- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2003

Over the past few days, Gov. Robert Ehrlich has given Marylanders a demonstration of how the careful, judicious use of the veto can rein in an irresponsible legislature. Under the leadership of Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch, the General Assembly rammed through one bad bill after another, apparently figuring that they’d steamroller the governor into signing some and would slip through the rest when he wasn’t paying attention. Instead, they received a rude awakening.

Mr. Ehrlich made good on his promise to veto the corporate tax increase package pushed by Messrs. Busch and Miller, and announced that he would also veto the bill to provide low-cost in-state college tuition to illegal aliens. He vetoed a bill pushed by Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan that would impose a local tax of up to $40.50 on motor vehicles owned by county residents or businesses located there. Mr. Ehrlich also nixed a bill authorizing local jurisdictions to use cameras to catch speeders. The governor vetoed another piece of legislative Big Brotherism — this one pushed by environmentalists — which would have put Annapolis in the business of dictating energy standards for ceiling fans and eight other appliances sold in the state. (Imagine state troopers and plainclothes bureaucrats raiding Home Depot to confiscate fans or washing machines.)

Democratic machine politicians, folks who until this year were used to getting their way pretty much all of the time, are furious with Mr. Ehrlich —and, by extension, the reality that Maryland is now a two-party state. Messrs. Busch and Miller claim Mr. Ehrlich has broken his promise to govern as a “moderate” and warn that the General Assembly may try to override his veto of the corporate tax increase bill when it returns in January. Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley blasted Mr. Ehrlich for refusing to increase corporate taxes. Mr. Duncan — his future gubernatorial hopes fading as the county’s fiscal situation worsens — accuses the governor of staging “a direct attack on the Washington suburbs” and called the veto of the illegal-alien tuition bill “mean-spirited.”

We would have liked to see the governor cast several more vetoes. We have problems with a measure he signed into law reducing penalties for possession of marijuana for so-called “medical” purposes. And the bill banning the sale of CareFirst, a nonprofit health insurer, to a private firm, threatens jobs (at least in the short term) and has already resulted in a lawsuit, filed yesterday by Blue Cross, to strip the company of its accreditation.

But, on balance, Mr. Ehrlich has done a superb job thus far in vetoing some fatally flawed legislation. Had Kathleen Kennedy Townsend won last year’s election, we have little doubt that virtually all of the measures that Mr. Ehrlich vetoed would be about to become law. Thanks to Mr. Ehrlich, most of them won’t be.

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