- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 12, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — The Democrat-controlled General Assembly overrode 22 vetoes by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. this session, but couldn’t pass bills that would have cracked down on child molesters or resolved the state’s energy-rate crisis.

Meanwhile, lawmakers proposed 17 measures this year aimed at reducing the governor’s powers, according to a list composed by Mr. Ehrlich’s office.

“These misplaced priorities are a function of partisanship,” said Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican seeking re-election.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said the “political and philosophical divisions” between Mr. Ehrlich and the legislature are typical of a competitive, two-party environment.

Mr. Miller, Prince George’s Democrat, said he would “continue to reach out to this governor, trying to work with him, but on some issues, there continues to be division.”

Several of the legislature’s 22 veto overrides enacted voting laws that Republicans say will help Democrats in this fall’s elections.

Mr. Ehrlich called the laws — which allow early voting in heavily Democratic areas, voting anywhere in the state without photo identification and absentee ballots on demand — a “transparent invitation to fraud.”

“We’re not going to allow this … to become public policy for the state of Maryland,” the governor said.

His staff will meet today to determine whether to take legal action against the voting changes or organize a referendum to overturn the laws.

Six of the General Assembly’s measures aimed at limiting executive branch authority passed during the 90-day session that ended Monday.

Mr. Ehrlich vetoed five and allowed one to become law without his signature. Three of his vetoes were overturned Monday, the last day of the session.

One override delayed for a year the state’s takeover of 11 struggling Baltimore public schools. Another barred members of the University of Maryland’s Board of Regents — of which Mr. Ehrlich’s top fundraiser, Richard Hug, is a member — from political fundraising.

Mr. Ehrlich said he was astonished that the legislature could pass these bills and overturn his vetoes, but “could not get together to pass a package of sexual predator protections for our kids.”

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, the leading Democratic candidate for governor, said: “The only progress for Maryland families made during this year’s legislative session came when the General Assembly overrode Bob Ehrlich’s vetoes.”

A measure that would have mandated stricter monitoring and harsher sentencing for sex offenders who molest children did not get back to the Senate floor after it had been approved in a conference committee.

The Senate went down to the wire trying to reduce an impending 72 percent increase in electricity rates, but in the end could not resolve the situation.

The House did not get the opportunity to override Mr. Ehrlich’s veto of a bill that would have required him to resubmit his Cabinet secretaries for approval from the legislature, if he is re-elected. That bill was aimed at removing Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan.

Another bill vetoed by Mr. Ehrlich, which would have fired the five-member Public Service Commission, which regulates electricity companies, also did not make it to the floor for an override.

State Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman said Mr. Ehrlich left the legislature with “a leadership void.”

“Never before have we seen Democrats work so hard to overcome the obstacles placed before them by a governor who did not or would not lead,” Mr. Lierman said.

Other significant veto overrides included a bill that forced Wal-Mart to pay higher health benefits to its employees, one that increased the state’s minimum wage and another that authorized Montgomery County to install speed cameras.

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