ANNAPOLIS -- In the end, it was clean air vs. jobs -- and the jobs won.
Sen. Ralph Hughes, a Baltimore Democrat, stunned the Schaefer administration yesterday by casting the deciding vote against a bill that would require all new cars sold in Maryland to meet California's stringent tailpipe emission standards.
However, a similar bill is about to move out of the House of Delegates, giving the issue a second chance in the Senate.
Mr. Hughes said he decided two days ago to vote against the bill because of autoworkers who were concerned about their jobs at General Motors Corp.'s Baltimore assembly plant. "I told them I usually don't make commitments before I vote, but I was pretty sure I was going to vote against it, and give them another year," Mr. Hughes said.
The bill, which would have started with the 1996 model year, failed 6-5.
A close vote had been predicted, but neither side had expected Mr. Hughes to be the swing vote. In fact, David S. Ianucci, the chief lobbyist for Gov. William Donald Schaefer, told reporters he had received a commitment from Mr. Hughes less than an hour before the voting session.
Mr. Hughes said he had not spoken about the bill with anyone from the governor's staff for at least two weeks. Even then, the senator said, he made no promises about how he would vote.
Robert Perciasepe, the state's environment secretary, said Maryland faces tough choices if the House bill also fails in the Senate. The state must submit a plan for curbing smog to the federal government within two years.
"If it's not going to be cleaner cars, it's going to be cleaner something else," Mr. Perciasepe said, citing restrictions on industry or miles driven by state residents. "I don't know if I have the time or inclination to come back here again."