Leg­is­la­tors look into the mir­ror of ef­fec­tive­ness

South­ern Md. law­mak­ers ex­am­ine their own ca­reers in An­napo­lis

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By TA­MARA WARD tward@somd­news.com

The 438th ses­sion of Mary­land’s Gen­eral Assem­bly will con­vene in An­napo­lis on Jan. 10 and end April 9, 2018. And while there are a lit­tle more than 100 days be­fore its start, it is not too early to think about the task of leg­is­lat­ing.

“In a state where you have a part-time leg­is­la­ture, where there are only three months out of the year, one of the key ways a [politi­cian] would be able to come back to [his or her] con­stituency and say ‘I’m rep­re­sent­ing you’ is to point to spe­cific leg­is­la­tion in­tro­duced, and then go­ing the next step and say ‘these are the bills that suc­ceeded or this is how far it got and I am go­ing to push for it next ses­sion,’” said Todd Eberly, as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal sci­ence and pub­lic pol­icy at St. Mary’s Col­lege of Mary­land.

“Clearly spon­sor­ing leg­is­la­tion and get­ting that leg­is­la­tion in­tro­duced and get­ting signed into law is a clear sign of ef­fec­tive­ness,” said Eberly, who ref­er­enced a study on Leg­isla­tive Ef­fec­tive­ness and Leg­isla­tive Ca­reers, con­ducted by Stan­ford Univer­sity’s Ger­ard Padro Miguel and Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy’s James M. Sny­der Jr.

The study, which ex­am­ined the North Carolina House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives be­tween the years 1977 and 2001, looked at a mem­ber’s ap­ti­tude for leg­isla­tive work, port­fo­lio of for­mal lead­er­ship po­si­tions in the party or com­mit­tees and the pow­er­ful­ness of the com­mit­tees and ex­pe­ri­ence. The study con­cluded that leg­is­la­tor ef­fec­tive­ness in­creased sharply dur­ing the first few terms of ser­vice and that the in­crease in ef­fec­tive­ness ap­peared to be due mainly to learn­ing-by-do­ing rather than to costly in­vest­ment in spe­cific skills.

In South­ern Mary­land, Eberly said Sen. Thomas “Mac” Mid­dle­ton (D-Charles), Sen. Steve Waugh (R-St. Mary’s, Calvert), Del. Sally Jame­son (D-Charles) and Del. Matt Mor­gan (R-St. Mary’s) fare well by the study’s stan­dards.

The study points out that mem­bers of the ma­jor­ity are likely to suc­ceed, which is ev­i­dent by Mid­dle­ton’s and Jame­son’s record.

Over the last seven years, or 2½ terms, Mid­dle­ton has in­tro­duced more than 200 pieces of leg­is­la­tion, of which more than 100 have been passed into law.

Mid­dle­ton doesn’t take all the credit for him­self. He at­tributes his suc­cess to hav­ing an acute leg­isla­tive as­sis­tant, Su­san Lawrence, who knows the

leg­isla­tive process and has de­vel­oped a good rap­port with other mem­bers and state agen­cies. Mid­dle­ton does pride him­self on de­vel­op­ing good work­ing re­la­tion­ships with his col­leagues, as well.

Jame­son, who was out of the coun­try for two weeks as of press time, had in­tro­duced roughly 75 bills over the last seven years, of which 32 were signed into law. Jame­son has been in of­fice since 2003 and cur­rently sits on five com­mit­tees, two that she chairs or vice chairs, in ad­di­tion to be­ing chair of the South­ern Mary­land House del­e­ga­tion.

Eberly ar­gues that mem­bers of the mi­nor­ity party who spon­sor leg­is­la­tion that gets signed into law are es­pe­cially ef­fec­tive, re­fer­ring to Waugh, who is one of only 14 Repub­li­cans in the Se­nate. There are 33 Democrats.

In his three short years in of­fice, Waugh has in­tro­duced roughly 63 pieces of leg­is­la­tion, of which 28 have passed. Waugh said the most im­por­tant part of his suc­cess was his abil­ity is to build re­la­tion­ships with all the other mem­bers across the aisle.

“Year one, I cospon­sored a bill with ev­ery other se­na­tor,” said Waugh, adding that he came into of­fice with the idea that he was go­ing to pay at­ten­tion.

“The net ef­fect of that is I wanted ev­ery­body to know I am here to work and we have com­mon ground,” Waugh said of his game plan. “Once they know they can work with that guy, it doesn’t mat­ter that I am Repub­li­can.”

Waugh also said tem­per­a­ment and com­po­sure are re­ally key.

