State Capitol notebook

January 18, 1998

State Capitol notebook

by Guy Fletcher

ANNAPOLIS - Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, was turning a few heads when he entered the House of Delegates chamber last Wednesday afternoon, but it wasn't because he was wearing an Armani suit or sporting a new haircut.

No, what was immediately noticed was the "Hecht Yes!" button he was wearing on his jacket lapel - seemingly an endorsement for Democratic Del. Sue Hecht, who represents parts of Frederick and Washington counties.

McKee took some ribbing for the choice of accessory, especially among some GOP colleagues who half-jokingly wondered if one of their own was about to jump ship.


But McKee, an avid collector of political memorabilia, said the button is not a Sue Hecht button, but a button he found in a catalog of campaign promotional items. The button was used in a campaign in another state, he said.

He said he purchased the button and wore it for a laugh before giving it to Hecht, with whom he serves on Washington County's legislative delegation.

(McKee said he was unable to order a "Taylor for Governor" button he also saw in the catalog, which no doubt would have been a big hit with House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, who pondered but ultimately decided against a gubernatorial bid last year.)

As for Hecht, she said she was tickled to see McKee's button and is thinking about using the "Hecht Yes!" slogan during her upcoming campaign later this year.

Weather watch

Still haven't heard enough about El Nino, you say?

Then come down to the Maryland General Assembly, where fear and hyperbole over the much-publicized storm system is just brewing.

Last week House Appropriations Committee Chairman Howard P. Rawlings, D-Baltimore City, wrote a letter to Gov. Parris N. Glendening that the state's catastrophic event fund has currently dropped to $330,000, "which is insufficient to handle a serious emergency."

Rawlings is asking that $1.5 million be added to the fund.

After all, the mighty El Nino is upon us.

"It is vital that the state of Maryland be prepared to deal with emergencies, such as flooding, which may occur as a result of El Nino or any other catastrophe," Rawlings wrote.

Rough start

The legislature's opening day is typically much ado about nothing, filled with some light speeches and flower words and praise. Any work of substance that gets done is purely accidental.

Not this year, as both houses had a busy and somewhat contentious start to the 90-day session. That was expected in the Senate, which made the effort to remove embattled Sen. Larry Young its first order of business.

But the surprise came over in the House of Delegates, where debate raged over a proposed rules change in the way the chamber operates. A Democrat-backed plan intended to strengthen the legislature's already-strong committee system was viewed by Republicans as a scheme to tighten the majority-Democrat hold on what issues can be brought before the full 141-member chamber.

Several Democrats bristled that the Republicans were making a big deal out of nothing. But Republicans warned the skirmish could be a precursor for bigger partisan battles later in the session.

"I think it's an indication of what's going to happen down the road," said Del. Louise V. Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington.

-by Guy Fletcher

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