- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 30, 2004

ANNAPOLIS — A marathon finish to the Democrat-controlled General Assembly’s emergency session on medical-malpractice insurance reform produced a bill yesterday that the Republican governor has pledged to veto.

But while bleary-eyed legislators packed up yesterday to return home after a 17-hour workday, the crucial question remained unanswered: Would lawmakers be able to gather enough votes next month to override the veto?

There were signs that the critical votes would be there.

Leaders garnered 85 House votes in the early morning hours yesterday — the exact number needed to override Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s promised veto.

And Democratic leaders pointed out that eight of their party’s delegates were absent from the abruptly called session and likely would add to the “yea” tally in an override vote. The cushion, they said, would be enough to manage a safe override.

In the Senate, 32 lawmakers voted for the compromise bill — three more than needed for an override. Two senators missed the vote, but both were Republicans.

However, Republican leaders yesterday worked to cast doubt on whether the votes would stay “veto proof” when the legislature convenes next month to take up the overrides.

Lawmakers put off the override attempts until Jan. 11, the eve of the regularly scheduled 2005 session, when more Democrats would be in town.

That plan may backfire, said House Minority Whip Anthony J. O’Donnell, Calvert Republican.

Other veto overrides to be attempted that day include bills that would raise money for a higher education tuition cap by increasing the corporate income tax temporarily by 10 percent. Another override would guarantee an hourly “living wage” of $10.50 for state contract workers, a measure Mr. Ehrlich has condemned as being against business.

The raised costs for corporations might end up being more than lawmakers can stomach, Mr. O’Donnell said.

“I envision Jan. 11 will be Democratic Party tax day in the state of Maryland,” he said.

The “dynamic” of multiple overrides will help the vetoes stand, Mr. O’Donnell predicted.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said he sees the overrides as a train building momentum, but stopped short of promising an override. If the medical malpractice veto is axed, he said, “I think it will roll over to the other ones.”

Mr. Ehrlich expects to veto the bill next week, he said yesterday.

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