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Filibuster threatens local bills

April 09, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - Two pieces of the Washington County legislative agenda became stuck behind a Senate filibuster Friday over doubling the tax on a pack of cigarettes to 72 cents.

What began as a friendly extended debate on the tax hike turned into an ugly fight between the Senate and Gov. Parris Glendening that threatened to bring the rest of the session to a grinding halt.

One local measure would give the Washington County Commissioners the authority to license home builders.

Another would create a task force to study a state park at South Mountain Battlefield.

The Senate gave preliminary approval to both, but didn't take a final vote before 8:30 p.m., when the filibuster began in earnest.

Earlier Friday, it was difficult to tell there was a filibuster in progress.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. allowed the chamber to vote on a host of bills, including Washington County's right-to-farm legislation.

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The Senate also passed a collective bargaining bill with the approval of Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, and the dissent of Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington.

In the late afternoon, a swearing match broke out between Miller, a Prince George's County Democrat who opposes the cigarette tax, and other Senate Democrats who urged Miller to break the filibuster.

Glendening said he was outraged by the filibuster and has refused to accept a lower tax increase than the one designed to prevent young people from smoking.

Glendening threatened to use his veto power to stop the logjam.

It was unclear Friday how long the debate would last.

Sen. Clarence W. Blount, D-Baltimore City, said the filibusters he has witnessed have always ended when the public demands action.

"Ultimately, the majority wins," Blount said.

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