By Sen. Roy Dyson

[ Senator Dyson's Newletter ]

May 3, 1996

Government operates best in the sunshine. Good laws evolve through frank and open
discussion, lively give and take and thorough public debate.

I have seen, both in Congress and in the Maryland General Assembly, bills introduced
with no public discussion. Inevitably, opponents learn about them and complain bitterly.
Invariably problems emerge with the bills which could have been avoided if both sides
had input right from the start.

I don't know why sponsors feel they can squeak by something in a public forum such as
a legislative body without the word getting out sooner or later. For me, sooner is not
only preferable but essential.

During my first year in the Maryland General Assembly, as a delegate in 1975, I
sponsored the St. Mary's County Open Meetings Law, which has been since then a
model for the rest of the state. My administrative aide, Dick Myers, was a member of
the local media then. He and a committee from the local media worked with the
commissioners to draft the bill. After much local discussion it was submitted, passed the
legislature, and has proven itself over the years.

In both Calvert and St. Mary's counties, the commissioners assemble their own
proposed legislation as well as proposals from departments and private citizens, and
then submit them to the public and legislators for review at a public hearing. I believe
the process can work better if the review begins earlier and thus allows for more
chance for public input.

Some people have criticized me for killing bills which have allowed micro breweries in
Calvert and St. Mary's counties. I personally have concerns about allowing large
drinking establishments to be started. We have enough problems with drinking and
driving without creating a new temptation.

I am not the only one with reservations about these so-called brew pubs. State
Comptroller Louis Goldstein strongly opposed a bill which would have allowed existing
micro breweries to expand in Montgomery county. Debate on that bill was furious on
the last day of the Maryland General Assembly.

I would be more than willing to listen to what the citizens of my district think about the
idea and if there is support for it, I surely would consider it. The fact is though, that
there was no discussion about the issue in St. Mary's and very little, if any, discussion
about it in Calvert County.

The intensity of the debate about the Montgomery County Bill shows that this is not an
inconsequential local bill. Micro breweries are major issues with statewide impact and
deserve serious debate not behind the scenes maneuvering for the benefit of a few
select entrepreneurs.

If the proponents of micro breweries really are serious, then they will take their case to
you, the public. It is only then that the issue should be taken to Annapolis. Unlike
charter counties, the commissioners in St. Mary's and Calvert do not have legislative
authority. Although the legislature in Annapolis has the authority to approve local bills, I
strongly believe that the power is vested in us to act on the behalf of the best interest of
the citizens of the two counties in my district, not on behalf of the county commissioners
or some special interest. If those latter interests coincide with the public interest, then so
much the better.

I am determined to open up the legislative process. I recently established a
three-person committee to review applicants for the vacant liquor control board
positions in St. Mary's County. I appointed the president of the League of Women
Voters and a Republican to the committee. They picked two Republicans and one
Democrat. I submitted those names to the governor. I also recently decided to open up
the process further in the selection of recipients for Senatorial scholarships.

Other legislators or public officials can cream and yell all they want, but they are not
going to get me to go along with something they want simply because they want it. They
should know me well enough by now to know that I simply refuse to circumvent the
public in making decisions. If the public hasn't been thoroughly informed and involved,
forget it. Let it see the light of day first, then I'll consider it.

[ Senator Dyson's Newletter ]