General Assembly Journal 2009 – Volume 5
Four weeks gone, but it seems like four months. Already we’ve seen some interesting debates and disputes, but the really troubling stuff lies ahead.
Things got off to rocky start for the Frederick delegation when a mini-leadership dispute popped up. Del. Joe Bartlett had expressed an interest in serving as the delegation chairman following my resignation before the start of session. He filled the role of vice chairman during my tenure in that spot.
The leadership question went unresolved for a couple of weeks, as we were missing a few delegation members. In the meantime, Del. Paul Stull decided he’d like to return to the position he gave up a few years back. Only problem is that it seems like he didn’t let Joe know.
Both seemed to be trying to round up votes, but the communication between the two of them must have missed comparing the commitments both had garnered. In the end, Delegate Stull was elected chairman, and Delegate Bartlett refused an offer to serve as the vice chairman. Del. Galen Clagett was elected to that position.
As I’ve written in the past, it’s no great shakes to serve as chairman. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest it’s a major pain in the kiester, having to play nursemaid-in-chief to colleagues in the legislature and recipient of the complaints from the county commissioners. I’m glad to be rid of the honor (?).
Now, on to more pressing issues now that one has been resolved.
- Trash franchising got thrown in the big blue bin of history, right where it belongs.
- The bottle return bill was returned to its originator.
- The toll system was sent on a long, long journey.
- A dispute over the fair way to increase the compensation of the county commissioners resulted in no increase whatsoever
Sunday hunting will move forward with a few more bow and gun days to help manage our blossoming deer population. In the spirit of not satisfying everyone, the Farm Bureau still appears to object, as do folks who stroll through the woods. Might be a good time to start that blaze-orange clothing concession! Leave your antler hat at home when you plan a Sunday walk in the Frederick watershed.
The state budget is still desperately searching for a cash infusion from someone, anyone. The U.S. House of Representatives version of the federal stimulus bill included $300 billion in money for the states, so spirits in Annapolis soared at how $3-$4 billion could close the gap and balance the current budget with almost no effort.
Unfortunately, and almost as quickly, the U.S. Senate trimmed much of that state bailout money from their version. Gov. Martin O’Malley and his team are anxiously awaiting the Senate passage, and praying that a conference committee restores the state bailout provision.
Me, I’m just waiting for an answer to what we do about the FY 2011 budget if we balance the FY 2010 budget with one-time money. It will be a tragic mistake to squander federal bailout funds on the operating budget. We’ll have nothing of value to show for it, no job creation or protection other than government jobs.
The issue that was mentioned as the sleeper, Medevac helicopters, has raised its head and exploded in both the House and Senate.
The Senate, our stately deliberative body, started this off with a confrontational hearing pitting senators against trauma care administrators and state police commanders.
Both sides accused the other of shading facts for advantage; the posturing for TV cameras rivaled any political campaign.
Wanting to avoid a repeat, House Speaker Mike Busch (D., Anne Arundel) chose a different approach. He created a special workgroup, comprised of 15 legislators from the three committees that deal with trauma care and Medevac issues.
The chairman of this temporary team is Del. John Bohanon (D., St. Mary’s). John would be an up-and-comer, clearly someone whose star is rising in the speaker’s eyes. In his day job, John works for Rep. Steny Hoyer, the U.S. House of Representative majority leader.
So this group began its work, wrestling with some significant questions:
- Should we retain the State Police helicopter Medevac mission?
- Should we open up that role for competition from private sector services?
- Do we need to purchase replacement helicopters, and if so, how many?
- Are we using the proper EMS decision-making protocols?
- Are there best practices that might help improve our system?
- Is our trauma network adequate?
Every legislator would like to be given a chance to lead during their tenure. Leadership gives one the chance to show something to peers and constituents, affords one the chance to truly impact policy making in a direct way, and helps gain attention from the media to alert folks back home to important accomplishments.
I’ve been granted that chance, even if in a small way. Speaker Busch and Delegate Bohanon have given me the chance to chair a small subgroup examining our EMS protocols. In the next few weeks (in addition to everything else going on), our group will be gathering and examining local, state, and national input. We’ll interview experts, providers, and companies that work in this field.
The outcome of this work will help produce some key decisions for our state. Our trauma care system is often described as a model for the nation, but like everything else affected by technology and time, it, too, can be improved.
It’s really exciting to be at the forefront of this effort, if not a little intimidating. You can’t win the dance contest if you don’t get out on the floor, so I’m looking forward to my opportunity.