Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Baltimore Keeps Grip on Assembly Power

With the elections three weeks behind us, the real exciting politics of governing are heating up. Senate President Mike Miller, an institution in Annapolis, will not seek another term. Del. Anthony Brown leaves his leadership position to take on the role of Lt. Governor. And committee chairs are falling into some interesting hands.

With this background and less than two months until the 2007 session convenes January 10, leadership posts are being filled. The Baltimore Sun reports:

Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden of Baltimore will become Senate president pro tempore, the second in command in that chamber. Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, who represents Baltimore and Howard counties, will take McFadden's place as Senate majority leader. And Del. Talmadge Branch of Baltimore will become House majority whip. All three are Democrats.

Despite the continued growth of political clout of the wealthy and aware Washington suburbs, Baltimore Democrats maintain a healthy presence in the General Assembly. In fact, the city enjoys leadership power disproportionate to its percentage of the state population - although far from what it was in the heyday of machine politics.

This isn't necessarily good news for Baltimore. Montgomery County Democrats in particular embrace policies that have alot to offer the City, including support for public education, increasing wages and health insurance. Baltimore Democrats are often so entrenched in mindsets that they are unable to see that different approaches may in fact benefit the city. See last session's attempt to prevent state takeovers of the schools, for instance. Not that the takeover was incontrovertibly the best policy, but the Baltimore delegation's response was a reactionary move that did not seriously consider the issue.

Of course, Baltimore's weight in the leadership lineup offers one very important bonus for our city. That bonus is best known as cool hard cash (or "capital funds" if you want to be ambivalent about it).

In related news, most of the 11 freshmen senators and 34 new delegates attended an orientation program yesterday. Senate President Mike Miller offered a nuggest of advice, informing the incoming legislators that “we encourage independence — to a certain extent." The crowd's response of laughter, as The Baltimore Examiner reported, indicates that these newbies are already privy to one fact of life in Maryland's Senate: Mike Miller's idea of independence is allowing Democrats to choose between a "yes" or a nod when agreeing to vote with the President.

from The League: Reassembled


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