“I try re­ally hard to avoid us­ing charged lan­guage and go in be­liev­ing that ev­ery­one is here with good in­ten­tions. We may dis­agree, but we are all here be­cause we want to serve our con­stituents and the state of Mary­land,” he said. “I’m not here to throw chairs. It’s not go­ing to help to go to the cap­i­tal and shake your fist.”

Eberly said Waugh’s re­cent progress ri­vals that of Mid­dle­ton, who has been there two decades longer.

“Waugh is a leg­is­la­tor that came in and learned the game very quickly and be­came ef­fec­tive very rapidly,” Eberly said.

Mor­gan, who is also a Repub­li­can and was sworn in the same year as Waugh, has man­aged to be some­what pro­duc­tive in the Demo­crat-con­trolled leg­is­la­ture. Mor­gan has in­tro­duced 12 bills and passed four, and sits on three com­mit­tees.

Leg­isla­tive in­ac­tiv­ity, strate­gies for pas­sage

In the ab­sence of leg­is­la­tion, it is rea­son­able for vot­ers to ask “why are we pay­ing you?” Eberly said.

“As our rep­re­sen­ta­tives in­tro­duce, spon­sor leg­is­la­tion, write it, that af­fects us,” said Eberly, later adding that cospon­sor­ing mat­ters, but of­ten elected of­fi­cials are at­tach­ing them­selves to an­other per­son’s work or ef­fort that may not be spe­cific to their con­stituency. “Your own leg­is­la­tion is the way you show that.

“Con­stituents are go­ing to ask ‘ what have you done for me lately,’ and typ­i­cally peo­ple who are in the leg­is­la­ture will point to ‘I in­tro­duce this bill, I help shep­herd this law into ef­fect, I fought for this is­sue,’” he said.

Speak­ing in gen­eral, Eberly said leg­is­la­tors will some­times make the case that they op­posed var­i­ous pieces of leg­is­la­tion on be­half of their con­stituents.

“The hard-work­ing men and women of Calvert County sent me to An­napo­lis to stop the on­slaught of reg­u­la­tions, stop higher taxes and to main­tain the rule of law. That is just what I’ve done. I stopped the leg­is­la­tion that would have made Mary­land a sanc­tu­ary state, and have voted time and time again against more reg­u­la­tions and higher taxes. The bill count of a leg­is­la­tor is of­ten a sign of how be­holden he/she is to the lob­by­ists and spe­cial in­ter­ests who re­quested the leg­is­la­tion,” said Del. Mark Fisher (R-Calvert) in an emailed state­ment.

Fisher, who took of­fice in 2011, has in­tro­duced roughly 47 bills as a pri­mary spon­sor, though he has yet to see any signed into law. He also serves on four com­mit­tees and is the chair of the Calvert County House del­e­ga­tion.

“Of­ten­times, though, the pub­lic would like you to come talk to them about what you suc­cess­fully did — not some­thing you just stopped or tried to stop,” Eberly said.

Del. Michael Jack­son (D-Calvert, Prince Ge­orge’s), who has passed leg­is­la­tion, said con­stituents “have a right­ful ex­pec­ta­tion that we are do­ing what we are sup­posed to do” and they feel “we need to ex­pect and in­spect.” How­ever, a sym­pa­thetic Jack­son said “it would be un­fair if a leg­is­la­tor is deemed in­ef­fec­tive be­cause his or her chief leg­is­la­tion wasn’t passed. Some leg­is­la­tion is not go­ing to pass.” Jack­son cited a num­ber of pro­hibitors, to in­clude the leg­isla­tive body, which can be an up­hill bat­tle for those in the mi­nor­ity party.

Fisher is not the only South­ern Mary­land leg­is­la­tor who has not passed any bills. Del. Deb Rey (RSt. Mary’s), who joined the leg­is­la­ture in 2015, has yet to get any of her 13 bills en­acted. How­ever, Eberly said it is nor­mal for the first year or two for a leg­is­la­tor not to be overly pro­duc­tive.

“Like ev­ery­body else that is start­ing a new job, they are learn­ing it,” Eberly said.

“A Repub­li­can is not go­ing to get a bill passed with­out Demo­cratic support,” ac­knowl­edged Rey. “If we take the ‘R’ and ‘D’ that is be­fore our names and look at the pol­icy be­fore we vote — is this pol­icy good for our con­stituency? Is this pol­icy good for Mary­land? That’s what we should be look­ing at.”

