Ehrlich had rejected the legislation because he said it did not contain sufficient limits on jury awards in lawsuits. He also opposed a repeal of the HMO tax exemption, saying it would burden working families. "It's the status-quo Annapolis solution," Ehrlich said. "You got a problem, throw money at it."
Democratic lawmakers said it was not certain HMOs would pass the tax on to consumers. "The vast bulk of people who have HMOs are not low-income people," said Del. John Adams Hurson, a Montgomery County Democrat. Even if the tax were passed on, it would cost families less than 40 cents a month to solve the malpractice problem, Hurson said.
FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's editions reported incorrectly that Sen. Roy P. Dyson, a Southern Maryland Democrat, changed his position on malpractice reform legislation between last month's special session and Tuesday's veto override vote. In fact, he voted against the bill both times.
The Sun regrets the errors.
While generally favoring the legislation, doctors and hospitals are waiting to see how relief will arrive. Doctors have already made their first-quarter insurance bill payments, which were 33 percent higher than a year ago, and don't know whether they will receive rebates.
MedChi Executive Director T. Michael Preston said it is imperative that the Maryland Insurance Administration work quickly to develop a mechanism that provides them relief. "That conversation needs to begin tomorrow," Preston said.
The Assembly also voted to override Ehrlich vetoes of these bills, which now become law:
Open meetings: The bill guarantees that any person may file a complaint in Circuit Court alleging that a public body violated the open meetings act. It is a response to a Howard County court ruling that only a person adversely affected by a public body's failure to follow that law may sue.
Elder care: The bill places limits on a program that allows HMO-like "community care organizations" to use state funds to care for the elderly and disabled in settings other than nursing homes. The bill's lead sponsor, Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, said seniors prefer community care but the state should try the idea as a pilot program before implementing it statewide.
Equal pay commission: The bill establishes a commission to study disparities between the pay of men and women and of whites and minorities. In his veto message, Ehrlich said the state is already governed by "equal pay for equal work" laws and has received no complaints of violations in a decade.
Ehrlich and the Assembly now look ahead to the regular session, although neither the governor nor legislative leaders have said what they hope to accomplish. With partisanship at an all-time high, battles over the budget, slot machines, stem cell research and other hot-button issues are likely to rage until the 2006 election.
Ehrlich insists he will stick to principles and change the culture of Annapolis. Democratic lawmakers say they are emboldened by their cooperation on medical malpractice.
"Through all of this trauma of split government, the legislature has stood up and made sure K-12 education is fully funded, that tuition rates don't keep going up the way they have, that doctors remain in the state and that quality health care is available for all Marylanders," Busch said.
Sun staff writers Ivan Penn and Sumathi Reddy contributed to this article.
Vote to override veto of medical malpractice bill
The General Assembly voted yesterday to override the governor's veto of the medical malpractice bill. As a result, the bill becomes law. The legislation cuts the maximum pain and suffering award in wrongful-death cases from about $1.6 million to $800,000. It also imposes a tax on HMOs to subsidize doctors' malpractice insurance costs.
In the Senate, 31 senators voted yes -- that is, to override the governor's veto. Fifteen voted no, and one was absent.
In the House of Delegates, 85 delegates voted yes and 50 voted no. Two delegates were listed as not voting. Four others were absent and excused from voting.
Gwendolyn T. Britt, D-Prince George's
James Brochin, D-Baltimore County
Joan Carter Conway, D-Baltimore City
Ulysses Currie, D-Prince George's
James E. DeGrange Sr., D-Anne Arundel
George W. Della Jr., D-Baltimore City
Nathaniel Exum, D-Prince George's
Jennie M. Forehand, D-Montgomery
Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery
Robert J. Garagiola, D-Montgomery
John A. Giannetti Jr., D-Prince George's
Lisa A. Gladden, D-Baltimore City
Leo E. Green, D-Prince George's
Sharon M. Grosfeld, D-Montgomery
Patrick J. Hogan, D-Montgomery
Paula C. Hollinger, D-Baltimore County
Ralph M. Hughes, D-Baltimore City
Philip C. Jimeno, D-Anne Arundel
Verna L. Jones, D-Baltimore City
Edward J. Kasemeyer, D-Howard
Delores G. Kelley, D-Baltimore County
Katherine A. Klausmeier, D-Baltimore County
Rona E. Kramer, D-Montgomery
Gloria G. Lawlah, D-Prince George's
Nathaniel J. McFadden, D-Baltimore City
Thomas M. Middleton, D-Charles
Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Prince George's
Paul G. Pinsky, D-Prince George's
Ida G. Ruben, D-Montgomery
Norman R. Stone Jr., D-Baltimore County
Leonard H. Teitelbaum, D-Montgomery
John C. Astle, D-Anne Arundel
David R. Brinkley, R-Frederick
Richard F. Colburn, R-Dorchester
Roy P. Dyson, D-St. Mary's
Janet Greenip, R-Anne Arundel
John J. Hafer, R-Allegany
Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll