Schaefer's short veto list

May 09, 1994

By the end of this month, Gov. William Donald Schaefer must decide which bills passed by the General Assembly should be vetoed. Since this is an election year, the governor's vetoes cannot be overridden by the newly elected legislature next January. So Mr. Schaefer's thumbs-down verdict this time will be final.

The governor has a likely veto candidate in a bill that would make English the official language of Maryland. It's a sham.

The bill is totally without merit. It makes no substantive change in state law and alters nothing in the way the state conducts its daily business. The bill does, though, send a distinctly negative message to immigrant groups that Maryland is an unfriendly, even hostile, place for them. Subtle shades of racism and nativism reverberate in this bill. The measure never should have been approved by the legislature in the first place. It deserves a decisive veto.

A second measure places Mr. Schaefer in an uncomfortable position. It doubles the time a prisoner, convicted of a violent crime, must serve behind bars before becoming eligible for parole. It also sets up a two-time loser law. But at what cost? Prison operating expenses will rise by a whopping $30 million a year to handle the extra 500 inmates, and another prison, costing $100 million, will have to be built.

Where will the state find this extra money in next year's budget? Is the added jail time for these offenders worth the extra expense to taxpayers? It's a tough call, but Mr. Schaefer -- unburdened by the pressure and emotions of a re-election campaign -- can thoughtfully examine the pluses and minuses of this controversial bill and then deliver an informed verdict.

A third measure has already drawn hostile comments from the governor. Yet we urge him to sign the bill anyway. This is his welfare reform proposal that passed the General Assembly in an abbreviated form. Gone from the bill is the governor's "family cap" designed to discourage welfare mothers from having more babies. What remains is a pilot program in three counties in which the state will provide some 2,000 welfare recipients with the resources and training to find a job and become self-sufficient.

That's a modest but worthwhile advance toward changing the current welfare system. The governor would be wise to swallow his misgivings and embrace the bill.

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