Rey said there are a lot of things in a leg­is­la­tor’s job that are im­por­tant, to in­clude cospon­sor­ing leg­is­la­tion, con­stituent work and com­mit­tee work. She serves on four com­mit­tees and is also chair of the St. Mary’s County House del­e­ga­tion.

“It is im­por­tant to change the laws to make them bet­ter for the cit­i­zens — that’s who we rep­re­sent, that’s what we are here for. Our agenda should re­flect the peo­ple we rep­re­sent,” she said.

One way for a mem­ber of the leg­is­la­ture to get his or her bill passed is by cross-fil­ing, which Eberly says speaks to the point that a leg­is­la­tor has got­ten support for his or her bill in the other cham­ber, demon­strat­ing that the leg work of get­ting a coun­ter­part to support a piece of leg­is­la­tion has been done.

“One of the things that I be­lieve en­hances the chances of the bill pass­ing for cal­en­dar­ing is to file it in the op­po­site cham­ber and in the op­po­site party. It takes all the par­ti­san­ship out of it,” said Waugh, who has a per­sonal goal to cross-file a bill with the chair and vice chair of ev­ery com­mit­tee. The task should not be too great for Waugh, as he serves on a half-dozen com­mit­tees.

Waugh, in ad­di­tion to Mid­dle­ton and Jame­son, cross-filed more than half of his bills in­tro­duced in re­cent years.

If leg­is­la­tion is not cross­filed, it can be sent to the op­po­site cham­ber if it has been fa­vor­ably passed in the cham­ber it was in­tro­duced in by the cross­over dead­line.

Jack­son said up un­til last ses­sion, he didn’t seek a Se­nate cross-filer. Since tak­ing of­fice in 2015, Jack­son has in­tro­duced roughly 16 bills and had six signed into law. He only cross-filed six.

“For me be­ing a first term leg­is­la­tor, there is a ben­e­fit to pre­sent­ing my leg­is­la­tion in the Se­nate,” Jack­son said. “It’s a learn­ing process and a cred­i­bil­ity is­sue.”

Jack­son said he opted not to have a cross-filer be­cause he wanted to work his leg­is­la­tion him­self in the op­po­site cham­ber and per­son­ally ar­tic­u­late the bill’s merit. Jack­son did ac­knowl­edge that ei­ther strat­egy doesn’t al­ways work.

“I’ve had leg­is­la­tion that hasn’t made it out of com­mit­tee — my com­mit­tee,” chuck­led Jack­son, who serves on five com­mit­tees. “And I thought it was pretty good leg­is­la­tion.”

The most junior mem­bers of the South­ern Mary­land del­e­ga­tion have fared some­what well in get­ting leg­is­la­tion through, best­ing a few of their se­nior col­leagues.

Del. El­iz­a­beth “Susie” Proc­tor (D-Charles, Prince Ge­orge’s) was ap­pointed to the leg­is­la­ture mid-term in 2015 af­ter her hus­band Del. James Proc­tor’s death. She has in­tro­duced five bills as a pri­mary spon­sor and has had two signed into law. She cross-filed all five bills.

Del. Ger­ald W. “Jerry” Clark (R-St. Mary’s, Calvert) took of­fice in Oc­to­ber 2016. In his first year, Clark was the pri­mary spon­sor of two bills; one he cross-filed, the

other he did not. The bill he did not cross-file was signed into law.

“I did one each way be­cause I wanted to learn the process. I wanted to see which I pre­ferred the most,” Clark said. “It was a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Hope­fully, it will pay off in the fu­ture.”

Clark said when a mem­ber cross-files a bill, “you lose con­trol and it is not your bill any­more.”

Serv­ing on three com­mit­tees, Clark be­lieves the most im­por­tant work is in com­mit­tee.

“There are so many bills that may have a neg­a­tive ef­fect. We can help to re­fine or amend those bills,” he said.

Clark said an­other thing he learned is that when there is a bill that is small and fo­cused to­ward lo­cal con­stituency to do it as a del­e­ga­tion.

Help­ing con­stituents, lead­ing ef­fec­tively

In the ab­sence of get­ting leg­is­la­tion passed, Eberly said a mem­ber can make up for de­fi­cien­cies through con­stituency ser­vices and in­flu­enc­ing pub­lic pol­icy. Con­stituents may feel their rep­re­sen­ta­tive is par­tic­u­larly good at ad­dress­ing their needs by be­ing re­spon­sive when con­tacted about a prob­lem and able to help the con­stituent ad­dress this prob­lem.

“If you can demon­strate you do that par­tic­u­larly well, that will com­pen­sate for a lot,” he said.

