For almost a decade, there had been one key person who made things happen in Annapolis: The governor would tell the lawmakers what he wanted done; the legislators, with only occasional resistance, would do it.
But this year, Maryland's General Assembly finally came into its own. Instead of doing the governor's bidding, legislative leaders thought up their own programs, cajoled their colleagues into agreeing and managed to get most of their ideas enacted into law.
The shift in power actually began two years ago, when Gov. Marvin Mandel began to get distracted by his own personal and legal problems and the lawmakers, almost like fractious children, began to feel their oats.
But there was nothing childish about the General Assembly this year. Legislative leaders pushed their colleagues hard from the beginning in order to maintain a steady and efficient pace. And in the fourth and last year of their stay together here, the often egocentric lawmakers seemed to have learned how to work with each other.
As a result, instead of waiting to see what Acting Gov. Blair Lee III had to offer, the legislators worked up their own agenda of priorities, designed to cope with such complex problems as rising property tax bills, the absence of any state obscenity law and the financial shakiness of the state employes' pension systems.
Lee did come up with a legislative package of his own, including his own brand of property-tax relief proposals, some ideas for broad-based income tax relief and an extensive measure designed to tighten the conflict-of-interest laws covering public officials.
By the time the session was over, however, the legislative leaders had accummulated a better batting average than Lee, enacting about two-thirds of the bills they cared about most.
It was a sign of the shift in powers in Annapolis that, by the last two weeks of the session, Lee was happy to associate himself with some of the lawmakers' achievements and with the compromises he and they had agreed upon.
There were a number of other signs of the growing legislative independence: Lee was forced to give up his biggest income-tax proposal, a tripling of the state's standard deduction from $500 to $1,500, in favor of a property tax-credit program for which he had a strong personal distaste.
On two other major proposals, one reinstituting a statewide antipornography law to replace one struck down by the courts, and another covering the ethics of public officials, Lee's own proposals were scrapped by the legislators in favor of similar proposals sponsored by members of the General Assembly.
The final crystallization of the shift in power came when two legislative leaders, Senate President Steny H. Hoyer and House Speaker John Hanson Briscoe, set up a weekly press conference - dubbed "The Steny and John Show" - on the same day as Lee held his, thereby almost guaranteeing themselves equal time on television's evening news programs.
Nonetheless, despite some late-session sniping between Lee and Senate President Hoyer, who are rivals in the upcoming Democratic gubernatorial primary, the acting governor has adapted gracefully to his new partnership role.
In a letter to The Washington post near the end of the session, Lee declared, "I do not expect to be successful all the time. Furthermore, I do not consider it essential that my programs are enacted in precisely the form in which I propose them.
"If the basic principle I advocated is adopted, but the language is changed somewhat, I won't lose sleep over that. Diversity, rather than uniformity, is an essential element in American democracy . . ."
Some lawmakers, too, found themselves pleased with the change in the governor's role."Marvin acted like both governor and Speaker of the House," House Majority Leader John S. Arnick said after the session ended. "Even those who didn't like him looked to him for leadership.
"Lee is more of a sit-down-and-compromise guy. I think it's to his credit that he's allowing the legislature to do its business for the first time in years."
There had been some question as to how well the lawmakers could do their business as a group, since every legislator would be thinking of his own re-election chances in the fall.
As the elections loomed, the session was expected to take on a carnival atmosphere, with lawmakers selfishly grandstanding for the voters back home. While some of this did go on, legislators managed for the most part to keep their election-year parochialism in the background. By the session's end, Senate President Hoyer had dubbed the 1978 session "The Year of Good Will."
Part of the reason for good will was advance planning by legislative leaders. By carefully arranging to dispense with the most pressing issues early in the session, legislative leaders avoided the eleventh-hour madness of recent years when lawmakers tried to cram decisions on important bills into the session's final hours.
"If we stopped now and did nothing else, it would still be the most efficient, session I've taken part in," said House Speaker Briscoe, a few hours before the close of the session.
There were a few tense moments, however, before the session's end. The most dramatic flare-up came on Good Friday, when Sen. John C. Coolahan (D-Baltimore County) tried to sneak through a final vote on an emotional issue - the question of state funding of poor women's abortions - when most of his colleagues were at dinner or in church. His ploy failed, but it provoked an angry war of words.
