Maryland’s current Governor, Robert Ehrlich (R) is failing to get anything accomplished during his term. He was elected Governor in November of 2002. Since that time he has yet to figure out how to work effectively with the Maryland General Assembly which is dominated by democrats. As a lifelong republican, it would be more comfortable for me to blame the democrats for this lack of progress but having watched Ehrlich for the past two years I have to place the blame squarely on his shoulders.
It seems to me the Governor has failed to understand that he needs to work with the legistlature to actually get anything of consequence passed. Ehrlich seemed to spend the better part of a year and a half squandering political capital to try to get slot machines legalized in Maryland as the “solution to the states budget problems”. Personally I could not understand why it appeared that Ehrlich wanted to make this THE critical initiative of the term. It appears to me that Governor Ehrlich has been unwilling to compromise and as a result has gotten nothing.
The latest Debacle for Ehrlich is the move to address skyrocketing malpractice insurance premiums that are plaguing doctors in our state and forcing many to re-evaluate whether to stay in the business of medicine. The sad state of the healthcare industry and specifically the issues with medical malpractice is something I have written on before as it’s near and dear to my heart given my wife’s career as a surgeon.
When Ehrlich indicated medical malpractice reform was his highest priority I was pleased since I have seen first hand the enormous escalations in malpractice insurance costs in Pam’s business. I should have known better however since Ehrlich is incapable of actually working toward a common goal with the opposition party so trouble was on the way. Rather than work on the problem and involve the democrats he spouts off to anyone that will listen that this is an important issue and needs to be addressed all the while basically stonewalling the democrats rather than engaging them.
For months Ehrlich and the legislature have been sparring about a key difference in how to fund the cash pool that will be used to reduce the cost of malpractice insurance for Maryland’s physicians. The democrats in the legislature want to actually collect a 2% tax on HMO’s that is already on the books but has not been actually required by the state. The Governor has been chest thumping for months that if the bill passes with this tax, he will veto the bill outright.
On December 19th Ehrlich announces that he will call a special session the Maryland legislature for December 28th.
On the 21st with a flourish he inks the mandate for the special session in his office.
Needless to say, being called back in over the holidays did not endear Ehrlich with the legislature but they came back to work and rolled up their sleeves and formulated and passed a bill to address the malpractice mess. Since the bill requires the payment of the tax on HMO to fund the malpractice relief it now appears Ehrlich will veto it. The legislature may well overturn the veto but that remains to be seen. All in all this mess is in Ehrlich’s lap. He could have spent more time up front working the issues with the opposition and perhaps if he gave in on the HMO tax the overall bill could have been strengthened. But it would appear that where we stand now we can watch a man totally fail for the state, it’s physicians and his party.
I would like to personally say to Governor Ehrlich that this bill is not ideal but it’s better than the alternative (thanks to you that is nothing) so don’t veto it. If you do veto this legislation you can rest assured that for the first time in my life I will be going to the polls in 2006 to vote for a democrat for Governor of Maryland.