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BY COLUMNISTS

| Joe Charlebois | Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Norman M. Covert | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Edward Lulie III | Tom McLaughlin | Cindy A. Rose | Richard B. Weldon Jr. |

DOCUMENTS


The Tentacle


January 5, 2003

General Assembly Journal

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Dec. 3 through Dec. 5, 2002 Freshman Orientation

Today, the adventure began. Amy, my wife, and I walked from the Marriott up Main Street to the State House. I have to admit that several times during the night, I sat on the windowsill of the room looking up at the dome, brightly lit by spotlights.

As we entered the State House, we went through the security procedures that face everyone who enters. I remember thinking how sad it is that people just can't wander through this beautiful and historic building.

After a short registration and welcome in the Calvert Room, we were taken to the House Chamber. Walking through that door, onto that elegant blue patterned carpet, the emotions are almost overwhelming. Some of my freshmen colleagues around the state surprise me with their actions. They appear more interested in how comfortable the chairs are and how the desk phones work. I am humbled at the weight of history and the burden of responsibility that pervades the room.

Standing here, gazing at the desks where the most important decisions in the history of Maryland have been made, it fully dawns on me that 39,000 residents of District 3B will depend on me to give voice to their concerns and interests.

Our session started off with a welcome from Mike Miller, the president of the Senate. Senator Miller told a few funny stories about his early House and Senate experiences. Following his remarks, we were welcomed by our future Speaker, Mike Busch of Anne Arundel County.

Speaker-nominee Busch seems aware of the impending responsibility that will fall to him on January 8th. My sense is that he is ready, and will be successful in his new role. I sat across the aisle from where the Frederick and Washington delegations will probably sit. I sat next to Leroy Myers, the delegate-elect from Washington and Alleghany Counties. Leroy gets a lot of attention, as his victory ultimately cost the current Speaker, Casper Taylor, his seat in the House of Delegates. Speaker Taylor will exchange his seat on the House dais for a portrait on the wall of the Chamber. Western Maryland will miss his influence, but change is inevitable in this business.

Leroy seems like a good guy, and it is clear he is prepared for an onslaught from Speaker Taylorís supporters. The two-day session was definitely the "firehose" approach, with hour-long briefings throughout the day on a variety of subjects. I canít help but think that I have an advantage over other freshmen through my service as a county commissioner. Iím already familiar with the press, with constituent services, and with building coalitions of support.

Amy and I both enjoyed meeting my new colleagues and their spouses, and we really enjoyed walking the streets of our Capitol City after the sessions concluded. The view of the State House dome, lit from underneath by a series of spotlights, looking up from the harbor is breathtaking. I am alternately humbled, excited, and anxious. I am about to become a member of the House of Delegates!

Waiting, Wondering, and Worrying

Dec. 16, 2002

The last few weeks have been spent wondering what is going on in Annapolis. Due to the confusion associated with the change in the Speakership, it has been hard to nail down details about the upcoming session. I finally received my Committee assignment, but the process getting there was very instructive. I had initially expressed an interest in serving on the Commerce and Government Matters (CGM) Committee, one of the 6 standing committees. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to me, the incoming Speaker intended to abolish this committee.

I was drawn to this committee based on my professional experience and training, as CGM deals with procurement, election law, and City/County governmental legislation. Speaker-nominee Busch has decided to abolish CGM, to distribute many of the current issues to other committees, and to create a new Health Care Committee.

I have been appointed to the Economic Matters Committee, where many of the business and economic development issues are decided. I suspect (or hope) that some of the areas of interest that originally drew me to CGM will end up on EM, but time will tell.

The freshmen were originally scheduled to take a six-day bus tour of Maryland, but the trip was truncated due to the budget concerns. Not surprisingly, Western Maryland was eliminated from the tour. The farthest west the tour came was the Law Enforcement Center here in Frederick County. All of the freshmen seemed impressed with the synergy of the State and County Police in one location. Sheriff (Jim) Hagy was eloquent and effective, along with Lt. (Scott) Yinger of MSP.

