Young issue clouds opening of legislative session

January 15, 1998


Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS - Lawmakers kicked off the Maryland General Assembly's annual 90-day session Wednesday with much of the typical first-day air of celebration replaced by a restrained mood and some partisan fighting

"It's a little more subdued than it usually would be because of the (Sen.) Larry Young thing," said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington.

Despite an ambitious election-year agenda that likely will include debates over tax cuts, Pfiesteria, school funding and health care, the Young saga was the focus for much of the day, highlighted by a protest by hundreds of his supporters in front of the State House.


"The business of the legislature is pretty much at a standstill," said Sen. John W. Derr, R-Frederick/Washington.

The Senate is expected on Friday to vote on expelling Young, who was found by a legislative panel to have used his political office to benefit companies he controls.

"It's the first order of business before we get to the substantive issues of this body," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.

Munson said the Young matter was not much of a distraction because little business typically takes place during the first few days of the legislative session.

Nonetheless, the House of Delegates spent much of its first day of work embroiled in a spat between Republicans and Democrats over a procedural matter, coming on the same day House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, called for unity.

Some predicted the skirmish was just the start of partisan bickering this year.

"If this is the way the game's going to be played, watch out," said Del. Louise V. Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington.

Local lawmakers said they have high hopes for the session, a mood being buoyed by a $260 million state surplus that could pay for tax cuts, new schools and other projects their constituents want.

But the effects of the Young matter could linger, even if a Friday vote results in his expulsion.

Some expect Young, if expelled, to try to accuse other lawmakers of similar ethics violations.

"I think it's going to get real ugly," said Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, said his concern is that the matter has led to claims of racial bias. Young is black and the majority of the legislature is white.

"Unfortunately, it's become a race issue. That's sad for everybody. It shouldn't have to go to that level," Donoghue said.

In the longer view, the Young matter could hurt all state politicians as they face a more skeptical electorate in the coming year, said Del. J. Anita Stup, R-Frederick/Washington.

"I think it is going to overwhelm the entire session and the elections," said Stup, who announced last fall she will not seek a third term in office.

Munson predicted history will look favorably on how the legislature handled the Young matter.

"I think history will record we had a job to do and we did it, and then we moved on," he said.

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