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Parties spar over elections board bill

April 01, 2005|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - House members on Thursday debated proposed legislation to change the procedure for appointing members of the state's elections board.

The bill, sponsored by a host of Democratic senators, would force the governor to appoint members of the opposite party who are submitted by that party's state central committee. It also would require the Board of Elections to obtain the advice and consent of the state Senate for its appointment of an elections administrator.

Currently, the governor makes appointments to the five-member board, who then are confirmed by the Senate for four-year terms. The only other restriction is that the board must include at least two, and not more than three, members of the two major political parties.

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The legislation has Republicans seething, since for the first time in more than 30 years a Republican governor has had the opportunity to make appointments to the board.

Democrats have been unhappy with Gov. Robert Ehrlich's nominees for two vacant Democratic seats on the board, and have been upset by Ehrlich's efforts to remove Democratic elections administrator Linda Lamone. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller held up Senate confirmation of some 200 Ehrlich appointees to state boards and commissions, including two from Washington County, in retaliation for Ehrlich's resistance to Democrats' picks for the elections board.

Negotiations were under way Thursday between Miller's and Ehrlich's offices to resolve that impasse, according to Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, who serves on the Senate Executive Nominations Committee.

House Republicans saw the elections board bill as one of a series of attempts by Democrats to tie Ehrlich's hands, and complained that it was being rushed through without proper public consideration.

During a floor debate Thursday morning, House Minority Whip Anthony O'Donnell charged that by letting the full House debate the bill before the House Ways and Means Committee conducted its own hearing, Democrats were putting the cart before the horse. The committee's hearing was scheduled Thursday afternoon.

O'Donnell's request to put the bill off was denied. But the Republicans weren't finished.

Del. Jeannie Haddaway, R-Talbot, offered an amendment removing the confirmation requirement from the bill.

Several Republicans defended Haddaway's amendment, but it failed as well.

O'Donnell offered a further amendment that would automatically remove any elections administrator convicted of a crime that resulted in jail time. It was defeated by a 2-to-1 margin.

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