ANNAPOLIS – The House of Delegates resuscitated a handful of vetoed bills Tuesday and slapped Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. with the state’s first veto override since 1989.
Press Secretary Henry P. Fawell said the governor was disappointed by the vote.
“The governor’s course has been the bipartisan one, and obviously the Legislature has shown otherwise,” Fawell said. “But the vote will not affect his approach to the session, and he hopes the Legislature will join him.”
Tuesday’s House vote further intensified the growing partisan tension apparent throughout the five-day-old General Assembly session. Across the hall in the Senate chamber, members continued the political sniping with a testy debate and resulting vote to change extended debate rules to make it more difficult for the minority to filibuster.
Of the three vetoed bills enacted into law, the Maryland Energy Efficiency Act was the most contentious. It will take effect in 30 days and mandates efficiency standards for nine, mostly commercial, appliances.
Opponents had argued that the move would drive costs up for consumers and home improvement retailers.
In brief debate, House Minority Leader George C. Edwards, R-Garrett, said the efficiency standards were too narrow and that a push for federal energy legislation would be more beneficial.
“Maryland cannot be an island,” Edwards said. “We need to look at the broader picture. We don’t have the clout to do this here, and we’re going to put businesses and consumers at a disadvantage.”
House Environmental Matters Committee Chairman Maggie L. McIntosh, D-Baltimore, disagreed saying, “These standards we’re adopting are federal standards; they’re nationally recognized standards. . . .
“There’s nothing different here. Maryland won’t be an island, we’ll be a leader,” she said.
All three vetoed bills were overridden by largely party-line votes.
House Minority Whip Anthony J. O’Donnell, R-Calvert, asked legislators during the morning’s tussle over votes to remember the gravity of the situation.
“Override votes must rise to a higher level of constitutional authority,” O’Donnell said. “There have been many issues where we’ve been upset with the governor over a veto. If we’re going to override a veto it should be an issue of paramount importance.”
The Legislature last trumped a governor’s veto during then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer’s term in 1989 when it reinstated the so-called “eye-drops bill” allowing optometrists in Maryland – not just ophthalmologists – to administer the drops to patients.
The House’s vote also restores state pension benefits to a small group of Baltimore City employees who lost them when they were employed for a brief period by a private company. The House also joined the Senate in supporting a bill limiting liquor licenses within 300 feet of churches and schools in Baltimore.