The Baltimore Sun

Democratic remarks leave the GOP miffed

When the Senate went into session Monday night, all of the Democrats were at their desks, but the Republicans were nowhere to be found. With no word on what was going on, the Democrats started thinking that perhaps the Republicans were boycotting the special session.

After waiting about 24 minutes, Sen. Delores G. Kelley, a Baltimore County Democrat, stood up and said, "Mr. President, move so much be considered the elimination of the other side," to much amusement from other Democrats.

A couple of minutes later, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said, "If they're not here today, let's hope they're consistent and they're not here Wednesday as well."

Turns out, the microphones were on, and Republican staffers heard the whole thing.

The Republican senators had not been boycotting, they had been in a caucus in the Senate office building and headed to the chamber as soon as the bells rang announcing the start of the session. When they heard about the Democrats' remarks, they were not amused.

Sen. David R. Brinkley, the minority leader from Frederick County, stood up yesterday to protest.

"There's a wonderful thing about technology, and that's that everything that gets said on the floor here gets recorded," Brinkley said before explaining where the Republicans had been.

"That's not appreciated," Brinkley said of the comments. "When you have committee members and they're involved in all the hearings and discussions, this is how we're rewarded?"

Miller chalked the whole thing up as a misunderstanding: "It was a miscommunication in the sense that the session was called, five minutes, late, 10 minutes late, 20 minutes late, no communication as to why."

Brinkley assured him that if the Republicans were going to boycott, it would not be a secret.

Andrew Green

Health coverage bill advances

A Maryland Senate committee approved legislation aimed at reducing the number of residents who go without health coverage but rejected $10 million in subsidies for small businesses that provide insurance to employees.

The health care expansion, which is contingent on the availability of funding, could cover more than 100,000 residents out of an uninsured population of more than 800,000. It raises the eligibility threshold for adults under Medicaid and includes $20 million in subsides for small businesses that do not now offer insurance.

Legislators might seek to direct the other $10 million for subsidies to a bailout plan for the Prince George's County hospital system. The full Senate is expected to consider the bill by the end of the week.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, who called the legislature into a special session to tackle a projected $1.7 billion budget deficit, has been criticized for pushing the health care initiative, which could increase state spending by more than $250 million within five years. With federal matching funds, the total cost of the expansion could be more than $600 million.

Laura Smitherman

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