The Maryland General Assembly, facing a midnight Monday adjournment deadline, must resolve today disputes over "pork barrel" legislation, truck weights, police aid and two key tax relief measures.
In a marathon session over the weekend, the legislature dispensed with numerous issues, approving the state's first comprehensive ethics code for public officials, repealing a 5 percent sales tax on residential fuel bills, and increasing the standard deduction on the state income tax.
After nearly four hours of debate, the legislature also passed a watered-down version of a controversial bill to permit Pince George's County to place juvenile delinquents over age 16 in adult prisons.
House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Baltimore) says he expects today's session to be "as smooth as can be" in the House of Delegates. But, "On the Senate side, we're very apprehensive as to whether a filibuster will be sparked."
The governor has the power to extend the legislative session if necessary, but such a move seems unlikely despite a number of unresolved issues, according to Senate Majority Leader Rosalie Abrams (D-Baltimore).
One dispute the assembly's leaders hope to resolve early in the day is what to do about the state's $150 million capital budget.
The Senate is insisting that the House of Delegates return $10 million for school construction and $5 million for a home-financing program for the poor that the House Appropriations Committee cut from the capital budget.
But the House insists that the Senate put back in the $21 million funding for the construction of four multi-purpose government buildings.
Some legislators have charged the buildings are merely "pork barrel" projects to benefit the districts of four delegates who serve on the appropriations committee.
Abrams said that a conference committee of three senators and three delegates will meet again today at 9 am to resolve the differences.
The fate of the capital budget hinges in part on an unrelated bill that would increase the amount of weights that trucks can carry in Maryland -an issue threatening to spark heated debate in the Senate and tie up the legislature's final hours.
Del. John Hargreaves (D-Caroline), chairman of the appropriations committee, wants both the multipurpose centers (one would be built in his county)-and the truck weight bill-and has said he will hodl up the unresolved items in the capital budget until the Senate passes the truck weight bill.
The House and the Senate also will have to resolve differences on a property tax package that would extend tax relief to homeowners under 60. The House and Gov. Harry R. Hughes favor a plan that would increase the tax credit for persons under 60, from a maximum $450 to $900.
Under a separate formula introduced by Sen. John Cade (R-Anne Arundel), tax relief would be available to more homeowners earning over $16,000 a year.
An issue that sparked a six-hour filbuster Saturday night-a $6.7 million police aid bill for the state's subdivisions-will come up again today.
A coalition of rural and suburban senators is opposing the bill because it would provide $3.3 million to Balti more while the remainder would go to the rest of the state.
At one point the filibuster threatened to delay the passage of the ethics legislation-the outgrowth of several years of political scandals in the state.
The ethics bill, which was a top legislative priority of both the governor and the Assembly leadership would tighten the restrictions on the kinds of gifts public officials can accept and increase the amount of information they must reveal about their personal finances.
The bill also would establish a state ethics commission with the power to investigate complaints of wrongdoing and conflicts of interest by public officials. The commission would have subpoena powers and be able to seek civil penalties against public officials.
The bill covers all elected officials, judges, members of the executive branch and state employes over grade 18, employes in policy-making positions and those who execute state contracts.