ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Just days into the new legislative session, the Democratic-led Maryland Legislature was poised to override three vetoes stamped by Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich (search) during last session, his first year in office.
The fates of the three bills should be decided this week. The state Senate voted Thursday to reinstate the measures. House lawmakers postponed override votes on a commercial appliance energy efficiency bill and a pension compensation measure until Tuesday. Republican leaders offered no objections to the delays.
The last time the House overturned a governor's veto was in 1989.
By a vote of 32 to 15, the Senate reapproved a bill to establish energy efficiency standards for nine mostly commercial appliances, including ceiling fans, refrigerators, traffic signals and commercial washers, among others. The bill would require compliance in most cases by 2006.
All Republican senators voted with the administration. Sen. Philip Jimeno (search) was the only Democrat to side with the governor's veto.
"I didn't really see it as a partisan issue," Jimeno said. "I voted against the bill last year because it would impose stricter standards than the federal standards and I think that would be unfair."
Opponents have argued that energy efficiency standards (search) should be crafted and enforced on the federal level, and that more efficient products will be more expensive.
The bill's chief sponsor, Democratic Sen. Paul Pinsky (search), was pleased with the vote and took the governor to task over his recent ad campaign in which he tried to promote an environmentally-friendly message.
"The governor was on pretty salacious grounds in opposing this bill," Pinsky said. "He's been on an advertising campaign encouraging people to use energy efficient appliances, and now I think there's more than a little hypocrisy going on trying to wrap himself as the energy governor."
"Each administration has the opportunity to put its stamp on policy," said Senate Minority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus. "We vote today not on policy decisions, but on the basis of the veto override."
Ehrlich Deputy Communications Director Greg Massoni said the Senate was flexing its political muscle in voting down the governor's veto.
"These are three bills that voted along party lines with the exception of one," Massoni said. "They're trying to make it clear that they're the majority party, and we're well aware of that. But the majority elected a Republican governor and that's why we're here today."
The partisan squabbling was an extension of similar contentiousness on Wednesday's opening day of the 2004 General Assembly session, when Republicans abstained from re-electing the Democratic Senate president. President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. was returned by the Democratic majority.
Republicans were protesting Miller's call for rules changes that would diminish the minority's power to block legislation by filibuster. That dispute also continued Thursday as the Senate tabled the rules change until early next week.
The Senate also voted to reinstate a bill to compensate state employees from Baltimore City for a four-year lapse in pension benefits. An emergency bill limiting alcoholic beverage licenses in Baltimore City within 300 feet of a church or school was also supported.
A vote to overturn the governor's veto of a bill to tax health maintenance organizations was delayed Thursday until the 83rd day of the session to allow for continuing negotiations with Ehrlich on a new bill.
Republican lawmakers urged the House to sustain the governor's veto in a symbolic show of cooperation with Ehrlich.
"We should demonstrate at the beginning of the session that we will make a good faith effort to work with the governor," said Minority Whip Anthony O'Donnell, R-Calvert.
Capital News Service's Rolando Garcia contributed to this report.