ANNAPOLIS – Gov. Parris N. Glendening heralded the successes of the 2001 General Assembly at a bill signing session Tuesday morning at the State House, just hours after the Legislature closed for the year.
The governor, flanked by House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, signed 101 bills, including several to strengthen laws against drunk driving. Election and campaign finance laws, local bond bills and a bill to create a regional coalition to submit a bid to host the 2012 Olympics were among the other bills signed.
All of Glendening’s major initiatives were passed by this year’s Legislature, including controversial bills to prohibit discrimination against gays, bar race-based traffic stops and allow University employees to collectively bargain for wages and working conditions. Those bills will likely be signed later.
“Working with the Legislature, we have built a solid foundation for a safer, more prosperous and more inclusive Maryland,” Glendening said.
The governor’s other funding priorities — education and the environment – – were well received, although spending on those issues was trimmed by the Legislature.
Even Republican leaders had a hard time criticizing the governor’s aims.
“They’re all worthy programs,” said Senate Minority Leader Martin Madden, R-Howard, “but there’s no fiscal discipline.”
Legislators were generally positive about the 90-day session, but some felt bruised over the abrupt and unusually early ending of the Senate Monday night. Debate was cut short on a hotly contested death penalty moratorium bill, which was killed in exchange for passage of a DNA evidence bill.
The Maryland Legislative Black Caucus had worked very hard to pass both the DNA and moratorium bills. But the moratorium faced long odds from lack of votes, and a likely filibuster by Sen. Walter Baker, D-Cecil, the bill’s chief opponent.
So, a deal was struck. In return for the demise of the moratorium, House and Senate leaders negotiated with black legislators to ensure passage of the DNA bill, said House Majority Leader John Hurson, D-Montgomery.
When the House passed the DNA bill at 11:30 p.m., the moratorium came to the floor of the Senate. But 15 minutes later, Miller, an opponent of the bill, broke Senate rules and cut off debate, hastily ordered a roll call and announced the House had already adjourned. Because the bill would still require House approval, the moratorium vote was symbolic — the lower chamber had adjourned and could no longer consider it.
Then, the electronic voting system malfunctioned and the vote could not be recorded, so Miller ordered the session adjourned.
One of the moratorium bill’s sponsors, Majority Leader Clarence Blount, D- Baltimore, registered his disappointment over the shortened debate and lack of vote.
“For the first time we don’t wait until 12 o’clock (to adjourn). I hope this doesn’t portend what the Senate will be like in the future.”
Blount later downplayed Miller’s actions: “When you’re playing a game, you use all of the rules you can.”
Sen. Barbara Hoffman, D-Baltimore, was not as understanding. “It was ugly,” Hoffman said. “By forcing an early end, you lose some of the healing . . . that’s what makes this place work.”
“To end without the camaraderie leaves a bad feeling.”