This year's General Session should be productive

Posted on January 06, 1999 at 18:30:41:

It will be a very proud day for me on January 13 when I will join 46 other state senators and 141 delegates when the 413th General Session convenes at noon. Once again, the state's legislators will be faced with a most serious task -- introducing legislation that will hopefully make Maryland a better place to live after we adjourn on April 12. I truly believe this will be one of our most productive General Sessions since I've been in office.

I was struck by a recent comment by the highly regarded retired U.S. Senator Sam Nunn (D-Georgia) who told an interviewer that the work being conducted by state governments is becoming increasingly more effective than that done at the national level.

"I had the feeling, and I still do that...state and local decisions [are] going to have more effect, or at least as much, as federal decisions," Nunn said.

Having served with Senator Nunn in Congress for 10 years and now serving in the State House as your state Senator, I am inclined to agree with his point of view. The legislative process of Maryland's government is far more inclusive of and more hands-on with our constituents than the national government which is too often perceived -- sometimes rightfully so -- as too bureaucratic, too distant and not in touch with the people.

In Maryland, Senators and Delegates serve in Annapolis for only 90 days and the rest of the time, we are out in our districts listening to the concerns of our constituents. Since embarking on my political career in 1974, my number one priority has been doing whatever I could through legislation or other means such as correspondence or personal telephone calls to local, state and national agencies to help a constituent in need.

Through the next few months, I hope to introduce legislation that will address health care especially for the elderly; lobby extensively to get our tobacco farmers a substantial amount of money out of the recent settlement Maryland reached with the big tobacco companies, and make sure Southern Maryland gets its fair share of funding for infrastructure, schools and volunteer agencies. Once again, I will push for the legal blood-alcohol limit in which a driver is deemed intoxicated be dropped from .10 to .08. I'll also support a ban on partial-birth abortion which I believe has a good chance of passing this year.

I am currently formulating other potential legislation that I believe will greatly benefit Southern Maryland. During the session, I will consistently keep you abreast of all of my legislative proposals.

Of course another major task the General Assembly will undertake will be to approve the governor's budget early on in the session. While we face a major budget surplus and economic times are good in Maryland, it is essential that we approve a budget that is fiscally responsible. This is not a time to be spending money wastefully -- it never is.

As you probably know, getting legislation passed is no easy task. This is, after all, politics and each member of the House and Senate comes armed to Annapolis with their own agenda. Bills have a tough time being made law since thousands of proposed legislation is introduced each year.

The process of getting a bill to become law is first introduced on the floor of the Senate or House then assigned to a committee. The committee then hashes over the bill, calls witnesses who favor it or not then decides if it merits getting out of committee. Most bills that do get out of committee and onto the House and/or Senate floor for a vote undergo substantial rewrites or revisions. Compromise in committees is a daily process. Once a bill does pass the House and Senate, it's still not a sure thing. The governor must then sign the bill into law. While he has not vetoed many bills during his four years in office, Governor Glendening's powerful pen is still formidable and nothing is a done deal until he signs the legislation into effect.

While members of my staff and I will spend a good portion of our time in Annapolis dealing with the rigors of the General Session, it is imperative that all of my constituents know that our door is still open for all who seek our help or who want to weigh in on proposed or impending legislation.

Our Southern Maryland district office, which is normally operational Monday through Fridays when the General Assembly is not in session, will remain open only on Monday during the 90-day General Session. The rest of the time, we can be reached in Annapolis. As always, my office in Great Mills and in Annapolis has an open door policy. Our Annapolis number is (800) 492-7122 (ext. 3673). Our district office is (301) 994-2826. Please do not hesitate to call us if you have a concern or a problem.

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