Public battles come to an end on a soft note

Capital Notebook

March 09, 2006

One of the longest-running public battles in Annapolis ended yesterday with the political equivalent of a wet, sloppy kiss.

Del. Peter Franchot, the hyper-partisan Democrat who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees the state transportation budget, has spent much of the past four years needling, goading and slow-roasting Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan at budget hearings. Flanagan, no slouch as a Republican attack dog, generally has responded with a vigorous and equally articulate defense of the Ehrlich administration.

But when Flanagan came before the panel yesterday for his last budget hearing before Franchot, the chairman was throwing bouquets.

"Jousting is the state sport and there are a lot of skeptics who think that nobody here jousts," said Franchot, who is leaving the legislature to run for comptroller. "Obviously they did not come to this subcommittee." Franchot went on to praise Flanagan for his "selfless dedication to public service" and to profess deep respect for his abilities. "Despite my opinion of the Ehrlich administration, they are lucky to have you as secretary of transportation," the Montgomery County lawmaker said.

Flanagan responded in kind, recalling that he and Franchot served 16 years together in the House. "People who would watch us from afar don't appreciate the fact we're good friends," said Flanagan, telling Franchot he respects his advocacy "no matter how misguided you might be."

After the outpouring of goodwill, the battle moved behind closed doors, where Franchot is preparing to do a number on his buddy's budget.

Michael Dresser

O'Malley vows regional office for security

In a speech to the Prince George's County Business Roundtable yesterday, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley said that if he is elected governor he will open a regional homeland security office in the Washington suburb.

O'Malley appeared at the event with his running mate, Del. Anthony G. Brown, a Prince George's Democrat, and said the county is an ideal location for coordinating homeland security operations among Baltimore, Annapolis and Washington's suburbs.

O'Malley said state government needs to provide cities and counties more direct control over federal homeland security grants. He said an O'Malley-Brown administration will "work to move more of this money into police, firefighters and EMS personnel."

"We can't leave money on the table if we want to secure our state and grow our economy," O'Malley said, according to a statement released by his campaign.

The mayor's plan states that the regional office would have a multipronged mission to lobby and capture untapped federal money; increase the presence of state and federal officials in the county and the Washington region; boost local economic development with homeland security-related businesses; and enhance local crime fighting by leveraging the state's homeland security efforts.

Doug Donovan

Communications union releases endorsements

The Communications Workers of America announced yesterday the results of its endorsement meeting last month. The union, which represents 15,000 Maryland members, endorsed Mayor Martin O'Malley for governor, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin for U.S. Senate, Del. Peter Franchot for state comptroller and Sheriff George Johnson for Anne Arundel County executive. The Newspaper Guild, which represents employees at The Sun, including news reporters, is affiliated with the CWA but does not participate in endorsements.

In its news release, the CWA said O'Malley has shown strong leadership in Baltimore during his public service as a city councilman and mayor and is nationally recognized for inner-city revitalization, job creation and homeland security.

Doug Donovan

Advocates for disabled split on ballot records

As the House of Delegates nears a decision on requiring the state's voting machines to issue paper ballot records, organizations representing disabled voters apparently disagree on what - if anything - should be done.

Several prominent advocacy groups for the blind and deaf support paper records, but others have decried the bills in the Senate and the House, where a vote is expected today.

The National Federation of the Blind and American Association of People with Disabilities opposed the paper-record requirement during hearings. Both groups, which received money from voting machine companies in the past, contend new machines would not accommodate disabled individuals.

Capital News Service

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