General Assembly Journal 2007 - Volume 6
It's been a week of ethics, Bay reefs, healthcare, Cal Ripken, and truck nuts. If these subjects seem oddly out-of-place, disconnected, or misplaced, remember that this is Annapolis and the General Assembly is in session.
Carrying our little ethics bill over from the week before, the delegation held a "work session" meeting last Wednesday. This was a first for us, a roll-up-your-sleeves type of meeting where political rhetoric is held to a minimum, and the focus is actually on getting some real work done.
We met in a cavernous room on the first floor of the Lowe House office building; in its prior life the room had housed my committee. Those rooms have been converted to multi-purpose spaces, and the real benefit was the addition of a phone line and a speaker phone.
County Attorney John Mathias wasn't able to make the 70-mile trip to Annapolis, although Commissioner President Jan Gardner was here on other business. John was with us via the speaker phone, and was instrumental in resolving a few sticky issues.
We slogged through a list of changes, and dealt with a number of concerns raised by the county commissioners. In the end, we emerged from all of this with a pretty good bill, although enforcing some of the disclosure aspects may be a little tricky.
On the Bay reef front, the Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus has worked with several environmental groups and special interests to purchase many of the "remains" of the former Woodrow Wilson Bridge that used to span the Potomac River between DC and VA.
By raising between $500,000 and $1.5 million, the state could purchase the old bridge sections, grind much of it up, and then spread it in areas in the mid-Bay that could become either oyster beds or other aquatic habitat.
In addition to expanding important shellfish and fishing species, oysters are often referred to as the vacuum cleaners in the Bay. Adding large sections of artificial reef habitat will encourage substantial species expansion, which appeals to the fishing rod crowd.
On Friday morning, I was a co-host for a major announcement. Dominion Energy announced a $250,000 matching grant towards the larger goal, and I've been able to get one-third of the House of Delegates to co-sponsor a bond bill to generate the rest of the money.
The Health and Government Operations Committee continues its work on the healthcare access bill. That's the bill that would extend health insurance to 250,000 Maryland residents who don't have access to healthcare now.
That's also the bill that would pay for that insurance expansion by adding a $1-per-pack cigarette sales tax. Last Tuesday, I got up early (or earlier than normal) in order to call in to Bob Miller's Morning News Express radio show on WFMD.
Bob's basically a big-hearted conservative, and while he understands the need to expand access to healthcare, he doesn't think a cigarette sales tax is the way to pay for it. I'm open to any way to generate $210 million dollars, because the number of uninsured continues to grow; and we all pay for their care through the "all payer" system in Maryland.
We had a nice little chat, but I think it ended with us agreeing to disagree.
So, how does Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr., factor into my week? The Orioles and their lobbyist hosted a luncheon event featuring big Cal. They brought him to the floor of both chambers, and then whisked him off to the lunch location.
As I walked in the door of the Governor Calvert House on State Circle, there was a line of roughly 100 people, many clutching balls, cards, and sports magazines. The line turned out to be the photo line, and after about 20 minutes, I got to shake hands and pose for a photo with Cal himself.
I joked with him about a charity game the Orioles had played against an "all star" team at Brunswick High many years ago. Several of the Brunswick players tell stories of Cal's basketball prowess, and of his slashing elbows.
After the picture, Cal stuck out his right hand as if to shake, then pulled me towards him. As he did, he shot his left elbow into my left side. Now I have a Hall of Fame bruise of my own!
I can't wait for the picture, though. There are very few "ego" photos I'd want to hang on my office wall, but a picture of Cal and me standing together will definitely make it there.
Finally, what are truck nuts? Well, they are the anatomically correct representation of male genitalia that droop from the trailer hitch of a number of vehicles you've seen on the roads.
Del. LeRoy Myers (R., Allegheny/Washington) has introduced a bill to prohibit the display of anatomically correct human or animal genitalia or offensive body parts. After everybody stopped laughing, it became apparent that we'd actually have to deal with a bill.
Is the proliferation of truck nuts a serious problem? Are we swimming in truck nuts? Will the emotional well-being of a generation of Marylanders be negatively affected by truck nuts?
Uuummm, probably not. LeRoy says a constituent asked him to file the bill. Turns out the constituent is a sheriff's deputy and probably someone who sees a load of nuts bouncing around as he's driving local roads.
I'm guessing LeRoy is already having second thoughts, as he's been called by radio shock jocks and the butt (no pun intended) of a number of newspaper reporters innuendo humor.