In ad­di­tion, Eberly said, “Typ­i­cally the peo­ple who ad­vance to lead­er­ship po­si­tions are ad­vanc­ing as a re­ward for the fact that they do well. They are known as ef­fec­tive or pro­duc­tive leg­is­la­tors and they work their way up the ranks.”

Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles, Prince Ge­orge’s) ex­em­pli­fies such a rise. Miller be­came a mem­ber of the Se­nate in 1975, af­ter serv­ing four years in the House. He has served as chair on the Ju­di­cial Pro­ceed­ings Com­mit­tee and deputy ma­jor­ity leader be­fore be­com­ing pres­i­dent of the Se­nate in 1987. To date, Miller is the long­est-serv­ing Se­nate pres­i­dent in Mary­land and in the United States.

“Show­ing up on time and be­ing the last one to leave the ta­ble” is what Miller at­tributes his suc­cess to. He said he ac­quired that hard work ethic grow­ing up work­ing in a gro­cery. The el­dest of 10 chil­dren, Miller said he was al­ways in a lead­er­ship role, start­ing as a youth.

His ex­pe­ri­ence as a staffer for three years as a bill drafter gave him a leg up on serv­ing in the leg­is­la­ture as an elected of­fi­cial. The Se­nate pres­i­dent said law­mak­ers must keep a smile on their face, work hard, re­spect oth­ers and ar­tic­u­late why their bill is key.

“I un­der­stand both par­ties. I trea­sure my friend- ship with the 14 Repub­li­cans in the Se­nate and I give ev­ery­body a say and a fair shot. That is why they are con­tent to vote,” ex­plained Miller, of the fa­vor­able support of much leg­is­la­tion in the cham­ber.

“What helps is my love for the in­sti­tu­tion. I am happy to be here and work here stand­ing where Thomas Jef­fer­son and Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton once stood,” Miller said.

Prior to be­com­ing Se­nate pres­i­dent, Miller spon­sored and cospon­sored more than 800 pieces of leg­is­la­tion, of which nearly 185 be­came law. De­tail data on pri­mary spon­sor­ship was not made avail­able un­til 1990.

Eberly said it is not re­ally ex­pected or com­mon for the Se­nate pres­i­dent to be spon­sor­ing leg­is­la­tion the way other rank and file mem­bers do be­cause the pres­i­dent has other re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

Ac­cord­ing to Li­brary and In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices’ staff within the Mary­land De­part­ment of Leg­isla­tive Ser­vices, bills spon­sored by “The Pres­i­dent” are not the same as those spon­sored by Miller.

“This can be frus­trat­ing, ob­vi­ously, for those who are rep­re­sented in the district, but nor­mally if you are rep­re­sented by some­body who is high up in the lead­er­ship ranks, they’re able to in­flu­ence the process in a way that ben­e­fits their con­stituents with­out spe­cific leg­is­la­tion mov­ing for­ward,” ex­plained Eberly. “Their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties have changed at that level of lead­er­ship.”

De­spite his du­ties, since 2011, Miller was able to spon­sor more than 45 bills, of which roughly 16 passed.

Mid­dle­ton is an­other ex­am­ple. Af­ter three years in the Se­nate, he be­came chair of the Cap­i­tal Bud­get Sub­com­mit­tee, and since 2002, he has has been chair of the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee.

Both Miller and Mid­dle­ton have re­ceived nu­mer­ous lead­er­ship awards for their ser­vice in An­napo­lis, and both have served on nu­mer­ous com­mit­tees and com­mis­sions.

Bot­tom line: “If you want leg­is­la­tion to suc­ceed, you’ve got to ne­go­ti­ate with other peo­ple, find areas of com­mon in­ter­est, get peo­ple to cospon­sor it with you; that takes in­ter­per­sonal skills,” Eberly said. “You ei­ther need to have skills or you need to have power. If you have power, it doesn’t [mat­ter] whether you are nice or not, as they need you for your power. With­out that power, you re­ally need the in­ter­per­sonal skills to get peo­ple to work with you.”



Del. Matt Mor­gan (R-St. Mary’s), left, Del. Ger­ald W. “Jerry” Clark (R-St. Mary’s, Calvert), Del. Mark Fisher (R-Calvert) and Del. Deb Rey (R-St. Mary’s) gather for a photo on one of the fi­nal days of the 2017 Mary­land leg­isla­tive ses­sion.


Todd Eberly, as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal sci­ence and pub­lic pol­icy at St. Mary’s Col­lege of Mary­land, sits in his of­fice.

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