The Maryland General Assembly passed the halfway mark of its 90-day session last Friday and now, with less than six weeks to go, it is time for Gov. Harry Hughes and the state's 188 legislators to get this year's work done.
But first, they must wind through the legislative labyrinth, a passage that each year is clogged with skirmishes, exchanges of rhetoric and unending meetings.
Here, briefly, is an unlikely scenario that at least one person, granted a trip to Fantasy Island, wouldn't mind seeing played out in the State House. . . .
It begins when Sen. Rosalie S. Abrams, chair of the Democratic Party, resigns from the State Senate to take the newly created cabinet post of "Prince George's Watchdog." It is a job created by Hughes to make sure that someone keeps the Prince George's County Senate delegation from saying too many insulting things about the governor on the Senate floor.
Abrams is replaced in the Senate by former Del. Steve Sklar, the longtime opponent of the state's banks. Sklar immediately launches a filibuster against this year's bank bills (which do everything but allow the state's banks to foreclose on first-born children) and is immediately joined in the filibuster by the Prince George's senators, who have nothing better to do with Abrams watching their every anti-Hughes move.
When the Sklar filibuster reaches its eighth day, banking lobbyist William K. Weaver announces that all the state's banks are moving to Delaware. Hughes announces he is moving with them, but his press secretary Lou Panos tells him he can't do that and still be governor.
"Can't we pass a bill?" Hughes asks.
Having decided to remain, Hughes begins lobbying the legislature for his unborn child, the new state Department of Labor. But the legislature, about to pass the bill to create the department, is swayed when former gubernatorial candidate Robert A. Pascal comes in screaming, "It was my idea, Harry stole my idea." Unable to decide whose idea the new department was, the legislature refers it to summer study.
Furious, Hughes appoints 188 task forces, one for each legislator, to find out how each one was convinced to vote against the new department. He then locks himself in his office and refuses to come out.
Havoc breaks loose. Who is in charge? Lt. Gov. J. Joseph Curran Jr.? Mrs. Hughes? Lou Panos? Sam Bogley?
Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs quickly comes to the rescue-- on a white horse with a "Vote Sachs" sticker on its flank. It is his legal opinion, Sachs states, that Hughes has forfeited his office by locking the public out. He declares the office vacant and says a special election must be held on the 89nth day of the legislature to choose a new governor.
The candidates to succeed Hughes --who is still locked in his old office--line up immediately. Speaker of the House of Delegates Benjamin L. Cardin turns his gavel over to Majority Leader Donald B. Robertson so he can campaign.
Robertson announces that the legislature will meet nonstop until it has rewritten the state's constitution. "Then we'll start on that one that starts, 'We the People,' " he says, adding he has problems with some misplaced commas and semi-colons.
Former Lt. Gov. Bogley throws his hat in the ring and Mayor William Donald Schaefer of Baltimore announces he will make up his mind the day after the election. Pascal also announces, pointing out that he has nine unused TV commercials from the fall campaign ready for air. "And when I get on the tube," he says, "Harry's gonna hear my footsteps." When he finds out that Harry isn't running, Pascal drops out and goes goose hunting.
One week before the election, Sachs, Cardin and Bogley hold a televised debate. Bogley opens by apologizing to Sachs and Cardin for running against them, saying both are far more qualified than he to hold the office. But, he points out, he has been unable to find work since leaving office and he has seven children. He concludes by bringing his entire family on stage, saying, "Are you going to leave these mouths unfed?"
Weeping, Sachs and Cardin tear into each other for having the gall to run against poor Sam. Two days later, the Baltimore Sun comes out with its 12th and final poll of the campaign showing Bogley far ahead of Sachs and Cardin.
Desperate, Sachs and Cardin hold an all-night meeting and emerge to announce they are supporting former Gov. Marvin Mandel as a compromise candidate. The Mandel campaign picks up momentum quickly, and the former governor sweeps into office.
As his first act, Mandel names Bogley as lieutenant governor. He then goes before the legislature to announce, "We'll work something out," and everyone lives happily ever after.