Governor vetoes bill on hunting

He rejects 30 measures, including changing college savings plan

May 16, 2002|By Howard Libit and David Nitkin | Howard Libit and David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening vetoed 30 bills yesterday, including measures to permit deer hunting in some counties on Sundays and to make it easier for people to settle small-claims disputes.

Glendening also killed legislation that would have closed a loophole giving investors in Maryland's college savings plan a tax deduction 10 times greater than the amount intended by the General Assembly while it would have extended the tax break to those who invest in other states' plans.

The governor has vetoed 35 bills this year, and his final bill signing is set for today in Annapolis.

The hunting bill would have extended Maryland's deer season from 13 days to 21 statewide. It also would have permitted hunting in seven counties - mostly in Western and Southern Maryland - on the first Sunday of deer season.

The measure was significantly changed during the legislative session, including cutting the number of Sunday hunting days from three to one. But Glendening said that even adding one Sunday could jeopardize the safety of other Marylanders.

"Sunday is the only day of the week during hunting season when outdoor recreation ... can occur in the state's natural areas without the fear of nearby hunting," Glendening wrote in his veto message.

Supporters of the legislation argued that the bill would help control the state's rapidly growing deer population - which is blamed for crop damage and traffic accidents - and give an economic boost to rural areas.

"All the evidence is there to convince anybody that Maryland's deer herd is not being properly managed because it is way too big," said the bill's sponsor, House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., an Allegany County Democrat. "The most important reason for signing the bill was because it is exceptionally good deer management."

For the second consecutive year, the governor rejected a measure raising the limit for small-claims cases that can be filed in District Court from $2,500 to $5,000.

Del. Robert C. Baldwin, an Anne Arundel County Republican who sponsored the bill, said it would have aided small businesses by reducing their legal fees.

Small-claims cases brought in District Court typically don't require lawyers, but legal representation is usually needed in Circuit Court, where claims for more than $2,500 must be filed.

Baldwin said judges and business groups told him they support the legislation. "I can't find anybody that objects to the bill beside the governor, and I haven't gotten a good reason from him," he said. "I can see absolutely no reason whatsoever to veto this bill, other than that I am in the wrong party."

Glendening's veto message said that a change in the limits would disrupt the balance between District Court and Circuit Court, clogging the system and harming plaintiffs. He wrote that the bill "does not provide the compelling evidence necessary to alter the current law," and noted that the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association urged a veto last year.

In the college savings plan bill, Glendening objected to expanding the tax deduction to Marylanders who choose to invest in other states' plans.

College savings plans aim to encourage parents to invest money for their children's education in managed accounts, permitting the money to be withdrawn free of federal taxes if used for college. Maryland's plan - like those of 22 other states - permits tax deductions for contributions made to the home-state plan.

T. Rowe Price Associates, which manages Maryland's college savings plan, had lobbied the governor to veto the bill because it feared losing business to other states.

"It is reasonable to assume that this competitive disadvantage will negatively impact the volume of investments and reduce the funds that support Maryland's plans," Glendening wrote.

As for the loophole giving Marylanders a greater tax deduction than intended by the Assembly, Glendening's veto letter directs plan officials to change the rule, even without the legislation.

Also vetoed yesterday were:

A bill permitting jurisdictions to enter agreements allowing the transfer of inmates. The bill stemmed from Baltimore County, where opponents of an expanded jail in Towson were hoping a new transfer policy could relieve crowding and reduce the need for construction. But the governor's aides said the bill was too broad, and could have resulted in prisoners being sent hundreds of miles from their homes for short sentences.

A bill requiring a plaque to be placed on the State House grounds honoring soldiers forced to participate in the Bataan Death March. Glendening said permanent changes to the State House "should be made sparingly and held to the highest standard of scrutiny."

A bill extending the sell-by period for Grade A milk products from 14 days to 17 days.

For a complete list of bills vetoed yesterday, go to www.sunspot.net/veto.

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