Pica's political payback pulls plug on panel appointee's post STATE HOUSE REPORT

April 02, 1993|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Staff Writer

Like most politicians, state Sen. John A. Pica Jr. has a long memory, and what he remembers about environmental lawyer Scott Burns he doesn't much like.

To Mr. Pica, it seems like only yesterday that Mr. Burns was telling reporters that it was clear to him the senator from Northeast Baltimore was "in the pocket of special interests."

Why else, Mr. Burns asked in 1991, would Mr. Pica and an East Baltimore Democratic colleague, Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski, introduce legislation that appeared to protect city landlords from lawsuits involving lead paint poisoning? After all, Mr. Burns said, both senators had accepted campaign money from the landlords' organization.

It's the sort of public remark that politicians tend not to forget.

So when Mr. Burns' name popped up on the Senate floor yesterday, Mr. Pica was lying in wait.

The governor had reappointed the 37-year-old Mr. Burns to another term on the Hazardous Substance Advisory Council, an obscure, unpaid group that advises the Department of the Environment on proposed regulations involving the handling of hazardous materials. Senate confirmation is required.

Not so fast, said Sen. Michael J. Wagner, the Anne Arundel County Democrat who chairs the Senate's Executive Nominations Committee. Acting at Mr. Pica's request, he suggested putting off the vote "until April 12, the night session."

Translated, that means until the final few hours before the 1993 General Assembly is to adjourn, a time when even important issues can be in great jeopardy.

"We'll decide it on the last day of the session," Mr. Pica said triumphantly. "He besmirched the character of my colleague and myself with some severely pejorative comments."

When told of the action, Mr. Burns, who once worked for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and now teaches at the University of Maryland Law School, said: "I disagreed with a position he took in the [lead paint] bill and I thought he had acted irresponsibly, and I said so."

He said that he would like to be reappointed but that it would not be the end of the world if he were not.

"I'm not paid to perform this function, and it does take a lot of time and energy. But I'm interested in doing it, because I think we've improved the department's regulations, and I'm interested good government.

"Ultimately, though, it rests with the General Assembly, and I'll leave it with them," Mr. Burns said.

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