In about a month, a commission on pay disparities between men and women in Maryland is required by law to release a preliminary report -- a task complicated by the fact that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has yet to appoint any of its members.
The General Assembly approved the panel in the 2004 session, but the bill was vetoed by the Republican governor. The Democrat-controlled legislature overrode his veto in January, but the governor still has not selected the members.
Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D), who would like Ehrlich's job -- and presumably the support of Maryland's female voters -- went to Annapolis yesterday to point this out.
"Maryland's workers should not have to wait another day to achieve paycheck fairness, and I urge the governor to stop dragging his feet," Duncan said at a news conference held within earshot of the executive mansion.
He was joined by several female lawmakers from Montgomery and by other assorted boosters of the yet-to-be formed Equal Pay Commission.
Ehrlich, whose support in polls from female voters lags behind his support from men, happened to walk by on his way back to the mansion as Duncan was speaking. He did not stop or otherwise acknowledge the gathering. An Ehrlich spokesman later disputed Duncan's contention that the governor was moving too slowly. "The governor has always made appointments within accordance of the law," spokesman Henry Fawell said.
Fawell said the administration is reviewing candidates and will announce its selections for the commission "at the appropriate time."
The law that established the commission calls for it to issue a preliminary report Sept. 30. A final set of recommendations is due a year later.
Lawmakers passed the legislation by wide margins during the 2004 legislative session. But in his veto message, Ehrlich noted that current law prevents employers from paying employees differently based on gender. Moreover, he said, an office charged with fielding complaints about the law had not received any in a decade.
"As such, I am not convinced that this is a problem in need of a solution," Ehrlich wrote. He also argued that the state, given its budget crunch at the time, could not afford to commit the resources.
None of those arguments was well received by Duncan or other boosters of the commission, who said yesterday that full-time working women still are paid 30 percent less than their male colleagues.
Sen. Sharon M. Grosfeld (D-Montgomery) said Ehrlich's decision to pass by the news conference was "typical."
"This administration is not interested in the welfare of at least half its citizens," she said.