W.Va. legislators visit Md.'s General Assembly

April 03, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS -- After getting a peek at a different legislative universe, some visiting West Virginia lawmakers were brimming with observations.

State lawmaking in Annapolis, they said, isn't the same as it is in Charleston.

The five West Virginia legislators, all from the Eastern Panhandle, learned some ways of the Maryland General Assembly on Wednesday.

Del. Walter Duke, R-Berkeley, said it was interesting that Maryland delegates may stand and explain their votes, and others may change their votes while the explanation is given.

Del. John Overington, R-Berkeley, noticed how debate intentionally can be cut off when a lawmaker calls for a vote, something that rarely happens in West Virginia.

The idea for the interstate field trip developed out of the annual Quad-State Legislative Conference, when lawmakers from Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania discuss issues in common.


West Virginia's 60-day session is scheduled to last until early March, but this year representatives stayed in Charleston several days longer.

At that point, there was still about three weeks left in Maryland's 90-day session.

Pennsylvania's legislature meets year-round.

In Annapolis, the Eastern Panhandle representatives toured the governor's mansion, saw House and Senate floor sessions, went to committee hearings and met with members of the Western Maryland delegation.

They chatted with and learned from Liz Jones, a legislative aide to Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

The visitors said they came away with a few ideas for improving the West Virginia Legislature.

Sen. Locke Wysong, D-Jefferson, said he liked that a fiscal note - an analysis of the financial impact - is done for each bill in Maryland, which has a department devoted to supporting the work of the General Assembly.

Del. Jonathan Miller, R-Berkeley, said he was impressed that all of the roughly 2,700 bills filed in Annapolis get a hearing. In Charleston, it often takes lobbying to get a bill heard, he said.

Overington estimated that 15 percent of the bills filed are heard in committee.

Even the seating arrangement the visiting lawmakers saw Wednesday stuck with them.

In West Virginia's House, Republicans and Democrats are segregated. In the Maryland House, delegates are grouped by geographic region, rather than party.

Del. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, liked the mix.

"It cuts down on some of the gang mentality," he said.

"Overall, it's been a great day, to see them in action," Wysong said. "We all get to the same ends, but the means are different."

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