Governor, city get a few bones Many of Schaefer's less ambitious bills are still on track

April 01, 1991|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Evening Sun Staff

Although some of Gov. William Donald Schaefer's major initiatives have met with defeat in the 1991 General Assembly, many of the governor's less controversial -- some say less ambitious -- bills appear on course for enactment.

With one week remaining in the legislative session, administration bills that would expand vehicle emissions testing, revamp the state college scholarship program, conserve trees and strengthen insurance regulations appear headed for final passage or enactment, although not exactly in their original form.

"The bulk of the package is passing," David S. Iannucci, the governor's chief legislative officer, said of the administration's 30 bills.

"I'm not going to declare complete victory," he said, noting that he is disappointed that the administration's proposed gasoline tax increase received the cold shoulder from legislators.

A companion administration proposal to raise about 60 fees charged by the Motor Vehicle Administration remains alive, but its future appears extremely uncertain.

"It's been a tough year," Iannucci said. "The effect of the recession on this session cannot be overlooked."

The recession and taxpayer revolts helped doom an ambitious tax-restructuring plan proposed by Schaefer that would have brought in about $800 million in revenue annually.

The legislature also killed an administration bill to impose growth controls, while another major Schaefer initiative, a proposed ban on military-style assault weapons, appears to be lifeless.

The gun bill passed the House of Delegates but is languishing in a Senate committee that earlier rejected its version of the bill.

Many of the Schaefer administration bills that appear likely to become law cannot be considered truly major initiatives, said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's. "Most of his initiatives that are passing can best be described as housekeeping measures," Miller said.

Schaefer's legislative aides disagree, saying many of those bills carry significant reforms.

Schaefer administration bills seemingly on track for final passage include:

* Vehicle emissions testing. This bill, aimed at reducing air pollution, would expand the testing program now in place in various suburban and urban jurisdictions to areas required by the federal government. Counties under consideration for the expansion include Calvert, Cecil, Charles, Frederick, Queen Anne's, Washington and possibly Allegany.

* Tree conservation. A House committee has approved a bill that would require developers to replant trees and would mandate the planting of trees on sites where few or no trees existed initially. The Senate already has passed a stronger version of the bill.

* Insurance reform. This package of bills, which would strengthen insurance regulations, has passed both the House and Senate. Among other things, the bills are designed to prevent insurer insolvencies and to strengthen the state's hand in dealing with ailing companies.

* Scholarship reform. The House and Senate have passed different versions of what the administration describes as a major reform in the way the state provides college scholarships. The differences are expected to be worked out in a conference committee of delegates and senators. The bill aims to put greater emphasis on financial need in the awarding of scholarships.

* Schools for Success. A Senate committee approved $3 million in start-up costs for a program designed to expand pre-kindergarten and teacher training and to improve substandard schools and reward excellent ones. The legislature killed the bill calling for $19 million for the program, but Schaefer aides say they consider a $3 million allotment to be a victory.

* Mandatory kindergarten. The bill, which would require 5-year-olds to attend kindergarten or an approved alternative program, has passed the Senate and is pending in the House.

* Seat belts. The bill would require children weighing less than 40 pounds to be strapped into a safety seat. It also would require all children under age 10 to wear a seat belt.

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