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Take cover -- gavel shrapnel's flying


The House of Delegates can be an unruly bunch.

It's not uncommon for many of the 141 delegates to be talking privately to one another while a colleague has the floor.

Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. often has to whack his gavel hard to quiet the group down. So hard, in fact, that he has been known to break a gavel or two.

Last week the clerks who sit in front of him decided to take precautions against gavel shrapnel. Three donned neon-colored headgear -- possibly inspired by the week's hottest item, a mandatory helmet law for motorcyclists?

"It has nothing to do with the legislation we recently passed," the speaker announced.

One persuasive lobbyist

Hand it to veteran lobbyist James J. Doyle Jr., perhaps the only paid persuader in town who can use Maryland's budget problems as a reason to kill a bill that would raise more money for the state.

The bill would create a $1 million investment adviser guaranty fund to help pay victims of securities fraud. It would do so by imposing an annual $50 assessment on every registered investment adviser; the assessment could rise if the payout from the fund increases.

Here was one of the arguments that Mr. Doyle, who represents IDS Financial Services, used against the bill before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last week:

"In a year like this, when the legislature doesn't know how to handle, or what to do with the taxes it does have, or how to raise new ones, this is the worst time to be considering an experiment like this."

In other words, with all those annoying budget problems, the last thing the General Assembly needs to be bothered with is another million bucks on its hands. We should all have such problems.

Cave man of the week

Today's installment in our continuing series of cave men in Annapolis concerns, once again, the famous "potty parity" bill.

It would require new sports and entertainment facilities to include women's room toilets "at least equal" in number to the combined number of toilets and urinals in the men's rooms.

Del. Dana Lee Dembrow, who once dressed not as a cave man but as a pygmy at a Halloween party, suggested an amendment to strike the phrase "at least equal" and substitute "equal," for true potty parity. "From my experience, I know that women tend to spend a little more time in the bathroom than men," he explained, eliciting boos and groans from lawmakers of both sexes.

"Maybe I'm off base," Delegate Dembrow, D-Montgomery, allowed sheepishly. He withdrew the amendment.

Mitchell a closet Republican?

Well, we finally know what the R. stands for in Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr.'s name.

Earlier this month, USA Today uncovered what no other publication had dared to print -- Mr. Mitchell's ties to the Republican Party. According to the brief item, the Democrat was on the verge of introducing "the state GOP budget plan . . . establishing a new 'workfare' program."

Call out the brass

It was a week for dueling military experts in Annapolis.

First, Adm. Stansfield Turner, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, came down to testify for the cash-poor University of Maryland College Park, where he teaches.

The next day brought Paul H. Nitze, the nation's former chief arms-control negotiator and adviser to six presidents. Mr. Nitze came to put in a good word for the place where he teaches, St. Mary's College.

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