Back to the Real World

April 12, 1994

The fun is over for Maryland's 188 legislators. These past 90 days have been exhilarating and exhausting, productive and pensive, emotional and educational, worthwhile and wearisome. It was the political equivalent of a three-ring circus: so much happened, you couldn't take it all in.

But now the General Assembly session is over for this year. Delegates and senators today leave the cocoon in Annapolis that has been their home away from home since early January. They return to the world of spouses and children, of PTAs and Little League games, of earning a living and balancing the family budget.

One of this state government's strengths is its citizen legislature in which lawmakers can never get too far removed from the ordinary, day-to-day problems of life. They are a varied breed of politicians and are becoming more diverse after each election. This fall's voting in redrawn districts should accelerate that trend.

For now, though, all their accomplishments in the State House will be quickly forgotten as these legislators transform themselves into bread-winners and family members once more. There are hairstylists and longshoremen, skating instructors and farmers, auctioneers and funeral directors, stock brokers and dentists, bar owners and helicopter pilots among them. And, of course, the ubiquitous lawyers, who still dominate proceedings with one out of every five legislative seats.

Some of these legislators will not be returning in 1995 to their long-cherished seats. Frederick C. Malkus won't have to rush to set his muskrat traps in Dorchester County; for the first time in 48 years, he plans to watch others campaign for re-election and worry about pleasing all those agitated constituents. Gerald Winegrad, the legislature's environmental conscience, will be sorely missed. So will John Cade's blunt, cutting critiques of spending plans (or anything else he dislikes); Ellen Sauerbrey's studied analyses of budgetary excesses, and Bernie Fowler's determined defense of a cleaner Patuxent River.

Most lawmakers will plunge almost immediately into a whirlwind of fund-raising and campaigning, hoping to make up for time lost during the past three months of legislating. The smart ones, though, will pause to renew family and close friendships, sit back in a comfortable chair and read the funny pages, take a deserved vacation and savor the joys of doing the weekly shopping, helping with the wash and living like any other Joan or John Q. Citizen. That's what being a citizen-legislator is all about.

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