Stadium Backers Clinch Victory in Md. Legislature

By Charles Babington and Manuel Perez-Rivas
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 22 1996; Page A01

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Making last-minute promises to pour millions of dollars into schools and other projects, Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening won legislative approval today to build two professional football stadiums in the state, arguably the biggest victory of his 14-month-old administration.

The finale of the long-running debate was particularly wrenching for Montgomery County delegates, five of whom voted for the stadiums in a tacit agreement with Glendening to receive $36 million to build schools this year. Legislative leaders made no effort to hide the vote-dealing, one noting, "It comes out to $7 million for each vote."

The House of Delegates voted 81 to 57 to reject a measure that would have eliminated public financing for the $200 million stadium the state will build in Baltimore for the former Cleveland Browns. Delegates then voted 80 to 59 to defeat a proposal to block $22 million in state spending for parking lots at the $170 million Washington Redskins stadium that team owner Jack Kent Cooke plans to build in Landover.

The votes, which followed more than two hours of debate, clear the way for construction to begin on both projects. The Maryland Senate narrowly approved the stadium funding plans last week.

Glendening (D) hailed the return of the National Football League -- absent from Maryland since the Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984 -- and said, "Responsible members of the House ignored the political rhetoric which has characterized much of the debate on this issue and voted their conscience based on what is good for the State of Maryland." The stadiums, he said, will generate jobs, tax revenue and public enthusiasm.

Grading was underway this morning at the Redskins stadium site near the Capital Beltway, and a judge today rejected opponents' re quest for a legal injunction. Cooke said he is confident the stadium will open for the 1997 season. He said he managed to build the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., faster than most people thought he could, and "we bloody well can do the same with this stadium in Prince George's County."

Glendening made an eleventh-hour quest for stadium support, telephoning some delegates on the House floor late Wednesday and summoning others to his office. He focused on Montgomery County, the state's largest jurisdiction and home to the most spirited anti-stadium sentiment.

In the Senate, not a single Montgomery County lawmaker had voted for the stadiums. Glendening and legislative leaders wanted to avoid a similar shutout in the House of Delegates, believing it would reflect badly on their leadership and exacerbate regional tensions in the state.

Several legislators said the governor signaled that he wanted at least five votes from Montgomery County's 19-member House delegation. In return, they said, he indicated he would support $36 million in school construction for the county this year, far more than the $20 million it received last year. As head of the three-member Board of Public Works, the governor has the biggest role in apportioning school construction grants.

In the end, five Montgomery delegates, all Democrats, supported the Baltimore stadium funding: Peter Franchot, Henry B. Heller, Sheila Ellis Hixson, Nancy K. Kopp and Carol S. Petzold.

Glendening said he repeatedly has stated he would support $30 million to $40 million for Montgomery County school construction this year. "If there was never a stadium on the horizon, I'd be talking about the same amount of money," he said today.

However, Kopp told reporters that Glendening and House leaders had indicated that the county might receive as little as $24 million for school construction if it provided no support for the stadium deals. "It was clear the stadiums were going to happen anyway," Kopp said, so it was in Montgomery's interest to provide some votes and obtain more school funding.

Del. Howard P. Rawlings (D-Baltimore), who plays a major role in funding decisions because he is chairman of the Appropriations Committee, confirmed that Montgomery County will receive $36 million in school construction money because five of its delegates supported the Baltimore stadium.

"It will happen," Rawlings said in an interview. "But that was the only way it was going to happen. . . . It comes out to $7 million for each vote."

To accommodate Montgomery, Glendening and legislators will have to add $7 million to the statewide allotment for school construction this year, boosting it to $140 million. The money will come from a $15 million fund that is financed by tire buyers and used to clean up illegally discarded tires. Glendening aides said only $5 million is needed this year to clear the illegal dumps.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) was in Annapolis for today's vote and later defended the five Montgomery delegates who supported the Baltimore stadium. Arguing that passage of the stadium financing was not in doubt, Duncan said: "People need to understand that every vote cast today was meaningless, and they need to understand that what was at risk was everything Montgomery County is asking for, not only this year but next year. They [the five delegates] were looking at it as, `How do we keep Montgomery County at the table?' "

The 20 House members from Prince George's County voted 12 to 8 to support the Baltimore stadium financing, and they split evenly on supporting the Redskins stadium funding. The 10 who voted to support the Redskins package, all Democrats, were: Joanne C. Benson, Barbara Frush, Anne Healey, Brenda B. Hughes, C. Anthony Muse, Richard A. Palumbo, Joan B. Pitkin, James E. Proctor Jr., David M. Valderrama and Joseph F. Vallario Jr. The county's other 10 delegates supported an unsuccessful amendment offered by Del. Nathaniel Exum (D-Prince George's) to block state funds from being used to build parking lots at the Landover stadium.

School construction money wasn't the only favor Glendening offered to those providing stadium support, legislators said. Last week he proposed spending $500,000 for a teachers' mentoring program in Baltimore County, a top priority for Sen. Delores Kelley (D-Baltimore County), who was considered a swing vote on the stadium issue.

Kelley said the governor's move wasn't the only reason she decided to vote for the stadiums.

But she added, "It certainly made it less difficult maybe, because it was something my constituents cared about."

Staff writers David Montgomery and Dave Sell contributed to this report.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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