Not waiting for the gavel to fall on the 2000 General Assembly session, Gov. Parris N. Glendening claimed victory yesterday for every item on his wish list but one, an expensive proposal to promote the use of cleaner septic systems.
The governor said at a State House news conference that 20 of the 21 items on his legislative agenda had been approved or were on their way to final passage before the session ends Monday.
"Altogether, it looks like it's been a great session," Glendening said.
The governor pointed to a string of accomplishments ranging from his nationally publicized gun-safety bill to new Smart Growth legislation and a budget bill that passed with almost all of his priorities unscathed.
But he conceded that his top environmental priority -- a bill that would require less-polluting septic systems in some areas -- is going nowhere. The measure has yet to see a vote in a House committee.
Privately, key legislators said Glendening has given up on the measure. They suggested that the issue would be put off for study after the session.
The bill, which was opposed by real estate agents and homebuilders, would have required the use of more expensive, nitrogen-removing technology in new and replacement septic systems in environmentally sensitive areas.
The governor spoke of the legislation yesterday in the past tense.
"It was a difficult bill. It was a bill that was really essential. It was a bill that would have taken a lot of personal resources at this time," Glendening said, explaining that he put his energy into passage of his gun-safety bill.
He said the septic-system legislation will be back, perhaps next year. "It's an issue that is not going away. It must be resolved," Glendening said. Other states have experienced serious reservoir contamination because of polluting septic tanks, he said.
On other issues, the governor was upbeat.
Clinton to visit
He said he was looking forward to President Clinton's visit Tuesday to witness Glendening's signing of the gun-safety bill, which makes Maryland the first state in the nation to require built-in locks on handguns.
"It's going to be an exciting day. The president is going to be very, very enthusiastic about his visit," Glendening said.
He said he had no regrets about proposing a deadline for manufacturers to adopt "smart gun" technology, a provision that was taken out of the bill in the Senate.
Glendening predicted that by the end of the decade, all firearms will have computer chips implanted in them that will identify authorized users and record the identity of the last person to fire a weapon.
In response to a question, the governor suggested a possible softening in his opposition to parole for prisoners with life sentences, a policy he instituted soon after taking office. Asked about the growing number of aging prison inmates, the governor said the state might soon have to look into the question of building a geriatric correctional unit or releasing those serving life sentences when they reach a certain age.
Glendening, whose career ambitions have been the subject of much speculation in Annapolis, was evasive when asked whether he would be interested in a Cabinet position if Vice President Al Gore is elected president.
"I am loving being governor," Glendening said. "This is the best job by far in the country."