To prepare for what historians believe is the 397th meeting of the Maryland legislature in January, House Speaker Clayton Mitchell and Senate President Mike Miller have been revamping their leadership teams for some difficult economic times ahead.
The speaker has a bigger challenge to get his legislative machinery into place and humming. By supporting Del. Nancy Kopp, D-Montgomery., to replace the retiring Speaker Pro Tem Dennis Donaldson, Mitchell is signaling women members that leadership is open to them. Kopp, 46, an education specialist and proverbial workaholic, enters into the speaker's inner circle of advisers, led by Del. Charles "Buzz" Ryan, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and the champion budget cruncher.
Mitchell has a gaggle of capable and hard-working younger legislators that he wants to move up into leadership slots if he finds the right fit. Some of these are Brian Frosh, Ronald Guns, Henry Heller, Kenneth Montague, Bruce Poole and James Rosapepe. There are others as well. His major problem has been where to fit in the last session's House majority leader, John Arnick, who also chaired the Environmental Affairs Committee. The speaker doesn't have the luxury now to hand out two hats to any member, not even Arnick. His job hasn't been made easier by Arnick's reported indecision on what he might want.
The talk this week is that Arnick will opt for and get the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee. If that happens, then one of the younger breed, Del. Bruce Poole, D-Western Md., is expected to be named House majority leader. For the 31-year-old Poole, it would be a leap up into the leadership. A creative member of the Judiciary Committee could wind up as chairman of that committee if Arnick insists on his floor leadership post. If Arnick doesn't stay as Environmental chairman, Ronald Guns, D-Eastern Shore, is expected to take over the top job.
Whoever chairs Judiciary, however, is likely to have a major chunk of its workload shunted over to what is now the Constitutional and Administrative Law Committee. Legislation in the transportation and motor vehicle areas is likely to be shifted to Con-Law. There is talk that the committee might take responsibility for family law as well. And, in another shift, educational matters seem likely to go the Ways and Means Committee.
However the functions change, the name of last year's Con-Law committee is likely to change as well. Then it is fair to expect that Del. Anne Perkins might be replaced as chairwoman by a fellow city delegate, Elijah Cummings, a move that the Black Caucus might cheer. Perkins seems likely to remain in a leadership role, probably as a co-chair of the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review.
On the Senate side, President Miller named Thomas P. O'Reilly as the new Finance Committee chairman and James C. Simpson as vice chairman. Also, Paula Hollinger was named AELR co-chairwoman, Barbara Hoffman as vice chairwoman of the Budget and Taxation Committee and Thomas Bromwell as Rules Committee chairman. Ida Ruben, meanwhile, is to go to the Joint Policy Committte.
Among assignments for Senate newcomers, Janice Piccinini seems headed for Judicial Proceedings, while Patricia Sher and John Hafer are headed for the Finance Committee. While legislative leaders are still concentrating on their organizational charts and committee assignments, they have sent clear warnings that the General Assembly will not be receptive to tax increases next year. That includes the proposals of the Linowes Commission, which may or may not be part of Gov. William Donald Schaefer's legislative package. Such plans will be looked at and studied and almost certainly put aside.
Senate President Miller said he flatly opposes any increases to cover the steep revenue shortfall. And Speaker Mitchell has made "accountability" a key goal. He told the Democratic caucus that members should "make sure we tell the taxpayer where his dollar is going."
By the way: The appointment of Judge Robert L. Karwacki to the Court of Appeals for the First Appellate District has been taken as a signal by some Eastern Shore politicians that the governor won't be too kind to their interests. They had preferred an "authentic Shoreman" to fill the slot left by retiring Judge William H. Adkins 2nd. Usually, the governor interviews judicial candidates. This time, he didn't bother.
Some administration officials remain bitter over the governor's post-election policy of calling for resignations from all of his Cabinet members and higher-level appointees. They see the governor's move as an angry reaction to what he perceives as poor election results, and not related to their own work performances. One official said that potential dismissal at holiday time is a bitter reward after working long and hard hours for four years.