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Annapolis Watch '92

January 20, 1992

A couple of delegates were trying to figure out what would happen if the legislature began trimming the budget of Gov. William Donald Schaefer's feel-good program, "Maryland, You Are Beautiful."

First, they decided, it would probably turn into the "Maryland, You Are Lovely" campaign. And if they continued cutting, into "Maryland, You Are Pretty Nice."

Then, they reasoned, if budget cutters got really serious, it could drop the campaign to "Maryland, You Are Adequate."

Finally, they decided, if the cuts got really bad, Mr. Schaefer could call it "Maryland, You Are Fair After Two Beers."

Testimony interrupted:

Now we have the Battle of the Beach, a story of testimony that was not to be.

After a northeaster swept away most of the $40 million worth of sand that had been pumped onto Ocean City's beaches, Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg inspected the resort with Mayor Roland E. Powell and City Council members.

Mr. Steinberg was convinced that the damage would have been much worse without the state's beach replenishment program. So he --ed off a memo to the legislature's presiding officers and budget chairmen, explaining what he had seen and offering to testify about the value of the program.

Word of Mr. Steinberg's scheduled testimony before the budget committees reached Gov. William Donald Schaefer. The governor -- who has stripped his second-in-command of virtually all his duties in an unrelenting squabble -- quickly put a stop to it.

The governor called House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., a Kent County Democrat, to complain, saying that Mr. Steinberg had not cleared the testimony with him and could not speak for the administration, a spokeswoman for the governor confirmed.

The speaker then notified House Appropriations Chairman Charles J. Ryan Jr., a Democrat of Prince George's County, who asked the lieutenant governor not to appear at the briefing Jan. ++ 28.

Love fest with the editor:

What might have been payback time turned into a love fest when Benjamin C. Bradlee, former executive editor of the Washington Post, appeared before the Senate Executive Nominations Committee last week.

Technically, Mr. Bradlee needed the senators' approval of his appointment as chairman of the St. Mary's City Historic Commission. But the senators seemed more anxious to win Mr. Bradlee's approval, cooing encomiums at the retired editor.

Sen. Howard A. Denis, a Montgomery County Republican, wasn't content with mere flattery. He was after nothing less than history. He asked Mr. Bradlee if he wanted to use his appearance to reveal the identity of "Deep Throat," the famous unnamed source who helped the Post break the Watergate story.

"I hope you're not holding your breath," Mr. Bradlee replied to Mr. Denis.

"We hope he is," said Sen. Leo Green, a Democrat of Prince George's County.

State House comedy:

Robert R. Neall, the Anne Arundel County executive, took a quick stroll over from his Annapolis office to the State House last week to lead the House of Delegates in prayer.

Mr. Neall, a former delegate, took note of the legislature's decision to round up volunteers to lead prayers this year. "I know the state's in dire fiscal straits when it can't pay for preachers any more," he joked.

His pal, lanky House Speaker Mitchell, lowered the microphone for Mr. Neall, pointing out that he was adjusting it for a "short" person.

Mr. Neall, who is a bit sensitive about the height issue, muttered good-naturedly into the mike, "Ten thousand comedians out of work. . . ." He then began to pray.

Fiscal basics:

Like eager college students, members of the House Appropriations Committee filed into a briefing dubbed Introductory Fiscal Problems 101 last week.

They heard legislative analysts teach a quick course in the history of the state's deficit and budget woes.

Chief analyst William S. Ratchford II said the General Assembly last ended a budget year with a deficit in 1968. Later deficits, such as the one last year, were erased by making budget cuts or adopting new taxes, or both.

Del. Howard "Pete" Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat and the committee's vice chairman, had a simple question: What happens if Maryland ends the current fiscal year with a deficit?

Or more to the point, he asked, "Does anyone go to jail?"

"I don't think you would end up going to jail in a judicial sense," Mr. Ratchford replied. "Some people may get a go-to-jail card in subsequent years."

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