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Leaders convene

Spirit of cooperation pledged on the first day

Spirit of cooperation pledged on the first day

January 09, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - Democrat and Republican leaders pledged a new spirit of cooperation Wednesday on the opening day of the 417th session of the Maryland General Assembly.

But at least one local lawmaker showed that he's still willing to take strong stands against the opposite party.

Sen. Alex X. Mooney abstained from the vote that elected Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Prince George's/Calvert, president of the Senate for the 17th straight year.

Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, said he based his decision on Miller's inappropriate contact with judges who were reviewing the state's legislative redistricting plan. The Maryland Ethics Commission reprimanded Miller for his actions.

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"I didn't feel comfortable voting for him," said Mooney, who has voted against Miller twice before.

In the House chamber, Del. Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, was unanimously elected House speaker.

Majority Leader Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery, described Busch as someone who doesn't take himself too seriously, which will be an important trait in light of the difficult tasks ahead.

"Remember, we all come here as temporary caretakers for the citizens we represent," Busch told the incoming group of delegates.

Delegates raised their right hands to take the oath of office. Two new Washington County lawmakers were among them, Del. LeRoy E. Myers, R-Washington, and Del. Richard Weldon, R-Frederick/Washington.

"There's an anti-climactic aspect to all of this, you work so hard all summer," Weldon said.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, brought his wife, Cindy, and their 3-month-old son Caleb to the ceremony.

"Another 25 years, he's going to be doing this," Shank said.

Before the events began, Caleb was smiling and cooing at all the attention. But when the applause got loud, he started crying.

"It was when the Democrats were sworn in," Shank joked.

The state's two top Democrats, Gov. Parris Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, did not appear at the ceremonies.

Instead, Republican Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich and Lt. Gov.-elect Michael Steele addressed the incoming legislature. They will be sworn in next Wednesday.

Ehrlich said he felt comfortable standing in the House chamber, where he got his start in politics 16 years ago.

"Coming here is really coming back home," he said.

Steele also addressed the House.

"We have enormous challenges, but out of those challenges will come progress," he said.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, said the session is poised to be one of the most interesting in his 12 years in the legislature.

In the face of a $1.8 billion shortfall, Ehrlich has said he wants to avoid making budget cuts to education and to local governments.

"It's our job to work with him to accomplish that," Donoghue said.

Committee assignments for the delegates, which had been shuffled around for weeks, were finalized Wednesday. The assignments are important because they dictate the issues on which lawmakers will concentrate.

Shank, whose previous committee was dissolved in a reorganization, will now serve on the Judiciary Committee.

Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, will stay on Ways and Means, which will deal with the hefty issue of legalizing slot machines.

McKee will be joined on the committee by freshman Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr.

Weldon will serve on the Health and Government Operations Committee.

Donoghue is also on that committee, where he will chair a subcommittee dealing with trauma center and hospital issues.

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