I have been going down to Annapolis once or twice a week, although I still donít know where my office will be within the Lowe Office building. As of this writing, those decisions are still being made by the leadership. It will be good to start moving in, but I can wait.

We elected our delegation leadership this week. Paul Stull was elected delegation chair, with Senator-elect David Brinkley elected vice chair. Paul will be a good chairman, as he is a steady guy who is respected throughout the county. David is one of the most effective legislators in Annapolis and is respected in both chambers.

I am pleased so far by the interaction of the Frederick County delegation. It looks like weíll get along fine, although, Iím sure there will be times when we donít all agree.

I remain troubled by the pundits who dismiss some of my colleagues as unqualified or undeserving of their positions. Senator (Alex) Mooney is working hard to heal wounds from the campaign, including a trip to the City Council meeting in Brunswick to introduce himself to the community. Delegate-elect (Patrick) Hogan has been criticized by some as too young and inexperienced. Note that at least one complainer on a certain political website is a frustrated delegate wannabe, but Delegate Hogan is working very hard to learn the ropes and will be a credit to Frederick City voters who placed their trust in him.

Looks like our delegation will have representation on several important Committees. Senator Brinkley will serve on the Budget and Tax Committee, following in the footsteps of the great former Senator Charlie Smelser.

Senator Mooney is looking for re-appointment to the Judiciary Committee, so he can focus on matters most important to him and his constituents. Delegate-elect Galen Clagett and Delegate Joe Bartlett are both scheduled to serve on the House Appropriations Committee, which will continue a legacy started by "Doc" McClellan (history will show him to be one of the best weíve ever had) and continued recently by Delegate Sue Hecht.

Delegate Don Elliot was slated to return to the Environmental Matters Committee, but he would really like to serve on the new Health Care Committee. I have really grown to admire Delegate Elliot. He knows the General Assembly, and he speaks his mind truthfully and openly.

Patrick Hogan was appointed to the Health Care Committee, but he and Don Elliot may be able to switch assignments. Looks to be an exciting time with the Governor having the same party affiliation as a majority of the Delegation.

I attended a dinner with the Maryland Motor Truck Association in Hagerstown the other night, and Lt. Gov.-elect Mike Steele was the featured speaker. It is obvious that we in Frederick and Washington Countyís will benefit from our overwhelming support of the new governor. While I expect the next few years to be lean from the standpoint of state funding and new programs, we will not be ignored due to the rabid partisanship we witnessed over the last eight years.

Moving In

January 2-3, 2003

Six days remaining until the convening of the 147th General Assembly. Thanks to the VERY well organized House administrator, Barbara Oakes, we've been able to move into our offices a little early. Considering how tough it is to find a parking space, garage parking may be the best perk of all.

The delegate offices in Annapolis were assigned by George Edwards, the chair of the Western Maryland delegation. George is a great guy, and he gave me a very nice office. My office is cozy but nice. The decor reflects the political career of a fortunate guy. Pictures of the Brunswick Roundhouse, Frederick City Hall, and Winchester Hall are surrounded by important family and friendship treasures too numerous to mention. I'll be proud to host my constituents here! I'll share an office suite with Delegates Clagett and Hogan.

We've hired a Session Secretary who'll support us in Annapolis. I'm also bringing someone on to help with legislative and committee support in Annapolis. I'll need to address staffing of a District office, but that can wait until after session.

While in Annapolis, I tried to call the Speaker's office to find out if the final committee assignments had been made. No one there knew for sure, and the Speaker was out in meetings. Last night I opened my mail (which has tripled since my commissioner days) and found a letter appointing me to the new Health and Government Operations Committee. So much for Economic Matters, huh?

While I feel very good about my Government Operations experience and knowledge, I'm less confident about the Health Care issues. I have a lot of reading to do, but reading has always been a hobby. We'll be talking about health insurance, Medicaid, hospitals, trauma centers, patient care, medical professionals, prescription drugs, government efficiency, procurement regulations, the National Guard, bioterrorism, and a whole slew of related issues. Our committee will be very high profile, and will deal with some of Maryland's most vexing questions. Should be fun!!!



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