Another move, which didn't anger many legislators but which may irritate voters, was a maneuver lawmakers used to give themselves a pay raise. They took advantage of a quirk in state law and, by failing to get a majority of both houses to agree on a pay raise, guaranteed themselves the maximum possible raise - a 48 percent boost spread over the next four years. By 1982, legislative pay will be $18,500-annually.
In general, however, the lawmakers were businesslike about reaching compromises and dealing with constituent concerns. This year, perhaps more than in the past, the concerns they dealt with were those of the middleclass: high property taxes, high utility bills, crime, teen-age drug use, pornography.
"It's about time we did something for the middle-class," Del. Kay G. Bienen (D-Prince George's) declared.
What follows, in general, is a summary of what the legislators did and didn't do: Taxes and Budget
Despite widely differing attitudes toward the question of how to grant property tax relief to furious homeowners around the state, the legislators were able to agree on a seven bill package of property tax relief measures that has been sent to Acting Gov. Blair Lee.
The measures include a property tax credit program designed to give some $30 million in state funds to help defray the tax bills of about 124,000 homeowners stadewide. Tax credit would be granted on a sliding scale that takes into account income, the assessed value of a home and the tax rate of the homeowner's jurisdiction. Those homeowners with a net worth $200,000 or more - excluding their home - would not qualify.
The maximum tax credit available for homeowners under the age of 60 is $450; the maximum credit available under the expansion of the existing program for the elderly and the disabled is $900. In Montgomery County, the average credit is expected to be $216 and about 24,000 homeowners are expected to qualify for some credit. In Prince George's County, the average credits is expected to be $215 and 17,500 homeowners should qualify for some benefits. In Howard County, 8,000 homeowners are expected to qualify; the average credit there should be about $237.
(For more detailed information on credits in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, see accompanying charts.)
Also included in the tax package are measures that:
Roll back from 50 to 45 percent the percentage of a home's assessed value on which taxes are based. This measure, proposed by Gov. Lee, would ideally mean a 10 percent reduction in property tax bills. However, it also would cost the local jurisdictions 10 percent of their property tax revenues, so many areas may raise their tax rate to compensate for the loss. If they do, they will also cut into the homeowner's savings on the tax bill.
Prevent a homeowner from having to pay more than 15 percent on his tax bill from one year to the next solely because of assessment increases. While the state assessors may increase the assessed value of a home more than 15 percent in a given year, the owner cannot be taxed on any more than a 15 percent increase.
Allow a local subdivision to roll back the portion of a home's value on which the tax bill is based even beyond the new 45 percent mark.
Forbid assessors to increase the recorded value of a home solely because it is well-maintained.
Because several of these measures cut into local government income, the state also enacted a number of bills to help county officials defray their costs. The indirect tax relief measures include a bill giving $13 million in aid to local police departments ($1.2 million of this goes to Montgomery, $3.4 million to Prince George's) and a bill eliminating the requirement that local governments contribute to the state Medicaid program. The latter measure costs the state $4.4 million.
While enacting these bills, plus the governor's $4.35 billion budget bill - an 11 percent spending increase over last year's budget - the General Assembly failed to enact a pension reform measure that was billed as essential to the state's fiscal health.
The measure, designed to set up a second pension system covering the state's 150,00 employes and teachers - a system that only new employes would have to join, and which would eliminate the present requirement of employe contributions, but would also pay out a considerably lower level of benefits - was killed in the House of Delegates the weekend before the session ended.
Passed just before the session's end was a measure eliminating the tax homeowners currently pay on that portion of the utility bill based solely on the increased cost of fuel. To offset this $8 million revenue loss for the state, a new 5 percent sales tax has been imposed on all food purchased in restaurants when the total food bill exceeds $1.
The major income-tax relief proposal - tripling of the standard deduction - was sacrified to pay for the property tax program. However, income-tax relief measures that did pass included measures increasing to $5,300 the amount of pension benefits exempt from state income taxation and allowing new deductions for students and for parents who pay for day care for their children. Reform
It seemed at first that this would be the session reform legislation came of age in Maryland. Legislators who had been traditionally cool to reform measures were initially more receptive this year as they set out to show scandal-weary voters that they were serious about regulating the ethical conduct of public officials.
The lonely reformers of the legislature received a heady boost when both Acting Gov. Lee and Senate President Hoyer threw their support behind a comprehensive government ethics package as well as legislation to put teeth in Maryland's largely unworkable and heretofore unsuccessful public campaign financing law.
