Volume 14, Issue 15 ~ April 13 - April 19, 2006


General Assembly ’06: So Long, Not Good-Bye

On the road to Damascus, a bright light came down and knocked Saul of Tarsus off his feet, as the Bible says.

Bob of Arbutus must have seen a similar light, as did some General Assembly members. We’re speaking here of Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s decision last week to reverse course and sign into law the Healthy Air Act, which puts Maryland among states most serious about ridding the air of harmful pollutants and global warming gases.

The new Clean Air law stands as the signature achievement of this General Assembly.

Thank the Lord for election years, when politicians do see the light. This year the light might well be angry voters with torches gathering in mobs for the November election.

The General Assembly adjourned this week without solving a major piece of the people’s business: forcing BGE to retreat from its plan to raise rates an average of 72 percent this summer.

We think the General Assembly has the will and the way to succeed in a special session. The will comes from the certain knowledge that with prices at the pump soaring again, no voter is willing to stomach huge new costs for air conditioning this summer, too.

And the way? Legislators and the governor — if he’s willing — have the capacity to block Constellation Energy Group, BGE’s parent company, from merging with an even bigger company in Florida. There are bonuses at stake, a powerful incentive for utility execs at the bargaining table.

Thus far, Marylanders can mostly applaud the goings-on in Annapolis. The General Assembly and the governor were smart to authorize a $15 million stem cell research program, putting Maryland among the leaders in this fast-evolving scientific pursuit.

Legislators were wise in refusing to put Maryland among the leaders in another category — intolerance — by rejecting efforts to put an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment on the November ballot.

We were disappointed that the effort to require paper trails from the ballot box fizzled, and we would have liked to have seen restrictions on eminent domain so that money-hungry jurisdictions can’t seize property for developers.

In the realm of the environment, we were disappointed at the clumsy effort to restrict a massive development on the Eastern Shore that would threaten Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

But we were pleased at restoration of more than $350 million for land conservation after several years of moving away from Open Space preservation. And for the most part, we think the 11 percent budget increase is allocated in the right places.

That said, we’ll be giving the General Assembly an I for Incomplete — until we see how they handle BGE in the special session. We trust legislators will see the light.

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