When you're No. 2, sometimes you have to try harderWho's...

State House Swirl

January 14, 1991|By From The Evening Sun's legislative bureau

When you're No. 2, sometimes you have to try harder

Who's the most powerful man in Annapolis?

Most people would say Gov. William Donald Schaefer, but thguv apparently thinks the power rests with his No. 2 man, Lt. Gov. Melvin A. "Mickey" Steinberg.

Steinberg, an all-but-declared candidate for governor in 1994, is doing his best to stay out of political messes, but his boss has other plans for him. Schaefer told a group of businessmen over lunch last Friday that the legislature was going to be productive this year.

The controversial gasoline tax increase? "We're going to pass it," Schaefer declared.

The doubly controversial Barnes Commission report on land-use controls? "We'll pass that, too," the governor blithely told the group.

And tax increases proposed by the Linowes Commission, the most controversial of them all? No problem. That'll pass, too, Schaefer predicted.

And who is going to get the legislature to do all that, Schaefer asked.

Who else? Mickey Steinberg, Schaefer said, pointing at his chagrined lieutenant.

Read my truck:

Before promising that Steinberg would solve Maryland's money woes, Schaefer must have missed the truck that circled the State House on the opening day of the legislature's 1991 session. Lawmakers had barely been sworn in last Wednesday when a truck was seen on State Circle, with a large, yellow, sign that read, "No New Taxes."

A man for all seasons:

A man for all seasons: Whenever more than two people decide to hold a convention in Maryland, who gets sent as the official state emissary? When he's not busy working miracles in the legislature, it's Steinberg, who's shaken more hands than a manicurist. One of the latest missions undertaken by the cheerful second-in-command was to bring greetings to the Northeast Weed Science Society.

Privately, Steinberg's aides scratched their heads, wondering what in the world the weed group was about. It turns out the group consists of some 450 of the brightest minds when it comes to eradicating unwanted vegetation from gardens and farms.

Steinberg attended the opening day of the convention and did his duty. Asked later if he learned anything from the weedmen that he could apply in Annapolis, Steinberg shrugged his shoulders and winked. Already they're calling him the New Exterminator.

Visit to the Emerald City:

Down from Baltimore to seek an audience with the governor, former city top dog Clarence H. Du Burns acknowledged for the umpteenth time that he's preparing a run to re-take the office he lost in 1987 to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

Burns bided the better part of his time for two days in a row last week in the second-floor hallways of the State House, hat in hand, waiting to see Schaefer. He hoped to get a meeting with his favorite patron, but didn't want to catch the moody chief executive in the funk he has been in since he won re-election last November with fewer votes than he had counted on.

"He's been grouchy about the election," noted the affable Burns. "I want to catch him in a good mood."

All that stands between Burns and another run for mayor this year, he said, is money.

Cup runneth over:

At a formal exchange in the State House between Schaefer and a delegation of Polish government and farm officials, the conversation turned to the subject of state agriculture secretary Wayne A. Cawley Jr.

Cawley had been acting as host for the five-member delegationtrotting the men around the state's farmlands, including his own 1,600-acre farm outside Denton. Schaefer, who had toured Poland on a trade mission, gabbed informally with the delegation and discoursed on what a fun-type guy is Cawley.

"He knows how to live," Schaefer said of his ag chief, who is known in some circles as a rural bon vivant. "He lives under the theory that each day is a special day." After pausing to let the Polish translator catch up with him, Schaefer announced, to everyone's surprise, "And I once saw him take a drink."

The Polish officials, who been entertained at Cawley's home, laughed knowingly.

Cawley chuckled a few minutes later when he presented each of the Poles with -- what else? -- a sterling silver drinking cup.

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