Despite well-orchestrated and well-publicized pleas by Lee and Hoyer for legislation that would help spruce up Maryland's scandal-scarred image, however, the reform issues gradually faded away. By the end of the session, all of the lofty proposals had failed and reformers went back again to their drawing boards.
The biggest disappointment for reformers was the death of the ethics package, a complicated set of proposals designed to tighten and expand conflict of interest and financial disclosure laws for public officials, regulate gift taking from persons doing business from the state and restrict moonlighting and post-employment activities.
The ethics package was severely watered down in the Senate and heavily weighted down with amendments in a House committee. By the time the measure limped onto the House floor on the final day of the session, its supporters had given up hope. They watched the bill die on the floor before a vote had been taken.
The bill to finance Maryland political campaigns with taxpayers' dollars did not even get out of a House committee after passing the more reform-conscious Senate by a wide margin. The committee chairman, an avowed enemy of reform legislation simply refused to let the legislation come up for a vote.
The legislation was designed to correct deficiencies in the state's 4-year-old public financing law by limiting funds to the top four officies (instead of all local and state offices covered in present law). The bill also called for state treasury funds to finance the program instead of the correct voluntary contribution setup.
Another reform measure passed by the Senate and killed in the House was a far-reaching proposal to consolidate all state procurement practices in one agency, adopt uniform inventory practices to save money on bulk purchases and require competitive bidding and advertising for all but the smallest state purchases. Education and Youth
The chief education legislation enacted this year was the restructuring of the state's aid to education program. A total of $26.7 million in new state education funds will be added to the current allotment, bringing to $305 million the state's total contribution to local education.
The extra money - which amounts to a statewide average of $33 in new money for each of the state's 811,000 public school students - will mean $4.7 million in new funds for Prince George's County and will give Montgomery County $1.7 million it wouldn't otherwise have had.
One education bill that failed to make it through in the hectic closing days of the session was a measure that would have placed a student member on the state board of education. The state board had opposed the idea.
However, the General Assembly did turn around on another issue and, after voting last year to phase out the state funding of the driver's education program, voted this year to leave the funding in the budget indefinitely.
Another measure affecting young drivers was enacted during the final week. The bill requires that 16 - and 17-year-olds who are getting their first driver's licenses must, for at least the first six months after they pass an initial driver's test, drive with a provisional license.
A teen-ager with this license could not drive between the hours of 1 and 6 a.m. unless a person over 21 is in the car. The bill was advocated by representatives of the state Motor Vehicle Administration, who presented studies showing that teen-age drivers were involved in a disproportionate number of fatal traffic accidents. If a teen-ager completes the six-month trial period without a traffic violation, he will be eligible for full driving privileges. Energy and Environment
The major environmental battle of the session ended with a victory for the state's utilities and a defeat for environmentalists. After July 1, Maryland, which until now had stricter air quality standards than the federal government, will relax its standards to conform with federal laws.
The chief beneficiaries of the measure are the state's large utility firms and the economically depressed coal-producing areas of Western Maryland. These mining areas generally produce a cheaper, lower grade of coal with a higher sulphur content. Under the old laws, the burning of this coal would have been forbidden within the state; the relaxation of the standards permits the state's industries to use this Maryland coal.
Environmentalists did win a small victory, however, with the passage of legislation giving citizens standing to sue a suspected industrial polluter even if they are not directly adversely affected by the pollution.
Another measure enacted this year was designed to help the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant cope with a national problem: There are almost no accredited places left to store the waste materials from nuclear power plants. The legislation permits storage at Clavert Cliffs beyond the present deadline.
In one bizarre move on the last weekend of th session, the House of Delegates, by two separate votes, made Maryland the only state in the country to formally decide not to participate in "Sun Day," the national day approved by Congress and President Carter to study and celebrate solar energy technology.
Finally, a year after the legislature enacted a measure allowing the state to help preserve farmland by buying easements from farmers who might otherwise sell to developers, lawmakers put some money into the farmland preservation program.
Of the total $4.5 million the farmland preservation administrators will have to work with, $2 million is transferred from the state's parks and recreation program and another $2.5 million is expected to come from farmers who do sell to developers and are forced to pay penalties for doing so. Health and Safety
Two key health issues - abortion-funding amd tje legalization laetrile - both provoked more emotional debate and histronics than any other questions the legislators debated this session.
