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March 26, 2007

General Assembly Journal 2007 – Part 10

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

When I’m at home, I start my weekday mornings with Bob Miller, Dave Conrad, Diana Gibson, and the other contributors, commentators, and regulars on WFMD’s Morning News Express.


The mix of news, traffic, sports, and weather, interspersed with Mr. Miller’s provocative take on issues of the day makes for a fun daily kick start. On most things, I have found myself in agreement, if not lockstep, with Frederick’s favorite radio personality.


A few weeks ago, I called in and we talked live on the air about healthcare access. Any discussion of that topic always comes back to financing a Medicaid expansion with a cigarette sales tax increase.


Bob, and probably most of you, hates the idea of a tax increase. Unfortunately, the only way to cover 100,000 children and working adults who live on or below the poverty line is to use a significant revenue source for the first few years. After that, uncompensated care funds can replace the cigarette sales tax money, which can then be used for addition treatment and cancer screenings and treatments.


Bob also expressed some concern over health care of illegal immigrants. I share his concern. However, the way Maryland’s system is set up, determining who those people are is difficult. The General Assembly typically resists efforts to identify illegal immigrants, especially if it is intended to deny them care.


Last Thursday found me calling Bob, this time he was broadcasting live from one of my favorite local restaurants, the Market Bagel & Deli on South Market Street. Randy and Mary Jane McClement have built one of Frederick’s best spots for breakfast and lunch, so it befits them to host Bob and his morning gabfest.


When I set the call up with Bob, he mentioned that we’d definitely have some stuff to discuss. Boy, he wasn’t kidding!


After some chit-chat, Bob zeroed in on the topic he was most interested in. He asked me to talk about the Joint Resolution expressing regret over slavery. Clearly, Bob wasn’t too keen on the topic. He referred to a Frederick News Post poll in which an overwhelming majority of those polled felt that an apology for slavery was unnecessary.


Discounting the fact that the document is not intended as an apology, nor does it include discussion of reparations, honest people will have honest disagreements over this policy question.


Here is the language of the actual bill:




By: Senators Exum, Britt, Conway, Frosh, Gladden, Jones, Madaleno, McFadden, Muse, and Pugh

Introduced and read first time: February 7, 2007

Assigned to: Rules

Re–referred to: Judicial Proceedings, February 16, 2007

Committee Report: Favorable

Senate action: Adopted

Read second time: March 14, 2007




A Senate Joint Resolution concerning Slavery in Maryland FOR the purpose of expressing regret for the role that Maryland played in instituting and maintaining slavery and for the discrimination that was slavery’s legacy.


WHEREAS, The State of Maryland relied on slavery for 200 years; and

WHEREAS, To meet the needs of its economy, Maryland prior to 1808 imported men, women, and children, torn from their homes in Africa and subjected to the brutality of the Middle Passage; and

WHEREAS, Maryland citizens trafficked in human flesh until the adoption of the Constitution of 1864; and

WHEREAS, Slavery subjected its victims to unspeakable cruelties, including beatings, rape, and the forcible separation of family members from one another; and

WHEREAS, A native of Maryland, nurtured by the slave culture of our State, wrote the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision declaring African Americans incapable of citizenship because they had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect”; and

WHEREAS, Slavery fostered a climate of oppression not only for slaves and their descendants but also for people of color who moved to Maryland subsequent to slavery’s abolition; and

WHEREAS, Slavery’s legacy has afflicted the citizens of our State down to the present; and

WHEREAS, Slavery and discrimination are utterly contrary to the principles that this Nation and this State profess; and

WHEREAS, it is time for the State of Maryland to acknowledge the role the State played in maintaining the institution of slavery and its attendant evils; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF MARYLAND, That the State of Maryland expresses profound regret for the role that Maryland played in instituting and maintaining slavery and for the discrimination that was slavery’s legacy; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the State of Maryland commits itself to the formation of a more perfect union among its citizens regardless of color, creed, or race; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the State of Maryland recommits itself to the principle that all people are equal and equally endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


It’s important to understand the basis for the action. To that end, here’s a summary of why I think the resolution is the right thing to do.


Like many, I am troubled by the image of slaves being marched up Main Street in Annapolis to be sold on the steps of the oldest active state legislature in America. The image of the capitol dome inspires modern Marylanders to consider the process of law-making and civic representation, but for those Africans, the sight of that gleaming white wooden dome meant something very different. It marked the beginning of a loss of family, freedom, and dignity, and a lifetime of chains, whips, and labor.


I regret that our state played a role in this process and support the resolution of regret that Maryland's Senate passed unanimously. This resolution is not an apology or a discussion of remuneration for slavery. This is Maryland’s attempt, as Virginia also did in February of this year, to heal the lingering ill will.


Many demand that states pay for their role in slavery. I am opposed to attempts to make this simple expression of regret from turning into a free-for-all attempt to raid the state treasury for the economic gain of people who did not suffer the evils of slavery.


I have heard from people, including my good friend from the Morning News Express, that the Maryland General Assembly shouldn’t spend time on such a frivolous matter. Is restoring a sense of dignity to an entire race of people a frivolous matter?


I guess we’d be better off asking someone who feels that their dignity and heritage was negatively affected by Maryland’s legacy of slave trading than taking our policy direction solely from newspaper polls.


Regardless, I’ll continue to listen to Bob Miller and the Morning News Express. I couldn’t imagine starting my day any other way!


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