The legislative agenda for the all-Democratic Prine George's County Council this month is laden with measures that would dilute the power of Republican County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan.
Among the bills considered for the first time at a council session this week were measures that would strip Hogan of the power to make mid- or upper-level appointments without council approval, curtail the authority of the Hogan-appointed Cable TV Commission and require council approval before any county property could be sold or leased.
Council members said the bills are being proposed to strengthen their policy-making role and to counteract what they believe are tendencies by Hogan to ignore the priorities they have set during the last year, particularly staffing requirements for county departments.
"What we have seen is the council has made some firm decisions and they have been totally reversed," said council chairman Parris Glendening, who sponsored one of the bills. "He has shown a lack of sensitivity that the legislative branch sets priorities and the executive branch administers."
Hogan, however, charged this week that the council was playing partisan politics and trying to reduce his powers because he is a Republican.
"I don't think these things would be happening if I were a Democrat," he said, and cited one upcoming bill that would curtail the role of the Cable TV Commission as "the worst kind of political partisanship I've seen. If I had appointed Democratic patsies, they wouldn't be doing this."
Relations between Hogan and the council have been stormy since they all were elected just over a year ago. They have feuded primarily over development policy and appointments, with Hogan's biggest defeat occurring late last year when the council rejected his nominee for chief of police.
Since that time, Hogan and the council have had little contact -- the council was in recess until two weeks ago -- and therefore had little to fight about.
This weeks council meeting, council members and Hogan said, may change all that. At the meeting, one of the three bills that would curtail the executive's power was presented by Hogan's most vocal critic on the council -- Parris Glendening.
The bill would require that all mid- or upper-level department positions be included in the final council-approved budget and than any changes to that list come to the council for review and approval.
Glendening said the bill was designed to prevent the county executive from arbitrarily creating a new position and filling it with a person of his own choosing.
"The feeling was that he has used a little too much muscle in trying to get his people in," one council official said.
"People feel he has been politicizing the merit system and it's been bad for morale."
Although Hogan would not comment specifically on the bill, an official in his office said, "It's an attempt on the part of the council to deny the executive the people and positions he wants to run the government. This gets them (the council) into doing the job of the executive in reviewing personnel appointments and approving only the ones they want."
The aide described the cable TV bill and the county property sale measure, neither of which have been debated by the council, as "more of the same."
Council members said, however, that the cable bill was designed to allow adequate council input before cable TV franchises are given out. The measure requiring council approval before county property is sold or leased was proposed for the same reason, council members said.
Despite this week's political rhetoric, both Hogan and the council said they have no desire to repeat the bitter confrontations of last year. Neither side, however, seemed too optimistic about the possiblity.
Said one council official, "Who knows? Maybe Hogan will realize (as a result of the bills) that you can't just sit up on Mount Olympus and say, 'Nyet, nyet, nyet' or everybody will ignore you and do it without you."
And Hogan said, "Of course I expect them to keep doing this. What can I do? They take what they want."