Senate panel is minus 1

The Political Game

Decisions: An empty seat on the Judicial Proceedings Committee affects bills on a variety of issues, both liberal and conservative.

January 04, 2000|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

GAY RIGHTS, GUN control and Baltimore lawyer Peter G. Angelos appear to have suffered setbacks last week as Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller announced changes in the Senate's committee structure.

As expected, Miller acceded to a request from Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr. and moved him off the Judicial Proceedings Committee.

But to the surprise of many, Miller did not replace Stone on the panel.

That leaves 10 senators on Judicial Proceedings, which handles a variety of issues, including gay rights, abortion and gun control, and is widely considered the most conservative panel in the General Assembly.

Sen. Walter M. Baker, committee chairman, noted yesterday that a bill will need six votes to pass the panel, just as when the committee had 11 members.

That leaves gay-rights advocates in roughly the same place they were last year -- with at least four members of the committee dead-set against their anti-discrimination measure and three or four others skeptical.

Stone, a moderate Democrat from Dundalk, opposed the gay rights bill last year, and advocates for the measure had hoped Miller would replace him with someone more supportive.

Gun-control backers considered Stone a possible ally on a measure being proposed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening to require that all handguns sold in the state be childproof.

Without Stone, advocates have less room for error as they try to cobble together a six-vote majority for the bill.

Miller's shuffle was also a blow to trial lawyers such as Angelos, who has often pushed legislation in the committee with big-money implications for his firm and its clients.

It was the Orioles owner who indirectly forced the committee shift by hiring Stone to work in his law firm several years ago.

The legislature's ethics committee urged Stone last year not to vote on legislation directly affecting Angelos. Stone, frustrated at not being able to vote on such issues, all but begged Miller to take him off the committee.

Like the gay-rights and gun-control advocates, Angelos faces an uphill battle in the committee on tort issues, with Stone's reliable vote gone and nobody to replace him.

John A. Pica Jr., a lobbyist for Angelos, acknowledged as much yesterday.

"Each issue is judged on its merits," Pica said. "But it appears that it's going to be difficult to get six votes out of 10 on that committee."

Officials push to raise funds before legislature opens

The annual last-minute rush to collect political contributions is under way.

Under Maryland law, legislators and other state officials are prohibited from raising money during the General Assembly's annual 90-day session, which begins next week.

The ban was designed to halt the spectacle of legislators hitting up lobbyists for money at the same time they are voting on bills that affect those lobbyists' clients.

But nothing in the law says a legislator can't raise money just before or after the session.

So, at least a dozen lawmakers are squeezing in fund-raisers between today and the session opening Jan. 12. Leading the way is Sen. Nancy Jacobs, a Harford County Republican who will have events Thursday and Friday.

The best-attended affair is likely to be the $100-a-head Thursday breakfast in Baltimore for Del. Howard P. Rawlings, the influential chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Sen. Thomas M. Middleton of Charles County will get the last word with an event Jan. 11.

Former radio correspondent hired by Glendening

Glendening has tapped a member of the media to be a deputy spokesman.

Raquel Guillory began work yesterday as the governor's deputy press secretary, the No. 3 position in Glendening's communications office. She has worked the past three years as Maryland correspondent for Metro Networks, a national radio network.

Guillory will report to Michelle Byrnie, the governor's newly named press secretary. Overseeing them is Michael Morrill, Glendening's communications director.

Score: GOP 6, Democrats 2 on presidential ballots

Voters in Maryland's Republican Primary on March 7 will have a choice of six candidates for president, while Democrats will have two.

Maryland Secretary of State John T. Willis certified the six GOP candidates last week -- Gary Bauer, George W. Bush, Steve Forbes, Orrin Hatch, Alan Keyes and John McCain.

On the Democratic side, Willis said the names of Al Gore and Bill Bradley will appear on the ballot.

State law gives the secretary of state authority to decide which candidates get listed. He is directed to include the name of anyone whose candidacy is "generally advocated or recognized in the news media throughout the United States or in Maryland."

The only other way to get on the ballot is to file petitions with the names of at least 400 voters from each of the state's eight congressional districts.

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