Widening an already deep break with the General Assembly, Gov. Larry Hogan compared lawmakers Thursday to students on spring break, drawing a sharp rebuke from a leading Senate Democrat and mixed reviews from members of his own party.
"It's like they're on spring break," Hogan said on the C4 Show on WBAL-AM Radio. "They come here for a few weeks. They start breaking up the furniture and throwing beer bottles off the balcony."
Hogan's remarks came after a discussion of moves that Democratic legislators are proposing to trim gubernatorial powers or oppose his policies.
The governor said the way legislators have been conducting business is "crazy," complaining that they are trying to stop him from doing anything despite his broad popularity, as reflected in recent polls. He said he's not sure how any of them can be re-elected by doing that.
"Luckily, in a few weeks, they're going to go home, and we to go back to running the state and making progress, like we have for the past year," Hogan said. The legislature leaves Annapolis in mid-April after completing its 90-day session.
The governor's remarks drew a vehement response from Sen. Robert A. Zirkin, a Baltimore County lawmaker who is one of the less-partisan Democrats in the Senate.
Zirkin took the floor to recount the hours of heart-wrenching testimony on serious issues the Judicial Proceedings Committee, which he chairs, had sat through in recent days.
"I don't recall there being a spring break from college," Zirkin said. "I'm insulted and I think every one of us should be insulted.
Zirkin said Hogan owes the Senate, the House of Delegates and the citizens of Maryland "yet another apology."
"If the governor doesn't know what we're doing, he should come down and watch a little while," Zirkin said.
Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer defended the governor's comment.
"Governor Hogan was making a very serious policy point about the nearly 20 bills being pushed by the majority leadership in the General Assembly that only have one purpose – to limit executive authority and damage the office of the governor," Mayer said.
After Zirkin spoke, not a single Republican senator rose to defend the governor's comments. Senate Minority Leader J. B. Jennings, a Baltimore County Republican, walked across the chamber and shook Zirkin's hand.
Jennings said he disagreed with Hogan's remarks.
"There are 188 members here who all have the same goal -- to make the state a better place to live," he said. While he said he often disagrees with other senators' policies, Jennings said "we need to be civil and work together."
However, Jennings said later that he believed Hogan's remarks were "tongue-in-cheek."
"I don't think he truly meant it," Jennings said.
Jennings' counterpart in the House, Del. Nic Kipke of Anne Arundel County, said he took Hogan's remarks as a joke.
"He was making a light-hearted statement about the silliness going on this session," he said.
Kipke said Democrats, including Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, constantly insulted or questioned the governor's integrity.
"It's a good thing the governor's not as thin-skinned as some of the members of the majority party, since their political and personal attacks have been so offensive," he said.
Some Democratic lawmakers answered Hogan's comments with a touch of sarcasm, tweeting photos from hearing rooms with the hashtag #notspringbreak.
The conflict comes a little more than two weeks after Hogan made a plea for a bipartisan approach to governoring during his State of the State Address. Since then, however, the governor and legislative leaders have been embroiled in almost constant disputes over policy and perceived slights.
Miller, giving an interview after Zirkin spoke, played down the division.
"Everybody has a bad day and this was not a good day for the governor," the Senate president said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Erin Cox contributed to this article.