Friday, May 14, 2010

Senate Fireworks Fizzle

Tuesday night's meeting of the Greater Olney Civic Association (GOCA) promised some real action as several members of the District 14 and District 19 delegations were scheduled to make presentations to the audience. That's right - the event actually called for Senator Mike Lenett and Delegate Roger Manno, along with Senator Rona Kramer and Delegate Karen Montgomery, to be civil to each other. But each of these pairs is running against each other for Senate. So what happened? One of our seemingly infinite legion of spies submitted the following secret dispatch that is only available to MPW readers.


If you were looking for fireworks at the Greater Olney Civic Association (GOCA) on Tuesday night, you were sorely disappointed.

With the scheduled legislative wrap-up from representatives from both districts representing the the Greater Olney area -- District 14 and District 19 -- there was an opportunity to see the clashing State Senate races up close.

At the beginning of the meeting, those legislators in attendance included Senator Kramer, Delegates Kaiser and Montgomery, and an aide for Senator Lenett. In the candidate column, there was Craig Zucker and Eric Luedtke, neither of whom stayed the entire evening. Also in attendance was a friend of District 19 delegate candidate, Sam Arora.

When asked by the GOCA president who would go first, Kaiser chimed in "Senator?" while looking directly at her choice for State Senate, Rona Kramer. This prompted some laughter.

But if you were hoping for some fighting words, the two ladies, I underscore ladies, disappointed. Hopefully this foreshadows an above board battle throughout the summer.

Kramer, setting the stage for one of her key battlelines with Montgomery, talked about the budget and hanging tough as a county. This certainly foreshadows her discussion of the special session that Montgomery was absent for. She also "stole" two of Montgomery's issues by talking about: 1) developmental disabilities and her own success with the income tax checkoff for developmental disabilities; and 2) the environment by talking about another success regarding reducing the harmful effects of road salt following a snowstorm.

Kaiser, sporting a black eye from a celebrity basketball game, mentioned the tough budget and how the state's priorities of education and the environment were mostly protected. She talked about 2 key education bills that she worked on during the session, including the Governor's key priority - the Education Reform Act and the Speaker's education priority, the Safe Schools Act. She ran out of time and was unable to tout her successful bills. She did share that a local bill regarding wine tastings at farmer's markets had passed. With a successful farmer's market in the area, the group seemed pleased by this.

Montgomery, focused on issues dealt with by her committee, the Health and Government Operations Committee. She also focused on her constituent service. She talked about those who must foreclose on their home because of hospital bills and described a situation of calling the German embassy and Deutsche Bank regarding a specific constituent. Montgomery also talked about pharmaceutical sales.

Teresa Healey-Conway, aide to Sen. Lenett, spoke as briefly as someone should who's not the actual legislator. What she did not do was explain why the Senator was absent. She mentioned three issues that the Senator worked on: voting rights for those under guardianship; giving notice to tenants regarding foreclosure; and the safe schools act mentioned by Kaiser. While she was brief and spoke well, this author wonders why she and the Senator believed that the guardianship issue was a top 3 issue to tout at a civic meeting.

One person asked a softball question of Sen. Kramer regarding taxes. Kaiser also chimed in with a discussion of the gas tax and alcohol tax.

Another in attendance described an awful situation regarding long-term care insurance.

Then another in attendance asked about cuts to the budget. Montgomery for some reason focused her entire answer on nursing homes. This author has no idea if Montgomery actually heard the question or just wanted to talk about nursing homes. Kaiser then briefly mentioned the $5.6B in cuts in the last 4 years.

Kramer and Manno then walked in from another obligation.

Ben Kramer screams when he talks. Several in attendance, mentioned after the meeting that they just tuned him out. He talked about protecting seniors from con artists, reverse mortgages, insurance brokers and road salt management. That's all I've got because it's hard to listen to a screamer.

Roger Manno seemingly had no idea that real people were in the room. One of the first sentences out of his mouth was "deleverage the state's pension obligations to the county." He said how his controversial bill on the subject sparked a debate in Annapolis. From what I hear, he had no impact on the pension debate in Annapolis. He talked about a prior success of his regarding genetic non-discrimination and a current bill regarding shifts breaks. His Annapolis speak included the phrases "sine die" and "RGGI portfolio." Really? He did end well with a plug for doing constituent services and working with others.

Question time again - and this was fun. GOCA President Matt Zaborsky said that there was only 10 minutes left for questions. So, a civic activist asked Ben Kramer about the ignition interlock issue and why Chair Vallario doesn't support such legislation. Kramer took 12, count 'em, 12 minutes to answer the question. Unbelievable. No respect for the audience or the other electeds in the room.

At the end of the meeting, a transportation activist asked about the 28-97 road issue. Roger Manno provided some good feedback and agreed with him. The gentleman interrupted to reiterate his point, whereby Manno said "You had me at hello." The whole room erupted in laughter. Except, of course, for Teresa Healey-Conway.