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General Assembly session officially opens

January 10, 2007|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS

Onlookers stuffed both government chambers at Maryland's State House on Wednesday, supporting the 141 delegates and 47 senators who officially took office.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, was cheered on by his wife and two sons, and his parents, as well as Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II.

Amy Weldon watched her husband, Del. Richard B. Weldon Jr., R-Frederick/Washington, take the oath of office for his second term.

On a brisk, bustling day heavy on customs and light on legislation, delegates unanimously re-elected Del. Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, as speaker.

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Senators voted 44-2 to re-elect Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert/Prince George's, as their president. Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, cast one of the dissenting votes.

Addressing the House, Busch said the 2007 session will include a renewed push to make the Chesapeake Bay cleaner, cut vehicle emissions, get health insurance for more Marylanders and focus on alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar power.

Speaking briefly from the House podium, Democratic Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley encouraged delegates to serve the public well.

"But don't get too far ahead of me before Anthony and I get settled in," he quipped, referring to Lt. Gov.-elect Anthony Brown.

O'Malley, who defeated Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich in the November general election, is scheduled to be sworn in with Brown on Jan. 17.

Outside the State House, O'Malley told reporters that the legalization of slots - one of Ehrlich's pet issues - isn't one of his priorities. He said he doesn't think he can pull factions together on the topic until after the session.

Although opening day gets to be routine after 20 years, Sen. George Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, said he was nearly as excited Wednesday as the first time he was sworn in as a delegate.

Edwards, who was accompanied by his wife, Linda, on Wednesday, became a delegate in 1983. In November, he won a seat in the Senate.

"I have to say, every time I walk in this chamber, it excites me," said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, a senator since 1991 and delegate for 16 years before that. "It's an opportunity to look ahead and see what can be accomplished in the time here."

Munson was joined by his wife, Sue; daughter Xanthy Hoover; and Hoover's son, Harrison Hoover. Harrison, 4, played with an animal toy on his grandfather's Senate desk as he waited for the ceremony to start.

At the start of Shank's last four-year term, 4-year-old Caleb was an infant and 2 1/2-year-old Joshua wasn't born.

"It's always great to have your family on the floor with you," said Shank, the new House minority whip. He wondered, hopefully, if his sons might follow him into public service.

"I've never lost that sense of wonder about the State House," Shank said, "and, at the same time, my sober responsibility to represent my constituents."

Cindy Shank said a new session means less time with her husband and a more hectic household. She said her children have come to understand: "Daddy's in Annapolis."

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