P.G. County delegation takes on the legislature Threats: County's House members issue ultimatums, including the refusal to back Democrats' 10 percent tax-cut plan unless they receive a pledge for more school funds.

The Political Game

March 04, 1997|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

THE ANNUAL 90-day circus that is the Maryland General Assembly is nearly two-thirds done, and we have yet to see much more than the sideshows this year. The sideshows, however, are still worth the price of admission.

To wit: The fight between the Prince George's County House delegation and, well, everyone else.

Earlier this session, that county's delegates voted not to back a plan to fund the $254 million Baltimore City aid-for-accountability schools settlement -- until they got a commitment to an aid package that would provide more money for their schools.

That threat was duly noted as posturing, and the legislature moved on, such as it does.

But Friday, the Prince George's House delegation again began making noises.

This time, some delegation members made it clear that they weren't going to support the House Democrats' 10 percent tax-cut plan until they got a pledge for more school money.

The delegation did not take a formal vote, but the sentiment is there to act as a bloc in holding back support for the Democrats' tax cut -- the brainchild of House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. of Allegany County -- that ran into trouble last week almost as soon as it was cobbled together by the House Ways and Means subcommittee.

This time, however, the Prince Georgians had stuck out their collective tongue one too many times, at least for Del. Howard P. Rawlings of Baltimore, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

After members of the delegation trooped downstairs to tell Rawlings, a clearly peeved chairman convened his committee leaders to club the threat with a sledgehammer.

They voted to cut back state aid to Prince George's County that is proposed in the pending budget to the levels of the current fiscal year.

That would slash proposed aid to the county by $29 million in operating funds and another $9.4 million for seven highway construction projects.

"They're trying to muscle the General Assembly," Rawlings said Friday, after the flap. "The first threat I understood, politically, but then they escalated this.

"I'm from the Edgar Allan Poe projects, and I don't take threats lightly," he said.

"They are not the only ones who can play hardball."

Del. Nathaniel Exum, a Democrat who chairs the Prince George's House delegation, declined to comment.

"I don't intend to get into a fight in the newspaper," Exum said. "I don't wage my battles in newspapers."

The battle shaping up here is the top contender for this year's Del. Ruth M. Kirk Award.

That honor, invented by your correspondent, bears the name of the Baltimore Democrat who once, in a very rare move, took to the House floor to explain her vote against legislation sponsored by a lawmaker who had voted against a bill of hers.

"You kill my dog, and I'm gonna kill your cat," Kirk said.

That about says it -- short, sweet, to the point.

Sauerbrey still recruits moderate Republicans

Ellen R. Sauerbrey continues to recruit moderate Republicans for her campaign for governor next year.

Last week, she signed up David R. Blumberg, the quick-witted chairman of the Baltimore Republican Central Committee, as her "senior policy adviser for urban development."

Blumberg, a longtime supporter of Sauerbrey's arch-rival, former Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, will "guide me [in] helping Baltimore City," she said in making the announcement.

Given that Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 9-to-1 in the city, Blumberg could probably "guide" Sauerbrey to each and every one of them.

MPT airing highlights of legislative hearings

In the event your insomnia can no longer be treated by C-SPAN, Maryland Public Television is now broadcasting "Legislative Hearing Highlights" as part of its expanded coverage of the General Assembly.

Tune in this week to see the Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee hear testimony on the Toxic Safety Information Act and the Health Occupations Scope of Practice bill.

EEA's hearing on toxins airs tomorrow at 11: 30 p.m.; the health occupations bill hearing is on Thursday at 11 p.m.

In its new venture, MPT is broadcasting hearing highlights in addition to its weekly "State Circle" program.

Pub Date: 3/04/97

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