The Maryland Senate voted today to close off a 3 1/2 day-long filibuster, and approved the capital construction budget for next year with a controversial $26 million appropriation for an East Baltimore prison intact.
The mid-morning vote to shut off the intermittent filibuster signaled the end of the Senate's patience with the effort of three Baltimore legislators to hold up action on the $89 million construction bond bill, which contains public works "goodies" for all of Maryland's local jurisdictions.
More than one-quarter of the entire capital budget cover the state's proposal to build a prison on a 25-acre site that was until recently the home of a major factory of Continntal Can Co.
Sens. Robert L. Douglass, Clarence M. Mitchell III, and Joseph S. Bonvegna, the Baltimore Democrats who conducted the filibuster, outlined two general complaints about the prison project in their three days of talking.
First, they said, the prison would destroy the two communities, one black and one white, that abut the Continental Can site. "These people ought to have some say about the economic and physical well-being of their community," said Douglas. The two communities, the senators said, are two of the most stable neighborhoods in East Baltimore.
The other complaint concerned the propriety of the arrangement by which the state contracted to build a prison at Continental Can.
The land is now owned by developer Morton Sarubin, a cousin of Irvin Kovens, Gov. Marvin Mandel's political patron and chief money raiser. Sarubin bought the land for $1.9 million last August, and four months later signed a contract with the state that guaranteed him a profit of between $1.1 million and $2.6 million on the sale.
After the Senate voted to allow only one more hour of debate on the capital budget this morning, Sen. Frederick Malkus (D-Eastern Shore), an elderly, conservative Senate veteran who was an unlikely ally of black and ethnic organization politicians who fought against the prison, weighed in against the contract.
"Honestly and truthfully, one hour is not enough time to read this confound lease," said Malkus. "The Senate of Maryland does not know what's in this lease. We don't know what we're getting into."
"This is one of the worst written leases and antistate leases I've ever seenin in my life," he added in a later speech.
According to the lease between Sarubin and Mandel's office, Sarubin would receive between $3 million and $4.5 million for the land. But on Thursday night, the Senate approved an amendment offered by Sen. Charles Smelser (D-Frederick) that limits the amount the state can pay Sarubin to $2.9 million.
If the amendment is not removed in the House of Delegates, it is unclear what effect it will have on the proposed land sale. At a hearing in February, Sarubin said he was reluctant to enter into a deal with the state, and did so only because the state "held a gun to my head."
Neither Sarubin nor his attorney was available for comment today.
The Senate voted to add several other restrictions to the original contract between Sarubin and the state.One would prevent Sarubin from doing the construction work on the prison building, as the contract provides.
Another would force Sarubin to reveal the financial details of his anticipated benefits from the Continental Can deal. Sarubin has consistently maintained that $1.8 million is not the true price of the land he bought from Continental Can, but only a paper figure that will help him obtain financing.
The capital budget bill now goes to the House of Delegates.
In other action, the Senate enacted today a program that will allocate $200,000 to pay businessmen to hire students for summer jobs. The program, sponsored by Del. Donald L. Rosenshine (D-Anne Arundel), will reimburse businessmen for one-third of the wages they pay summer employees, up to $200 per student.
About 1,500 students will be eligible for the program, which was approved with little debate. One of the few questions about the bill was raised by Sen. Edward T. Hall (R-Anne Arundel), who later voted for the bill.
"It's demeaning for students to know the government is paying for them , that they can't get a job on their own," said Hall.
"What can be more demeaning than not to have a job?" replied Sen. Tommie Broadwater (D-Prince George's).
Finally, the House passed a bill that will restructure the small loan industry, generally raising interest rates, and raising the amount of money small loan companies can lend from $3,500 to $6,000.
Also today, the annual attempt to require dumptrucks to cover loads of loose materials died when the House Economic Matters Committee killed a proposal that had passed the Senate.
The sponsor, Sen. Howard Denis (R-Montgomery), complained that the committee chairman, Del. John S. Arnick (D-Baltimore County) called for a vote on the bill "as soon as he knew there were enough votes to beat it." Denis said a delegate who favored the legislation told him that Vice Chriamen Irvin Hoffman (D-Washington) was checking off the arrival of committee members by using the roll call record of how they voted on a similar bill, sponsored by Del. Charles A. Doctoer (D-Montgomery) that also died in committee.
The Maryland Motor Truck Association had lobbied heavily against the measures. The night before the committed voted down Docter's version, truckers' lobbyist Albert J. Mascaro was host to a dinner for many members of the committee.