Lawmakers hit the trail - but this summer, not for a campaign

The Baltimore Sun

Many Howard County members of the General Assembly are using their summers for professional travel, going as near as Washington and as far as Kazakhstan.

While Del. Guy Guzzone attended a weeklong seminar in Washington last month, state Sen. Allan H. Kittleman is preparing to go halfway around the world for a cultural exchange trip to the central Asian republic of Kazakhstan with Maryland schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and others.

This large, former portion of the old Soviet Union, skewered a few years ago in the comedy film Borat, will host the Marylanders from Friday to Aug. 16. Kittleman, a Republican, said he is looking forward to it.

"I've been very involved with literacy in Maryland," he said. When a delegation from the nation that stretches from the Caspian Sea to the border with China came to Maryland this spring, Kittleman applied for the return visit and was accepted.

The trip is sponsored by Civic Leaders Advancing Active and Responsible Citizenship, an exchange program funded by the U.S. State Department and the Center for Civic Education.

Guzzone, a Democrat who serves on the health and human services subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, was chosen to represent the House of Delegates at the conference on youth at Georgetown University. The gathering, part of a larger effort coordinating child welfare and juvenile justice reforms, was sponsored by the Georgetown Public Policy Institute's Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and Casey Family Programs. Maryland was one of seven states to participate in the 15-month effort.

"This is a national problem," Guzzone said, describing five days of intense discussions. At the end of the long process, he said, the goal is to come up with new ways to deal with what has proved so far to be an intractable problem.

New Orleans was the site of the annual National Conference of State Legislators from July 23 to July 26, which drew Senate Majority Leader Edward J. Kasemeyer and Del. Elizabeth Bobo, both Democrats.

"I think there are ideas that come out that you haven't been exposed to before," Kasemeyer said. He was primarily interested in health services and the emotional issue of immigration, he said.

The effect of the national economic downturn on environmental issues was Bobo's focus in New Orleans, she said.

"A year ago, environmental issues were riding high. Now, the economy has gotten so bad that a lot of environmental issues are way down," Bobo said. "We have to find a way to get across that these issues are inextricably entwined."

Del. Gail H. Bates, a Republican, is at the American Legislative Exchange Council annual meeting this weekend in Chicago, which features a mixture of political and business people who work jointly on model legislation on tax and fiscal policy, her specialty as an accountant.

She, Kasemeyer, Guzzone, Sen. James N. Robey, Del. Warren E. Miller and others are also planning to attend the annual Maryland Association of Counties convention in Ocean City in the middle of this month.

"As a legislator, it's really important to understand what the counties are doing," Bates said.

Robey, a former Howard County executive, police chief and MACO president, said he thinks that it is "critical that we're there to keep in touch with local government." Robey, a Democrat, recently also attended a conference of the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement in Boca Raton, Fla. He is the group's treasurer.

Miller, a Republican, is like many who attend MACO: He plans to combine business with a family vacation at the beach.

"I've been swamped in my real job this summer," Miller said about his job with Human Touch, a small federal contracting firm.

Still regaining his strength after surgery this spring, Del. Frank S. Turner is visiting places around his district, including the Day Resource Center on U.S. 1 in North Laurel. The center, sponsored by a coalition of churches, private foundations and the county, opened a few weeks ago to give homeless people a place to shower, eat and wash clothes a few days a week. A social worker also tries to help them, said Andrea Ingram, director of Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center.

"I'm doing fine. I'm out, and I'm doing things," Turner said. The center is open three days a week, four hours a day, and has served about 80 people, Ingram said.

Del. Shane Pendergrass is not traveling. She is catching up on personal business and listening to constituents, she said.

"We have lives, families, children to maintain. For three months [during the General Assembly], we don't do any of that stuff at all. My to-do list is down to half a dozen things from three dozen," she said.

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