names of the delegates who voted against this bill? I want to write to them and tell them I will do everything I can to convince people not to vote for them."
M.D.G. of Mount Airy wrote, "As I drive along 70, 270 and 495, I'd like to strap one of the opponents of the bill to the hood of my car for a week. He'd find himself being hit by everything from sandstorms to basketball sized boulders. The trucks whiz by at 70 miles an hour and more."
Arthur Enderlin of Bethesda suggested, "Publish the name of every legislator who opposed the bill and tell us how much each accepted in 'campaign contributions' from truckers."
W. M. O'C. commented, "The Post printed a cute feature story about how the bill was defeated, but it didn't tell who voted against it. Who did?"
Judy Walser of Potomac wrote, "I was on the Beltway behind two loaded trucks from the same company. One of the trucks was 'powdering' the road behind with bits of gravel. I noted the truck numbers and pulled off the road as soon as possible to call the company. I asked for the manager or owner and told him about his trucks.
"He said I was the first person ever to call and complain, and said all I had to do was pull into the third lane. I told him his trucks were in the second and third lanes and moving fast enough to spew all three lanes. He mumbled that I would have to pay quite a bit more for all consumer goods if he had to cover all his loose leads."
J. B. of Wheaton wrote, "Truckers say if they are forced to buy tarps, they will have to charge more for all the consumer goods they haul. That's baloney! Most consumer goods move in fully enclosed trucks that don't need tarps. The flying missiles come from a small percentage of trucks that cost motorists millions in higher insurance premiums necessitated by damage claims. Who votes against the truck cover bill each year?"
It is presumptuous of a newspaperman to characterize legislators as White Hats or Black Hats. So I would like to avoid compiling an enemies list.
On the other hand, one does form (and sometimes revise) opinions about legislators from an examination of their voting records and public positions. So here is a brief synopsis of what happened this year:
Several bills were introduced to require truckers to conform to various standards. All were scuttled except one introduced by Sen. Howard A. Denis, a Montgomery County Republican.Denis worked diligently -- and effectively -- for his bill and got it through the Senate about a week before adjournment. Denis then began trying to get the bill before the House of Delegates.
For a while, he thought he had the votes to get the bill approved by the Environmental Matters Committee, even though the committee chairman, Dr. Torrey C. Brown, is strongly opposed to it. But the Montgomery and Prince George's delegations had always favored the bill, and seven local delegates were on the committee.
However, when the vote was taken, Del. Judith Toth (Montgomery County) voted "No" and the bill lost by one vote, 11 to 10. The full House was not permitted to vote on it.
Six votes for the bill came from members of the local delegation -- Kay Bienen, Anthony Cicoria, Marilyn Goldwater, Sheila Hixson, Tom Mooney and Joan Pitkin. The other four "aye" votes were cast by Raymond Dypski (Baltimore City), Paula Hollinger (Baltimore County), Steven Sklar (Baltimore City) and Gerald Winegrad (Anne Arundel County).
The 10 who joined Toth in killing the bill were: Hugh Burgess (Howard County), Thomas Chamberlain (Baltimore County), Anthony DiPietro (Baltimore City), Roy Dyson (St. Mary's and Charles Counties), Irwin Hoffman (Washington County), James McClellan (Washington County), Daniel Minnick (Baltimore County), Lewis Riley (Somerset and Worcester Counties), Henry Thomas (Caroline, Talbot and Dorchester Counties) and Michael Weir (Baltimore County).
The record should also show that Larry Young (Baltimore City) abstained because of a gentleman's agreement. To pick up a crucial vote for the D.C. voting rights amendment, a cause close to Young's heart, he reluctantly agreed not to support the truck cover bill "on this vote only." When I talked to Young on Monday night, he said, "Next year I will support the bill and work for its passage. I understand Howard Denis has already filed his bill for the next session of the Senate. I will try to help get it through the House."
If a nonpartisan observer is permitted to report his personal reaction to all this: Republican Howard Denis and Democrat Larry Young made the most favorable impression on me. Toth, who is billed as a liberal, was the biggest disappointment.