WITH JUST days before the Jan. 14 start of the General Assembly session, politicians are vacuuming up their last dollars before an annual 90-day ban on fund raising kicks in.
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., in particular, has a busy couple of weeks on the steak-skewers and chardonnay circuit, helping several party-mates bolster their campaign accounts.
Tonight, Ehrlich is scheduled to appear as a guest at a fund-raiser in Frederick for Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, his former congressional colleague. Tickets are $100, $150 and $1,000. Bartlett faces a primary challenge from Frederick County State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle.
Tomorrow, the governor plans to attend a first-of-its-kind event: a reception at the BWI Marriott to raise money for the Republican Senatorial Slate Committee, the new creation of senators and state GOP Chairman John M. Kane that will distribute money to races in competitive districts. Tickets are $250 and $1,000.
Ehrlich is a scheduled guest at a Friday luncheon in Overlea for Dels. Joseph C. Boteler III and John W.E. Cluster Jr., Republicans from Baltimore County.
And on Monday, House Republicans will get their turn with the governor at an event to raise money for the Republican House Slate Committee -- the counterpart to the Senate group.
Sometime between those events, the governor is expected to release his agenda for the Assembly session, which begins next week; complete his budget; and begin work on a State of the State address. Borrowing a line from the unsuccessful Kathleen Kennedy Townsend campaign, we're sure he'll be able to collect enough cocktail napkins in case he has to jot down ideas in a hurry.
Predictions for 2004 by ex-delegate D'Amato
Former state Del. C. Richard D'Amato, an attorney and longtime counsel to several U.S. senators, including Robert C. Byrd of West Viriginia and Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut, has made a few humorous political predictions for the new year.
D'Amato was the featured speaker last week at the Almost 7:30 Friday Democratic Breakfast Club, and got some chuckles from the crowd of three dozen with these observations:
As the nation grapples with mad cow disease, a new malady surfaces: Maryland mad crab disease. But the affliction saves the Chesapeake fishery by creating widespread fear of eating crustaceans, dampening demand. Later, the state will discover "that it was a wild goose story cooked up by radical watermen in league with the Severn River Association," D'Amato said.
Ehrlich will issue a new state dictionary that omits the word "tax," and substitutes it with "a whole series of other words, like fees, levies, mandatory contributions, surcharges, revenue enhancements, major gotchas, minor gotchas, plain and chocolate-sprinkled gotchas."
Still recovering from Isabel, Maryland is hit by another powerful storm, "Hurricane William Donald Schaefer, which will bury the State House in 4 million tons of Eastern Shore chicken manure. In a fit of revenge, the legislature will shut down Bay Bridge and give the Eastern Shore to Delaware."
Republicans top scorers on business group's report
The latest report from Maryland Business for Responsive Government seems to reinforce the conventional wisdom that Maryland's Republican lawmakers are more commerce-friendly than their Democratic counterparts.
Republicans received the highest scores in the group's annual scorecard, which is a tally of 2003 votes considered important to business, as well as a "cumulative" ranking for legislators with at least four years' legislative experience.
In truth, the ranking could have been released in April, but no doubt that group president Robert O.C. Worcester wanted the rankings fresh on the minds of lawmakers as they prepare for this year's session.
The group says that Sen. David R. Brinkley, a former delegate who represents Carroll and Frederick counties, has the highest cumulative score among Republican senators, at 94 out of 100. Among Democrats, Montgomery County Sen. Patrick J. Hogan's cumulative score of 77 was tops.
In the House of Delegates, Van T. Mitchell of Southern Maryland was the highest ranking Democrat, with a 78 cumulative score. Carroll County Republican Del. Carmen Amedori had a 94.
Based on 2003 Senate votes -- which included the slots bill, corporate taxes, Ehrlich's pick of Lynn Y. Buhl as environmental secretary -- Brinkley scored a 100, along with Republican Sens. Andrew P. Harris, Robert H. Kittleman, Janet Greenip, Nancy Jacobs and Richard F. Colburn.
Those with the lowest scores: Sharon M. Grosfeld of Montgomery County with 0 percent; Paul G. Pinsky of Prince George's County with 11 percent; and Verna L. Jones of Baltimore with 13 percent. All are Democrats. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller scored 50 percent.
On the House side, perfect scores in 2003 were obtained by Amedori and Republicans Warren E. Miller of Howard County; and Donald H. Dwyer Jr. and former Del. James E. Rzepkowski Jr., both of Anne Arundel County. Nine Democratic delegates received a zero, including Shane E. Pendergrass and Elizabeth Bobo of Howard County and Salima S. Marriott and Hattie N. Harrison of Baltimore.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch got 14 percent.