Top priority: Abortion rights

on Maryland politics

November 09, 1990|By Peter Kumpa

It was a killing issue in the primaries. It was less effective in the general elections, perhaps because the public tired of the issue, or more likely because those on the minority side, the anti-abortionists, learned the right defensive words. In any case, an abortion-rights bill is due to become the first order of business when the General Assembly meets next January.

According to Senate President Mike Miller, "if the Senate be willing," action will come fast. There is to be an early Senate caucus a week from next Tuesday. In early December, legislative leadership meetings are planned. New committees will also be meeting. A bill is due to be drafted and filed before the session starts. The leadership is seeking an acceptable pro-choice bill in line with the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. And hearings are to be held before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee when the session opens.

By the first Monday following the Jan. 9 start of the session, a bill will be brought to the floor of the Senate, according to these preliminary plans.

The planned speed of legislative action is in contrast to last year when the abortion battle was put off until after the budget was cleared. Speaker Clay Mitchell had wanted abortion taken up earlier by the Senate to clear the decks. When a pro-choice bill did reach the floor, it ran into that now-famous or infamous filibuster by a band of 16 anti-abortion senators.

Will there be another filibuster? "No, I don't think so," said President Miller.

For one thing, a vote on the issue that Miller considers "unfinished business" will be a leadership question. Any senator in a leadership position will be pledged to bring the bill to a vote. That wasn't the case last March when four committee vice chairmen were among the filibusterers.

Then two of the remaining filibusterers have promised not to engage in another talkathon, while several others have said they have "no stomach" for another wrenching floor debate.


Maryland Republican Party Chairman Joyce L. Terhes has to face another election at the party's winter convention on Dec. 1. She was given only a one-year term. Bet your mortgage that she'll be returned by acclamation. GOP gains at the county executive, General Assembly and courthouse levels were more than even Terhes thought possible.

She has set priorities for more fund-raising, a solid U.S. Senate candidate for 1992 (maybe a retired businessman like Jack Moseley) and the beginning of recruiting for 1994.

Many Republicans would like to see the party get away from that Washington-oriented recruiting bureau that has produced a string of losers like Linda Chavez, Alan Keyes and the Shepard family team of William and Lois. All of them are good and talented people but had their experience in the wrong place, federal service and no roots in Maryland.


By the way: It was City and State magazine that awarded Baltimore County Executive Dennis Rasmussen the prize as the "best county executive" in the nation. The glossy publication that is read by local political leaders across the country followed the Rasmussen honor with the best county executive prize to Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening. Should Glendening be worried?

Incidentally, the latest issue of the magazine looks at the biggest gubernatorial public relations machines nationally. Gov. William Donald Schaefer didn't win. He was second to New York's Gov. Mario Cuomo. On economic development, Maryland had a larger staff than New York, California or other giant states.

The County Executive's Ball in Montgomery County was planned way back in May. So were the invitations. It was set for Nov. 29. The balls were started by Bettie Mae Kramer, wife of County Executive Sidney Kramer, in 1986 as a fund-raising mechanism to help the arts in the county. It has been successful, raising some $150,000. This year's invitations, some 8,000 of them, use a Romeo and Juliet theme with the words, "Parting is such sweet sorrow." The Kramers are expected to be on hand.

So Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein led the state-wide Democratic ticket this year. So what else is new? Goldstein did it in 1962, running nearly 7,000 votes ahead of Gov. Millard Tawes. He did it in 1974, running some 12,000 votes ahead of Gov. Marvin Mandel. And Goldstein ran some 118,000 in front of Gov. Harry Hughes in 1982. That was better than the 103,000 margin by which he finished ahead of Governor Schaefer this year.

Some Democrats are most unhappy that Del. Timothy Maloney was reported helping in strategy sessions for a dear friend but a Republican, Delegate-elect Marty Madden, in District 13-B. Old school ties are one thing, but should they carry over into what is supposed to be old-fashioned partisan politics? One Democrat said watch it if Maloney lobbies to have Madden go on House Appropriations.

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