The end-of-session filibuster, almost an annual ritual in Maryland's state Senate, was revived tonight as a loose coalition of fiscal conservatives and angry Prince George's lawmakers tried to talk a $22 million bond bill for renovations to memorial Stadium in Baltimore out of existence.
The barrage of questions, amendments and general verbiage began shortly after the senators returned from dinner tonight, as Sen. Frederick Malkus (D-Dorchester) began demanding detailed accounts of what renovations would be made at the Baltimore stadium which houses the baseball Orioles and football Colts.
It soon became clear, however, that the long-term stamina of the filibuster was in doubt, since its Prince George's adherents were in the process of working out a compromise that would bring their county $1.1 million in public works projects.
"The governor was out to dinner, and right now that's our only sticking point," Sen. Arthur A. Dorman, chairman of the all-Democratic Prince George's County delegation, said as the filibuster began.
Half an hour later, Dorman was summoned up to Gov. Harry Hughes' office to work out the final details on the compromise.
Behind him, he left a Senate chamber that was a study in tedium. While Anne Arundel Republican John A. Cade picked up where Malkus left off, asking question after question about the details of the renovation plans, Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell III (D-Baltimore) snoozed and other senators fled the chamber for the more cozy confines of the Senate lounge.
"What's going on? I think it's a filibuster," said Sen. Peter A. Bozick, leaning wearily on a pile of telephone books near a hallway phone booth.
Bozick and his colleagues from Prince George's, however, were satisfied. For two days, they had been infuriated at their Montogomery County colleagues, who had used their opposition to the stadium plan to wrangle a concession from the governor and the speaker of the House, saving the county $450,000 in teacher pension costs.
That deal, however, saved Prince George's little, and cost them a cherished plan to increase gradually the state's share of the payments on Metro bonds.
Incensed that they had gotten only $9,000 in the stadium deal, most of the Prince George's delegation vowed to join the filibuster until they had received enough state money to cool their anger.
Enough, in this case, turned out to be $1.1 million, the total cost of three bills providing funds to renovate three historic sites in the county: Montepelier House, Magruder House and Buck House.
But, while they were no longer an active part of the filibuster, many Prince George's senators joined many of their colleagues in taking a benign attitude to the age-old parliamentary delaying tactic.
The filibuster "is an effective tool. There's times you have to resort to it," said Sen. Arthur A. Helton, a Harford County Democrat who last year led a last-minute fillbuster against a bill providing police aid to localities.
"I've been involved in too many of these things not to afford other people an opportunity to have their say," Helton said, grinning.
The lifeblood of any filibuster is the parliamentary rule allowing debate on any issue to continue unless three-fourths of the Senate's members object. With the aid of this rule, opponents of a bill even though in the minority, can wear down its supporters by stopping all other business until they get their way.
"I'm just out to kill this bill," said State Sen. Howard A. Denie (R-Montgomery)."I'm more and more coming to the conclusion that the best thing we can do here is say 'No' to a lot of the things before us."
Denis' perspective, like that of Sen. Walter A. Baker (D-Cecil), is that of a fiscal conservative. For them, this year's proposed $225 million tab for public works projects is too high, and the stadium renovation plan- representing one-tenth of the total -- is an unnecessary gift of state funds to private businessmen.
But, as debate dragged on into the evening, it seemed that their fight would not survive long after their colleagues started calling for cloture votes to cut off debate.