Gov. Harry Hughes said today that he may call the Maryland General Assembly back to Annapolis to reconsider three major bills killed in the final hours of the regular session earlier this month.
The mention of a special session, which Hughes said was "just a possibility," sparked a hostile reaction from opponents of the previous defeated measures, who charged that Hughes was simply trying to get more state aid for Baltimore City.
Hughes announced that he was considering a special session this morning after meeting with several Baltimore officials and legislators who are upset that the legislature rejected a measure that would have given the city $3 million to increase police salaries.
The governor said he would study the police aid bill and two others rejected by the legislature-one that would restore bonding authority to Prince George's County and another that would provide $22 million for open space projects-and would call a special session only if he decided that the three needed immediate action.
The Baltimore politician, faced with the threat of a police slowdown if they do not get the money to provide raises, appeared confident after this morning's meeting that Hughes would call the special session.
"I feel reasonably confident that there'll be one," said Mayor William Donald Schaefer. "But I don't know when it will be."
But Sen. Arthur Helton (D-Harford County), who organized the surprising defeat of the police aid bill on the last day of the session, said the measure would be killed again if it were reconsidered. "I think better sense will prevail," said Helton. "Harry'd be foolish to call us back just to kill the thing again."
In an effort to get another shot at their police aid measure, the Baltimore politicians have suddenly emerged as the guardians of Prince George's County. Sen. Harry McGuirk (D-Baltimore), for instance, barged uninvited into the meeting in Hughes' office this morning and informed everyone there that the Prince George's bonding bill was "critically needed."
Ironically, McGuirk's concern for his Prince George's colleagues came on the same day that the Prince George's politicians decided they could get along without the bonding measure for at least another year.
Prince George's lost its bonding authority last fall when county voters approved a tax-limiting TRIM amendment. Under the county charter, bonds must be backed by the county's promise of unlimited taxing power. The measure killed by the legisture earlier this month would have restored that bonding authority, making it possible for the county to go forward with a $28 million school construction program.
"Frankly, I don't see the problem with the bonding right now," said Sen. Peter Bozick, the chairman of the Prince George's senate delegation. "We haven't even used up our bonding authority for 1979, and we've got assurances from the state that the money will still be there next year if we need it."
The four Prince George's senators who originally opposed the county bonding bill-John J. Garrity, Arthur Dorman, B. W. Donovan and Bozick-indicated today that they would kill it again if Hughes presented it at a special session.
"There's no way we'd change," said Garrity. "I think the governor's just trying to use it to get the police aid bill back on the table."