Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The First Day Back in Annapolis

Written by Delegate Brian Feldman (District 15, which includes Potomac, Poolesville, Clarksburg, and portions of Germantown). Brian is also chair of the MoCo House Delegation.

As I walked into the House Chamber today for the opening day of the 2008 Session, it was readily apparent that the unprecedented, grueling three-week Special Session that we endured in November had left its mark.

There is usually a real sense of excitement in the air on opening day as we see colleagues for the first time in months and look forward to the legislative challenges that lie ahead. Things were different today as it is clear from everyone’s body language and conversations that the Special Session had left the General Assembly with a hangover of sorts. Members do not appear eager to be back in Annapolis so soon. It is as though some normal 9-month hibernation period away from Annapolis exists for this certain species of animal, i.e., legislators, and the natural time clock has been thrown off by the intervening Special Session, the longest in our State’s history.

For Montgomery County delegates, this hangover is compounded by the somber realization that we enter the House Chamber for the first time since the untimely passing of our friend Jane Lawton. Jane’s seat was left open on this first day and there was a moving ceremony honoring Jane in which Speaker Busch, Del. Maggie McIntosh, Sen. Rich Madaleno and her husband, Steve Lawton all spoke beautifully about Jane and her life. As I looked over at the empty chair, it was difficult to get rid of the picture in my mind of being out to dinner with Jane on the last night of the Special Session. Many of my colleagues indicated that they had had similar flashbacks or images of time they had recently spent with Jane.

The Special Session may well go down as a demarcation point for our County Delegation. We have the largest delegation in Annapolis and a big issue in Annapolis these days is whether we can translate our numbers into raw political power in a way that MoCo has never done in the past. Most people are surprised to learn that 24 of our 32 legislators in the House and Senate were elected in 2002 or after. It is a group just beginning to form an identity and the Special Session accelerated the process by affording us with a rather unique opportunity to work closely together and get to really know each other under fire and extreme pressure in ways we rarely can during regular sessions. As Chair of our House Delegation, I was able to learn a great deal about each member and came to appreciate that the Delegation is far more diverse politically than I realized. We have a lot of raw talent in our Delegation and as it continues to mature, I am extremely optimistic that we will realize our full potential in terms of political power over the next few years. This is something to get jazzed up about as I look ahead despite the “hangover” I’m experiencing today.