Daring to defy in a season of retribution

Comment

April 18, 1999|By Norris West

TWO SENATORS from Anne Arundel County rowed against the tide of capitulation in the waning days of the legislative session. They defied Gov. Parris N. Glendening in this, the season of threatened retribution.

Many delegates and senators voted along with the chief executive for fear that opposition could mean the loss of projects they hoped to carry home to constituents.

Neall and Jimeno

Not Republican Robert R. Neall and Democrat Philip C. Jimeno.

Mr. Neall blocked the governor at a couple of critical junctures. The former Anne Arundel County executive has earned Mr. Glendening's respect, but the men have vastly different views on budgeting and organized labor.

Mr. Neall believes it is wrong to raise taxes when the state is recording successive surpluses.

He led a filibuster that forced a smaller increase in the tobacco tax than the $1-a-pack hike the governor wanted.

The General Assembly eventually approved a 30-cent increase, which may force smoking teens to cut down a bit but probably won't accomplish the intended goal of stopping them from taking up the dangerous habit.

Mr. Neall also employed a filibuster to kill the administration's plan to place 8,000 nonteaching state university workers in the collective-bargaining system.

Organized labor helped defeat Mr. Neall in his bid for a seat in Congress in 1986 and he can expect the same treatment should he ever pursue higher office.

Unscathed and admired

But one has to give him his due for pulling off two major victories against a governor who made it clear that he would reward friends and punish enemies. The 33th District senator emerged from the session not just unscathed by the governor but admired by him.

"The governor respects Bobby Neall," Glendening press secretary Ray Feldmann told The Sun's C. Fraser Smith. "He played a significant role in all this and it was not unexpected given his experience. He's one of the Republican senators the governor respects."

Mr. Jimeno, on the same side of the politcal aisle as the governor, had more to lose.

He wanted to support Mr. Glendening's most cherished initiatives, including a measure to extend equal rights protection to gays and lesbians.

But Mr. Jimeno represents conservative North County and voted the way his constituents wanted, he said.

Cross-dressing at work?

"I'm a very open-minded, understanding and compassionate person," Mr. Jimeno days after he played a pivotal role in the killing of the gay rights bill by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. "But when you look at how it affects the business community, I couldn't come to terms with this bill."

Mr. Jimeno says he understands why businesses opposed the bill. Would it have meant, he wondered, that homosexuals who want to cross-dress would be immune from a company's dress code requiring men to wear pants?

The General Assembly should address legitimate concerns if a bill returns next year to outlaw discrimination in housing and employment. But Mr. Jimeno would likely vote the same way. He noted that his district includes 25 churches that belong to the conservative Christian Coalition and that his constituents left no doubt about their overwhelming opposition.

Mandela, not Machiavelli

He is fully aware that the governor has power and knows how to use it. And he read the governor's quote that if the tobacco and gay rights bills were defeated "there will be hell to pay." But he is hoping the governor behaves more like Mandela than Machiavelli.

He points out that he and the governor have been on the same side on many matters and will be allies in the future.

He is probably hoping that he, like his colleague Mr. Neall, stuck his head in a tiger's mouth and escaped to tell about it.

Norris P. West can be reached at norris.west@baltsun.com.

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