For Glendening, plenty of fun left before 2003

The Political Game

Rumors: Recent victories make an early exit from the State House seem unlikely.

April 10, 2001|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

THE RUMORS are flying about our governor, Parris N. Glendening. Some aren't worth repeating, but one has the governor resigning his office soon.

Put that one in the "Huh?" category.

Glendening's aides deny it. One ranking legislator also dismissed such talk, predicting that because the governor is having so much fun, the state police will have to pry his fingers from his desk and carry him out of the State House come January 2003.

Indeed, the governor continues to play at the top of his game, and yesterday, he concluded another successful legislative session that will cement his ties with important Democratic constituencies.

Thanks to a little committee reshuffling in the Senate, the governor finally won passage of a gay-rights bill. He forced through collective bargaining for state college employees -- over the objections of the university presidents and some members of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents. And he bucked a national trend to win an increase in the amount of state work set aside for minority- and women-owned businesses.

With the earlier passage of two gun-control measures, a collective bargaining bill for state workers and his Smart Growth policies, Glendening continues to build a liberal legacy.

Why would the governor want to leave now? Next year, he gets to play the boss in the ultimate political parlor game -- redistricting -- meaning that just about every elected official in the state will be looking to be in his good graces as the maps are redrawn.

The dark lining in this rosy picture can be found in the recently passed state budget, which is loaded with new spending and sets a potential trap for lawmakers in the next few years, should the economy turn seriously south.

Naturally enough, Glendening, whom even his aides call the luckiest man in politics, will be leaving office just as a recession's full fury might be felt. Sorry about that, Kathleen.

Still toast of the town after lobby reform bill

The General Assembly passed a bill yesterday that seeks to clamp down on abuses by State House lobbyists. Among other things, the bill will allow state authorities to take away a misbehaving lobbyist's right to work in the State House.

But in between work on the final day of the 90-day session, legislators found time to stop in on parties at, of all places, the offices of two Annapolis lobbying firms.

A new firm, Capitol Strategies LLC, held a marathon, eight-hour open house at its office on Main Street, while lobbyist Gary R. Alexander played host at a party during the afternoon. Under the state's quirky ethics law, it's illegal for lobbyists to buy a meal for an individual legislator, but they can provide an open bar to all 188 of them.

In any case, the conclusion of this year's Assembly session was relaxed enough that Alexander was able to spend time at his reception for a change.

"I can't remember being at my own party," he said.

Democratic dream team dines and discusses at pub

That ultra-cordial pair having dinner Wednesday night in the back booth of the Sean Donlon Irish pub in Annapolis were none other than the Democratic dream team of Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.

The two -- apparently continuing a political courtship that began last year -- were each flanked by a trusted political consigliere: Townsend's Alan Fleischmann and Duncan's Jerry Pasternak.

Townsend said the shepherd's pie was great and that meeting with Duncan, whom many Democrats would like to see running with her in 2002, was "always pleasant."

The lieutenant governor was coy about what was discussed.

"We talked about government, making things work," she said.

Contributions bill dies; no ethics probe for Miller

Legislative update:

A House committee killed a bill by Del. Kenneth C. Montague Jr. that would have increased the amount that a person can give to a political candidate. Montague thought that the limits ($4,000 for a single candidate, $10,000 to all candidates in a four-year cycle) were too low. The committee disagreed.

And from the ethics department:

The legislature's ethics committee has opted not to open an inquiry into a complaint brought against Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller by a disgruntled Prince George's County developer.

William H. Natter Jr., head of a group attempting to build a rubble fill in the county, had accused Miller, who opposes the project, of bullying two lobbyists into dropping their representation of Natter's firm.

Miller dismissed the charges as unfounded.

The ethics committee essentially agreed.

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