Md. ri­vals turn leg­isla­tive ses­sion into bit­ter bat­tle­ground for spot­light

The Washington Post - - METRO - BY JOHN WAG­NER

Politi­cians jock­ey­ing for at­ten­tion are hardly un­usual at the Mary­land Gen­eral As­sem­bly. But in this busy elec­tion year, the one­up­man­ship has turned the leg­isla­tive ses­sion into a bat­tle­ground, with can­di­dates mak­ing many of the same pitches in hear­ing rooms that they do out on the trail.

One af­ter­noon last week, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), who is seek­ing to drop the “lieu­tenant” from his ti­tle, talked up his plan to ex­pand pre-kinder­garten pro­grams dur­ing a packed bill hear­ing while TV cam­eras rolled.

A fel­low Demo­crat hop­ing to best him, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Dou­glas F. Gansler, could be found in an­other hear­ing room just up the stairs, push­ing the cre­ation of a con­sumer pro­tec­tion of­fice for vote-rich Prince Ge­orge’s County.

Both Gansler and Brown had of­fered tes­ti­mony the day be­fore on a bill to raise the min­i­mum wage. And both plan to be back in the Gen­eral As­sem­bly next week to share their sup­port for tough­en­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence penal­ties.

With four Mary­land statewide of­fices and all 188 of the state’s leg­isla­tive seats on the bal­lot this year, they are not alone in their bids to get no­ticed. Pol­i­tics has in­fused pol­icy de­bates on is­sues as var­ied as de­crim­i­nal­iz­ing mar­i­juana, ex­pand­ing pro­tec­tions for trans­gen­der people and broad­en­ing ac­cess to pre-K ed­u­ca­tion.

On the cam­paign trail, all three ma­jor Demo­cratic can­di­dates for gover­nor have rolled out plans to ex­pand pre-K ed­u­ca­tion in the com­ing years. But Brown man

aged to get the stage to him­self on Wed­nes­day to talk up a bill be­ing con­sid­ered by the House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee that was spon­sored by his cur­rent boss, Gov. Martin O’Mal­ley (D).

Dur­ing an ap­pear­ance pro­moted by his press of­fice, Brown ac­knowl­edged to law­mak­ers that this year’s bill takes only a “mod­est” step to­ward his goal of pro­vid­ing “uni­ver­sal” full-day pre-K for all 4-year-olds. But Brown added: “I hope for those of us who have the priv­i­lege to be in Annapolis next year that we take a more ro­bust next step.”

At the same hour, Gansler was tes­ti­fy­ing with Del. Jo­lene Ivey (D-Prince Ge­orge’s), who hap­pens to be his run­ning mate in the gover­nor’s race as well as chair­man of her county’s del­e­ga­tion in Annapolis. She told the Health

and Govern­ment Op­er­a­tions Com­mit­tee that there is “a huge need” for the con­sumer pro­tec­tion of­fice that Gansler is seek­ing.

Del. Heather R. Mizeur (DMont­gomery), the third ma­jor can­di­date for gover­nor, has also sought to lever­age the leg­isla­tive process to draw at­ten­tion to her cam­paign. Last week, she wrote to Brown and Gansler (and sent copies to the me­dia), invit­ing them to join her in tes­ti­fy­ing on a bill she is spon­sor­ing to de­crim­i­nal­ize mar­i­juana. Un­der leg­is­la­tion she in­tro­duced, those caught us­ing small amounts would be sub­ject to no more than a $100 civil fine, some­thing akin to a traf­fic ticket.

Both Brown and Gansler sup­port the idea — but nei­ther agreed to ap­pear along­side her.

El­bow­ing for at­ten­tion is hardly con­fined to the gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­dates. One of the open­ing rounds in a bat­tle for a Se­nate seat rep­re­sent­ing Mont­gomery County re­cently played out in a hear­ing room in Annapolis.

Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., Mary­land’s only openly gay se­na­tor, is be­ing chal­lenged in the Demo­cratic pri­mary by Dana Beyer, who would be­come the first trans­gen­der per­son to serve in the leg­is­la­ture if elected.

