Kittleman singled out State Sen. James N. Robey, a Democrat, former county executive and county police chief, for voting in favor of a bill that increased the minimum auto liability insurance requirements for Maryland drivers, which will boost premiums for some.

"Only the trial lawyers supported it," Kittleman said, acknowleging that most Howard residents have more than minimum coverage, but warning that "citizens of Owen Brown and Long Reach [in Robey's district] will be hurt" from higher insurance premiums.

Robey said later "it wasn't a partisan issue," He supported the bill, he said, because at the minimum requirement of $20,000 for one person and $40,000 for multiple people injured, "there's not sufficient coverage there" to pay for care after serious accidents.The law would raise the minimum to $30,000 to $60,000.

But three Republican delegates, Rick Impallaria of Baltimore County, and James J. King and Donna Stifler of Harford were among the bill's co-sponsors. Among Howard's delegation, Democratic Dels. James E. Malone, Steven J. DeBoy and State Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, the senate majority leader, voted against the bill along with Kittleman, Miller and Bates, according to state records.

Give and take

Kittleman might have little but criticism for most Democrats in the General Assembly, but not when it comes to Kasemeyer, who represents parts of Howard and Baltimore counties.

At a Howard Chamber of Commerce legislative breakfast in River Hill on April 21, Kittleman, who represents Howard and south Carroll counties, blew a political kiss at the low profile Kasemeyer, who sat a few tables away.

"If [Senate President Thomas V.] Mike Miller retires and the Democrats retain control of the Senate, we'd be very fortunate to have Sen. Kasemeyer as president of the Senate," he told the crowd. The camaraderie didn't last long, though.

Kasemeyer later marveled at how "nice" it was of Kittleman to mention him as a possible future Senate president.

At the breakfast's end, Kittleman managed to irritate Robey by warning that federal stimulus money was "designed to get us through the elections. It was designed that way," he said, implying that the federal money helping to keep the states afloat this year was intended to benefit Democrats. "Think about that when you go to the ballot box," he said.

An annoyed Robey arose, ready to fire back.

"I'm scared to death about all this" anti-tax and spend rhetoric, he told the chamber members. "Just remember to go to the damn ballot box and vote. I don't care who you vote for," he said. "Maryland is in better shape than most other states. If we start giving up all the successes we've had, we won't be Maryland any more. We'll be Georgia or Mississippi, where they lay off cops and teachers" and have "rat-infested" public buildings.

Kittleman's rhetoric, Robey said later, "is a fear tactic" merely designed for political advantage. "They preach that sermon every day," he said, but no one knows now what will happen to taxes next year.

Amid the political sparks, a frank Del. James E. Malone Jr., a Democrat who represents parts of Baltimore County and Elkridge in Howard, said what some others may be thinking. Now that the 2010 legislative session is over, he said, he has just one focus.

"My number one priority right now is to get re-elected," he said.