Tension marks bill signing Schaefer signs bills into law at quiet ceremony.

May 01, 1991|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Evening Sun Staff

Trees will get protection from developers' bulldozers and the city of Baltimore will rid itself of the expense of the City Jail under legislation signed into law by Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

Those were two of about 210 bills Schaefer signed yesterday in Annapolis at a ceremony marked by the same tension that clouded the legislative session that concluded last month.

The General Assembly rejected many of Schaefer's major proposals, and Schaefer barely spoke yesterday to either Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. or House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., who were seated at his side, also signing bills, at what is normally festive occasion in the State House.

Schaefer commemorated the signing of the reforestation bill by planting a 3-foot-high liberty elm on the north lawn of the State House.

"We're becoming conscious now of just how important trees are," Schaefer said.

Schaefer seemed distracted during the tree-planting by an article that ran this week in the Star, a supermarket tabloid, that called him "by far the wackiest governor in America."

The article recited some of Schaefer's more memorable stunts, including his swim in the National Aquarium seal pond and his recent flood of venomous letters to critics.

"I shouldn't put hats on," Schaefer said, as he was given a camouflage green hat to wear while he planted the elm tree. "I couldn't jump in the water. The press said that wasn't gubernatorial. It wasn't mayoral either."

But, true to form, the governor donned the hat. "Maybe there's a seed in this hat and a tree will grow out of my head," he said.

The reforestation bill, one of only a few major Schaefer initiatives to survive the legislature, requires developers to preserve trees when building or to plant new trees in exchange for those they cut down, depending on the size of the project.

The law is intended to curb the loss of tree cover to development, which has claimed 14,000 acres of forestland a year since 1985.

The state takeover of the City Jail, another Schaefer proposal, will relieve the city of a mounting financial burden.

"The City Jail was one of the biggest drains on the city budget," Schaefer said in a prepared statement. The governor said the state takeover also will expedite a long-planned expansion of the jail.

Most of the measures, including the tree-protection and City Jail bills, go into effect July 1.

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