Maneuvering could save stalled gun control bill

The Political Game

Options: The Senate has a chance to breathe new life into a measure that appears headed for rejection in committee.

February 22, 2000|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

A STATE HOUSE TRUISM holds that bills can return from oblivion unless they are, as they say, "dead dead."

So keep your eye on the ball, even if the conservative Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee follows form and rejects Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Smart Guns proposal -- the measure that would require handguns sold in Maryland to be equipped with devices to prevent unauthorized people from firing them.

Proponents believe they could craft a majority for the bill -- if they could get it to a vote in the full Senate.

So gun-control advocates in the General Assembly are pondering a couple of end-run options around the Judicial Proceedings panel.

Under one scenario, supporters would petition the measure out of the committee, a rarely used parliamentary maneuver that requires 16 of 47 votes on the Senate floor.

Such a move, though, would be opposed by many lawmakers as an affront to the long-standing committee system, which gives the four Senate committees almost absolute control of the bills they handle.

A second option would involve another Glendening bill -- extending tax credits to the purchasers of gun-safety devices -- which is pending in the decidedly more liberal Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

Under a scenario being discussed by key senators, if the Smart Gun bill appears doomed in the Judicial Proceedings Committee, the budget committee could save the day by approving the tax credit bill.

In theory, the tax bill could then be amended on the Senate floor to add the provisions dealing with Smart Gun technology.

If either of the options comes to pass, it would vividly illustrate the first rule of lawmaking: "If you have the votes, you can do anything."

`Prevailing wage' plan stirs political debate

The governor's pro-labor proposal to extend the state's "prevailing wage" law to cover many school construction projects is quickly becoming one of the most contentious issues of the session.

The Baltimore Building & Construction Trades Council has weighed in with radio ads calling on listeners to urge General Assembly members to support the bill.

Comptroller William Donald Schaefer -- Glendening's No. 1 critic these days -- is lobbying against the measure, which he says would "do damage to the welfare of our children."

In a letter sent to a key senator last week, Schaefer said the current law is "fair and beneficial to Maryland's school children and to our taxpayers who foot the bills because free and competitive bidding usually results in a reduction in `featherbedded' labor costs."

Another Republican might be switching sides

The Democrats might not be through landing high-profile defectors. Last fall, Sen. Robert R. Neall bolted the GOP for the "D" category.

His Republican colleague on the Senate budget committee, Sen. Patrick J. Hogan of Montgomery County, was considering going with him, but decided not to.

Now, Hogan may be reconsidering, at least according to some State House observers.

Don't bet against Hogan making the switch before the 2001 General Assembly session.

After his switch, Neall was rewarded with a budget subcommittee chairmanship. No word on what Hogan might be offered to go to the majority party.

Governors conference to keep Glendening busy

Glendening will take center stage in Washington this weekend during the National Governors' Association winter meeting. Glendening is vice chairman of the group and will become chairman this summer.

As the ranking Democrat in the governors group, Glendening is slated to have a role at four news conferences in four days, have dinner with President Clinton and raise money for the Democratic Party, again with the president, at a Monday night bash at Union Station.

Bartlett chooses Bush for his third endorsement

Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett hopes the third time is the charm.

The Republican from Western Maryland endorsed George W. Bush yesterday, but the Texas governor is his third choice.

Bartlett first endorsed former Vice President Dan Quayle. When Quayle dropped out, Bartlett went with publisher Steve Forbes. Then Forbes quit the race.

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