Gov. Harry Hughes signed 227 bills into law today and introduced three new cabinet secretaries, filling all but one of the recently created vacancies in his cabinet.
The three new secretaries are Frank A. Hall, to replace Thomas W. Schmidt as secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services; Brent M. Johnson, secretary of the new Department of Employment and Training, and Earl F. Seboda, who will replace J. Max Millstone as secretary of the Department of General Services. That leaves one vacancy, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Former delegate Torrey Brown, recently named as secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, is reported to be in line for that job.
One of the bills Hughes signed creates a new lottery game, Lotto, whose proceeds will be distributed around the state in proportion to the amount bet in each area. One of the most controversial issues of the legislative session, Lotto is expected to provide money-strapped Prince George's County with about $6 million during this fiscal year. Other jurisdictions will get proportionately smaller amounts.
Among other bills signed by Hughes at two ceremonies were the administration's package of five drunk-driving bills. They make it easier for the state to suspend licenses, increase the number of points assessed for alcohol-related convictions and take away the driver's option on the kind of test he can take when stopped on suspicion of drunk driving.
Hughes also signed three of the so-called "Roper bills," legislation designed to tighten the state's criminal sentencing penalties. The Stephanie Roper Committee was formed to campaign for new laws after the two men convicted of the murder of the 22-year-old college senior were given life sentences that would allow their parole in 12 years.
Largely as a result of that campaign, Hughes signed a bill increasing from 15 years to 25 years the minimum time that must be served in a murder where the death penalty had been sought. He also signed bills removing alcohol as a mandatory mitigating circumstance during a murder trial and requiring the judge and jury to see a victim-impact statement before sentencing a defendant.
Hughes also announced he would follow the recommendation of the State Police and his task force on drunk driving and expand the sobriety checkpoint program that operated in three counties on a 90-day trial basis earlier this year. The checkpoints are roadblocks at which all drivers are stopped briefly so police can ascertain whether a driver has been drinking.
Between bill signings, Hughes introduced his new cabinet officers. The one that attracted the most interest was Schmidt's replacement, since that department has created more problems for Hughes than any other during his five years as governor.
Schmidt replaced the liberal Gordon Kamka two years ago after Kamka's policies had put Hughes under tremendous fire. In appointing Hall, 43, the head of the New York State youth agency for three years and formerly the Massachusetts corrections chief, Hughes seems to have reached a compromise.
Hall is known as being fairly conservative but Hughes also announced the appointment of Calvin A. Lightfoot as deputy secretary. Lightfoot, former warden of the Baltimore city jail, is viewed as more of a liberal, closer to Kamka--and to Hughes--in corrections philosophy.