“Political” Floor Remarks Draw Rebuke From Speaker Jones
With weary legislators closing in a on a key deadline to move bills from one chamber to the other, House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) reminded delegates to steer their floor remarks toward questions of policy and not the motives of others.
“What happens on the floor of this house isn’t about you. It isn’t about me,” Jones said at the start of Thursday’s floor session. “It’s about the work of the people who elect us to represent them.”
“Let’s show each other the respect that is deserved when debating the issues at hand,” she continued. “I expect all of you are talented enough to make your points without questioning the motives of other legislators or invoking party politics.”
Jones’ comments came one day after reports surfaced that Republican members of the Legislative Women’s Caucus quit en masse. The walkout came after Del. Lauren Arikan (R-Harford), an outspoken GOP lawmaker who was in line to chair the organization next year, was passed over in favor of a Democrat, Del. Lesley J. Lopez (D-Montgomery).
Tempers have been short on the House floor all week, with Republicans and Democrats skirmishing over issues like absentee voting, sanctions against Russia, the state’s health insurance system, and a new leadership institute at the University of Maryland College Park that will be headed by Del. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Montgomery).
Several debates this week have brought admonitions from Jones or House Majority Leader Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery) that Republicans are making their comments too personal or partisan. But Del. Lauren C. Arikan (R-Harford) at one point pushed back.
“There’s been a disturbing trend on the floor of the House of trying to silence the minority party,” she said during a floor debate Wednesday. She later taunted her Democratic colleagues, “You will hear very loudly from the voters in just a few months.”
Later in the session, after a particularly tense debate on the leadership institute bill, a visibly irritated Jones re-read part of her remarks, the portion in which she implored lawmakers not to question one another’s motives.
“All of you are talented enough to make your points without questioning the motives of other legislators or invoking party politics,” the normally low-key Jones said emphatically. “I’m not going to say it again!”
Perhaps ironically, the House recently adopted a Senate practice of allowing Republicans to defend bills on the floor. “The public is better served when they don’t just hear from the same members day after day,” Jones said of the change.
— Bruce DePuyt & Josh Kurtz
A Democratic “Training Camp” at the Univ. of Maryland?
On a party-line vote, the House approved the creation of an Institute for Public Leadership at the University of Maryland, but not before some Republicans suggested that the institute will become part of Democrats’ efforts to brainwash college students.
The bill requires the governor to provide $1.5 million per year, for the next five years, for the institute, which will become part of the School of Public Policy in College Park.
As noted above, it will be led by Del. Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery), a former Ways and Means Committee chair first elected to the General Assembly in 2002.
Del. Brian Chisholm (R-Anne Arundel) was among several Republicans to berate university professors, who he said are disproportionately left-leaning in their politics.
“I’m pretty sure what we’re going to be teaching these young students is not going to be from a conservative/Republican philosophical view,” Chisholm said. “It’s kind of like a training camp for these next batch of progressive Democrats that will be up here.”
Jones banged her gavel during his comments.
Del. Matthew Morgan (R-St. Mary’s) said “there’s only one side of the aisle that’s being taught” at leadership institutes.
“This is absolutely a political bill. It just is,” added Arikan. “Public policy in Maryland is highly political and the people of Maryland are starting to get really, really irritated with it.”
Del. Regina T. Boyce (D-Baltimore), an adjunct professor at the University of Baltimore, was one of several Democrats to defend the state’s universities.
“I have made it intentional to invite Republicans to my class because it is important to have perspective,” she said. “I take great exception to these comments. They’re not true.”
The measure passed easily, 101-34, with two lawmakers (Kaiser and Majority Leader Eric Luedtke) excused from voting.
A cross-filed Senate bill passed that chamber unanimously Thursday evening.
— Bruce DePuyt
Bill to Transform Selection of Gubernatorial Running Mates Advances
The House on Thursday gave tentative approval to a proposed constitutional amendment that — if approved by voters — would significantly alter the way future gubernatorial tickets come together.
House Bill 707 would allow gubernatorial candidates to select a running mate three weeks after winning their party’s nomination. Currently, running mates are chosen before the primary.
Although few are willing to say so publicly, many critics believe the current system encourages the selection of less-experienced politicos who might not be equipped to take the reins of state government should tragedy strike.
HB 707 is backed by Del. Kumar Barve (D-Montgomery). The Senate version was introduced by Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s). Both men chair influential committees.
Similar legislation has been introduced in recent years but has failed to advance.
Both men have said the change would allow candidates who win a primary to join forces with a former rival, a way to bring the party together after a potentially bruising campaign. Many presidential tickets have been formed in this fashion.
— Bruce DePuyt