"This is a message that ought to be listened to," said Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., D-Baltimore.
In the end it was an unusual coalition of Irish-American, African-American and other lawmakers that got the legislation tentatively approved.
Sen. David R. Craig, R-Harford, pointed out that the connection between the Irish-Americans and African-Americans goes back to each group's participation in the American Civil War.
"These people came over here (from Ireland) and immediately helped another group of people earn their freedom," he said.
But not all Irish-American lawmakers were embracing the legislation.
"For Patrick John Hogan to stand here and oppose this seems a little ridiculous," said a smiling Sen. Hogan, a Montgomery County Republican.
Hogan and other opponents said the legislature should not get involved in controlling what is and isn't taught in schools.
But Sen. Michael J. Collins, D-Baltimore, pointed out that lawmakers tell school systems all the time how to do their jobs. Just last year the General Assembly passed legislation that dismantled the Baltimore City Board of Education.
"So don't worry about telling them to teach something. Don't get too stressed out, because it's really no big deal," Collins said.
Losing her place
Del. J. Anita Stup, R-Frederick/Washington, briefly forgot last week where she'll be next year.
During a discussion at the Washington County delegation's meeting, Stup mentioned that a piece of proposed legislation should be reviewed this summer before "we" look into it next year.
"What's this 'we' stuff?" asked Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington. "You're not going to be here."
Stup announced last year she would not seek re-election to her seat in this year's election.
Taking the lead
Poole continued his re-emergence in the House of Delegates' Democratic leadership last week when he was named to the fiscal leadership group by House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr.
The group of about a dozen lawmakers meets weekly to guide the party's agenda on the state budget and other financial matters, Poole said.
"It's a real nice plum," Poole said.
Poole, who once served as majority leader in the House, has seen his legislative stock rise in recent months after he was appointed to the chairmanship of the Joint Audit Committee and also named to serve on the House Ways and Means Committee, which handles tax issues in the legislature.
A week earlier, Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, also moved up the legislative ladder when she was named a deputy whip.
Taylor, an Allegany County Democrat, called Hecht "a respected legislator in Annapolis and around the state."
That means all three Democrats in the eight-member county delegation are in leadership positions. Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, who chairs the county delegation, had already been serving as a deputy whip and chairs the House of Delegates' health care subcommittee.
The county delegation could wrap up this week its package of local legislation, including bills dealing with tip jar gambling, liquor regulation and help for the county's debt-laden water and sewer system.
To accomplish that task, and to meet a Feb. 12 bill-filing deadline, the delegation will hold meetings on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in Annapolis.
- Guy Fletcher