Three Pr. George's Senators Object to Hospital Bill
The Maryland Senate voted overwhelmingly today to give preliminary approval to legislation that would establish an independent state authority to take over Prince George's County's ailing hospital system as it seeks a new owner.
But the action came over the objections of three of the eight senators representing Prince George's. They voiced concern that amendments to the legislation, which reflects a long-sought deal between the state and county, could be a "deal-breaker."
The three senators were concerned specifically about the appointment process for the seven-member authority. Under the deal reached several weeks ago, the governor would appoint three members, the county would appoint three members and the county's Senate delegation would appoint the seventh member.
But the House of Delegates amended the legislation to make the seventh seat a joint appointment by the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate.
In a tense floor debate, Sen. Nathaniel Exum (D-Prince George's) questioned Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George's), who as chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee defended the bill on the floor. Exum asked about the appointment process.
"Has it been told to you that that's a deal breaker?" Exum asked Currie.
"No," Currie said.
Exum repeated the same question to Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D), chairman of the Prince George's Senate delegation. Muse replied that it could threaten the deal.
Muse, Exum and Sen. David A. Harrington (D-Prince George's) voted against a motion to approve the amendments, which passed the Senate 35 to 9. During a separate vote on whether to advance the legislation, Muse and Exum joined five Republicans in opposing the measure.
Asked by a reporter to explain his votes, Exum declined.
"I don't have to explain my vote," he said. "My vote is what it says."
The Senate will take a final vote on the bill Saturday. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), who represents part of southern Prince George's, said he expects the bill will pass and get to the governor's desk by Monday, when the 90-day legislative session is scheduled to adjourn.
"It's going to happen," Miller said. "It's going to pass tomorrow. It's a very, very important bill to Prince George's County and we cannot fail them and we will not fail them."
-- Philip Rucker
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