The Assembly's antics: mallet as gavel, 'bald caucus'
Amid all the serious stuff, the General Assembly has its moments of merriment.
At one point last week, while House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Eastern Shore, was trying to gavel the delegates to order with a croquet mallet -- his regular gavel was cracked -- Del. Timothy F. Maloney, D-Prince George's, walked across the chamber floor, his hand in his coat pocket squeezing one of those electronic "executive toys" that emit sounds of machine gun blasts and bombs bursting.
During a House meeting, some balding delegates decided to have some fun with a bill about barbers. House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Eastern Shore, Del. Tyras S. Athey, D-Anne Arundel, and other members of the "bald caucus" donned hairpieces for the introduction of a joke amendment to exempt balding delegates from barber fees.
Meanwhile, over in the Senate chamber, Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, D-Balto. Co., was standing at his desk gabbing about some bill. When he finished talking and sat down, he landed on a "whoopee cushion" a fellow senator had just slipped onto his chair.
The best medicine:
Del. R. Charles Avara, D-City, showed his fellow lawmakers that laughter can be very good medicine, indeed. Knocked out of the legislative session for about a month by surgery and treatment for a brain tumor, Avara returned to the State House last week and was greeted warmly by legislators in the House and in the Senate.
When Avara strolled into the Senate chamber, debate on a bill was suspended and he was asked to come to the rostrum to say hello. "You ever see a $100,000 haircut before?" he asked the senators as he turned around, revealing the tapered hair on the back of his head where the surgeons had operated.
Avara said that as he had come out from under anesthesia, nurses kept asking him if he knew his name.
"Know my name?" replied Avara, who has been in the House of Delegates since 1967 and has first-hand knowledge of nearly every capital project in the city. "I can tell you who designed this building."
In the garbled message department, a supporter of Gov. William Donald Schaefer won the prize last week. The unfortunate man turned out for a rally in support of Schaefer in Annapolis.
Touched by the well-wishers' enthusiasm , Schaefer was trying to tell them that he didn't know how to express his thanks. "How do I say it?" the governor said.
The man, who stood in the rear of the crowd, shouted, "You already have."
"I'm over the hill," Schaefer said, repeating what he thought the man had yelled. "You're right."
"No," the man shouted, "I said you already have."
But his message never got across, and the downcast supporter gave up.
More Western Unions:
Last week, Swirl dutifully reprinted several "Western Union" messages sent through the state budget by disgruntled lawmakers.
One recipient of such a message, Human Resources Secretary Carolyn Colvin, RSVP'd last week. Lawmakers eliminated from her Child Care Administration budget a newly hired investigator, saying that a child-care agency should leave investigations to law-enforcement agencies.
Colvin responded with a real, four-paragraph telegram to the lawmaker who suggested the move, Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, D-City. The telegram expressed Colvin's "complete dismay" and accused Hoffman of "micro-managing . . . through petty politics." Colvin said the investigator was needed to help the state deal with child endangerment cases.
Truth in dining:
During the debate last week on campaign law reforms, it became clear very early that lawmakers were discussing an issue close to their hearts. Several shared personal experiences in explaining their support or opposition to proposed restrictions on political campaigns.
Sen. John A. Cade, R-Anne Arundel, for example, told his colleagues that he opposed much of the reform being discussed. But he supported the "truth in advertising" requirements that would force political groups to adopt names that truthfully reflected their purpose.
Early in his Senate career, Cade explained, he was an honored guest at an expensive dinner hosted by the "Wildlife Preservation League." Cade, expecting to find himself among environmentalists, was surprised to learn his hosts were all furriers.