Crunch time is coming in the General Assembly.
Budget committees in the House and Senate endure a seemingly endless parade of departmental administrators and other bureaucrats whose main desire is the preservation of their budgets.
Some want more money.
Others ask the committees not to cut.
Some may feel that honesty may not be the wisest policy.
That's where Senate Minority Leader John A. Cade, R-Anne Arundel, comes in. The senator, who sits on the Budget and Taxation Committee, has been around for a long time, and he has seen plenty of bureaucrats come and go.
This year, Mr. Cade has something special for them, a reminder that only the truth will be accepted at B&T.
At every session of the committee, Mr. Cade puts a plastic replica of a human skull on his desk. He turns it to face whoever is testifying.
And who, you might ask, did this grinning, tutelary icon used to be?
"It's the last bureaucrat that lied to us," the senator says.
STRONG NOTE TO FOLLOW
Gov. William Donald Schaefer may have given up writing unpleasant personal notes to constituents, but he apparently hasn't stopped receiving them.
The governor said last week that he continues to get unsigned hate-mail, some containing cartoon drawings, on a fairly frequent basis.
"Those who are gutless and yellow-bellied haven't got the courage to sign their vicious, scum-like cartoons," the governor complained to reporters Friday. "I can tell in the first two lines if this scumbag won't sign."
Mr. Schaefer said he still isn't all that happy with newspaper reporters, either.
OH, NEVER MIND
Freshman legislators are not the only ones who have trouble making their way around Annapolis.
Freshman county executives run into trouble too.
Late last week, new Baltimore County Executive Roger B.
Hayden dispatched Finance Director James R. Gibson Jr. to brief the county's House delegation on a couple of bills he was pushing.
One would have raised a long list of licensing fees -- for pool halls, chain stores, cleaning establishments, construction firms, plumbers, restaurants and others -- to the same level charged in the city of Baltimore. The measure would raise an estimated $1.2 million.
The other would have done away with a state statute that authorizes a discount to county residents who pay their property tax bills within the first two months after they are due. Mr. Gibson said the discounts would still be offered under a similar statute that is in the county code.
But the Democratic-dominated delegation blasted the two proposals, incensed that the Republican county executive who rode into office on an anti-tax theme seemed so intent on raising new revenue.
It did not take long for the message to get from Annapolis to Towson.
By midafternoon, the county's legislative liaison office had sent a memo to Delegate E. Farrell Maddox, the delegation chairman, saying that the two bills had been withdrawn.
"Executive Hayden has been apprised of the sentiment expressed by the House delegation during this morning's hearing and has concluded withdrawal of both measures to be the most prudent course of action at this time," the memo said.
Or, in other words, never mind.
Wearing plastic outhouse hats to mock Governor Schaefer, a group of about a dozen college students rallied at the steps of the State House in Annapolis last week.
They challenged "King Willie" to run for president, so that the "entire country can respond to Schaefer's tax and gun policies." The governor has proposed legislation banning assault-style guns and has introduced a variety of new taxes.
Paul E. Schurick, the governor's press secretary, said the rally reminded him of "first-graders on a field trip" and questioned whether "that's the best they can do when people their age are fighting a war overseas."
Said Joe Rubin, the group's leader: "We are asking the question, what's wrong with a governor that makes Richard Nixon look polite and has more style than Lyndon Johnson?"