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Milk a hot issue in Annapolis

March 16, 1997

ANNAPOLIS - In a year when the Maryland General Assembly is dealing with controversial issues like tax cuts and vehicle emissions testing, the one issue that seems to be drawing the most attention is milk.

The heated debate over legislation that would impose price controls on milk has attracted the kind of high-pressured lobbying usually set aside for regulatory reform or health care legislation.

Yes, it is milk that is sending numerous lobbyists on both sides of the issue into a flurry, whether they be bending a lawmaker's ear or constantly sending out dairy statistics and newspapers editorials that support their positions.

It got so bad that last week a grocery chain representative who opposes the milk legislation publicly accused Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., of working behind the scenes to get the bill passed by a committee.

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"It's just absolutely, positively untrue," said Miller, D-Prince George's.

Speaking of the milk bill, it has set the stage for an unusual ideological tussle between some conservative and liberal legislators.

In a debate on the Senate floor last week, it was the conservatives, many of whom represent dairy-producing parts of the state, who fought for the government controls.

Some liberals argued for free-market economics in keeping government regulation out of the milk business

"This bill is known for its irony," said Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson, R-Carroll/Frederick.

Some people have the fortune - or misfortune - of resembling famous people. For Del. Howard P. Rawlings, the famous person happens to be Eddie Murphy.

Well, not Eddie Murphy as he usually appears, but rather the actor in his role as "The Nutty Professor." Rawlings, a Democrat from Baltimore who leads the powerful House Appropriations Committee, bears a remarkable resemblance to the Professor Kelp character.

So when the House of Delegates passed the state budget last week, Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, told lawmakers to make sure they stopped by the fireplace in the chamber's lounge "to thank the person really responsible for getting the budget passed.''

Standing there was large cardboard figure of the professor, which prompted laughter from most lawmakers.

Rawlings also laughed, but played down the resemblance and resisted requests to pose for a photograph with the cardboard professor.

- By Guy Fletcher

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