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Arguing with "Yes"

Gov. Robert L Ehrlich Jr's decision to sign a bill this morning requiring stricter air pollution standards caught a lot of folks by surprise. One of them was Prince George's Democrat Paul Pinsky, the Senate sponsor of the bill.

While Pinsky said he was delighted with the Republican governor's wisdom in endorsing the measure which will restrict carbon dioxide emissions and three other pollutants from coal-fired plants. But he was not so pleased about the governor's manners.

In Annapolis, a bill's sponsors are typically invited to the bill signing ceremony. Pinsky never heard from the governor, but learned about it from an aide while driving to Annapolis. He called the move "sophomoric."

Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver said the lack of advance notice was not intentional. "It was an overnight decision," she said, adding that "it's a pretty good day in Annapolis when we have legislators arguing with 'yes.'"

The bill signing did eliminate one element of suspense from the final days of the session. The pollution bill was one of several that legislative leaders rushed to the governor last Friday to preserve the option of overturning any vetoes. But when Senate clerks tried to deliver the air pollution bill sometime around 5 p.m. on Friday, the door to the governor's legislative office was locked.

It was unclear whether that constituted delivery of the bill--and whether Ehrlich would have to veto the measure before the General Assembly adjourns Monday. That's a moot point now.

Ehrlich also signed a measure that guarantees $15 million in the coming year for grants to support stem cell research being done in Maryland. Spokesmen for both Democratic candidates for governor questioned why Ehrlich didn't get behind the measure--or the air pollution bill, when they were considered by the General Assembly last year.

"Our only regret is that Maryland families could have celebrated these victories last year, were it not for Governor Ehrlich," said Scott Arceneaux, campaign manager for Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan. "We have unnecessarily lost a year of cleaner air and critical stem cell research to politics."

Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, said he "pleased that Mr. Ehrlich has reversed his position on the need for stem cell research and improving our air quality."

Ann E. Marimow and John Wagner

By Phyllis Jordan  |  April 6, 2006; 4:06 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly , Governor  
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