ANNAPOLIS – Gov. Parris N. Glendening and the Senate committee considering his smart guns proposal continued their game of legislative maneuvering Thursday with the panel delaying votes on most gun legislation.
The unexpected move is a counter-punch to Glendening’s announcement Wednesday that he would consider legislative routes other than the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to get his proposal to the Senate floor for a vote.
Instead of risking a defeat or substantial dilution of his proposal, the committee reasoned Glendening might tack his smart gun proposal onto an already approved gun bill, so it boxed all but one in. Now, with most gun bills stalled in committee, the governor will have to look at other alternatives.
The smart guns proposal, which mandates only personalized handguns be sold in Maryland beginning in 2003, falls four votes short of passage in the conservative 10-member panel.
“We’re just fearful we (could) send a bill out that becomes a vehicle for smart guns and we’re opposed to it,” said Sen. Philip Jimeno, a committee member.
The Anne Arundel Democrat said the committee decided to wait to see how the governor proceeds with his smart guns bill. In fact, Jimeno said, he and some other committee members talked to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s, earlier in the day.
“His suggestion today was, `You better wait,'” Jimeno said.
Chairman Walter Baker, D-Cecil, said he is still discussing smart guns with Glendening.
Glendening said he had hoped to be able to win passage for a smart guns compromise bill with the help of Baker, but said Wednesday that the chairman’s proposals weakened the bill too much. That fear of dilution prompted him to announce plans to go around Baker’s committee.
Baker said he kept smart guns off the voting schedule Thursday at the governor’s request, but scheduled every other gun bill for a vote. It was the full committee that decided to delay votes on the other bills.
Glendening has other legislative alternatives he could consider to get around Baker’s committee, but the governor’s office declined to discuss what the latest development means to his strategy.
Jimeno said he suspected the bills would be held until Tuesday or Wednesday. In fact, Jimeno had one of the main gun bills slated for a vote, and then held.
The measure, designed to whack gun-toting criminals with a mandatory five- year sentence, is modeled after Virginia’s Project Exile program. A majority of the committee members have signed onto the bill and it is expected to pass when a vote is finally taken.
Jimeno supports the delay.
“I’d rather see Exile die if (Glendening) attempts to put smart guns on the bill,” he said.
Glendening said he expects a filibuster if he attempts to bypass Baker’s committee and is already working to get the votes to break it. According to the Legislative Services department, the governor needs to wrangle 29 votes from the 47-member body. A filibuster by even one member of the body could indefinitely postpone a vote on the floor.
Baker, who represents a pro-gun constituency, worked with Glendening in 1996 to pass a one-gun-a-month law and other gun restrictions. However, that cooperation cost him in the next election, he said. Most elections he wins by a margin of 70 to 30 percent; after supporting Glendening’s 1996 initiative his support slid to 55 percent.
His constituents, he said, “are a one issue people.”