Befitting the heavy number of freshmen in their chambers and voters' anger toward Annapolis, the Maryland House and Senate will have a decidedly new look in leadership ranks next month. While the top players are the same, pragmatic centrists have been promoted to key positions.
This bodes well for the legislature, which is experiencing a 43 percent turnover. Changes in leadership ranks reflect the need for more attention to diversity and competence. They also reflect a need to include energetic, younger legislators in top jobs.
A cross-section of well-regarded lawmakers is stepping forward: Elijah Cummings and Barbara Hoffman from Baltimore City; John Hurson from Montgomery County; Jim Rosapepe from Prince George's County; Tom Bromwell and Paula Hollinger from Baltimore County, and William Amoss from Harford County. They tend to be flexible on issues and often creative in proposing solutions. They are cautious on fiscal matters.
In the 1995 lineup, Baltimore City gains increased prominence. Between Mrs. Hoffman and Del. Howard P. Rawlings, city legislators will run the two budget panels, assuring Baltimore a fair shake. Mr. Cummings will be a top adviser to House Speaker Casper Taylor as speaker pro tem. Gerald Curran chairs the commerce panel. Ms. Doory, as vice-chair of the Judiciary Committee, could moderate that panel's reputation as anti-women's rights and hostile to progressive legislation. Mr. Blount remains a powerful force in the Senate, holding two leadership hats.
Other new members of the leadership should bolster the city's situation. The Finance Committee chair is Mr. Bromwell, whose district contains some 10,000 city voters. Both Mr. Amoss and Ms. Hollinger in the Senate and Dels. Michael Busch and Ronald Guns in the House have displayed an understanding of the city's plight.
Overall, this group seems less likely to focus on parochial issues. They have broader perspectives. What's good for the city and Somerset County and Garrett County will help the rest of Maryland in the long run. What's good for Baltimore County and Montgomery County will help the rest of the state down the road. That's the attitude the next General Assembly should strive to achieve.
Republican leaders say they will be aggressive next session. That's fine as long as House minority leader Robert Kittleman sticks to constructive criticisms -- and not opposition to any and all measures proposed by Democrats. He should take his cue from Senate Minority Leader John A. Cade, whose influence is considerable thanks to his focus on lawmaking, not obstructionism. Now Mr. Cade will have a much larger contingent of Republicans to help bolster his case for a more conservative approach to governing.