Veto looms for 65-mph speed limit Schaefer to sign open meetings bill

May 24, 1991|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS DHC FZB — ANNAPOLIS -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer will veto today a bill that would have raised the speed limit to 65 mph on rural interstate highways in Maryland, the sponsor of the bill has been told.

At a bill-signing ceremony today, the governor will sign a bill he had resisted, strengthening the state's open meetings law, his aides said yesterday.

But he is also expected to veto a bill that would have kept open the Lida Lee Tall Learning Resources Center, an experimental elementary school at Towson State University. Unimpressed with the school's performance, Mr. Schaefer had dropped the school's half-million-dollar subsidy from his budget only to see it restored by the General Assembly.

Sen. John A. Pica Jr., D-Baltimore, one of several of the school's legislative supporters, said the veto probably means the school will not be able to afford to reopen this fall.

Delegate Dana L. Dembrow, D-Montgomery, the sponsor of the measure raising the speed limit, said he was notified of the impending veto by the governor's office yesterday.

David S. Iannucci, Mr. Schaefer's chief legislative officer, acknowledged that the call had been made but insisted that the governor had not yet formally signed or vetoed any of the remaining bills.

But administration sources said the governor has been persuaded against raising the speed limit by those who argue that it would make driving more dangerous.

"I'm disappointed, but not surprised," Mr. Dembrow said. "I hope the governor is correct in his judgment. I don't have monopoly on good policy-making . . . and on an issue like this, to err on the side of caution is not a bad thing to do."

Aides said one bill Mr. Schaefer had considered vetoing -- a bill to strengthen the state's open meetings law -- will actually be signed.

Despite personal misgivings about the bill, the governor decided not to veto it because organizations representing the local governments likely to be most affected by its provisions did not request a veto, said Bruce P. Martin, one of the governor's legislative aides.

"Hallelujah!" said Tom Marquardt, managing editor of the Capital newspaper in Annapolis and president of the Maryland Media Confederation. The group of newspaper and broadcast executives had worked for two years and spent $40,000 on a lobbyist to strengthen the law that determines when governmental meetings may be legally closed.

Mr. Marquardt called the revision "precedent-setting" because it will establish perhaps the first "Open Meetings Compliance Board" in the nation to hear complaints and gather data about meetings closed to the public or press. The bill also will establish a $100 fine for intentional violations of the law.

As he considered bills enacted by the 1991 General Assembly, Mr. Schaefer had been advised to keep his vetoes to a minimum to avoid potential override fights with the legislature. The open meetings bill, passed overwhelmingly by both houses, was considered a likely candidate for an override.

But Mr. Marquardt said he hoped the governor decided to sign it for other reasons: "I hope that the governor, when he really had a chance to think about this, was for openness in government as much as the media. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on it."

Julia I. Graham, who had led opposition to the bill for the Maryland Association of Counties, said: "We still have some concerns about the bill as passed, but in general we think we can live with it."

In all, the governor is expected to veto between 10 to 15 bills for policy reasons this year, fewer than the 22 he vetoed a year ago. When legislative leaders adjourned their 90-day session in early April, several said they feared Mr. Schaefer would, out of anger with the legislature, veto so many bills that a special session might be necessary.

Mr. Schaefer also is expected to sign into law a pair of bills to reform campaign finance laws, putting limits on contributions from political action committees, raising donation limits for individuals and restricting the involvement of lobbyists in campaign fund raising.

Also to be signed are measures to overhaul the state's college scholarship program; to expand Maryland's mandatory seat belt law to include drivers and passengers of light trucks; and to establish a statewide cancer registry.

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