Glendening draws fire on 2 fronts Environmentalists, unions disappointed with governor's efforts

'Back in the dark ages'

Bills on pollution, collective bargaining are focus of anger

April 15, 1996|By Thomas W. Waldron and Marina Sarris | Thomas W. Waldron and Marina Sarris,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening may have won passage for much of his legislative agenda in Annapolis this year, but in the process he disappointed two groups that were crucial to his election -- organized labor and environmentalists.

Some unions, whose members worked the phones and staffed the polling places for Mr. Glendening during his 1994 campaign, say the governor's efforts to win collective bargaining for state employees during the legislative session that ended last week were halfhearted.

"State employees are pretty close to feeling outrage that he found a way to get gun control passed and stadiums passed and personnel reform passed, but he didn't find a way to get collective bargaining passed," said Sue Esty, legislative director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which has 30,000 members in Maryland.

Although his collective bargaining bill failed, the governor muscled through the legislature an overhaul of the state personnel system that unions opposed.

The measure dilutes some job protections for workers and moves the state government toward a "pay for performance" system that is anathema to unions.

"It puts us back in the dark ages," said Lorretta Johnson, vice president of the Federation of Maryland Teachers and Public Employees.

Environmentalists meanwhile, say the governor sided too often with business and developers before and during the General Assembly session.

In particular, Mr. Glendening angered conservationists early this year by issuing an executive order requiring state agencies to justify regulations exceeding federal standards. He also endorsed an unsuccessful bill to immunize businesses from legal action if they voluntarily reported and cleaned up pollution.

Those positions compounded many environmentalists' outrage at the governor's decision last fall to allow development to proceed on a planned city in Charles County, the kind of suburban growth Mr. Glendening often criticized on the stump in 1994.

Conservationists managed to come away from the legislative session with most of their agenda intact, but they aren't giving Mr. Glendening much of the credit.

"We're disappointed for sure," said Terry Harris, conservation coordinator with the Sierra Club of Baltimore.

Administration officials said the governor remains committed to the goals of labor and environmentalists.

Mr. Glendening will talk with legislators and union leaders in the next several months to determine whether the collective bargaining bill can be revived, an aide said last week.

"I believe he is the first governor in memory to propose collective bargaining, and he continues to support it," said Buddy W. Roogow, a deputy chief of staff to the governor. "The fact that we were unable to have it passed this year only gives us further impetus to try to move forward on collective bargaining in the future."

On the environmental front, the governor mostly sided with conservationists during the session, administration officials said.

When there was disagreement, such as the debate over the pollution bill, the governor said he wanted to accommodate business and environmentalists.

"Looking at the eight or nine issues, we were on the different side of them on one issue," said Steve Larsen, a lobbyist for the governor. "I think that's a clear record of supporting the same priorities as they did."

Mr. Glendening ran in 1994 with strong support from government employee unions, thanks to his pro-labor record as Prince George's County executive and his promise to support collective bargaining for state workers.

Environmental groups also backed Mr. Glendening, who campaigned on a pledge to curb suburban sprawl and protect Maryland's natural assets.

As a candidate, however, he was careful to temper that message with a stated intention to encourage economic growth in the state. As governor, he said, he has continued to try to accomplish both those goals.

"In the balancing of competing interests, groups don't end up with 100 percent," Mr. Larsen said. "That's when they get unhappy. That's where you end up when you try to be a consensus builder."

Meshing the seemingly contradictory goals of growth and conservation is not impossible, environmentalists said. But the governor must be more aggressive or risk allowing business to set the agenda, one said.

"The administration came in without a pro-active economic development strategy that balanced environmental protection and got caught up in the whims of the business community pushing regulatory reform," said Tom Grasso, Maryland director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the state's leading environmental group.

Mr. Glendening clearly has disappointed some labor and environmental activists, but it is doubtful that he would lose the support of the two groups in the 1998 election, because a Republican challenger almost certainly would clash with them even more.

Pub Date: 4/15/96

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