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Mooney-Miller rift continues

January 23, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Annapolis - In what would be the latest in a series of attacks on Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a local lawmaker said he may try to have Miller's name stripped from a state Senate office building.

Miller has been at odds with Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, and other Republicans since the 90-day legislative session began last week.

Mooney said he thinks the building, which was dedicated to Miller three years ago, should instead be named after the late Sen. Clarence Blount, D-Baltimore.

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"I think Senator Blount was a much more fair person. I think he understood the rules of the Senate apply to all members," Mooney said.

Blount, who died last year at age 81, served in the Senate for 31 years and was the first black majority leader.

He was known for giving eloquent speeches on the Senate floor and often spoke about proper Senate etiquette. Some of his colleagues called him the "Conscience of the Senate."

When asked about Mooney's proposal, Miller chuckled.

"It's early in the session and we're still in the silly season," he said.

Miller said he hopes Mooney will work with him this session to support several initiatives proposed by Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich. Those include legalization of slot machines and some modest tax increases.

Miller noted that Mooney voted to name the building after him in the first place.

Senate Republicans have been upset with Miller since Day One for changing the rules this session to make it more difficult to launch a filibuster. The filibuster, or extended debate, is used by those in the minority to try to block legislation.

Mooney has been among those leading the charge against Miller.

On Thursday, Mooney asked the Senate to hire a parliamentarian to police the rules. The issue is scheduled to be taken up today.

Mooney argues that Miller runs roughshod over the rules.

When Mooney tried to suggest a parliamentarian a day earlier, Miller silenced him.

There was a tense moment in the Senate chamber when Miller repeatedly told Mooney he was out of order and Mooney continued to talk.

"You're out of order," he told the Senate president. "You can't make it up as you go along."

Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, D-Baltimore City, urged senators to respect Miller as the presiding officer.

"We can disagree but we don't have to be disagreeable," he said.

On Thursday, Miller handed Republicans an olive branch by allowing Sen. Andrew Harris, R-Baltimore, to give a speech on the Senate floor that by innuendo was critical of Miller.

Harris said the presiding officer should be fair to every member, regardless of personal opinion.

"We call it a presiding officer. We don't call it a tyrant. We don't call it a ring-leader. We don't call it a despot," Harris said.

Miller said the Senate has a long tradition of working as a collegial body regardless of party affiliation.

"I think your comments, for the most part, are right on point," he told Harris.

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