House overrides energy bill veto

January 21, 2004|By LAURA ERNDE

Over a local lawmaker's cries that it will hurt consumers and businesses, the Maryland House of Delegates voted Tuesday to override the governor's veto of an energy conservation bill.

It was the first veto override in 15 years, coming on the heels of last week's override vote by the state Senate.

The 92-47 vote fell along party lines, with Washington County's four Republicans backing Gov. Robert Ehrlich's veto.

The legislation requires appliances such as ceiling fans and floor lamps to meet higher energy efficiency standards.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, argued on the House floor Tuesday that his constituents will go to Pennsylvania or West Virginia to buy those appliances at a lower price.


"This bill creates a moat around our state and turns Maryland into an island of economic disadvantage," he said.

It sends the wrong message to companies such as Home Depot and Lowe's, which are building distribution centers in the county, he said.

The federal government, not states, should set energy efficiency standards, Shank and other Republicans argued.

Majority Leader Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore, said the state should be a leader in energy conservation. Retailers dropped their objections, she said.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, was the only county lawmaker to vote in favor of the veto override, changing his position from last year when he voted against the bill.

Donoghue said he supported the legislation this time because the majority should prevail.

In addition, he said, he doesn't think it will harm businesses or consumers.

"There's a lot of theatrics about the effects of that bill and it is not going to hurt people," he said. "Home Depot and Lowe's is not going to leave the state of Maryland over two products."

The Maryland Republican Party put out a press release blasting Donoghue for his vote.

"Not only did Delegate Donoghue's vote show his hypocrisy knows no bounds," said Eric Sutton, executive director of the state party. "His flip-flop showed that he is a man who will sacrifice his convictions for politics as usual."

The House also voted Tuesday to override Ehrlich's veto of two local bills.

One will allow 51 city child support enforcement employees to get retirement credit for years they worked for the agency when it was run by a private company.

The other will prevent liquor stores in the Canton area of Baltimore from opening near schools and churches.

Republicans argued that the bill was politically motivated to block a prominent GOP contributor from opening a bar.

Del. Carmen Amedori, R-Carroll, called it "nothing more than back-alley, mob-like politics."

Democrats said the legislation came at the request of the community, which asked for a liquor rule change that already exists in most other counties.

The last time the Maryland General Assembly overrode a gubernatorial veto was in 1989, with a bill that gave optometrists the power to administer eye drops.

Ehrlich said the override was a reaction to polls showing that his administration is popular.

"I think they wanted to remind me that they're the majority party," he said.

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