Schaefer makes conciliatory gestures toward Steinberg, Assembly

May 15, 1991|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- A ray of compromise fell across the battle-scarred stage of state government yesterday as Gov. William Donald Schaefer moved to restore a partnership with Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg and the General Assembly.

On a day when Mr. Schaefer was facing yet another round of budget cutting -- $109 million must be pared by June 30 -- the possibility of a truce in his chronically tempestuous relationships in the State House may have seemed irresistible.

An aide to Mr. Schaefer said yesterday's announcements, coming after some were despairing that reconciliation was possible, could be the first movement in a process by which the parties "inch and crawl" toward normalcy.

Once angered by Mr. Steinberg's reluctance to support a major tax overhaul for Maryland, Mr. Schaefer had removed him as manager of the state's medevac helicopter resources. But yesterday, the governor abruptly reversed himself, putting Mr. Steinberg back in charge of deciding which parts of the state will be served by the choppers.

The two men met Friday at Mr. Schaefer's request to discuss the issues that have divided them recently. After a stormy beginning, Mr. Steinberg said yesterday, they agreed that a confrontational relationship "was not going to benefit anybody."

Asked during a news conference yesterday if he and Mr. Steinberg were friends again, the governor shrugged and said, "Next question."

But Mr. Steinberg said, "The personal relationship between the gov

ernor and lieutenant governor is not the issue. The issue is a good cooperative working relationship between us. Both of us came to that conclusion [last Friday]."

Also yesterday, the governor appointed a five-member committee to handle the politically delicate chore of preparing a new election district map for members of Congress and the state legislature.

The governor's proposal followed closely a proposal made more than a month ago by the legislative leaders.

Benjamin L. Brown, the former Baltimore city solicitor, was named chairman of the panel, which will include Norman M. Glasgow Sr., a Bethesda lawyer and a Republican who has been named by the governor to a number of advisory positions in recent years.

The governor also named Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, and House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent -- and urged them to partici

pate personally. The fifth member of the committee is Donna F. Felling, a former Democratic delegate from Baltimore County.

"This is clearly a group that will come to a consensus on redistricting. I'd be surprised if it did not," said Delegate Timothy F. Maloney, D-Prince George's, observing what he regards as a strong legislative tone on the panel.

Mr. Schaefer's first response to the Assembly's proposal had drawn angry opposition from Senator Miller, who said he was fearful the governor would use the redistricting process to wound his legislative foes -- by putting them in districts with strong opponents or by diluting their bases of strength. Delegate Mitchell had been wary as well but held out hope that an accommodation could be reached.

Asked if he knew what had led to the governor's change of direction, Mr. Mitchell acknowledged the improved atmosphere but said he had no idea what created it.

Asked why the governor had chosen a conciliatory route, an aide said, "He just thinks if he has to swallow hard, he'll swallow hard."

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