In the end, after a series of Monday nights demonstrations that drew hundreds of people on both sides of the abortion-funding question, the legislators decided to continue to allow state Medicaid funds to be used to pay for abortions for poor women, but only under certain circumstances.
These restriction represent a compromise between the House - which wanted extremely stringent restrictions on abortion funding - and the Senate, which wanted no guidelines at all. Under the compromise, women wil be allowed to apply for Medicaid funding for an abortion if the continued pregnancy would endanger their lives, or would endanger their health, as certified by one doctor.
Federal regulations government Medicaid payments for abortions require that two doctors certify that the continuation of a pregnancy would damage the mother's health.
In addition, in Maryland, state funds can be used to pay for poor women's abortions if pregnancy is the result of rape or incest - provided a public health agency or a law enforcement agency is notified of the rape or incest. If the mother can positively determine that the fetus is deformed, she can also obtain state funding for an abortion.
The final resolution of the laetrile debate also ended with a compromise that allowed the legalization of the controversial cancer drug. The drug, which was popularized in Mexico in recent years, has never been recognized as effective by leading health authorities of the Food and Drug Administration.
Under the legislation originally passed by the House of Delegates, the drug, which is manufactured from apricot pits, could be prescribed by a physician only if the cancer patient was also undergoing a recognized and medically sanctioned form of cancer therapy.
The final law enacted by the General Assembly, however, does not contain a provision that others forms of treatment must be administered and requires only that the state have the right to inspect the laetrile to guarantee its purity. Impught to inpect the laetrile to guarantee its purity. Impure forms of the drug have been suspected as the cause of some fatal poisonings.
The chief safety issue dealt with by other so-called "freedom of choice" question such as laetrile. Adult motorcyclists persuaded the legislators to repeal the requirement that they wear helmets while driving on Maryland's roads. Those under 18 must still wear the protective headgear. Crime and Punishment
The most successful special interest group in Annapolis this session was Maryland's corps of special prosecutors who ended up with tougher laws to fight political corruption, pornography and certain kinds of drug abuse. A new death penalty was also enacted for several categories of first-degree murder.
The biggest gain for state's attorneys was the enactment of a package of bills to strengthen and close loopholes in Maryland's extortion and bribery laws. The new laws make it easier to prosecute public officials who take cash kickbacks in return for official favors.
Along with stricter laws, prosecutors won an extra year in the statue of limitations on such crimes as conflicts of interest, election law violations and misfeasance in office. The new law allows two years after a crime is committed to bring the case to trial.
Prosecutors had complained that the old laws were too weak to investigate and try political corruption cases. Almost all of the corruption convictions in Maryland in recent years were obtained by U.S. Attorney's office in federal court.
The new obscenity laws will fill the legal vacuum created when the Maryland Court of Appeals struck down the state's old statutes. The new law prohibits the sale, distribution and exhibition of obscene materials and covers all employes of pornographic bookstores and movie theaters.
A new law designed to combat the growing trend toward child pornography was also passed, making it a crime to publish or distribute obscene literature using pictures of children less than 16 years of age. The maximum penalty for a first offense conviction is five years in jail and $10,000 in fines.
Reacting to a statewide concern over the increasing abuse of the synthetic drug PCP, legislators doubled the maximum prison term for those convicted of selling or manufacturing the drug, which is beginning to rival marijuana as the drug of choice among teen-agers in both Montgomery and Prince George's counties. The maximum prison term was increased from 5 to 10 years and the top fine raised from $15,000 to $20,000.
After years of passionate debate over the death penalty, the legislature enacted a new capital punishment law with ease this session. The new law permits the death penalty for murders committed during arson, a robbery, rape or kidnapping, for mass murder, contract murder or the murder of a police officer or prison guard.
The controversial question of where to locate the state's next medium security prison took a new turn this session as legislators reversed last year's choice of an abandoned can company in East Baltimore. Instead, they chose an isolated city park in South Baltimore near the Anne Arundel County border for the site of the 890-inmate facility. Family
Children and the family caught the attention of legislators this year as in few sessions, Children of divorced parents, children in foster homes, children in a brush with the law or neglected at home all received special consideration this year.
The new law covering property divided during a divorce made the interests of children one of foremost considerations. The law was designed to give the wife, usually the non-wage earner, an equitable share of property during the divorce procedure.
