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Legislative session opens in Annapolis

January 10, 2001

Legislative session opens in Annapolis



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer

photos: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

Above: Delegates Joseph R. Bartlett, R-Frederick/Washington, left, and Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, do some research before the session begins.

Above: From left, Delegates Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington and John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, meet Wednesday before the opening session of the Maryland General Assembly begins.

Above: Del. John Donoghue, D-Washington, nominates Del. Casper Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, standing at right, as speaker of the House.

Above: Maryland Speaker of the House Casper R. Taylor Jr., listens to a plea from Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and Del. John P. Donoghue for consideration for state funding assistance for a Civil War museum in Hagerstown.

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ANNAPOLIS - While one local lawmaker was nominating the House Speaker on opening day of the Maryland General Assembly on Wednesday, another was opposing the re-election of the Senate President.

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Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, was one of three senators who voted against re-electing Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. to the post.

The vote was symbolic, since Miller's selection as Senate president was overwhelmingly approved. The true power struggle took place weeks ago, when Miller, D-Prince George's-Calvert, survived a challenge to his leadership by Sen. Thomas Bromwell, D-Baltimore.

Mooney and two other Republicans said they were objecting to the way Miller handled last session's bill to require locks on handguns.

Miller used a little-known Senate rule last year to bypass the conservative Judicial Proceedings Committee and bring the bill to the Senate floor, where it passed. When Mooney objected to the use of the rule, he was shouted down by Miller.

"I do not think I was treated fairly. The minority party always has the right to be heard," he said.

Miller said he doesn't fault Mooney or the others for voting against him.

"I certainly understand their concerns. I encourage debate," he said after the session closed Wednesday. "The question is, do we allow a cadre of right wing people to block a gun safety bill?" he said.

Miller said he brought the bill to the floor because it was supported by a majority of the Senate and a majority of the people in Maryland.

The Senate Wednesday also reaffirmed its rules for the session, but not before Mooney asked that several be held back for more debate next week, including one that allows Miller to assign Republican senators to their committees. Mooney said he believes that Republicans should choose their own assignments, which is the same procedure used in the U.S. Congress.

While the Mooney-Miller drama was being played out in the Senate, things went as scripted in the House of Delegates, where Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, was unanimously selected to serve as speaker for yet another session.

"He is a peacemaker in times of turbulence and a mover and shaker in times of intellectual challenge," Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, said in nominating Taylor.

Taylor said he plans to continue this year with his "One Maryland" vision of bringing prosperity to parts of the state that are lagging behind.

"Those counties and regions that are doing well must acknowledge and hold to their responsibility and duty to help those who are not as prosperous," he said.

After opening day ceremonies, Donoghue helped Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II get a word with Taylor so he could repeat his plea for state funding of a national Civil War Museum in Hagerstown.

Donoghue also tried to set up a meeting with one of Glendening's top budget advisers, Art Hilsenrad, to get a sneak preview of the budget Glendening plans to unveil this month.

"Everybody wants to see Art Hilsenrad today," Donoghue said.

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