Ehrlich starts PR push for his Assembly agenda

Governor says Democrats in legislature are playing games with bills he backs

April 06, 2005|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

With just days to go in the legislative session, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is taking his case to the public with a series of TV-friendly photo opportunities designed to pressure lawmakers to pass several of his key initiatives.

Yesterday, Ehrlich stood before a library-full of children in an after-school program at Mills-Parole Elementary School in Annapolis to make his point that the Office of Children, Youth and Families (OCYF) should not be eliminated.

The day before, he brought veterans to the State House to lobby for his military retiree tax credit bill, which is stuck in the Senate.

Today, he's scheduled to visit the Rod & Reel Club in Chesapeake Beach, a restaurant with legal pseudo-slot machines, to make his pitch for expanded gambling. An event highlighting the governor's witness-intimidation legislation is planned for later in the week.

The public appeals are necessary, Ehrlich said, because Democrats are playing games with his agenda.

"We'll be doing a number of events around initiatives we believe need to pass, in some cases bills that started out as light lifting that turned out to be heavy lifting for no reason," Ehrlich said.

At the elementary school, Ehrlich appeared with OCYF Director M. Teresa Garland, whose job would be cut in a House of Delegates plan to distribute the office's tasks among other state agencies.

"My job is all about you guys and making sure you grow up happy and healthy," Garland said to the children.

With television cameras rolling, Ehrlich said to the kids, "Sounds like a pretty important job, right? Do you think the General Assembly should make sure this office stays in existence?"

The kids cheered.

House Democrats have said they don't want to cut programs, just the bureaucracy. After the event, Ehrlich said he doesn't know whether the after-school program he visited, or others like it, would be affected if the office were eliminated.

"The lack of reauthorization may put dollar-flows in jeopardy. I don't know. The lawyers are going to have to answer that," he said.

Garland said later that the real benefit of the agency, set to go out of existence this year if the legislature doesn't act, is that it looks at children holistically, whereas departments such as Education, Health and Mental Hygiene and Human Resources are interested in particular aspects of their needs.

The Senate has passed a bill that would extend the life of the agency for a year and study its future.

Ehrlich wants it made into a permanent, Cabinet-level department.

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