Former governor, now Comptroller William Donald Schaefer has been dismissive of his successor, Gov. Parris N. Glendening nearly every chance he gets. Last week, he even failed to show up for the governor's annual State of the State address.

Schaefer (D) sent Deputy Comptroller Stephen Cordi in his stead and was the only important official not there.

"He had a scheduling conflict," said Schaefer spokesman Mike Golden, who said the comptroller had scheduled "internal staff meetings" at the time of the governor's major speech.

So did Schaefer just forget that the State of the State comes along each year not long after the beginning of the General Assembly session? After all, he delivered eight of them himself when he was chief executive.

"I don't think it was a question of forgetting. The business he had to attend to internally took precedence," Golden said. "He's got a tight schedule. He's a busy comptroller."

Schaefer certainly was expected. He was among the officials, including Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Clinton), House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D-Allegany), Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D), Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. (D), State Treasurer Richard N. Dixon and Chief Judge Robert Bell, who Glendening (D) was to acknowledge, according to a text of his speech.

But when Glendening read off the list, he left Schaefer off. "It was taken off the teleprompter," said Glendening spokesman Michael Morrill, who said the governor's office was notified shortly before the speech that Schaefer wouldn't be there.

"He made a choice, and it was his choice to make," Morrill said of Schaefer's absence. "It speaks so clearly for itself."

Live, From the Floor of the House

Members of the Maryland House of Delegates have been advised: Be careful what you say.

For the first time, the floor sessions of the General Assembly are being broadcast live on the Internet. (The address is: http://mlis.state.md.us/asp/listen.asp) Lawmakers see this as great for their profiles--with only one potential pitfall. If they accidentally leave their desk microphones on, as they are prone to do, they can be heard in casual, unguarded moments.

This apparently is what happened last week, during the lull between the House session and the governor's State of the State address. Though there were apparently no missteps, House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. recognized the potential for embarrassment.

The next day, he warned the delegates to be careful. Moreover, he told them, don't even think about flipping on someone else's microphone as a practical joke.

For Your Information, Only

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission has ventured into the information business.

The WSSC this month sent letters to 400,000 ratepayers apprising them of a task force's recent inconclusive findings on whether the utility should be sold. The mailing included a WSSC Customer Advisory Board finding that rates "will likely increase 65 to 100 percent" if the utility is privatized.

And keeping it public?

Rates "should" decrease by 10 to 25 percent, the advisory board concluded.

No one should get the idea that the WSSC mailing, which cost customers $128,000, is meant to influence opinions on whether the utility should be privatized, said Marjorie Johnson, WSSC communications director. "It was written to inform in a concise way," she said.

Robey, Running Cold and Hot

Howard County Executive James N. Robey (D) had a rather eventful weekend. On Saturday, he got up enough gumption to dip into the frigid waters of the Chesapeake Bay as part of a fund-raiser for Special Olympics Maryland. Robey, who has taken the Polar Bear Plunge before, said the cold water wasn't as much of a shock as the cold air--about 25 degrees at Sandy Point State Park.

Robey recovered in time to try his hand at acting in Howard Community College's production of the "Wizard of Oz." He arrived at the college Saturday night to find a special parking space reserved for the Mayor of Munchkinland, the role college President Mary Ellen Duncan asked him to play. "I had three speaking lines," Robey said, acknowledging a fierce case of stage fright.

After his weekend's cold start, he spent Sunday night trying not to get hot under the collar. Robey was the subject of a roast by friends, family and colleagues sponsored by the Howard County chapter of the National Political Congress of Black Women Inc.

"I'm honored to participate in this roast of a 100-pound-plus turkey," said Mary Day, principal of Howard High School, Robey's alma mater.

There were jokes about his golf game, his snoring, his trouble getting the respect deserving of a county executive. Several speakers told of Robey's flying to out-of-town conferences only to have his luggage lost and his hotel reservations gone. But there wasn't much political bite to the roast, which included jabs from state Del. Frank S. Turner (D-Howard) and former county executive Charles I. Ecker (R).

Ecker delivered a series of one-liners. On his intelligence: "You can talk to Jim on any subject at all. He won't understand it, but you can talk to him," he said. On his talent: "He has more talent in his little finger . . . than in his big finger." On his golf game: "Ask Jim what his handicap is, he says the County Council."

Ba-dump-bump.

Robey's pastor, the Rev. Luther Starnes, recounted the touching tale of Robey as a teenager, mustering up the guts to make an advance on his now-wife, Janet. They took a walk, Starnes said, and after a silence, Robey turned to her and said, "Nobody loves me, and my hands are cold."

Janet, no sap, retorted, "Jesus loves you, and you can sit on your hands."

After the jibes, Robey, red-faced but good-spirited, was given a few minutes to dish it out to his friends and colleagues. "First of all, I'd like to thank the County Council members for coming out to share this night with me," he said sarcastically to the room of more than 150, none of them council members. C. Vernon Gray (D-East Columbia) was to have joined in the roast, but the council member was absent, reportedly due to illness. Robey wasn't so sure.

"When the snowstorm didn't hit and BWI airport was open, I knew Vernon would be getting on a plane and heading out of town somewhere," he said, referring to Gray's penchant for traveling as part of his duties as president of the National Association of Counties.

To Ecker, he said, "We've got to talk about the Republican representation on the County Council, the two youngsters." They have to learn, he said, that the county can't stop growth, cut taxes and increase services all at the same time.

New Role for Kasemeyer

State Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer (D-Howard) has a new role in the General Assembly. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Clinton) recently named him chairman of the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review. The group reviews state agency regulations for such things as proper procedural due process.

"While the day-to-day aspect probably looks pretty humdrum, the potential is there to deal with some significant issues," said Kasemeyer, the Senate's deputy majority leader.

Among several other committee assignments, Kasemeyer is a member of the Budget and Taxation Committee.

Staff writers Matthew Mosk and Paul Schwartzman contributed to this report.