They did what they had to do, and they went home. That's the best that can be said of the special session of the
Lawmakers' actions may have staved off the fiscal and social damage that would have been caused by their failure last month, but what about the political fallout? Voters are keenly aware that lawmakers were responding to a crisis of their own making, one that fed the notion that Maryland has an absentee governor and an arrogant General Assembly leadership. Did the efficiency of this week's special session begin to erase that stain, or will it have lasting political effects? Here's how the key players come out.
Mr. Miller assiduously denies that his push for gambling was the reason for the budget failure, and whatever the truth is about what happened on the session's last day, he has taken every step necessary since then to move forward. He did not push for consideration of gambling this week, and he did not insist on reopening negotiations with the House on the tax package, instead sticking with an agreement that closely mirrored the lower chamber's initial plan. The smooth proceedings in the Senate this week suggest he remains firmly in control.
•House Speaker Michael Busch: Though some senators complained that the House negotiators' unwillingness to meet them halfway on taxes was the reason for the budget breakdown, Mr. Busch caught less of the blame for it than the governor and Senate president. During the special session, he held his caucus in line, with the only real challenge coming from a small group of
•The Republicans: House and Senate Republicans did an effective job of protesting against the work of this special session without overplaying their hands. They made sure the public knew that the so-called "doomsday budget" actually increased total state spending over last year — a point that sounds much more compelling than it really is but which requires a lengthy and complicated explanation to overcome. The decision of Republican senators not to mount a filibuster was also wise — it would be hard to argue that the session was a waste of time and money if they were responsible for the whole affair being longer and more costly.