- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 18, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. — disappointed that the Democrat-controlled legislature overrode all his major vetoes — will introduce his legislative package today.

“The governor has moved on,” said Ehrlich spokesman Henry P. Fawell. “He’s disappointed. It is a loss for the citizens of Maryland. … The legislature is only concerned about politics.”

Mr. Ehrlich’s legislative package is expected to focus on health issues and include measures to better monitor sex offenders.

Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican running for re-election, and other Republican leaders this week seemed to rally in response to the near party-line votes that overturned the governor’s vetoes of bills raising the minimum wage to $6.15 per hour, forcing Wal-Mart to pay a minimum amount of employee health benefits, allowing early voting and outlawing voter intimidation.

House Democrats yesterday overrode vetoes of two juvenile-justice bills, despite complaints from Republicans that they are trying to strip powers from the Republican chief executive.

The bills would increase the General Assembly’s authority over the state Department of Juvenile Services and transfer an office that monitors treatment of young people in juvenile justice facilities from the governor’s office to the office of the attorney general.

These bills will not become law unless the Senate also rejects the vetoes.

“The legislature is trying to embarrass the governor for political purposes,” said Delegate Anthony J. O’Donnell, Southern Maryland Republican and minority whip. “The people of Maryland see through it. They can see Governor Ehrlich is doing a good job in a very hostile environment.”

He said the veto overrides fit into the plan described by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. to use the election-year legislative session to undermine Republicans.

Mr. Miller, a Democrat representing Calvert and Prince George’s counties, reportedly told his caucus last week that Republican leaders are “going to be flying high, but we’re going to shoot them down. We’re going to bury them face down in the ground, and it’ll be 10 years before they crawl out again.”

The quote was posted on the outside of doors to the governor’s press offices on the second floor of the State House.

Mr. Fawell said an anonymous staff member was responsible for posting the quote.

House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve said the veto overrides resulted from political differences, not political games.

“I’m not saying it is not partisan politics, but we have a genuine disagreement with the governor,” said Mr. Barve, Montgomery County Democrat. “If you disagree with someone, would you vote for them or against them?”

Mr. Ehrlich said a $1 increase to the minimum wage would discourage small businesses from hiring entry-level workers and the Wal-Mart bill would convince the discount retail giant to move jobs out of Maryland. He said early voting and relaxed voting restrictions would increase the likelihood of voter fraud.

Supporters of the bills say they help poor families, protect Wal-Mart employees and expand voting rights.

Sean Dobson, deputy executive director of the liberal activist group Progressive Maryland, said the veto overrides are democracy in action.

“Right now the legislature is showing they have co-equal power with the governor,” said Mr. Dobson, whose group lobbied in support of the minimum wage and Wal-Mart bills. “It will be up to voters to decide which vision of Maryland they want.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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