Forgiving, but not forgetting


Ehrlich: The governor still is irked at the Senate for rejection of his choice for environmental secretary, and is pondering what he might do next.

November 25, 2003|By Howard Libit and Alec MacGillis | Howard Libit and Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

WITH LESS THAN two months until the start of the General Assembly, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. still hasn't decided what to do with the position of environmental secretary.

Standing between the acting secretary, Kendl P. Philbrick, and the nominee who was rejected last winter by the Senate, Lynn Y. Buhl, Ehrlich said last week that he's still trying to gauge the politics.

"I guess they don't pass some kind of political litmus test," Ehrlich said of Buhl and Philbrick, when asked about the situation at a news conference at the Department of the Environment headquarters. "We'll have to see how it plays out."

Ehrlich insisted that Philbrick and Buhl will continue to play "integral roles in our administration."

Buhl has been involved in efforts to rewrite state policy on cleaning and redeveloping polluted industrial sites, while Philbrick -- originally slated to be her deputy -- has spent the past 10 months trying to build a record that could win confirmation in the Senate.

The governor has quietly shopped at least one name -- former Oklahoma environmental secretary Brian Griffin -- should he decide to nominate someone new to the post in the next session.

But don't count Philbrick out just yet. He has met with some key lawmakers and some environmental advocacy groups, and Ehrlich continues to insist that "Ken is doing a terrific job."

If the governor thinks Philbrick can get enough votes for confirmation -- and if environmental activists signal they don't have the stomach for another bitter fight -- Ehrlich might put his name forward as the permanent secretary.

Ehrlich's staff also clings to the threat made during last year's confirmation fight of simply leaving Philbrick in an acting capacity for the remainder of the governor's four-year term. But that move is all but guaranteed to bring a series of legal challenges from lawmakers and environmentalists, who would argue that the governor is under an obligation to bring Cabinet secretary nominations before the Senate.

If there's one thing that's clear about the environmental secretary position, it's that Ehrlich's anger about the confirmation fight isn't going away.

"What happened to [Lynn Buhl] was ... a permanent black mark on the Maryland Senate, period," Ehrlich said. "I thought the governor got to name his Cabinet."

Looking at Buhl, the governor said: "You forgive. You never forget."

UM student dynamo Daly enlivens legislative hearing

After three hours of listening to college administrators belabor titillating subjects like funding guidelines, legislators at a special nighttime hearing last week at College Park badly needed a jolt.

They finally got it about 9:30 p.m. in the form of Tim Daly.

Daly, the dynamo University of Maryland student body president, has made a name for himself with stunts protesting Ehrlich's cuts to higher education. But for many of the lawmakers on the committee appointed by House Speaker Michael E. Busch to examine rising college costs, this was their first personal exposure to Maryland's own "Daly Show."

The 22-year-old did not disappoint. Taking his place at the microphone, Daly launched into his remarks at twice the volume of the dozen somber administrators who had preceded him. It was a little like having Eminem follow a string quartet.

Whereas many of the officials who preceded him relied on sleek PowerPoint slides, Daly went off on an extemporaneous riff, barely referring to his notes and seeming far more confident than the administrators.

Higher education in Maryland, he nearly shouted, was "under siege." To prove his point, he noted a recent New York Times spread on college costs at UM, that (surprise!) focused on Daly. He mentioned that last week on Capitol Hill he had had a "very interesting chat" about tuition with Rep. Rahm Emanuel, an Illinois Democrat and former Clinton White House aide.

"Every day I'm going to continue doing what I'm doing, whether people find it offensive or not," he concluded.

Any questions? he asked.

Zapped awake, the panel members smiled in awe. Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., a Montgomery County Democrat, asked Daly if he had a written copy of his remarks for the panel, joking that "you just wrote our report."

But one legislator decided that if Daly was going to act the political pro, then he was going to have to face some grown-up scrutiny, too. Del. Jon S. Cardin, a Baltimore County Democrat, asked the student whether he or his parents would be willing to pay higher taxes to provide more funding for colleges.

When Daly launched into a lengthy answer, Cardin cut him off: "It was a yes or no question."

Daly answered that, yes, he'd pay higher taxes. Outside the hearing later, he was stewing about being cut off.

"I've got about 3 billion different ways to raise revenue, if he'd let me talk," he said.

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