But it also includes a new concept in American law: The family home. In order to give children security during a divorce, to prevent their uprooting from community and school, the law allos the spouse with custody of the children to keep the family home for three years without worries about property division. Most of the furnishings are considered part of this family home and would not be divided up for the three-year period as well.
This gives the spouse with custody of the children a chance to find a home adequate for the children. After this three-year grace period, the home will be divided along the same lines as the other property shared in the marriage.
A spouse can keep any property inherited, brought into a marriage or received as a gift from a third party. The rest will be divided as equitably as possible with consideration given to the length of the marriage, the contribution of both spouses, the age of the couple and the reason the divorce was sought.
Children also won new protection under a law designed to help them once their parents are divorced. Attempting to stop the increasingly frequent snatching of a child by the parent without custody, the legislature enacted a law that makes such an abduction a criminal offense.
Before, a child taken by someone other than the lawful guardian could not be retrieved by police because it was a civil offense. Now, police can intervene, bring the child back to the guardian and a solution can be reached speedily in the criminal rather than civil courts.
The final 11 bills of a two-year package were enacted this session to restructure the juvenile justice system. The program puts all juvenile courts on the circuit-court level, divides juvenile from adult offenders and increases the number of juvenile court judges. Two new judges were appointed the day after the session ended. One was Del. David Gray Ross (D-Prince George's), the principal [WORD ILLEGIBLE] of these measures and [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] juvenile master who came to the legislature to encourage these reforms.
For the first time, the legislature addressed the problem of the neglected child and enacted a law which provided the first legal definition of such a child as well as mandated aid.
The law defines a neglected child as one who suffers because proper care has not been provided by the parents (for instance, a child suffering from malnutrition). The law requires that social service agencies or the police be notified if certain people discover a neglected child. Then the child and the parents must receive help from local agencies.
Children also won their own office in the state bureaucracy. After five years of consideration, the legislature enacted a law to set up the Maryland Office for Children and Youth, which will coordinate all the programs for children and make recommendations for new aid.
There will also be a new network of volunteer commissions to regularly review how foster children are faring in their homes. It is a service long regarded as important in the state but one which agencies could not afford.
The legislature also enacted the first significant reform of the aid to dependent children since Maryland's Medicaid program began in 1966. Eligibility standards were raised and a single person can earn as much as $2,300 and still qualify for help [WORD ILLEGIBLE] old law only allowed an income of $1,800 a year.
A family of four can now earn $3,800 a year, up $600 from the old provisions. The changes should add about 22,000 people to the state's Medicaid rolls and costs up to $11.7 million more. Black Issues
The black businessman won big in the session this year. The Black Caucus got a four-bill package enacted that will give minority businessmen first claim to 10 percent of the state contracted the purchase of business. This means everything from the purchase of stationery to the construction of a four-lane highway should include a 10 percent contract to minority businesses.
The state will also set up a $2 million revolving fund to help minority businesses meet their bond obligations often required in major construction projects. Consumer Issues
The General Assembly did its best this year to put an end to jolting large increases in electricity bills. Last winter the Western Maryland customers of Potomac Edison got increases of up to 1,000 percent in their fuel adjustment rate because of the recently ended coal miner's strike.
That strike forced the utility company to buy expensive fuel other than coal and the company immediately passed the increased fuel cost onto their customers through the fuel rate adjustment clause.
Under the new law, the utility companies must go before the Public Service Commission to get approval before passing on more than a 5 percent increase in the price of fuel purchased.
For the first time, consumers will be able to recover money from contractors who have abandoned their jobs or done shoddy work, under a law enacted this session. Government
After an unsuccessful try last year, the General Assembly enacted a sunset law this session that requires a staff review of 62 different regulatory agencies between 1980 and 1983.
If the agency cannot justify itself during the review it will become defunct. Sunset laws are considered a reform tool by those attempting to cut out unnecessary bureaucracy.
The General Assembly also passed a law requiring recorded votes of legislators in their committees. Often major legislation receives its crucial vote in a committee - to either kill it, pass it or amend it - but often a voice vote is taken and does not reflect how legislators voted.
The General Assembly also passed a law to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November that would require the governor to allocate funds for programs passed by the legeslature.A few years ago, a state court ruled that the governor does not need to fund all programs under the state constitution. Legislators argue that this makes the governor a "fiscal dictator." The governor argued back that with a law auch as the legislature is proposing, he would have to fund politically motivated programs that would have little value for the taxpayers.