The '06 session : looking back


The young guns -- Dels. Dereck E. Davis of Prince George's County and Peter A. Hammen of Baltimore, the youngest committee chairmen in the legislature, got stuck with two of the toughest issues - BGE rate increases and stem-cell research, respectively. The Democratic chairmen of Economic Matters and Health and Government Operations earned kudos for keeping things orderly, fair and respectful.

Sen. E.J. Pipkin -- Sometimes having a former Wall Street bond trader around really helps. Two years after a quixotic campaign against U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, the Eastern Shore Republican went after Constellation Energy on the BGE rate increases, becoming the Senate's leading voice on the issue.

Del. Patrick L. McDonough -- The Baltimore County Republican sheds his xenophobic label earned from anti-immigrant bills and instead recasts himself as a voice for the people against BGE.

The Democratic base, old and new -- The Dems' old-school power brokers (labor unions) and new organizational muscle (Progressive Maryland, Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative, environmentalists) teamed up in various combinations to push through a minimum-wage increase, the Fair Share Health Care Act, the Healthy Air Act and state employee pension enhancements.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch -- Dubbed a "parliamentary genius" by The Washington Post at the beginning of the session, the Annapolis Democrat steered an unruly chamber through divisive debates on gay marriage, stem cells, BGE rate increases, the proposed city schools takeover, and pet issues such as banning political fundraising by University System of Maryland regents.

Cecilia Januszkiewicz -- Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s new budget secretary fills the big shoes of James C. "Chip" DiPaula Jr. without skipping a beat, quietly shepherding the governor's spending plan through the legislature more smoothly than anybody has in recent memory.

Stem-cell researchers -- Advocates didn't get everything they wanted, namely mandated annual state funding or priority status for embryonic research, but despite unwavering opposition from social conservatives, Maryland will start funding stem-cell research this summer.

Comptroller William Donald Schaefer -- He ogles a 24-year-old aide to the governor while she's bringing him tea, initially refuses to apologize, then blames the media. Two days later, he sends a nearly indecipherable, handwritten "note of regret." Voters could be tiring of his act: In a straw poll taken by Western Maryland Democrats last weekend, Del. Peter Franchot - who calls himself the only real Democrat running for comptroller - defeated Schaefer in a landslide.

Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. -- The Anne Arundel Republican briefly becomes the face of the Republican Party by leading the anti-gay-marriage movement. After losing in committee and on the House floor, he tries to impeach a judge for making a ruling he didn't like. That said, he's now a hero to part of the GOP base.

University System of Maryland Board of Regents -- Chairman David Nevins and former Gov. Marvin Mandel are subject to ethics probes for possible illegal lobbying, and Ehrlich campaign finance chairman Richard E. Hug is the target of legislation to prohibit political activity by regents. Stepping down from the board would give him more time to raise money for Ehrlich's re-election.

Public Service Commission Blasting them as lapdogs for the utility industry, legislators passed a bill that would fire the five commissioners. The governor vetoed the bill, but not before e-mails showed Chairman Kenneth D. Schisler chatting about business and strategy with industry officials and lobbyists who took him hunting and helped get him tickets to the Bush inauguration and a baseball game. Then, more e-mails showed Commissioner Charles R. Boutin communicating with a prostitute.

Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan Knocked around for the Baltimore bus route restructuring and withholding millions in highway funds from the counties, the former delegate could be out of a job in January, thanks to a bill that would require second-term governors to resubmit their Cabinet nominees for confirmation.

Sen. James Brochin The first-term Baltimore County Democrat got outmaneuvered by Sen. Richard F. Colburn of the Eastern Shore - a back-bencher - after Brochin tried to restrict a development in Talbot County near a federal wildlife management area. Now he's got a top-tier opponent in his re-election race, and not much prospect for help from fellow Democrats. Known for his tireless campaigning, he will be knocking on plenty of doors.

Hostility The session that began with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller promising to bury the Republicans face down ended with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s aides locking their door to avoid getting bills they didn't like; the governor not inviting sponsors to a bill-signing ceremony; and his showing up 40 minutes late to meet with the top legislators.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Will voters see a guy who tried to co-opt Democratic issues and played both sides on gay marriage, selling Port of Baltimore operations to Dubai and stopping BGE's rate increase? Or will they see a guy who supported stem-cell research, the Healthy Air Act and a massive reduction in their electric bills?

Mayor Martin O'Malley Lawmakers talked about auditing his city's crime statistics and changing the way his police patrol the streets. The mayor pulled the city's legislative delegation together to fight against a state takeover of 11 city schools. But have crime and schools nicked his gubernatorial bid?

Montgomery Executive Douglas M. Duncan He backed stem-cell funding and other key issues promoted by Democrats, and tried to position himself as the mature alternative in the race for governor. A steady presence in Annapolis as always, did he get any traction in the primary against O'Malley?

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