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Southern Maryland freshmen legislators learn lessons  

Sen. Steve Waugh introduced bills to restrict wind turbine projects that interfered with other facilities, including Patuxent River Naval Air Station, and to provide in-state college tuition for military dependents, but they did not progress through the legislature. Though Waugh’s wind turbine bill did not move, the developers of the Great Bay Wind farm on the Eastern Shore pulled the plug on that project. Critics of the project, including Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th), said the wind turbine project threatened specialized radar at Patuxent River Naval Air Station. “I think Waugh’s bill stalled because it was seen as a settled matter,” Eberly said.

Credit:  So. Md. freshmen legislators learn lessons | by Jason Babcock, Staff writer | April 17, 2015 | www.somdnews.com ~~

Southern Maryland sent five new lawmakers to Annapolis this year, who were among 69 freshmen in the 188-member Maryland General Assembly.

New to Annapolis this year were Sen. Steve Waugh (R-St. Mary’s, Calvert), Del. Matt Morgan (R-St. Mary’s), Del. Deb Rey (R-St. Mary’s), Del. Edith J. Patterson (D-Charles) and Del. Michael Jackson (D-Calvert, Prince George’s).

All of the Southern Maryland freshman class did “exceptionally well,” especially with a steep learning curve, said Del. Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-St. Mary’s, Calvert), chairman of the St. Mary’s delegation. “I’ve been here 21 years and I’m still learning things.”

Most of the measures introduced by the region’s freshmen legislators failed to win approval.

“We got some good things done. It’s not about getting the credit, it’s about getting the job done,” Waugh said Thursday. “You’re working quietly and professionally with people behind the scenes,” he said to reach consensus on bills.

“I don’t think any criticism is warranted,” Todd Eberly, political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said. “I think that this was a learning year for a lot of folks.”

Leaders in the House of Delegates and Maryland Senate had to learn to work with the new governor, Larry Hogan (R), who in turn had to learn to work with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s) and Speaker of the House Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel), Eberly said.

“And there was an unusually large class of freshmen in the legislature. All of that conspired to keep a lot of stuff off of the agenda,” he said.

Waugh introduced bills to restrict wind turbine projects that interfered with other facilities, including Patuxent River Naval Air Station, and to provide in-state college tuition for military dependents, but they did not progress through the legislature.

Though Waugh’s wind turbine bill did not move, the developers of the Great Bay Wind farm on the Eastern Shore pulled the plug on that project. Critics of the project, including Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th), said the wind turbine project threatened specialized radar at Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

“I think Waugh’s bill stalled because it was seen as a settled matter,” Eberly said.

Waugh said of his first year, “I put an enormous amount of effort into just building relationships.” In Annapolis, “it is almost exclusively social. You can’t get anything done unless people know you and like you. If they don’t like you, you’re dead in the water,” he said.

Waugh said he did network with up to 40 other state senators, which “lays a foundation for the next few years to make sure we can make things happen.”

Morgan introduced a bill to exempt St. Mary’s County businesses from taxes on personal property. The St. Mary’s County commissioners gave their support for the bill, but asked for a year’s deferment. That bill did not pass.

“It’s quite common for bills to require two or three sessions to ripen,” Eberly said.

Morgan said he proposed his business property tax exemption bill before the session started. “The bill received the ‘Harry Reid’ treatment and was never brought up for a vote in committee,” he said this week. “We’ll make corrections to this legislation and make a substantial push for this next year.”

Rey and Waugh introduced legislation to allow reciprocity for conceal carry weapon permits across state lines, which did not pass. Rey introduced an additional bill for veterans to be able to use their military ID to purchase a handgun, which also failed to win approval.

Rey voted no on legislation more often than any other lawmaker this year, Eberly said. “She does have the distinction of casting the most no votes this session, but I think it’s premature for anyone to be critical of that. And a legislature needs a few iconoclasts and a few folks to play devil’s advocate just to force debate or to promote additional thought or discussion.”

Rey cast the lone vote in the General Assembly not to change the presidential primary election date to late April next year because she said Maryland should be more of a player earlier in presidential primary season.

Morgan, Rey and Del. Mark N. Fisher (R-Calvert) were also among the 10 nay votes to the original House version of the governor’s budget.

“I think I have done a good job,” Rey said of her first year in Annapolis. “I did my best to keep constituents in mind when voting on legislation. I helped pass legislation when I thought it would benefit them and Maryland and I tried to amend or kill bills that I thought would create a bigger burden on the citizens – whether it was taxes or regulations.”

Rey said she was able to get the governor’s support to have the Department of Defense provide excess property to local fire departments through the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

That “will start by focusing on fire departments in St. Mary’s County since we brought the program. This is a huge win for us,” she said. It did not require legislation.

Morgan said of his first year, “There is always room for improvement, but I think I did well.”

He said he campaigned on controlling spending in order to cut taxes and to be able to incentivize businesses to grow and expand and so far this year, “I feel we did a good job in our first goal of limiting the growth of state government. Change has come to Maryland, though not everyone in Annapolis has seen the memo.”

Patterson, a former Charles County commissioner and school board member, said she was pleased to be able to secure more than $1 million in building projects to support parks, the Benedict Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad, the Bel Alton High School Community Development Center and Southern Maryland Carousel.

She said the state’s $40.7 billion budget meets priorities without increasing taxes or expanding the structural deficit.

The greatest lesson Patterson said she learned in the General Assembly is that “the real work is done at the committee levels where both parties across the aisle work together.”

Morgan said he learned that long-standing traditions, such as local courtesy on bills, “are treated more like guidelines and are subject to change at any time depending on who you are or how you make people feel,” because there are so many more Democrats than Republicans in the legislature.

“It was disappointing to see good pieces of local legislation, supported by the citizens and the business community, not even get afforded the courtesy of a vote in committee,” he said.

jbabcock@somdnews.com Staff writer Sarah Fleischman contributed to this report.

Source:  So. Md. freshmen legislators learn lessons | by Jason Babcock, Staff writer | April 17, 2015 | www.somdnews.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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