Departing lawmakers strike wistful note

A budget-obsessed delegate who is a former county official made a last attempt to move millions to local governments.

The doctor in the Senate pulled out his medical credentials one final time trying to halt marijuana for sick people.

And an Eastern Shore lawmaker belted out "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" on the Senate floor, moving some of his colleagues to tears.

The latter was the most memorable swan song — or at least the most melodic — from among a small group of legislators departing voluntarily this year. By the time the Maryland General Assembly reconvenes next January, voters will have decided to remove some lawmakers and add others. But at least two senators and two delegates among the 188 are leaving by choice, and took time to reflect on their tenure during the final hours of this year's legislative session.

"It is bittersweet," said Del. Murray Levy, a Charles County Democrat. "The work is really important. But it is just time."

A former county commissioner, Levy wanted to leave county governments a gift on his way out. He fought in the final days of the session to move $200 million to local coffers by dipping into an obscure account used to prop up state services.

"I wanted to give it all to them. There's a concept," he said. The idea was watered down to $50 million, and then rejected.

Across the State House, Sen. Andrew P. Harris, an anesthesiologist and Baltimore County Republican, plans to take on U.S. Rep. Frank Kratovil in November and won't be back next year no matter how the election turns out. "Maybe I'll be in a bigger venue," Harris said.

He has sounded confident about his chances, covering up an occasional misstatement during debates with a crack about his mind already being in Washington.

He also frequently referenced his medical background, most recently talking about it when he tried to weaken a measure offered by a Republican colleague to permit medical marijuana.

"I'll miss the Senate," Harris said Monday evening. "It's been unique to be the only physician in the body."

Another member with an eye on Washington is Del. William Bronrott, a Montgomery County Democrat who is leaving to work for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

So far, one delegate has announced his designs on the other side of the State House. House Minority Whip Christopher B. Shank of Washington County will take on fellow Republican Sen. Donald F. Munson.

Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, an Eastern Shore Republican, is retiring for personal reasons. His wife is ill with Parkinson's disease and he wants to spend time with her before her symptoms deteriorate. "I've got things I'll do at home for my wife," he said. "We'll travel that journey together."

Senate Minority Leader Allan H. Kittleman gave his colleague an emotional send-off on the Senate floor, saying he looked up to only two people in his life: his father — former Republican senator Robert H. Kittleman, who died in 2004 — and Stoltzfus.

Bypassing the chance to offer a traditional opening prayer on Monday, Stoltzfus, an a cappella singer, chose to sing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." He picked the song, he said, because he knew Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat, enjoys it.

Baltimore Sun reporter Julie Bykowicz contributed to this article

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