President to address Assembly on Monday Clinton to pitch budget and domestic agenda

February 06, 1997|By William F. Zorzi Jr. and Carl M. Cannon | William F. Zorzi Jr. and Carl M. Cannon,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

In an unusual visit, President Clinton will address the Maryland General Assembly on Monday as part of an effort to pitch his budget priorities and domestic agenda for the next four years to state legislatures.

It will be the first of what the White House says will be a series of missions to state legislatures. Clinton told the nation's governors last weekend that he would visit capitols in coming months because many of his budget proposals involve items administered by state government. Those proposals include bolstering education, revising welfare rules and restructuring Medicaid.

One of the chief executives at the National Governors' Association meeting last weekend was Parris N. Glendening, who invited Clinton to visit Maryland. The invitation was accepted yesterday.

"I am very honored that President Clinton has chosen Maryland as the first state capital after his State of the Union address to discuss his goals, particularly his education goals," Glendening said. "Maryland has made the same commitment to, and investment in, education at the state level that the president wants to see across America."

A number of presidents have visited Annapolis, but historians could not recall one who had addressed a joint session of the General Assembly.

"It's a great honor," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Prince George's County Democrat.

Asked why Maryland had been selected for the first such foray of 1997, Clinton's spokesman, Mike McCurry, said there was nothing too complicated about it.

"First, it's close by -- and nobody wanted to take another long trip right now," McCurry said. "Second, we think it will help Glendening because he was already talking about doing the things in education that the president proposed in his State of the Union."

Last month, the governor unveiled plans for a Maryland HOPE scholarship program, similar to one announced by the president during Tuesday's State of the Union address.

Under Glendening's proposal, the state would subsidize the tuition and fees of college students who have a "B" average in high school and maintain a "B" average in college. The stipend would apply to students whose families earn less than $60,000 a year. Although students at private colleges would qualify, the benefit would not exceed the tuition and fees charged at a Maryland public college. That plan is being considered by the legislature.

On welfare reform, Maryland already has acted in ways that Clinton wants the nation as a whole to do. Last fall, for example, Glendening agreed to assume the cost of providing welfare and other benefits to legal immigrants who were cut off under the federal welfare law that took effect Oct. 1.

That decision is expected to cost the state about $9 million a year to continue the benefits, including Aid to Families with Dependent Children, nutrition assistance and prenatal and early child care.

"It was very clear from my discussions with the president that welfare reform, particularly as it impacts legal immigrants, is very much on his mind," Glendening said yesterday. "As a former governor, the president understands the evolving role that states must assume to deal with those issues that are of real concern to real people."

It is unlikely that members of the public will be allowed to attend the event Monday, even though it is being held in the House of Delegates chamber, the larger of the two state chambers, state officials said.

Miller said he looked forward to seeing Clinton to thank him for having phoned and written to Miller's mother -- a staunch Democrat -- just before she died late last year.

'A signal honor'

"It's historic," House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., an Allegany County Democrat, said of the visit. "It's a signal honor for me to be the presiding officer for a chamber that the president of the United States is going to visit and deliver an address in."

The State House, the oldest operating capitol in the nation, has seen many presidents come and go, particularly in the early years of the republic. Before he became president, George Washington resigned his commission as commander in chief of the Continental Army at the State House on Dec. 23, 1783.

Washington returned at least once to Annapolis after becoming president, in 1791, though the legislature was not in session, according to histories of the capital.

Annapolis was the nation's capital for nine months, from Nov. 26, 1783, to June 3, 1784, when the Congress of the Confederation met at the State House. So, at least three future presidents -- Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe -- also met here, concluded Senate President Miller, a student of Maryland history.

As president, Jefferson was invited to address the Maryland General Assembly, but declined, said Edward C. Papenfuse, the Maryland state archivist. In 1939, Papenfuse said, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was invited by Republican Gov. Harry W. Nice, but the Democrat declined.

A welcoming audience

Clinton has addressed a joint session of a state legislature before -- in May in Baton Rouge, La. -- and was so charged by the experience that he promised he would do it again elsewhere.

According to aides, Clinton finds legislators the best of all possible audiences: They are sufficiently policy-wonkish that they pay close attention to such arcana as block grant formulas and Medicaid "caps," while provincial enough that a visit from the president is exciting.

At one point, Clinton got so worked up in his late-night speech in Baton Rouge that he alarmed the legislators by saying: "We could all sit here and tell each other stories until 3 a.m."

There will be no danger of that Monday. The president's address is to begin at 11 in the morning.

Pub Date: 2/06/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.