Gov. Harry Hughes' compromise gasoline tax plan, which will raise the state's gasoline tax by 4.5 cents per gallon over the next two years, easily passed the Maryland Senate today, setting up what is expected to be a much tougher fight in the House of Delegates.
As often happens in the Senate, what started out as a simple 30-13 vote in favor of the bill--a vote which took place without comment and so quickly that some senators missed it--ended in a confused debate which included a mini-filibuster in which none of the arguments had anything to do with the bill.
Twenty minutes after the bill had passed, Sen. Frederick Malkus (D-Dorchester) rose to ask for reconsideration because he had missed the vote. Majority Leader Rosalie Abrams (D-Baltimore), the floor leader for the governor on the bill, suggested that Malkus simply be allowed to add his "no" vote to the tally. But before Senate President James Clark Jr. could rule in favor of Abrams' motion, two other senators said they wanted to add their votes, and two more said they wanted to change theirs.
At that point, Sen. Julian L. Lapides (D-Baltimore) an opponent of the bill, asked for reconsideration. "I know this is an administration bill, but this is very sloppy," Lapides said. "Adding a vote is one thing, changing votes is another. You are making a mockery of this body."
Abrams then jumped up to suggest that "the senator from Bolton Hill Lapides has to learn to restrain himself. There is nothing sloppy going on here."
When it was finally time to vote again, two members of the Democratic leadership, J. Joseph Curran Jr. (Baltimore) and Melvin A. Steinberg (Baltimore County), could not be found. Immediately, three proponents stalled the vote until the pair returned.
On reconsideration, the bill passed 29-17. In addition to the 4.5 cents (two cents this year, 2.5 next) the bill provides an automatic increase of up to one cent each year beginning in 1984 as long as the wholesale price of gasoline exceeds $1.35.