The text of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s first State of the State address today, as provided by his press office:

Senate President Mike Miller; Speaker Mike Busch; Members of the General Assembly; Lt. Governor Steele; Chief Judge Bell; Judge Vaughan; Attorney General Joe Curran; Treasurer Nancy Kopp; Comptroller William Donald Schaefer; members of Congress; county executives and mayors; special guests; friends and fellow Marylanders:

What a tremendous honor it is to be standing before you today as Maryland’s governor. I am so happy to be here, back with my friends in the Maryland General Assembly. There are so many good, hard-working people on both sides of the aisle, all eager to do what’s right for the citizens of Maryland.

I served here for eight years -- a tremendous experience for a young legislator. I’ll always cherish the time I spent here. I made great friends and benefited from great mentors. Many still serve in this body, and others have joined my administration. I experienced how the legislative process works, as well as the importance of principled cooperation. I observed and participated in serious debates about issues that matter to every citizen: crime, drugs, education, healthcare, transportation, tort reform, the Chesapeake Bay, and juvenile justice.

The Maryland General Assembly represents everything that a citizen legislature should be: diverse, collegial, effective, informed and vigilant. Serving here prepared me for the challenges and demands of being an effective public servant.

To all the freshmen members of the Assembly, I encourage you to savor this experience. I also encourage you to make the most of it. You can do that by getting to know some of the veteran members. Neither party has a monopoly on talent in this legislature.

Many of the people in this room represent the best of public service: I would like to single out seven of these long-serving members today. Together these members have won 126 races and served a total of 225 years in this historic Assembly.

Please stand as I call your name.

  • Delegate Wade Kach: 28 years of service.

  • Delegate Joe Vallario: 28 years of service.

  • Delegate Hattie N. Harrison: 30 years of service.

  • Delegate John Arnick: 31 years of service.

  • Delegate Pauline Menes: 36 years of service.

  • Senator Norman Stone: 40 years of service.

  • Senate President Mike Miller: 32 years of service.

    It’s appropriate to celebrate public service, and the thoughtful people who choose to serve. They symbolize what is good and decent about this historic citizen legislature, and we thank them.

    Maryland continues to be an intellectual force powering the region. We possess exceptional institutions of higher education such as Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland. In the field of medical research, Maryland is an international leader, as demonstrated by the world-renowned Johns Hopkins Medicine, University of Maryland Medical Systems, and National Institutes of Health.

    Further, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the National Aquarium in Baltimore both speak to the state’s reputation as a science center. The Port of Baltimore is world famous, and we are the center of the biotechnology universe. Our citizens are highly educated, and our per capita personal income is the sixth highest in the nation. As citizens of Maryland, we have a lot in which we can take pride. Still, there are areas in which we can do better.

    We need to make our streets and communities safer. According to FBI statistics, Maryland continues to be one of the most violent states in the nation. Further, the link between crime and drugs remains unbreakable. A 2001 study performed at Baltimore City’s central booking facility found that nearly three-quarters of arrestees tested positive for at least one drug.