The House Democrats felt McLendon, a Republican, wasn't prosecuting Tripp because of partisan motives. But their letter annoyed many Republicans, who said the legislature has no business telling prosecutors how to do their jobs.
"I think you have opened the door to a police state," Del. Robert L. Flanagan, R-Howard, said during a brief speech Tuesday morning on the House floor. Flanagan, the House GOP whip, likened the action to a "star chamber" and said the 49 Democrats who signed the letter did so "without thinking."
That bristled many Democrats, some of whom hissed at his comments. House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, said Flanagan was "very close" to being out of order.
The session then abruptly adjourned, but the matter didn't end there. Del. Gilbert J. Genn, D-Montgomery, stormed up to Flanagan's seat on the House floor and started criticizing the Republican loud enough to be heard over the bustle of the adjourning chamber.
"It's a slam-dunk felony," Genn said of Tripp's actions before angrily walking away.
No lawmakers representing Washington County signed the Tripp letter, but they said they didn't have the chance to, either.
The correspondence was circulated mainly among metropolitan-area legislators.
Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, said she would have signed the letter, based solely on the state's wiretap law, which prohibits secretive recordings made without the knowledge of all parties being taped.
As for the spectacle on the House floor, Hecht said, "That was interesting."
Hecht stands alone
On Thursday, Hecht found herself on the losing end of a few votes having to do with amendments to the county's tip jar gambling law, including a proposal of hers that would have forced fraternal clubs to give 20 percent of their gross gaming profits to charity.
The county delegation finally agreed on capping required donations at 15 percent.
After one of the votes, Hecht was the lone legislator in the eight-member delegation to vote against an amendment.
Sitting across from her at a large conference table, Sen John W. Derr, R-Frederick/Washington, said, "Well Sue, you stood alone."
Hecht smiled at Derr, paused briefly, and then offered a polite ribbing of her own.
"You know how that feels, don't you?" she said.
Bill deadline looms
Thursday is the deadline for bills to be filed so they will be guaranteed a committee hearing. After 5 p.m. that day, all proposed legislation must get approval from the Rules Committee.
In an attempt to get the legislation filed as soon as possible, the House clerks posted the following greeting last Wednesday morning on the chamber's electronic message board:
"Bring us your bills ... We will care for them and send them on their way, so they can have hearings and votes and maybe one day become law."
- Guy Fletcher