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Annapolis legislative sausage making begins over steak dinners

Watching the legislative sausage getting made in Annapolis may not be as unpleasant as the idiom suggests. In fact, it often involves sitting down for fancy steak dinners with fine wine.

As state lawmakers converged this past week on the Maryland capital for the 2018 General Assembly session, they were joined by the lobbyists, companies and interest groups looking to influence their decisions.

Just as we did last year, The Baltimore Sun is providing you with the exclusive list of events that your state lawmakers are invited to attend. It’s called the “protocol calendar.” And despite calls last year to publish the list online, the document is still only available to those on a special mailing list maintained by the Department of Legislative Services.

Gov. Larry Hogan proposed “integrity in government” legislation last year that would have made the calendar publicly available online, but neither chamber of the General Assembly acted on the package of four bills.

View the calendar here »

A paper copy of the weekly calendar is delivered on Mondays to the offices of all state lawmakers. Members of the public can get a copy by going down to the State House basement or by emailing to get on the email distribution list.

If you can’t wait, here are the highlights for January:

Verizon is hosting three dinner events this month at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Annapolis. The 6:30 p.m. meals begin Jan. 18 for delegates on the Ways and Means Committee, on Jan. 23 for members of the House Economic Matters Committee and Jan. 30 for members of the Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee.

Many of the old favorites for meetings and briefing sessions include Red Red Wine Bar and Harry Browne’s. All lawmakers are invited Thursday for a reception at the wine bar from 4-7 p.m. hosted by the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors of Maryland.

And the Greater Baltimore Committee, Capitol Strategies and Harris, Jones & Malone are hosting a reception at Harry Browne’s for all lawmakers on Jan. 16.

Loews Annapolis Hotel is one of the local businesses that appears to be benefiting the most from the business of lawmaking. The Restaurant Association of Maryland, the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield are all hosting receptions at the hotel next week for any state lawmaker who wants to attend.

“This should be made available to the public,” said Damon Effingham, acting executive director of Common Cause Maryland, a government watchdog group. “We should be using technology in a reasonable way to increase access, transparency and accountability.”

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