For a few hours this week, it appeared the off-again, on-again statepension of County Executive Charles I. Ecker was off again.
Word flashed through the corridors of the county office building that the governor had vetoed a Senate bill permitting Ecker to receive a $40,000-a-year pension while collecting his $80,000-a-year salary as executive.
The question they were asking was, "Why?" Was Democratic Gov. William Donald Schaefer getting even with Ecker, a Republican, for defeating former Executive M. Elizabeth Bobo, a Democrat, last November?
It did not seem beyond the realm of possibility. During the three-month General Assembly session, the Democratic-controlled House and Senate had appeared to toy with Ecker's pension.
Ecker, a retired deputy superintendent of schools, earned the pension from his 36 years in the public school system.
Ecker's pension has been an issue here among teachers and county employees, 40 of whom were laid off. Neither teachers nor employees received raises in the 1992 fiscal year budget because Ecker said the county could not afford it.
Many say they resent the fact that Ecker is able to "double dip" while their salaries are frozen.
In Annapolis, the House initially passed legislation -- as it does every two years -- allowing elected officials whoare retired state employees or teachers to collect both their salaries and pensions.
But when the Senate version of the bill arrived in the House, it contained an amendment aimed specifically at Ecker. The amendment did not mention Ecker by name, but it barred county executives from receiving pensions while receiving pay as executives. Ecker was the only county executive affected by the amendment.
The House killed the Senate bill April 2 and a day later passed by an 86-36vote a version of the pension bill that allowed county executives tocollect their pensions. The bill then went to a House-Senate conference committee, which agreed to let the House version stand.
Surviving along with House Bill 80 was a duplicate -- Senate Bill 235. The governor thus had a choice. He could sign the House bill or the Senate bill. He chose the House bill.
So yes, the word going through the corridors of the county office building was correct. The governor did indeed veto a bill allowing Ecker to collect his pension.
But the governor also signed a bill allowing Ecker to collect his pension,which Ecker will begin doing when House Bill 80 becomes law July 1.
The dual billing was not a legislative anomaly. Of the 94 bills Schaefer vetoed this session, 11 were for policy reasons and 83 were toerase duplication.