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No snow day for Maryland General Assembly

While many Marylanders got a reprieve from work on Monday as snow cleanup continued, state lawmakers and the people who assist them didn't get a snow day.

Maryland's 188 state lawmakers were still expected to report to Annapolis for 8 p.m. sessions of the House of Delegates and Senate -- despite more than 29 inches of snow falling in Anne Arundel County over the weekend.

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Crews from the state Department of General Services worked all weekend and into Monday to clear "an enormous amount of snow" from sidewalks, walkways and courtyards in time for the noon opening of the State House complex in Annapolis, said Therese Yewell, an agency spokeswoman.

In addition to clearing the sidewalks, the crews cleared all of the snow from Lawyers Mall -- where rallies and press conferences are traditionally held -- and from a courtyard between the treasury building and the comptroller's office.

"Here in Annapolis, DGS has a responsibility to make it safe for legislators to get to their offices and carry out the business of the General Assembly," Yewell said.

Lawmakers and their staffers slowly trickled into Annapolis throughout the day. Legislative analysts -- the nonpartisan employees who review and write summaries of thousands of bills -- quietly went about their work as usual.

The politicians were grateful for those who worked hard to clear the roads and sidewalks. In his opening prayer in the Senate, Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, a Baltimore Democrat, thanked God for lawmakers' safe arrival and asked for the same protection on the way home. Del. Herb McMillan, an Anne Arundel Republican, offered the prayer in the House, giving thanks for highway workers and a neighbor who lent him a snowblower.

Sen. Joanne Benson, a Prince George's Democrat, encouraged her fellow senators to thank DGS workers. "We deeply appreciate what they do," she said.

In the House of Delegates, 124 of the 141 delegates showed up for the Monday night session.

"I didn't think there would be more than 110," said House Speaker Michael E. Busch. "One hundred twenty-four -- you can't beat that."

But the Senate perhaps had the House beat, with 43 of 46 senators making the Monday session. The Senate's attendance rate was 93 percent compared to 88 percent in the House.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. called his group "the hardy 43." He said the three senators who weren't in Annapolis were granted excused absences.

Miller warned that even with the potential for more snow later in the week, the work of the Senate must go on.

"We don't cancel," he said. "We might doze, but we don't close."

Monday nights during the 90-day General Assembly session usually feature rallies on Lawyers Mall and groups of activists and constituents going from office to office to meet with lawmakers before the 8 p.m. floor sessions.

In light of the snow, many Monday events were canceled, including a lobby night for climate change activists and a District 40 night for residents of that area in Baltimore.

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