Governor vows to continue push for welfare 'cap'

April 13, 1994|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Sun Staff Writer

Gov. William Donald Schaefer vowed yesterday to continue trying to impose a so-called "family cap" on Marylanders who receive welfare payments -- despite the measure's defeat in the waning hours of the legislative session Monday night.

The governor, weary after watching some of his bigger initiatives weakened or killed on the final day of the General Assembly, also said he might veto the welfare reform bill that lawmakers did approve.

Welfare reform was a key piece of the governor's agenda. The bill that passed Monday would establish a pilot program in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties to reduce and eventually eliminate payments to recipients who fail to find a job or perform community service after 18 months on the rolls.

Lawmakers, however, stripped the family cap from the reform bill. The family cap would have denied additional payments to women statewide who bear additional children while on the welfare rolls.

"The key to this was the cap," Mr. Schaefer said at a news conference yesterday. "That's where the country is going. I'm going to push as hard as I possibly can" to institute a family cap under federal welfare rules, he said.

Federal approval is necessary for states to impose such a cap. The governor did not need the legislature's endorsement to apply for that approval, but sought the legislation to reinforce his case to the federal government.

Surveying the results of his final legislative session, Mr. Schaefer found some solace in several victories, but he largely focused on the many defeats. Gone was the combative and defiant attitude he sometimes took toward the legislature during his two terms, replaced with resignation and disappointment.

"So many of the bills I had an interest in went down the drain," he said. "We did not get many of the bills that would have made it a really excellent session."

He cited some political wins. After three previous tries, he finally got the legislature to pass a ban on the sale of 18 types of semiautomatic handguns known as assault pistols.

The governor also pointed to legislation that will require convicted sex offenders to submit DNA samples to a state registry, allow school districts to experiment with year-round schedules and let voters decide if the Maryland Constitution needs a victims' rights amendment.

Then Mr. Schaefer turned to the defeats. One by one, he ticked off the dead bills: a measure that would have made it easier for some foster children to be adopted, another that would have set up a statewide gambling commission, a third that would have imposed a cigarette tax.

Losing those bills "is a sad commentary on all of us," the governor said. He also criticized the General Assembly's powerful committee system, where chairmen can easily kill bills just by refusing to bring them up for a vote. That is what happened to a scholarship reform bill in the Senate that would have transferred control of $7.9 million in college scholarships from legislators to an independent agency.

"That's not the way the legislature or Congress should be run," Mr. Schaefer said. "That's wrong."

The governor's comments came before a ceremony where he signed into law 93 measures. Most were technical or applied to local governments.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., a friend and political ally of the governor, said Mr. Schaefer had a better session than his demeanor would suggest. Mr. Taylor, an Allegany Democrat, attributed the governor's melancholy, in part, to the growing realization that he will be leaving office in about nine months.

"He's coming to the end of eight years of doing what he loves most," Mr. Taylor said. "It's his whole life."

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