State Sen. Peter A. Bozick (D-Prime George's) smiled into the television camera set up in the Governor's reception room and said, "We wish you Godspeed, governor, and hope you'll be back with us very shortly."
For more than five hours today, Bozick and dozens of other witnesses talike, gestured, held up signs and otherwise played to three Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting television cameras in attempts to communicate their views about bills proposed for possible vetos by Gov. Marvin Mandel.
Mandel, who is recuperating from an apparent slight stroke, is confined to the Govenor's Mansion across the street, so the arranged to have the state-funded public broadcasting network tape the hearing for a private showing at the Mansion later this week.
There was an Orwellian atmosphere to the day-long hearing, as persons paid tribute before the cameras to the unseen chief executive who has retained the power of his office while Lt. Gov. Blair Lee III has served as his public stand-in for more than six weeks now.
While Lee and Alan M. Wilner, Mandel's chief legislative officer, presided at the hearing today, many proponents and opponents of the half dozen bills on the agenda deferred to Mandel in their remarks.
Del. Leo E Green (D-Prince George's), attempting to defend his bill that requires physicians to notify parents of before performing an abortion on an unmarried minor girl, addressed his remarks to "Gov. Mandel (with a nod at the cameras), Lt. Gov. Lee, Mr. Wilner."
During a discussion of a bill that would inpose a two-year moratorium on conversion of full service gasoline stations to gas-and-go operations. Mandel was praised by Victor Rasheed, executive director of the Washington Metropolitan Area Service Station Association for his "bold initiatives" in energy of conservation.
Others were able not so subtle. Dozens of persons wore hand-lettered paper buttons (Del Green's parental notification measure) and two women in the front row held up small signs that said "yes" each time a camera panned across the audience. At the end of the hearing on that bill, Green got permission for scores of persons who had been not permitted into the crowded room to parade past the television camera in hopes the tapes were still running.
Lee said hewill confer with Mandel on the bills "as much as he will listen,' and "assumes" the he'll have a greater voice in the decision than normal.
The lieutenant govenor, who described his role as "something like a hearing examiner," said that although Mandel will be handicapped by "not being able to ask questions" of the speakers, " the basic decision will be his" about which bill will be vetoed.
"I'll get to do the signing" of bills approved, "but he'll do the vetoing," Lee said.
Lee, who as "acting governor" already has signed nearly 700 bills passed by the 1977 General Assembly at three sessions, will preside at a fourth such ceremony here Thursday.
Deadline for signing or vetoing bills is next Tuesday, the day before the scheduled restart of Mandel's trial on U.S. charges of political corruption.
A television crew of seven, headed by assistant producer Arthur Bugg, was sent here from Owings Mills, in suburban Baltimore, to video tape today's hearings.
Warren Park, director of programs and operations for the public television agency,said the crew was loaned to the governor at no costs.
"We normally send the crew to Annapolis to televise the governor's weekly press conferences," Park said. "So we just considered today's hearing in that light," even though Park said the proceedings will not be shown on any of the agency's stations in Maryland. Park said that because that ailing governor has not had a press conference in several months "we were able to switch the time we had held for that" without additional costs. No one at the television center was able to estimate the cost of the action.
William Hallstead, director of development, said the network gets most of its money from the state's general fund. For fiscal year 1977, the legislature appropriated $4.6 million for the center which pledged to raise $13 million more on its own.