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Group mulls governor's emergency powers

February 14, 2002

Group mulls governor's emergency powers



Annapolis

By LAURA ERNDE
laurae@herald-mail.com


Should the governor assume control in the event of a terrorist attack?

Does he need his own Security Council to advise him much like President Bush has the Office of Homeland Security?

These were some of the questions facing members of the House Commerce Government Matters Committee on Wednesday as they reviewed several pieces of the governor's anti-terrorism package.

The legislation resulted from a task force that was created after the Sept. 11 attacks.

One proposal would allow the governor to take control of an emergency in the event of an enemy attack. He could also choose to delegate his power to someone else.

"The whole purpose of this bill is to make sure the governor is firmly in charge," said Legislative Office Counsel Robert Zarnoch.

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Some lawmakers were concerned about giving the governor such broad power.

"He could give it to a janitor if he wanted to. He could even delegate authority to a nongovernment official," said Del. Michael V. Dobson, D-Baltimore City.

A separate proposal would create the Maryland Security Council, a 15-person agency with an executive director and staff.

Six people on the council would come from the governor's cabinet, including his secretaries of health, environment and state police.

It also would include the director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems.

The rest would be appointed from business, local government and the community.

Lawmakers were concerned that there won't be any firefighters or police officers on the council.

"You keep creating high-level boards and the people out there actively doing the work aren't consulted," said Del. Theodore Sophocleus, D-Anne Arundel.

Danna Kauffman, who works in the governor's office, said she was willing to work with the committee to iron out any concerns.

Del. Diane DeCarlo, D-Baltimore/Harford, asked if the state was going to reactivate the civil defense siren system in response to the threat of terrorism.

Ruth Mascari of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency said it wouldn't be worth the high cost.

In Baltimore alone it would take millions of dollars for a system that could only be heard outdoors, she said.

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