Senate makes its mark with hyphen here, spelling correction there



As the final hour of the 1991 session of the General Assembly approached, the power and glory of the legislative process, the two-party system and the separation of powers fairly bristled in a rush to complete the business of the people of Maryland.

Delegate Charles J. Ryan, D-Prince George's, offered a brief but stirring example of the joys of a bicameral legislature late last week. Projecting a series of Senate amendments on the screen, he asked for the attention of the House.

Amendment 1, Mr. Ryan said, added a hyphen.

Amendment 2 separated "firefighter" into two words.

Amendment 3 capitalized the letter "S" in a certain sentence.

Amendment 4 changed the spelling of a word: "decendent" became "decedent."

The amendments were approved with almost no debate.

Mr. Ryan suggested then, to a rapt and appreciative House, that these changes should put to rest any doubts that the Senate of Maryland is, in fact, a necessary institution.


No one expected him back so soon, but on Friday morning veteran Baltimore Delegate Charles R. Avara was on the floor of the House of Delegates, greeted with a hug from House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. and a long, standing ovation from his colleagues.

The 59-year-old scion of a South Baltimore political family and a member of the House since 1967 was released from University Hospital in Baltimore March 29 after two lengthy operations to remove a benign brain tumor.

"The speaker always needs an extra vote," Mr. Mitchell said as Mr. Avara walked on to the House floor to the surprise of many of his colleagues.

In all, Mr. Avara underwent 24 hours of surgery -- a 14-hour procedure on March 12 and a 10-hour one on March 18.

With characteristic understatement, he described it all as "an odd experience." He also told his fellow delegates that their cards, letters, flowers and calls had helped him get through the ordeal, saying the volume of support had come as a surprise to those around him in the hospital.

"I think they see in the media and the paper we're always fighting with each other," he laughed, noting that he even received cards from President Bush and Gov. William Donald Schaefer.


Somewhere between a bill to require reforestation by developers and another to reduce the number of licenses required by barbers, members of the Bald Caucus got mixed up last week.

Sporting wigs of black, brown and blond hair, members of the heretofore unknown group rose on the floor of the House to press for passage of an amendment:

"Delegates whose afforestation covers less than 20 percent of the total scalp area shall be exempt from any fees charged by journeyman barbers and master barbers," read the amendment they flashed on the big overhead screen on the House floor. "This section shall not apply to any transplanted seedlings or artificial turf."

"This amendment is strictly a fairness and parity amendment," said Delegate Tyras S. Athey, D-Anne Arundel, who co-sponsored the bogus proposal along with Delegates Timothy F. Maloney, D-Prince George's, Michael R. Gordon, D-Montgomery, Robert L. Flanagan, R-Howard, and R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, the House speaker.

None of them has a full head of hair, and Mr. Athey claimed it is not fair for them to have to pay the full price of a haircut.

With passage of the amendment, said Mr. Flanagan, "The Bald Delegation Caucus will finally get the recognition it deserves."


Worried that Mr. Schaefer may be feeling the blues, supporters offered him a rally last week that frequently sounded like a get-well card.

Developer James Rouse sent along a note that read, in part, "You're a good friend and I suffer with you. . . ."

Delegate Elijah E. Cummings, D-Baltimore, tried to comfort the governor with assurances that people appreciate the fact he has tackled tough issues, declaring, "At least he makes a difference."

"You may not get a crown down here but someday, somewhere you will get your crown," Mr. Cummings told the state's ruler.

Said Ocean City hotelier Shirley Phillips: "We love you down there [on the Eastern Shore]. We hope you'll come down there and retire."

Obviously pleased with a crowd that came to the State House to praise him rather than bury him, Governor Schaefer strode to the microphone with a philosophic, if somewhat funereal, response.

"Usually when you hear such kind expressions," the governor told about 100 well-wishers, "you're toes are pointing up, and your hands are across your chest."

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