Dur­ing the hear­ing, Madaleno was cham­pi­oning a bill that would make it il­le­gal to dis­crim­i­nate against trans­gen­der people in workplace hir­ing, hous­ing and pub­lic ac­com­mo­da­tions. Heurged his col­leagues to help a group of people “live their lives as they feel they are.”

Beyer, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of a trans­gen­der rights group, stood in the back of the room, her arms crossed, plan­ning to tes­tify in fa­vor of the bill when given the op­por­tu­nity.

Af­ter a pa­rade of other sup­port­ers was called to tes­tify — in­clud­ing Mizeur, in her ca­pac­ity as a can­di­date for gover­nor — Beyer was fi­nally sum­moned for­ward.

Ap­pear­ing vis­i­bly frus­trated, she de­cided not to tes­tify. Beyer later said that while she has been fight­ing for years to get such a bill passed in Annapolis, she did not want to par­tic­i­pate in “po­lit­i­cal the­ater” — a char­ac­ter­i­za­tion Madaleno strongly dis­puted.

Even the in­tro­duc­tion of leg­is­la­tion has prompted charges of elec­tion-year pol­i­tick­ing.

Sen. Lisa A. Glad­den (D-Bal­ti­more) filed a bill that would make it a crime for a state or lo­cal of­fi­cial to di­rect law en­force­ment to use re­sources to per­son­ally ben­e­fit them. The leg­is­la­tion was widely as­sumed to be an at­tempt to em­bar­rass Del. Jon S. Cardin (D-Bal- tim­ore County), a can­di­date for at­tor­ney gen­eral. In 2009, Cardin or­ches­trated a head­line-grab­bing mar­riage pro­posal that in­volved use of a Bal­ti­more po­lice he­li­copter and ma­rine unit.

This year, Cardin’s op­po­nents for higher of­fice in­clude Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Mont­gomery), chair­man of the Ju­di­cial Pro­ceed­ings Com­mit­tee. Glad­den is the com­mit­tee’s vice chair­woman.

Glad­den said her bill wasn’t aimed specif­i­cally at Cardin. She has agreed to hold off push­ing it un­til af­ter the elec­tion, how­ever.

Asked about the bill, Cardin said he has a full leg­isla­tive agenda this ses­sion and added: “I don’t think that I have time to play old and tired po­lit­i­cal games.”

Sev­eral bills are be­ing pushed by more than one can­di­date this year.

Both Brown and Gansler, for ex­am­ple, have said their pri­or­i­ties for the ses­sion in­clude leg­is­la­tion that al­lows judges to give tougher sen­tences for acts of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence com­mit­ted in front of a child. Brown is leading the ef­fort to pass a bill spon­sored by O’Mal­ley for the first time this year. Gansler is back­ing — again — sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion spon­sored by Del. Luiz R.S. Sim­mons (D-Mont­gomery). Sim­mons has tried for seven years to get his bill passed.

Sim­mons said the ad­min­is­tra­tion had “shown lit­tle or no in­ter­est” in his bill in past years, but he added he is “grate­ful” for the at­ten­tion it is get­ting now.

“I don’t care whose bill passes, but I would like to at least be ac­knowl­edged as the ar­chi­tect,” Sim­mons said.

Sim­mons is one of at least 10 House mem­bers run­ning for the Se­nate, and he faces a highly com­pet­i­tive Demo­cratic pri­mary against for­mer Mont­gomery del­e­gate Ch­eryl Ka­gan. She has ac­tively courted women’s groups, among oth­ers, to back her can­di­dacy. Gansler has ques­tioned Brown’s com­mit­ment to the leg­is­la­tion, say­ing his in­volve­ment this year ap­peared to be an at­tempt to “em­bel­lish his cre­den­tials.”

“But his pres­ence is cer­tainly wel­come,” Gansler added.

Brown said he has been heav­ily in­volved in leg­is­la­tion to com­bat do­mes­tic vi­o­lence since the 2008 mur­der of a cousin by her es­tranged boyfriend. Each year since then, Brown said, he has con­sulted with ad­vo­cates against do­mes­tic vi­o­lence on how he could be most help­ful. This ses­sion, they pointed him to this bill, he said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.