As the General Assembly convenes each January, the news is usually full of legislative doings. Not this year. So far, the State House has been a quiet place. One measure of that is the number of bills filed to date -- 517, as opposed to 1,125 at this point last year. A big reason for the lack of activity is the war, which is absorbing just about everyone's attention. As one old hand noted, there's nothing like a war to make the routine seem inconsequential.
War is not the only dampening influence; a more immediate problem for lawmakers is the budget, which normally would already be under close scrutiny by now. Because of the state's uncertain financial situation, Governor Schaefer will not be presenting a general budget until Feb. 1, two weeks later than normal. The delay will cut precious time from the usual review process, creating a time crunch for budget committees later on. For now, however, they can only sit and wait. The budget situation -- specifically, the shrinking funds available to balance it -- also means legislative leaders are discouraging high-cost bills.
If all this is giving new lawmakers an oddly quiet view of life in Annapolis, they must know the respite is only temporary.