ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland General Assembly voted Tuesday to override a record number of bills vetoed during the regular session by Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr., causing Republican members to complain that the Democratic majority was deliberately “dissing him.”
Although both the governor and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. made conciliatory statements about working together this session, Sen. Richard F. Colburn, R-Dorchester, said it was going to be difficult for the body to recover from this partisan beginning.
“Yesterday was set aside as a day to embarrass the governor. We want to start off the new year, the new session, in a congenial setting. Then they set up to embarrass the governor by overriding three major vetoes. They set the mood,” Colburn said. “Are we going to recover from that? Yes.”
But, Colburn said, it’s going to be difficult, and he’s not the only member of the GOP with that thought.
“Veto overrides have become a spectator sport in Annapolis,” said Sen. E. J. Pipkin, R-Queen Anne’s. According to the Department of Legislative Services, the eight veto overrides was a record for the period since 1969.
“It sets the tone for the next 90 days,” Pipkin said.
“It’s not insurmountable, but it casts a shadow. Ideas triumph over politics. Hope springs eternal,” he said.
“We’re a two-party state now. We’re going to have friendly disagreements,” said House Majority Leader Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery.
Barve said that if he sponsors a bill that one of his closest friends, Delegate Michael R. Gordon, D-Montgomery, hates, Gordon will try to defeat it.
“But at the end of the day he and I will be drinking together at the Maryland Inn,” Barve said.
But the tone of the session was set long before opening day, said Sen. Larry Haines, R-Carroll.
While the governor was testifying before the special Senate committee on medical malpractice, on which he served, Haines said, one of the Democrats on the committee asked the governor several pointedly snide questions.
Haines said he thinks some of the Senate Democrats voted against their conscience to override the veto of the medical malpractice bill.
“I was pleading, ‘We can’t give up on this issue. We have to continue to work on a legal resolution.'”
But the president held his party together on the vote, Haines said.
“You go to school, you fail, you go back another year, you get a passing grade,” Haines said. “We’ve got to go back and get real reform.”
Delegate Anthony J. O’Donnell, R-Calvert, said that the House was supposed to convene at 2:30 p.m. but the session was delayed for over an hour so that a delegate could be shuttled in from an airport in New Jersey to be the 85th vote to override the medical malpractice legislation veto.
He pointed out that not a single veto by former Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening was overridden in eight years.
“I think they’re picking partisan points. They’ve been doing petty things, like moving people’s seats around.”
O’Donnell, minority whip, was moved from a front row seat next to Minority Leader George C. Edwards, R-Garrett, to a back row after he challenged House Speaker Michael E. Busch’s, D-Anne Arundel’s, speakership.
“They’re stifling the voice of the minority. They don’t respect differences of opinion — they cut off debate,” and he went on to explain that the debate had taken considerably less time than the wait for the 85th vote.
“We represent the vote of many of the people,” O’Donnell said.
Sen. Jennie M. Forehand, D-Montgomery, said that there was absolutely not any disrespect to governor in the overrides of his vetoes.
“My veto and everyone else’s were based on policy. He degraded himself by vetoing good things for political purposes.”
– 30 – CNS-1-12-05