'Wounds still fresh': Schaefer Assembly ended, stung governor says 'Forward.'

April 09, 1991|By Jon Morgan and William Thompson | Jon Morgan and William Thompson,Evening Sun Staff Marina Sarris and Thomas W. Waldron contributed to this story.

Although angered by the rough treatment his initiatives received in the just-completed General Assembly session, Gov. William Donald Schaefer today offered to put the past behind him and to try to "move forward."

"This will not be easy," Schaefer said at a bill signing ceremony at the State House. "The wounds are fresh, the hurts still there. But we must remember who sent us here and for what purpose."

Lawmakers said they would consider some of Schaefer's proposals in "summer study," for possible enaction next year. But other bills by the governor were simply rejected. Aides to the governor say it was the worst of the five sessions since he has been governor.

Schaefer said today he would sign a measure to raise $90 million a year in new taxes, but said other bills would have to be studied before he decides whether to veto them.

Lawmakers have said they are willing to convene an unprecedented special session to overturn vetoes if Schaefer kills important bills.

"I intend to review all the measures and if a veto is warranted I will veto the measure," Schaefer said. "I do hope the responsible members of the legislature will not allow themselves to be called back into session unnecessarily at the taxpayers' expense."

The governor said some important bills proposed by him were passed. But overall, he said, "This is not the finest hour for either the legislature or the executive branch of government," he said.

"But we are at a crossroads . . . The ship of state must not flounder. I suggest that as of today we put the past behind us, clear the decks, set sail to move forward."

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, said today, "I think the governor is obviously not in a happy mood. He has been in a bad mood since November. I think it is incumbent upon us to try to cheer him up." The last day of the 1991 General Assembly session yesterday was so uneventful that when a mechanical malfunction darkened the Senate "tote board" -- the large wall fixture displaying how each senator votes -- someone wondered aloud whether there was any reason to fix it.

In stark contrast to last year's bitter session finale, when lawmakers angrily accused each other of sabotaging bills, the final hours of this 90-day session moved along easily, making the day one of the most forgettable in recent legislative history.

With the session's major issues either resolved or shelved for summer study weeks ago, House and Senate members spent most of yesterday on the floor voting on minor bills and measures considered to be of secondary significance. Even on important bills that received formal approval, agreements had been worked out in advance.

A fatigued Schaefer stayed out of the last-day activity. Having spent most of the preceding night in Baltimore pacing the floor outside the Mercy Medical Center room where his longtime companion, Hilda Mae Snoops, was hospitalized for a back ailment, the governor ventured outside his second-floor office only occasionally.

Before he left the State House to visit Snoops in Baltimore, Schaefer sat last night for the filming of a public service announcement "tag" to a 10-minute educational video on the Bill of Rights. Later in the day, both Schaefer and Snoops returned to the Governor's Mansion. Apparently subdued over Snoops' physical malady, Schaefer decided not to make the traditional late-night appearance before lawmakers as they finished their work.

Instead, the governor sent identical letters to the House and Senate saying much of the work the legislature undertook this year remains undone.

"As the 1991 session of the Maryland General Assembly comes to a close, do we end the session knowing that we have solved our problems and that Maryland is strong again?" he wrote. "Hardly."

Miller said he appreciated the letter.

"We intend to listen to it, reflect on it and work during the interim to build on the session," Miller said.

After midnight, as the Senate adjourned, an emotional Miller thanked the Senate for a resolution honoring his father, who died last weekend. Miller said earlier that presiding over the session's final day was difficult for him, but he felt he should participate, given his and his family's belief in the importance of government service.

Across the hall, House of Delegates Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell received the traditional shower of confetti at midnight and defended the session's achievements.

"We delayed some important legislation. But that causes us to have a blueprint for the next three years," said Mitchell, D-Eastern Shore.

Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg left the State House yesterday in time for the home opener of the Orioles at Memorial Stadium. He left the game early and came back to Annapolis for the countdown to sine die, the formal adjournment of the session.

Perhaps from boredom or end-of-the-session giddiness, lawmakers pulled off several bouts of mischief and there were the usual "innocent" killings of bills before the midnight hour ended the session.

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