On April 17, State Senators Joe Getty, R-Baltimore and Carroll counties, and Ed Kasemeyer, D-Baltimore and Howard counties, shared anecdotes and answered questions from about 50 McDaniel College students who had gathered in a lecture room at Hill Hall for the occasion.
The senators had visited the campus for a presentation, ““So What Just Happened: A Report from Annapolis,” as a courtesy to long standing McDaniel political science professor, Dr. Herb Smith – who is frequently sought-out by statewide and national media outlets for his insights into Maryland politics.
Both Getty and Kasemeyer have a long history with McDaniel. They were introduced by McDaniel College President Roger Casey, who touched upon the years both senators had served in public office. Kasemeyer is a 1967 graduate of then-Western Maryland College – now McDaniel.
Both senators had served several terms as a member of the House of Delegates before moving up to the upper chamber of the General Assembly. Getty was first elected a delegate in 1994 and Kasemeyer was first sent to Annapolis by the voters in 1982.
Both senators noted that the recent session was hectic but more structured and disciplined than the previous year’s gathering of the legislature. This year the legislature reviewed approximately 2,500 bills and measures.
According to Getty and Kasemeyer, the 2012 session had deteriorated into a series of personality conflicts among the leadership of the dominant Democratic Party leadership and as a result, legislature closed with a number of issues left unresolved, including a failure of the General Assembly to pass a state budget.
Both observed that this year was notable in that Democrat Gov. Martin O’Malley scored repeated successes in pushing through a list of controversial legislative initiatives, garnering him national attention.
Most noteworthy among many initiatives were the governor’s success in passing the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, repeal of the death penalty, an increase in the gasoline tax to 44.6 cents per gallon and retention of last year’s stormwater management fee, dubbed the “rain tax” on impervious surfaces, such as driveways and the roof of your house.
In addition, the General Assembly passed the governor’s health care proposals, which implement the federal Affordable Care Act health care reform. Passage of the Maryland Health Progress Act of 2013 creates the Maryland Health Exchange for uninsured citizens can obtain medical insurance.
Kasemeyer noted that the past session was much more focused on social initiatives than in past years which were dominated by economic issues.
He explored the question as to whether or not O’Malley had taken the Maryland Democrat Party “too far to the left?” Kasemeyer said the answer to that question was inconclusive, however, the result of the last several sessions of the General Assembly does put “the moderate Democrat in an interesting position.” He said he represents District 12, which includes a large block of liberal and conservative constituents that have polar opposite political world views.
Getty said that, at times, the General Assembly could be best explained as “student government in middle school.” One of the dynamics of the last several years has been the stark personality clashed of the legislature’s leadership.
The last questions of the evening were academic – if not philosophical, and involved what part their personal, political party and constituents’ views played in how each Senator voted on any given issues.
Both senators said they pondered their job in the General Assembly as being part of a representative form of government, in that, they were voted into office to exercise their individual judgment as what was in the best interests of the citizens they serve.
Both agreed, “That at the end of the day follow your own convictions.”