With new members, Md. legislature back in session

January 12, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ |
  • Sen. Christopher B. Shank's son, Joshua, 6, left checks out the furniture on the first day of the Maryland General Assembly. Also with Sen. Shank are his son, Caleb, 8, and Shank's wife, Cindy.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

ANNAPOLIS — Dozens of new lawmakers took their places in the Maryland General Assembly Wednesday, a day of ceremony and tradition before the legislature settles down for three months of pressing business.

This year, legislators must figure out how to close a budget gap estimated at $1.6 billion.

But, on opening day of the General Assembly's 428th session, talk of the deficit was put on hold as legislators soaked in the moment.

Members of the Washington County delegation had family with them to share the experience.

As Del. Neil Parrott, a Republican, was sworn in, his parents, wife, April, and their three children were there to watch.

Christopher B. Shank, a Republican joining the state Senate after three terms as delegate, also shared the day with his family.

First-day festivities are old hat for Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, who had his son P.J., his sister and brother-in-law with him.

P.J. Donoghue was on crutches, having broken his ankle. The metal plates in his leg set off the State House metal detector.

John Donoghue smiled as he thought back to his first opening day, 20 years ago. P.J., now 23, was a toddler at the time and fell asleep with a teddy bear at his father's desk during the swearing-in ceremony.

Donoghue said he told Parrott on Wednesday, "Remember this day the rest of your life."

"This is a culmination of a huge effort," Parrott said later. "I'm very, very thankful and grateful to be here. It was wonderful to have my family — my wife, April and my kids — right there with me."

Parrott then talked about the work ahead.

"I'm taking this job pretty soberly, (with) a great deal of responsibility, and I want to deliver what I promised when I ran," he said.

Within the Washington County delegation, Sen. Ronald N. Young, D-Frederick/Washington, and Del. Michael Hough, R-Frederick/Washington, also are new to the legislature.

This will be the first full term for Del. Andrew A. Serafini, a Republican who was appointed in 2008.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, and Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, are back for new terms.

"There wasn't anything outstanding that normally doesn't occur," Edwards said. "It's a little more exciting because it's the first session of a new term. You have some new people here. That's always kind of exciting."

"I think it was a terrific day for all the new people, very exciting, especially for people like Neil and Michael," Donoghue said.

Del. Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, and Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert/Prince George's, were again chosen as speaker and president, respectively, without opposition.

In the past, then-Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, sometimes voted against Miller as president.

But Shank said he had no reason to vote no.

"He has the votes," Shank said. "He is the undisputed president of the Senate, to which you give him the respect. He is owed that honor."

Later, Shank gathered his family at the president's lectern and asked Miller to pose for pictures with them.

After he was sworn in, Shank said: "It's an exhilarating, humbling experience. I'm extremely grateful to the citizens of Washington County .... The trust they have placed in me — I take that very seriously."

Gov. Martin O'Malley and U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski were among the dignitaries who spoke to both chambers.

At one point, Miller asked the Senate's 10 new members to stand. He acknowledged their hard work in getting elected.

"Each and every one of them had a very tough primary or a very tough general election and deserve the right to be here," Miller said. "They deserve the right to be called Maryland senator."

"I thought that was very touching," Shank said later. "That was very nice of him to do that."

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