Volume XI, Issue 22 ~ May 29 - June 4, 2003

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Veto Session:
Maryland’s ‘Libertarian’ Guv Shows His Colors

Gov. Robert Ehrlich saved the toughest bills for last. And when he put away his veto pen last week, we learned a fair amount about the political character of Maryland’s first GOP governor in a generation.

In campaigning, Ehrlich promised that Marylanders would see a different stripe of politician — not the extremist that some expected by virtue of his congressional record and absolutely not the “tax-and-spend” Democrats Marylanders had grown accustomed to in Annapolis.

In his veto actions, we see and applaud the governor’s self-described Libertarian streak. Political party aside, Libertarians are committed to individual rights and freedoms with limited government interference.

Ehrlich showed his colors on that score when he ignored the White House and the anti-drug scaremongers to sign Maryland’s new medical marijuana law, which is aimed at very ill patients who smoke marijuana for the relief it can provide from chemotherapy and other suffering.

No, the Darrell Putman Act, which goes into effect October 1, doesn’t legalize or decriminalize pot; it simply sets a maximum $100 fine for sick patients arrested for possession rather than subjecting them to penalties of up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

We also saw the governor’s Libertarian outlook when he vetoed legislation enabling more liberal use of cameras to catch speeders. That was another good call by Ehrlich, given the tendency to deploy these corporate-run, Big Brother speed traps as revenue producers.

Ehrlich returned to more predictable footing in rejecting efficiency standards for electrical devices such as ceiling fans and washing machines. He said it burdened business with more regulations. We think a bigger sin is wasting energy so that we have to protect oil supplies at all costs — even war.

He stood on the same Republican footing to veto a $135 million hike in business taxes, part of an effort by Democrats in the General Assembly to balance the budget.

We find this Republican fixation on taxes somewhat perplexing. The massive tax cuts we are seeing from Washington largely benefit the wealthiest among us and contribute to the budget messes in states.

Similarly, Ehrlich’s veto of business taxes passes the buck down to county executives, who will be forced to make the hard decisions about cuts and be forced to find new revenues.

One might ask, who’s fooling whom?

Finally, some of the governor’s veto actions were just plain odd. How else can you explain his rejection of an issue proposed by Montgomery County fourth-graders and approved by the General Assembly: making walking the state exercise. Ehrlich, a jock at heart, said he didn’t want to burden state law books with frivolity.

But we think we know what he was thinking when he approved the thoroughbred as Maryland’s state horse.

Racetrack slots.



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Last updated May 29, 2003 @ 1:43am