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It's not easy to stop a floor speech cold by Sen. Ulysses Currie, chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

Currie was just getting warmed up this morning -- declaring to Republican smirks that a vote against a sales tax increase would be a vote against transportation projects in every district -- when Sen. J. Robert Hooper walked into the Senate chamber.

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It set off a standing ovation by senators, staff, and observers in the balcony.

Hooper -- a Republican from Street who has battled colon cancer for the past few years and suffered a mild heart attack in December -- announced on Wednesday that he will resign, effective Dec. 31. Hooper, 71, said the rigors of the special session convinced him he could not continue representing the district that includes Harford County and much of Bel Air.

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The Senate approved a resolution honoring Hooper's nine years of service in the Senate.
"We will miss your presence in the Senate chamber and your contribution to this body,'' the resolution said.

"I can't explain it in words, the honor and privilege of having my name up there with the folks who are here now and have been for the past eight years,'' Hooper said, referring to the Senate vote board. "It's been a privilege to represent Harford County. I'm not sure I deserve it, but that's where the good Lord put me for those years."

Hooper is known for high-fiving staff members and legislators in the statehouse.

"He brought some down-home country values to the Senate and we're not going to forget him very soon,'' said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller.

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