Senate president offers bills to restrict governor's leeway


ANNAPOLIS -- Saying he only wants to make government better, the Senate president yesterday introduced several bills limiting a governor's ability to make appointments and commute death sentences.

Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, said the bills, which he introduced, were not aimed at Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

"It's a matter of making the government better . . . of making participatory democracy better," he said.

One bill seeks to prevent a governor from commuting a death sentence after it is certain he is leaving office -- after a general election and before the governor's successor is sworn in.

"If a governor wants to commute sentences, that's their prerogative," Senator Miller said. "But I think they should do it when they are answerable to the people."

Another of Mr. Miller's bills would require a newly elected governor to approve any appointments made by his predecessor between the final general election and the incoming governor's inauguration. Another would allow the Senate Executive Nominations Committee to meet between legislative sessions to review and vote on gubernatorial appointments.

Yet another would require Cabinet secretaries who are held over from a governor's first term to again come before the Senate for confirmation at the start of their second term.

Mr. Miller also introduced an emergency bill that would require that the Senate approve any gubernatorial appointments to the Maryland State Arts Council.

Though the bills all have the Senate president's imprimatur, there's no guarantee they will become law. Said Mr. Miller: "We'll just throw it in the moat and see if it floats."

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