The Governor Triumphant

April 18, 1993

You should excuse Gov. William Donald Schaefer if he gloats a little these days, but he's got justifiable reasons. He has just completed his best General Assembly session in at least three years. Nearly all his major requests won approval. State lawmakers suddenly found the governor cooperative and eager to meet them halfway. His strategy paid off handsomely.

"Partners in Prevention" sounded the theme for the 1993 Schaefer agenda. His $12.7 billion budget contained numerous initiatives to promote preventive health programs, preventive school dropout programs and preventive delinquent juvenile programs. In the end, he got what he wanted from lawmakers, who shaved a mere $200 million.

Mr. Schaefer's big victories included the $150 million Baltimore Convention Center expansion; the funds and manpower to beef up the soon-to-be independent insurance commissioner's office; tougher child-support collection laws; a ban on unregistered gun sales at gun shows, and environmental legislation that could lead to less-polluting cars on Maryland roads. Efforts to boost the state's high-tech industry through more equitable tax treatment and the construction of large biotechnology research and development facilities all received the go-ahead signal this session.

Even on the Assembly's biggest achievement, health-care reform, the governor played a quiet, behind-the-scenes role. He let his health secretary take a key role in helping to shape the complex legislation that puts Maryland on the forefront of national experiments in managing and regulating the health-care system.

Gone was the angry and petulant Governor Schaefer of past sessions who used to fight legislators every step of the way. Gone was the mid-session Schaefer funk that in other years had reduced his influence in the General Assembly to nil. Gone was the unyielding and defiant governor.

Instead, Mr. Schaefer handled lawmakers with great skill this session, displaying a savvy sense of compromise. On the clean-cars bill, for instance, the governor settled for half a loaf -- the law won't kick in until two surrounding states and states representing 60 percent of citizens in the Northeast adopt similar measures -- and still gained a substantive victory.

Instead of emerging from the session as a weak lame-duck governor, Mr. Schaefer came away flying high. He enters his final 19 months in office with a keener understanding of what it takes to shepherd important legislation through the General Assembly. This sets the stage for Mr. Schaefer's last legislative hurrah in Annapolis come January. He seems to be warming to the task.

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