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A Tense Day In Annapolis After Sine Die
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April 10, 2012
The rancor from the chaotic close of Maryland’s General Assembly session hung over today as the traditional day after sine die bill signing ceremony played out in a tense atmosphere. WYPR’s Joel McCord reports.
Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Mike Bush stood far apart at the table, watching the crowd that packs the governor’s reception room for the ceremony as they waited for the governor. They barely exchanged words.
When Governor Martin O’Malley arrived he ticked off a list of successes—septic bill, flush tax increase, same sex marriage—then launched into the legislature’s actions on the budget, which resulted in a “doomsday” spending plan with deep cuts in education funding.
"…which is really a damn shame because we had the ability and I think that the people of our state had the will. But our leaders weren’t able to come to the consensus necessary to protect education.”
Ironically, he said, lawmakers passed a bill to require counties to spend certain amounts on education, but cut a quarter of a billion dollars from state K-12 spending and sliced the higher education budget by 10 percent. The doomsday budget also makes sharp cuts in grants to local law enforcement efforts.
“We failed our neighbors and law enforcement officers in places like Salisbury where they’ve been doing a great job of reducing homicides, here in the capital city, in Annapolis, where we’ve been making all sorts of strides in reducing violent crime.”
But Senate President Mike Miller sloughed off the criticism. The legislature didn’t fail anyone, he said.
“This is a great state, we’re number one in almost every category and we have until July first to get it right. And I’m not here to point fingers at any one person. We had an agreement and the clock ran out on us. “
He said Speaker Bush couldn’t have worked any harder than he did in a job much more difficult than Miller’s.
“I’d be looking for him, he’d be at the caucus meeting, the House meeting, the Baltimore meeting, the Prince Georges meeting, the leadership meeting. I don’t have to do any of those things. I’ve only got 47 people. And I don’t have the Tea Party people on my side that he has to deal with and it’s a little difficult.”
Bush, however, ignored the compliment. Instead, he talked of how hard House members worked during the session, especially Maggie McIntosh, chair of the Environmental Matters committee. Her committed handled the controversial “flush tax,” storm water management bill and the restrictions on development on septic systems.
"There was not a week that went by that they weren’t dealing with tough issues and they came across and came through every time.”
Bush, a college football star, conceded they “came up a little short” at the end. But he complained the House didn’t get a shot at the revenue bills because the Senate didn’t finish work in time.
"I learned one thing when I played sports. If you don’t have the ball you can’t score a touchdown. If you don’t have the revenue package you can’t make the vote on it. So I want to thank all my members for all the hard work and effort they put in this year.
Miller said lawmakers could come back in a special session to pass the revenue bills, avoiding the doomsday budget. Reporters noted that O’Malley hadn’t mentioned a special session.
“No, I didn’t. First bill.”
With that, O’Malley pushed the microphone away and reached for a pen.
I’m Joel McCord, reporting in Annapolis for 88.1, WYPR.
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