Lapides gives visiting Estonians democracy lesson

January 25, 1994|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Staff Writer

State Sen. Julian L. Lapides delivered a lesson in democracy last night to a group of visiting Estonians, and did so at the expense of Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

The issue was whether the Senate should override Mr. Schaefer's veto of a bill passed last year that would establish specific standards for state agencies to follow when conducting internal audits.

The veteran Baltimore Democrat has long been a critic of the auditing practices of state agencies, saying they are too often lax and sometimes nonexistent.

Mr. Schaefer, by contrast, has made no secret of his contempt for legislative auditors' meddling in the affairs of his departments.

The governor has twice vetoed efforts by the legislature to set standards for internal audits.

Mr. Schaefer has viewed such efforts as unwarranted interference by the legislative branch into the operations of the executive.

But with the Senate poised to override his most recent veto, Mr. Schaefer's aides tried to buy time. They asked that a vote be delayed until Feb. 15 to give him time to draft an executive order to satisfy the lawmakers' concerns.

When Sen. Laurence Levitan, a Montgomery County Democrat and chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee, proposed such a delay, Mr. Lapides protested.

When Mr. Levitan scaled back the request, suggesting a delay until Jan. 31, Mr. Lapides again shot to his feet to say there was no reason to delay at all.

Then, turning to the Estonians seated along a wall of the Senate nearby, Mr. Lapides began to interpret the debate as he saw it.

"You see, the executive has the ability to arm-twist, like they used to do in Estonia," he explained, drawing laughter from the Estonians and his colleagues alike. "And the governor has lots of power; lots of people are beholden to him."

"And the committee chair," he said, turning toward Mr. Levitan, "he's like the politburo. He's the boss. But we're going to take the boss and show you tonight, show you what we do to bosses in a democracy."

With that, the Senate voted 25-22 against the effort to delay, and then voted 46-1 to override the governor's veto.

Now the measure will go to the House of Delegates, which is expected to wait until the governor's executive order is drafted to decide which of the two versions it likes better.

If the House follows last night's Senate lead, it will mark only the third time in seven years that one of Mr. Schaefer's vetoes has been overridden.

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