- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 29, 2006

After weeks of listening to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. tell Marylanders that he turned a $4 billion deficit into a $1.2 billion surplus, Democrats are striking back, using figures from the governor’s budget to show that the state still is facing a $3 billion deficit during the next four-year gubernatorial term.

A paper prepared by the Democratic Party also says revenues from fees and tax increases proposed by Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, will total $3 billion during his four years in office.

“I think the governor has become the quintessential tax-and-spend politician,” said Derek Walker, spokesman for the Maryland Democratic Party.

“Spending and fiscal responsibility have always been things the governor has bragged about keeping under control,” he said. “Now it’s clear that fiscal responsibility is another broken promise.”

Shareese DeLeaver, a spokeswoman for Mr. Ehrlich, said the governor “has beaten back over a billion dollars in taxes that the House passed in a matter of minutes, in the blink of an eye.”

Leaders of the two parties have been skirmishing for months about budget deficits, spending and increases in fees and taxes.

Cecelia Januszkiewicz, Mr. Ehrlich’s budget secretary, said future projected deficits are in large part the result of mandated spending increases approved by the Democrat-controlled legislature.

Maryland budgets, which are adopted each year, are always balanced because that is what the state constitution requires.

Young and old

Virginia legislators last week honored Delegate Frank D. Hargrove, who turned 79 on Thursday.

“He and Patrick Henry were neighbors,” said Delegate Harvey B. Morgan, Gloucester Republican, during a gentle birthday roast on the House floor.

Mr. Hargrove, Hanover Republican, is not the oldest legislator, however.

Harry J. Parrish, chairman of the House Finance Committee, will turn 84 next month.

Mr. Parrish, Prince William County Republican, has been in intensive care owing to illness for much of the beginning of the General Assembly session.

Lawmakers shouted “Get well soon” to Mr. Parrish in unison after honoring Mr. Hargrove.

Shot of reality

For Virginia Delegate John S. “Jack” Reid, Thursday wasn’t just any old boring day at the office. The Henrico Republican’s handgun accidentally discharged in his Capitol Square office as he tried to unload it, sending a bullet zinging across the room before it was stopped by a bulletproof vest hanging on the door.

“That absorbed the entire thing,” Mr. Reid, 63, said of the vest.

He was both shaken and embarrassed by the incident and later apologized to both the Democratic and Republican caucuses before Thursday’s floor session, and then made another apology on the House floor.

Mr. Reid said he had taken the tiny automatic handgun out of the breast pocket of his jacket, removed it from a thin pouch and was ejecting the ammunition clip from its handle when it discharged.

He said it was fortunate that the vest was hanging where it was because the .38-caliber bullet — about the diameter of a pencil — could have passed through the door and possibly hit someone outside.

Mr. Reid, a 16-year House member, received the vest last year as a gag gift from the sheriff of Henrico County, the Richmond suburb where he lives.

Mr. Reid said he obtained a permit to carry a concealed weapon two years ago.

“I think all of us occasionally get some phone calls that concern us, so during the session I’ve been carrying it,” he said.

Ticket to ride

A member of the Hagerstown, Md., City Council who got a free ride instead of a ticket for driving with expired vehicle tags is defending the special treatment by city police.

Alesia Parson-McBean said Tuesday that local police give her extra attention because of threats directed at her as Hagerstown’s first black City Council member.

“I’m sure that any council member that has been threatened, they would provide the same level of protection to,” she said.

Miss Parson-McBean was stopped by an officer Jan. 13 for driving with vehicle registration that had expired in November, the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reported. She wasn’t cited for the $60 offense and was driven by a supervising officer to the state Motor Vehicle Administration office to renew her tags, police acknowledged.

Lt. William C. Wright waited with Miss Parson-McBean for 30 to 45 minutes at the MVA office and then drove her back to police headquarters to retrieve her vehicle, Capt. Charles Summers, the acting police chief, said.

Miss Parson-McBean said she was on city business when she was stopped. She refused to disclose the nature of the business.

Capt. Summers said Lt. Wright had properly offered Miss Parson-McBean a ride because she “is a member of city administration and needed to get back on the road to do business for the city.”

Staying on

New Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine reappointed several officials named during the administration of his predecessor, Mark Warner, to serve under the secretary of Health and Human Resources.

Dr. Robert Stroube will continue to serve as state health commissioner, a post he has held since 2001. Dr. Stroube had served as Virginia’s health commissioner from 1991 to 1994.

Other appointments include: Anthony Conyers Jr. as commissioner of Social Services; Dr. James Reihard as commissioner of Mental Health, Mental Retardation/Substance Abuse Services; Patrick Finnery as director of the Department of Medical Assistance Services; Robert Nebike as director of the Department of Health Professions; Joseph Bowan as commissioner of the Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired; Ron Lanie as director of the Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing; and James Rotrock as commissioner of the Department of Rehabilitative Services.

Richmond ideal

The capital of Virginia could soon be a model city for a Mississippi locality.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported last week that about 85 business and government leaders from Jackson, Miss., will visit Richmond for three days this week to review Richmond’s efforts on things such as transportation, regional cooperation, teacher recruitment and economic development.

They also will take a look at development along the James River and downtown.

The trip was organized by the MetroJackson Chamber of Commerce. The entourage was scheduled to arrive yesterday.

mNew delegate

Republican Christopher K. Peace won a special election last week for an open seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Mr. Peace defeated Democrat John W. Montgomery Jr. on Tuesday in the special election for the 97th District seat, according to unofficial results from the State Board of Elections.

With all precincts reporting, Mr. Peace had 50.8 percent of the vote to Mr. Montgomery’s 48.4 percent.

Mr. Peace, 29, of Mechanicsville, works for a Richmond lobbying firm.

The special election was held to fill the seat of Republican Delegate Ryan Todd McDougle, who won the state Senate seat vacated by Lt. Gov. William T. Bolling.

Christina Bellantoni contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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