Who's who, and how the process works Lexicon

January 13, 1991

The State House has a language of its own, some slang, some not. Some of the words are peculiar to Maryland, some words were uttered, repeated and stuck for good with generations of politicians and those who watch them. Here are some of the most common:

ADMINISTRATION -- The governor, his Cabinet and staff.

BY REQUEST -- a bill filed for a constituent or interest group. A bill so labeled suggests that the author has no personal stake in the legislation but has acted out of courtesy for someone else.

BOSS -- somewhat archaic term referring to heads of political machines, also known as organizations. See "LEADER" below.

B'HOYS -- Playful term denoting club house politicians.

CONFERENCE COMMITTEE -- a six-member committee composed of three delegates and three senators, appointed by the House speaker and the Senate president with broad authority to reconcile different versions of the same bill passed by the two houses.

DEAD -- An almost certainly lifeless bill, having been acted upon unfavorably in committee or on the floor, or spoken of disparagingly even before a vote by powerful legislative players: the governor, one or both presiding officers, committee chairmen.

DEAD DEAD -- a bill ruled dead by all of the above and certifiably beyond the resuscitating vapors of Robert's Rules of Order or legislative legerdemain.

DEAD MEAT -- a legislator who publicly opposes or votes against a position established by the leader of his house -- unless that leader is running for statewide office and needs the miscreant's support and the support of his constituents.

DONE DEAL -- an appointment or an agreement on a living bill, or a dead one, so certified by powerful players. Such deals are also sometimes called FINISHED BIDNESS.

FILIBUSTER -- also called, more genteelly, extended debate. A time-consuming talking tactic, done for the purpose of killing an unwanted bill, or to force some other action. Can succeed if important legislation is awaiting action as the session begins to run out of time. Permitted in Maryland only in the Senate.

FISCAL NOTE -- estimate of a bill's direct or indirect costs.

FISCAL YEAR -- The year covered by the state's budget, July 1 to June 30.

FURNITURE -- derogatory reference to legislators whose contributions to the legislative process often do not exceed the space they occupy.

GOLDENROD -- Senate agendas for the following day, printed on gold-colored paper and found on tables outside the Senate clerk's office.

GREEN BAG -- political appointments made by the governor on the 40th day of each legislative session and delivered in a green bag to the Senate, which holds confirmation powers. Beyond history, the color of the bag refers to jobs, and, by extension, money.

GREASED -- a bill sliding to enactment without regard to its merit, usually by virtue of support from the legislative leadership and/or the administration.

INK -- newspaper coverage. There is good ink and bad ink, though bad ink is sometimes better than no ink.

INTERIM -- the period, April to January, when the Assembly is not in session; increasingly active and demanding of legislators' time. It also is sometimes referred to as summer.

LEADER -- modern for boss. Bosses prefer it.

LEADERSHIP -- the presiding House and Senate officers, their committee chairmen and various ceremonial officers. Members of leadership are expected to follow the direction of the House speaker or Senate president on pain of losing their leadership posts. Leadership has been expanded so that its collective will can be exerted more directly and forcefully. Members ignore the leadership at risk of becoming dead meat.

LOBBYIST -- once strictly an advocate for a company's legislative interests. Now, also, an agent who sells fund-raiser tickets for friendly legislators.

MULDOON -- a term of uncertain origin, referring to legislators.

BPORK -- something politically tasty for a legislator to take home: bridges, recreation centers, even judgeships.

RECONSIDERATION -- when a bill fails, it may be revived one time on the motion of someone who voted against it.

SECOND FLOOR -- the second floor of the State House and locus of the administration's offices; also a reference to chief resident thereof, the governor.

SINE DIE -- Latin for adjournment without recall, the final order of each 90-day session, the moment at which everyone knows a bill is dead dead, at least for that particular year.

SNAKE -- a bill lurking in the underbrush of its own language; a bill of hidden and, in some cases, mischievous intent. Bills with an obvious original purpose can be transmogrified into snakes by skillful, and of course quiet, redrafting or amending.

SPECIAL ORDER -- delaying a bill by holding it while a member gives it further consideration, sometimes for the purpose of holding it to get support from its sponsor for some other piece of legislation, or to marshal arguments against it, or to delay it until it has little chance of passage.

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