Lack of staff has lawmakers hung up

January 13, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - If you tried to call the Washington County delegation when the General Assembly session opened Wednesday, you might have gotten an answering machine.

Or one of the delegates might have picked up the phone.

With no legislative aide to answer the phone and perform other office duties, the delegation is in a jam, said Del. Bob McKee, R-Washington, delegation chairman.

Chris Shank, who was sworn in as a delegate on Wednesday, worked as an aide during last year's 90-day session.

McKee's efforts to hire a replacement were hamstrung by a change in delegates' budgets, he said.

State legislative leaders decided to no longer fund positions for delegation chairpeople.

In the past, the aide's salary was funded partly with that money, and other delegation members chipped in to pay the rest.

Starting this year, the full salary will come out of McKee's, Shank's and Del. John Donoghue's individual budgets, which are to be increased, McKee said.


McKee said he couldn't hire anyone until the funding decision was made.

Last week, he was given permission to interview applicants, but interviews set for Friday were canceled when a winter storm hit.

Shank, R-Washington, has said he does not intended to perform his old duties on top of his new ones as a legislator. He said Wednesday he is willing to answer the phone as needed.

And as vice chairman of the delegation, he will have a say in choosing his successor.

McKee and Shank will interview job applicants today and hope to make an offer by Friday, McKee said.

They would like to hire someone as soon as possible, since the phones traditionally start ringing nonstop once the session officially begins.

"I'm not one to let the phone ring. If I'm there and the phone rings, I'll answer it," he said.

But for the times when no one's in at 321 Lowe House Office Building, there is always the answering machine.

With the absence of a legislative aide, Shank is the only one in the office who knows how to change the message on the answering machine. On Wednesday, the message still listed former Delegate D. Bruce Poole, Shank's predecessor, as a member of the delegation.

The phone number is 1-410-841-3447.

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