Legislators challenge Schaefer's power in spat over arts council

April 02, 1991|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- A dispute over Gov. William Donald Schaefer's refusal to appoint a Prince George's County woman to the Maryland State Arts Council has generated yet another tiff between the legislature and the governor.

With apparent relish, both houses of the General Assembly have passed emergency bills expanding the arts council from 15 to 17 members, giving the two new appointments to the House speaker and theSenate president. Also, all future appointments to the council would be subject to approval by the Senate.

Mr. Schaefer could allow the bill to become law and acquiesce in a small but symbolic dilution of his power or he could veto the bill and risk yet another embarrassing setback if the veto is overridden by a hostile legislature.

The confrontation began last summer when Mr. Schaefer declined to appoint either Carole R. Alexander or two other Prince George's County nominees to the arts council.

Mrs. Alexander, active in thecounty's arts community for years, is the wife of Delegate Gary R. Alexander, D-Prince George's. Mr. Alexander is a close friend and ally of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, a frequent antagonist of the governor.

Mr. Miller and Mr. Alexander sponsored the emergency bills.

"I was just fighting for my county. It was nothing personal," Mr. Alexander said yesterday.

With relationships between the legislative and executive branches bumping along on a typically rocky plain this year, both bills passed,and the Senate version was rushed to the governor's desk.

But yesterday, the governor counterattacked, announcing that he had appointed Manervia W. Riddick to fill the last vacancy on the 15-member council. Ms. Riddick is consumer adviser and director of community affairs for the Maryland Natural Gas Co.

Her resume includes membership in the Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Television Association, Women in Cable, the Prince George's County Film and Media Task Force and the Prince George's County Choral Society.

But an important qualification apparently is her residence -- Fort Washington in Prince George's County.

Delegate Alexander said he was not appeased by the governor's appointment of someone from Prince George's County.

"This doesn't solve the problem," said one of his colleagues with a smile. "This woman's name is not Carole Alexander."

Mr. Alexander said, "Why now?Why today? I think it's a little strange, but we'll take it any way we can get it."

The importance of the bill pending before the governor, he insisted, is undiminished.

"There should be advice and consent on arts council appointments by the Senate. This is a major board," he said.

Whether the governor's appointment of a Prince George's resident -- solving at least one of Mr. Alexander's objections -- would reduce the General Assembly's desire to override a veto was unclear yesterday.

A Schaefer aide said earlier in the day that the governor would probably allow the bill to become law without his signature, but Paul E. Schurick, the governor's press secretary, said Mr. Schaefer was still considering a veto.

Mr. Alexander rejects the idea that the arts council matter springs from the sour relationship between the legislature and the governor. A former people's counsel at the Public Service Commission, he says his relationship with Mr. Schaefer has been warm and congenial.

"I think he just got bad advice," the delegate said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.