At the conclusion of Friday’s second floor session in the House of Delegates, Montgomery County Democrat Jheanelle Wilkins, who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, rose to address the body and deliver a message of solidarity with Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, who were expelled from the Tennessee Legislature after participating in a gun control protest.
Jones and Pearson are Black; a third representative, Gloria Johnson, who is white, participated in the same protest but was not expelled.
“There’s never a doubt in my mind that every single member of this chamber is acting on behalf of their constituents. ... We are 141 people representing distinct communities with different viewpoints, but the ability of us to conduct business in this House, it relies on fairness and due process.” Wilkins said.
“I rise because the members of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland are stunned by the actions that have taken place in Tennessee. And on behalf of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, I rise to stand with our colleagues in Tennessee. I rise to remind us of how delicate the fabric of this body is and how we must always work to defend and protect each other.”
End-of-session party time
Maryland lawmakers have plenty of work ahead of them on Monday, the final day of the 90-day General Assembly session. But that’s not going to stop them from partying, too.
The state’s senators and delegates have been invited to 10 different social events taking place in downtown Annapolis on Monday — starting with a breakfast hosted by Comptroller Brooke Lierman and Treasurer Dereck Davis at 8:30 a.m. and ending with a reception thrown by a lobbying firm that has the very clear end time listed as “?”
The parties are a chance for lawmakers and lobbyists to blow off steam after 90 days of often-intense lawmaking. Or perhaps it’s a chance for lobbyists to nudge lawmakers on unresolved bills in the final hours of the session.
All social events that groups of lawmakers are invited to are listed on a protocol calendar that is not posted online, but is distributed via email every Monday to those who ask.
Of the 10 events listed on the latest calendar, nine of them are hosted by interest groups or the major lobbying firms in town. At one point on Monday afternoon, at least six of the parties should be going at the same time.
If you want to know who is paying to wine and dine lawmakers, here are the lobbyists hosting or co-hosting Sine Die parties: Husch Blackwell Strategies, Manis Canning & Associates, Providence Strategies, High Street Strategies, Bellamy Genn Group, Capitol Strategies, Cornerston Government Affairs, John Pica, and the Maryland Government Relations Association.
And special-interest groups that are in on the party game with their own events or co-hosting events: Maryland Catholic Conference, Cable Association of Maryland and Delaware, Maryland Beer Wholesalers Association, and the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.
Polling U.S. Senate possibilities
Polling season continues. This week, it was a poll asking likely Maryland Democratic voters about whom they would consider casting a ballot for in next year’s U.S. Senate primary.
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin has not announced whether he is running for reelection, which has aspirants for the seat doing some homework.
I listened in on a phone call survey from ADG Research, which asked likely Democratic primary voters a few questions about public figures that a pollster called “potential U.S. Senate nominees,” including Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, U.S. Rep. David Trone and Montgomery County Councilman Will Jawando.
I noticed that most questions in some way led back to Alsobrooks — which is usually an indicator of which campaign funded the poll.
A spokeswoman for Jawando said the councilman “has been encouraged to explore all of his options, of which running for U.S. Senate if Sen. Cardin decides to retire is one.”
Inquires to the rest of the public figures mentioned in the poll went unanswered, though a source not authorized to speak on the record said the poll is not Trone’s.
Two more General Assembly departures
Two experienced lawmakers plan to depart the General Assembly after the annual legislative session is adjourned at midnight on Monday.
Del. Kumar Barve will be appointed to the Maryland Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, Gov. Wes Moore announced. Barve, a Montgomery County Democrat, has led the House Environment & Transportation Committee and also previously served as Democratic majority leader.
“I am confident in Delegate Barve’s ability to bolster my administration’s commitment to environmental stewardship while ensuring ratepayers are protected,” Moore, a Democrat, said in a statement.
Del. Darryl Barnes plans to resign to become a lobbyist with Evans & Associates in Annapolis. Barnes, a Democrat from Prince George’s County, previously led the influential Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland. Barnes must sit out for a one-year cooling-off period before he can officially register as a lobbyist, but can provide other services and expertise during that time.
Speaking of departures ...
The General Assembly’s 90-day deadline is the ticking clock hanging over everything they do, especially as the session winds down.
So we couldn’t help but notice that lawmakers made a point to punch out in a timely fashion on Friday with Sine Die looming Monday and some big-ticket bills still not quite across the finish line.
It was pretty obvious where House members were headed.
“As we stand here in our hallowed chamber,” Del. Eric Ebersole said in his session-opening prayer, “many of us are at the cathedral of Camden Yards in our minds, if not wishing we would be there in person sometime soon.”
And Majority Leader Marc Korman closed the session with a command: “Play ball!”
The Senate had multiple sessions Friday, working past 11 p.m. Hopefully, senators weren’t expecting to make the unofficial start of Spring in Baltimore — or even the Bruce Springsteen concert at CFG Bank Arena.
Harford County teacher cleared to serve on County Council
Democrat Jacob Bennett can officially attend meetings as a council member four months after being sworn in.
In February, a county Circuit Court judge deemed the middle school science teacher ineligible to serve on the council unless he resigned from his position with Harford County Public Schools. The decision pointed to section 207 of the county charter, which bars council members from being employed by state or county government during their term on the council.
In the decision issued Wednesday by Maryland’s highest court, Chief Justice Matthew Fader wrote that “neither Section 207 of the Harford County Charter nor the doctrine of incompatible positions precludes Mr. Bennett from serving as a member of the Harford County Council while simultaneously being employed as a teacher by the Harford County Board of Education.” Fader also wrote that injunctive relief may be necessary.
In a statement, Bennett wrote that he is grateful the court recognized the independence of school boards from local and state government.
“I am thankful that we are now in a place where I can do the work I was elected to do all while serving the children in my classroom every day.”
Protesters arrested on State House steps
Seven people affiliated with CASA, a Latinx and immigration advocacy organization, were arrested Friday by Capital Police after ascending the steps to the State House entrance and refusing the leave. Holding a large banner that read “Healthcare is a human right” members of the group both on the stairs and in a large group looking on from Lawyer’s Mall echoed the sentiment with chants.
Police removed the banner and various other signs being held by demonstrators, placed them in handcuffs, and locked down the building before escorting the individuals off the property. They were charged with refusal to leave public grounds and misdemeanor failure to obey an order.
The goal of the demonstration, according to CASA’s public policy director, Cathryn Paul, was to urge the Senate to pass the Access to Care Act, which would remove immigration status as a barrier to obtaining insurance through the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. The bill passed the House 100-38.
“The Senate president has the power to get this bill passed,” Paul said. “We believe that he can get it done and we’re escalating here today because members of the community feel like their voices are not being heard.”
Sen. Melony Griffith, who chairs the committee where the bill is stalled, said the legislation is just “one possible solution to meet the needs of a percentage of that population.” Rather than move forward with that bill, Griffith said, it’s prudent instead to get a better handle on the overall needs of the uninsured, which is being done under another bill.
”What you have is a group of people who have identified a solution to a part of the problem,” said Griffith, a Prince George’s County Democrat. “And I think that because of their passion and their desire to see the health care needs met, they don’t necessarily understand why we want to look at all of the options available to us.”