Del. Deborah Rey of St. Mary's County. (Photo: Maryland State Archive)
There she was again on the House floor Wednesday morning. The Republican legislator was the lone voice questioning a bill sponsored by almost all the Republicans in the Senate to require a ballot be counted even if the voter subsequently died before the vote was tallied.
The Senate passed it unanimously, and except for Reys red vote, the House would have too. Rey thought it conflicted with other state law.
Its not personal, its policy, Rey says, explaining her renegade votes against bills sponsored even by members of her own Republican Party.
Yet Rey remains soft-spoken with a pleasant demeanor.
Legislators have come up to Rey in the past, she said, teasing her for always speaking her mind and questioning bills.
We are all independent thinkers, said Rey. We need to look at each others bills, its not personal its policy .The best piece of advice I ever got was that nobody up here can vote for me.
Rey says she always keeps her constituents of St. Marys County in mind as she makes judgment calls. She finds that if she explains her actions they are supportive, she said.
Even the Republican leader is supportive, despite her votes against GOP bills.
Rey is sometimes the lone red vote on any given subject, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, said House Minority Leader Nic Kipke. We in the Republican Caucus encourage our members to be independent thinkers, to read bills thoroughly, and to vote their conscience.
Rey focuses on the cost for taxpayers.
We were sent down here to lower taxes, that is the biggest push during this past election. The more we spend, the more we will have to raise taxes, said Rey.
Rey, 47, brings a different perspective to the General Assembly. Not only is she a minority as a woman, conservative Republican and the mother of two children. She is also a retired Air Force major with 20 years of service who eked out a 76-vote win over Del. John Bohanan, a respected senior delegate considered a moderate Democrat and an acknowledged expert on education funding.
One thing I know about her is that while she may vote against more bills than some, I can always count on her to support tax relief for Maryland, said Kipke.
Votes against budget
Rey was one of only 10 Republicans and just three freshmen to vote against this years state budget, HB 70. Her opposition was not to the governor, she said, but to the changes the House Appropriations Committee made.
We are taking from the teachers pensions. We are creating more state debt for us, by taking that money out of the pensions to put towards other priorities, said Rey. Gov. Hogan had passed a budget that cleared the structural deficit in one year, but then House Appropriations took it and they had to balance it with everyones desires.
Rey also votes against bills that create task forces to do what state jobs should already be doing.
Two bills that are an example of this are HB 926 and HB 780, both passing the House with only Reys vote in opposition.
HB 926 would create a pilot program that trains police in Baltimore City and County to deal with mentally ill citizens.
Rey believes the creation of a special unit is unnecessary.
Theyre already doing this, they want to create these special units we are already training everybody to handle this, said Rey.
A similar issue arose with HB 780, a bill to create a Task Force on the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. A House Republican was the lead sponsor and it had 14 Republican co-sponsors along with a handful of Democrats..
On that one, it seems duplicative of what we already have in the government If thats what their job is, why arent we making them do their job versus saying oh youre not doing your job good enough, lets go ahead and create another task force, said Rey.
In Reys opinion, if local governments can complete a task with existing resources, why do they need to come to the General Assembly and put it into law?
Its just a matter of why does this need to be a law? said Rey.
Then, there are some bills she simply disagrees with.
HB86, for example, passed the House with a 125 to 10 vote, moving onto the Senate for review.
This Montgomery County bill authorizes student members of the countys Board of Education to vote on some issues.
It really threw me for a loop, said Rey. They dont have contract authority in their own life, but youre going to give it to them in collective bargaining on behalf of the school board, on behalf of the taxpayers?
Rey is not concerned about ruffling Republican feathers, focusing on her mantra its not personal, its policy.
We really need to focus on that; if we do everything is fine, said Rey. Just 11 weeks on the job, she chuckled as she went on to say, but Ill let you know in four-years.