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General Assembly opens

January 12, 2000

Maryland General AssemblyBy LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer

photos: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




ANNAPOLIS - The biggest surplus in the state's history gives the Maryland General Assembly a unique opportunity to solve the state's problems, House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. said Wednesday.

cont. from front page

The 414th General Assembly session got underway with a lot of tradition and ceremony - plus some talk about a nearly $1 billion budget surplus.

Gov. Parris Glendening, addressing the Senate, also foreshadowed the money debate to come.

"We are so full of enthusiasm and insight about what can be done this session. We have a very unique opportunity to make extraordinary investments in education and health," he said.

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But the legislature has a duty to be careful, Taylor told members of the House of Delegates.

"It is, after all, the people's money and not our money," he said.

Two local lawmakers will be closest to the debate because they serve on powerful budget committees.

Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, will once again serve on the House Appropriations Committee.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, is returning to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, although he's switching his emphasis. He's been appointed to a subcommittee that deals with health and social service issues instead of public safety, transportation and natural resources, he said.

"The problems of a huge surplus are equally as difficult as no surplus. A buck attracts a crowd," Munson said.

On the House floor, Hecht nominated Taylor to serve again as House speaker.

Taylor, D-Garrett/Allegany, is dedicated to public service and has been called "the idea man of the state," she said.

"Every state needs someone who dreams big," she said.

Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's/Calvert, was re-elected Senate president.

Taylor and Miller organized the 141 delegates and 57 senators into committees, which will sort through the thousands of bills that will be considered during the 90-day session.

Opening day was more subdued than last year, when most members brought family members to watch them get sworn in for their four-year terms. There were few family members this year.

"How quickly it all fades away," said Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

The gallery was filled with officials from across the state, including Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II.

As recently as a month ago, House leaders had talked about starting off the session in high style, with men wearing tuxedos and women in formal dresses, said Del. Robert A. McKee.

McKee, R-Washington, was just as glad that the idea never went anywhere.

"The thought of spending money to rent a tux just to walk out on the House floor? No way," said the notoriously frugal Republican.

McKee, chairman of the Washington County delegation, arrived an hour before the noon session started and spent the afternoon arranging for local legislation to be drafted.

The delegation will vote later this month on which bills to introduce, including a controversial increase in the hotel-motel tax to help fund a new baseball stadium.

"We will laugh a lot, whistle a lot and get a lot of good work done," McKee said.

Members of the local delegation were reappointed to the same committees as last year:

Mooney arrivesMcKee and Del. Joseph R. Bartlett, R-Frederick/Washington, will serve on the House Ways and Means Committee, which deals with taxes and education.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, is on the House Economic Matters Committee, which handles insurance and health care issues. Donoghue is also chairman of the Health Care Subcommittee.

Shank and Del. Louise V. Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington, are on the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee, which will wade through local government issues and ethics.

Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, is on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which deals with criminal laws and the courts.

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