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| Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Hayden Duke | Jason Miller | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Edward Lulie III | Cindy A. Rose | Richard B. Weldon Jr. | Brooke Winn |


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August 29, 2005

A Class Act in Annapolis Moves On

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

He fought like a caged tiger on the issues he believed in. He is a liberal in every sense of the word; some of his most eloquent floor speeches came fighting for causes such as equality for homosexuals.

He is a member of Speaker Mike Busch's leadership team, and as such would defend the speaker against attacks from the Republican Party. Prior to the 2002 election, he was Speaker Cas Taylor's right hand man, serving as the majority leader. In that role, he led the floor fights for the Democrats.

He is an expert on the complex and sensitive issue of health care service delivery. His legislative experience in health insurance led to some major reforms, and he speaks with confidence and authority about the challenges faced by Marylanders in accessing quality, affordable health care.

He has a bit of a temper, but also has the fortitude to control it until those moments when it is necessary. Long on patience, but short on tolerance of grandstanding, his judicious use of the gavel preserves order in the committee hearing room while allowing folks who travel to Annapolis to express themselves.

He delegated authority with ease and insight. All of his subcommittee chairmen have distinguished themselves in their respective legislative specialties, notably Pete Hammen (D., Baltimore), who should ascend to the chairmanship), who has been directly involved in some very tough insurance issues; Marilyn Goldwater (D., Montgomery), who has led the charge on long-term care; Shane Pendergrass (D., Howard), who has untangled some long-standing health occupation disputes; and Dave Rudolph (D., Cecil), who has done an outstanding job on prescription drug issues.

John Adams Hurson (chairman, Health and Government Operations Committee), elected by the people of lower Montgomery County, has served our state with diligence and distinction. Everything I wrote about him above reflects why Democrats hold him in such high regard.

Here's some stuff he probably wouldn't have added to his political resume but are clearly characteristics that will make him a successful (and profitable) lobbyist on Capitol Hill in Washington.

For the last three years, John has quietly worked behind the scenes with the Ehrlich Administration to negotiate compromises on major health care legislation. Craig Williams, the governor's deputy chief of staff who deals with healthcare matters, has worked with Chairman Hurson to craft important compromises that allowed bills to move ahead.

Granted, sometimes those compromises came about due to Delegate Hurson's threats to bring a bad bill to the floor, but these guys all know the game.

Chairman Hurson did his work without much fanfare. A colleague of John's from Montgomery County, Del. Peter Franchot, is known for seeking out any microphone or TV camera every time he speaks. He'd do well to take a lesson from John. If you have something worthwhile to say, the reporters will come seek you out.

John gave the Republicans on the committee numerous opportunities to take the lead on important policy discussions. I'm not implying that he gave Republicans equal footing, far from it. The back room meetings are still designed to allow the Democrats to decide which bills pass and which bills fail.

Bills sponsored by Democrats are still more likely to pass than those sponsored by Republicans, especially those bills that address ideological issues. While John is open to our ideas, he's still not going to allow bills forwarding the conservative agenda to make it out of committee!

On a personal note, John allowed me to become actively involved in procurement reform, based on my past professional experience. He made it clear to me my first year on the committee that I should play a vocal and high profile role. Previously, I had heard all of the old horror stories about Republican freshmen being relegated to a sit down/ shut up role on the committees.

Finally, and indicative of the kind of leader John Adams Hurson is, I've watched him make a place for Don Elliott (R., Carroll/Frederick) in debates over pharmaceutical issues. Don is a retried pharmacist, and knows a great deal about drugs and health care in general.

Don is sort of my role model. I've been watching and learning from him. I've been impressed by how far John goes to include Don, how interested John is in Don's thoughts, and how inclusive John has been when it comes to Don's ideas.

I'm certain that Don would second my comments. In fact he's done that on several occasions.

Chairman John Hurson has served his constituents and Maryland with honor and distinction. His leadership has paved the way for major health care reform initiatives, and his work has already had a significant and positive impact on tens of thousands of Maryland residents who need access to care.

I'm fortunate to have served with such an outstanding legislator. Too many members of the current Maryland General Assembly are more focused on their own legislative careers than they are serving the people of Maryland. Not John Hurson!

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